Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance
Since its debut on the PlayStation 2 in 2003, the Disgaea series has made a name for itself by blending a deep strategy RPG experience with some of the funniest writing in gaming. While each new entry has changed the cast up a bit (with some callbacks from time to time), there have been some carry-overs for the whole series. You can count on having a fairly large hub world to explore that gives you time to take a break and interact in a way that goes beyond the older methods of non-stop menus. You’re also going to get a lot of passive-aggressive banter, some innuendo, and a ton of Prinnies lamenting their fates and saying “dood” a lot. Disgaea 5 takes the series to the PlayStation 4 for the first time ever, and builds on the higher-grade assets used in the PS3 entries.
This adventure begins with the cowardly princess Seraphina being saved by Killia. Killia, as his name implies, is of course a very passive guy who is against the killing of others. Or maybe not. The evil Void Dark has been destroying Netherworlds, so the annoying princess and more-annoyed Killia will have to get a rag-tag group together to win the day. The plot isn’t really anything special, but like with any Disgaea game, the scripting and voice work take all of the material and at least make it really funny to listen to once or twice. The scope of the game seems greater than ever before with 100 on-screen characters possible now instead of a couple handfuls before. Much like Dragon Force on the Saturn, seeing that many characters on-screen at once is an impressive sight.
Combat has been taken to a new level as well, with all-new mechanics added to the mix. The biggest game-changer is the revenge mode. Here, when a character takes a gauge-filling amount of damage, you’ll get a special technique attack and stat boosts. This means that if a battle really works against your whole team, or even just a powerhouse on it, you can comeback in reasonably short order. It’s a life-saver, and more importantly a time-saver, because if it all works out, you won’t need to replay the battle.
It’s never a bad idea to replay battles though, as you can refine skills that you’ve let lapse, or just learn new ones by trying new things in basically a risk-free environment. If you’ve already beaten a stage, you know you can beat it, so the pressure is largely off and you can just focus on enjoying yourself and getting better. You’ll also be able to focus more on treasure-grabbing, and try out the team-based combo attacks too. The ability to wield more than one weapon comes in handy as well since it allows you to experiment more in combat.
Variety is the name of the game here. You can do team-ups, have squads come in and act as healers and helpers even without them being a part of the active party, and do things you couldn’t imagine before. For the first time in the series, you can recruit characters that are actually useful from minute one. All you have to do is use the in-game HL currency to choose their level, and you can easily build your funds up by redoing battles. This means that if you have a tough fight ahead of you, you know that you’ll want to redo a couple of fights and maximize your spoils. Combo and team attacks during battles also fill up a pseudo-bonus goodie gauge after battle. The better you perform, the more items and rewards you’ll get. This means that you’ll spend less money too, and thus have a bigger party in case you find yourself short a member or two. There’s even a new board game to play where you can gamble with what you’ve got to hopefully gain even more.
The developers have thought of just about every flaw the core gameplay of the series has had and addressed it. The downside is that it might not be too newcomer friendly because there’s so much to take in – but that’s addressed in the game as well. Everything has a thorough tutorial, and all of them can be re-watched down the line. You can also see cutscenes and even view some of the portrait art whenever you want to out of battle.
Speaking of which, visually, Disgaea 5 is on par with the HD entries in the series from the PS3. Its scale has been increased a bit with the boost in total sprites on-screen, and there’s no slowdown even with a screen full of characters. Animation is about the same as it ever was, which is just fine for this series. SRPGs don’t really need lush animation, and broad strokes tend to work best for the genre anyway since that keeps the pace up and minimizes long-winded attacks. Like all of the other entries in the series, it’s pleasing to the eyes – but it doesn’t quite dazzle as much as one might expect on the PS4 beyond the sprite increase.
Disgaea’s soundtracks are usually excellent. Disgaea 5’s music is largely good, but it has some real odd music in there too. The hub music is this droning happy song that goes in an endless loop. Still, the overall soundtrack is enjoyable to listen to. The voice work remains the shining star of the franchise’s audio. The cast gets these characters perfectly, and it results in Killia having just the right amount of bitterness in his voice to where you can see that he’s hardened – but not totally made of stone. The Prinnies remain amusing too, and a lot of them continue to go a long way – even if dood isn’t nearly as funny as it was in 2003.
Longtime Disgaea fans will want to get Disgaea 5 as soon as possible. It takes everything that has worked before and makes the gameplay better than ever. While the storyline isn’t all that amazing, it does have some excellent characters and Killia is a blast. He’s just so annoyed, and he never stops being amusing. It’s the best-looking entry in the series to date, and the increase in battle size makes them seem even more epic. It’s very user-friendly even with its plethora of combat options though thanks to extensive tutorials – so newcomers can feel confident that they’ll able to able to do reasonably well even without experience with the series.
Reviewed By: Jeremy Peeples
Publisher: NIS America
This review is based on a digital copy of Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance for the PlayStation 4 provided by NIS America.