We all know high school kinda sucked. But if that’s the case, then why do we love games with a school setting so much, like Persona, Valkyria Chronicles 2, Mana Khemia: Alchemists of Al-Revis, Persona 3 or Persona 4? Because they show us a school life we wish we had? Or is it because we do have some good memories of our school life after all? I would really like you to ask yourself that question, whether you enjoy games like that or not. I want to understand this matter more.
Hey y’all! It’s Grynax again, who was finally able to put his PS Vita aside and write another review. This time I’m going to talk about Disgaea 3 – Absence of Detention for the PS Vita, which is actually an enhanced remake of the game Disgaea 3 – Absence of Justice for the PS3, with added storylines and all the DLC from the original (originally worth $40, now on the remake for free). Playing Disgaea 3 at this time of the year triggered some kind of nostalgia inside my head, because I started playing the Disgaea series almost exactly one year ago! So this is actually my own personally anniversary for this game! So… prepare for a long and tedious review. (By the way, you don’t need to have played the other Disgaea games to understand Disgaea 3’s story. In fact, if this is your first time showing interest in a Disgaea title, Absence of Justice/Detention is the way to go. As of now, it’s my favorite title in the series.)
So I was all, like, talking about games with school settings and stuff. Now, the school in Disgaea 3, Evil Academy, is nothing like school as we know it. Set in a Netherworld inhabited by demons, everything is turned around: you are considered an Honor Student if you skip class and disrespect your (literally) useless teachers and parents, while you are a Delinquent for doing good deeds. A true school for evil demons and Overlords in training, isn’t it? An example: in a human world school, the PTA is a Parent-Teacher Association, with the goal of improving the school’s environment. In this Netherworld however, the PTA are Perfectly Trained Assassins, willing to eliminate any form of delinquency happening in the school.
And this is where the story begins. An epic tale about love, friendship and domestic violence, about the hardships of being a hero, and about fried eggs served with hot sauce. The main character of this title is Mao, son of the Overlord (who is also the Dean of Evil Academy), and the best Honor Student the school has ever seen. In fact, he never went to class even once until the beginning of the game. Instead, he spent his whole time reading comics, watching anime and playing video games! What a determined honor student!
Then he sets out to his quest (yes, just like that) to… kill his father, the Overlord. To reach this goal, he sets out to become a hero. Having researched about the topic of how to kill an Overlord (in comics), Mao figured that the only one who can defeat evil is one with the power of a hero. And luckily a self-proclaimed hero, Almaz von Almadine Adamant, just transferred secretly from a human world into Evil Academy, with the same goal as Mao to defeat the Overlord… so he can protect what’s most precious to him. Just what you’d expect from a hero!
Now you may ask: why does Mao actually want to kill his own father? The answer is actually pretty simple: The Overlord accidentally stepped on Mao’s SlayStationPortable®, thus breaking it. Having lost his save files of over 4 million hours of gaming, Mao snapped and swore revenge, obviously! … You should have realized by now that the story of Disgaea is way different from your usual RPGs. Disgaea is packed with convincing and witty humor (while remaining at least a bit dramatic), and shows you that games can make fun
of you in more than just one way.
That should be enough about the story, so let us talk about the gameplay of a Disgaea game. Yes, I assume that you never played a Disgaea game before. If you have, you should already have an opinion if it’s worth playing or not, and you can skip this part, of course. But I have to cover this shit up, so let’s do this.
The gameplay is rather simple and I will explain it just as simple. It’s a tactical RPG (i.e. very similar to Fire Emblem, Final Fantasy Tactics, Super Robot Wars or Tactics Ogre), where you have a map with enemies on it. Some maps are always the same (story maps), while others are randomly generated (the Item World for example, which I will cover later). On each map there is a base panel where you can deploy up to 10 of your characters. When it’s your turn, you deploy one (or more) of them and choose what you want them to do. To simplify things even more, here is a step-by-step example in pictures.
You lose when all 10 of your deployed characters are dead, you win when you killed all enemies on the map. (Of course there is much more to the gameplay than I tell you, but have fun explaining every single possibility…) Special Attacks are unlocked by buying them in exchange of Mana (which a character gets by defeating enemies) or by leveling the character, depending on the type of skill: weapon-skills have to be bought, character skills are automatically achieved by reaching a certain level. And here we have it. Levels. Level grinding is what you are going to do most if you want to experience the game to the fullest. Look, I even wrote it in bold font. That’s how important level grinding is in this game. There is a reason why the maximum level is 9999, and the reason is that the enemies will get much stronger than you the further you get, and the only thing you can do is get stronger too. Like, a whole lot stronger. Don’t get me wrong I got nothing to complain about that: It’s what the game is about and how it’s advertised. A huge 4,000,000 hour grind fest. That’s what you have to expect. In previous Disgaea titles this could get really annoying, because you had to reload your save file everytime your characters were wiped out, losing all progress you’ve made since then. Luckily this got changed. Now you simply wake up at the hospital after your defeat and have to spend money to heal all your
bitches characters, making it simple to grind EXP without having to fear for your life the whole time.
And that’s where the Item World (see the step-to-step guide above) comes in handy. You enter an item (most likely a weapon you are going to use) and find yourself in a series of consecutive, randomly generated stages. You can leave the Item World every ten stages, and whenever you leave, the stats of the used item increase depending on your performance. What’s more: you will most likely find a new weapon in this world, with better base stats than the weapon you just levelled. Then you level this weapon and you will find even better weapons. And so on, and so on. Oh, look at that! While improving your weapons you accidentally levelled your characters too, because you fought monsters in there! Who would have guessed! We just killed two birds with one stone and don’t even feel any guilt!
Here is the next important topic. You may have noticed that I named nine main characters at the beginning of the review, while I also said you could deploy up to ten characters. So where do we get the other characters from? The answer is simple: You create them yourself. Meeting certain conditions throughout the game, different character classes (seperated in humanoid and monster classes) will be unlocked, providing you with your own customizable set of
cannon fodder loyal classmates (did I mention this game is set in an academy?) each with their own advantages and disadvantages. I would even dare to say they are more important and useful than the unique main characters.
And I’m only telling you this because of one significant feature that was new to Disgaea 3 back in the days, and wasn’t featured in Disgaea and Disgaea 2: Magichange. It’s a skill only monster classes have, that lets them transform (not permanently) into weapons the humanoid classes can use. I can’t really say anything about it’s usefulness, but it’s new and I wanted to tell you about it.
This is where I should stop with the boring facts and just cut to the chase. This game is great. It’s not your usual RPG and it’s not your usual SRPG. The grinding can get tedious after some time, but you can easily do something else at the same time, like cooking, watching TV or hanging out with friends, because you don’t really have to concentrate on the game that much. With this Disgaea, I watched the first five seasons of Supernatural while grinding, just to give you an example. That’s the advantage of a handheld, you can grind wherever you want. And in my personal opinion, it’s worth the hard work. After getting friendly with the setting and story, you just want to keep going and beat every single level in the game, while unlocking new characters. It’s hard and you surely won’t make it in a few days, but the sense of accomplishment at the end is simply overwhelming.
What else could I say? The characters are unique, the 2D graphics of Nippon Ichi games in general are the best you will ever see, the translation doesn’t keep any jokes from you, the voice acting is flawless as ever and even the item descriptions are amusing. If you can get into games like this, with anime graphics and turn-based gameplay, and if you haven’t played the original Disgaea 3 before (as I said, this is a remake, with some enhancements), you will not be disappointed. In fact, this is the second PS Vita game I reviewed and the second I recommend to you from all my heart (I think I’ll have to make a Seal of Recommendation if this trend continues). This will surely keep you busy for a while, too, so you won’t need a new Vita game for a while.
That’s all the reasons why I’m giving this game 9 half-digested pencils out of 10. But be careful! This game will not only make you hungry multiple times, it will also set your heart on fire, with passion hotter than a Spicy Chili Con Carne and Cheese Omelette, and enthusiasm more fierce than a Buttery Hasselback Potato with Melted Cheddar and Crumbled Bacon!