The school setting seems to be a popular topic in the past year. First we had Persona 3, then we had Mana Khemia, and now we have a new NIS title, Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice that returns us to the old alma mater. Disgaea 3 takes that familiar feel of school and turns it very much on its ear, where the kids who make it to class on time and complete their studies are considered delinquents. It’s at this netherworld academy that we’re introduced to Mao, spawn of an overlord, who’s got a massive inferiority complex against his own father. His ultimate goal is to gain the power of a hero (after reading many a manga, and playing many a video game as a form of ‘research’) and defeat his evil father, but at what cost?
So, Disgaea has always been known to have the old-school sprite based look. And you would think that taking the game to a powerful console like the Playstation 3 would allow NIS to crank out some top notch visuals. Sadly this is not the case. The edges are jaggy, the levels feel barren, a visual tour-de-force, this game is not. However on the acting front it looks like NIS brought their A game. The lead character Mao is voiced by the eccentric Vic Mignogna (who I thought was excellent in Persona 3), and some of the supporting cast includes other actors from a variety of anime series, all of whom do an excellent job. But to get back to the visuals, we shouldn’t be seeing stuff like this in 2008.
Gameplay hasn’t deviated much from previous Disgaea titles, your Dark Assembly has been replaced with Home Room where class representatives vote on your motions, and if they decline, you could always do things the hard way, or the easy way if your levels are high enough. But just because they’ve been refining some of the game play elements doesn’t mean that they haven’t tried to do something new. On the contrary there are a lot of new micro-management aspects to the game that are actually a lot of fun to tinker with. For example, in the homeroom you are able to adjust where your party members sit. Depending on who they are seated next to will affect certain stats, like the percentage chance to perform a combo attack in battle. There are also evilities, think abilities, only a little more diabolical. You can gain an evility that allows Mao to collect mana when anyone who sits adjacent to him scores a kill.
There is also the requisite Item World, which is a nearly endless randomly generate dungeon where you power up items to make them more powerful and increase their stats. Every item, big or small has some form of stat boosting ability, although consumable items cannot be equipped. There is also a new way of building up your skill set; you can simply buy out new abilities in exchange for mana, allowing you to learn skills at a much quicker rate than ever before.
After a cursory look at Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice, it is shaping up to be a solid title for Strategy RPG fans. It’s got a lot of the charm that the first Disgaea had, from its megalomaniacal anti-hero, to its eclectic cast of second banana types, Disgaea 3’s cast looks to be the most lovable yet. Despite the definitely dated look of the game, Disgaea 3’s proof is in the game play pudding and will be explored further in our upcoming review.