Disgaea 3: Absence of Detention ReviewKyle Stepp
Disgaea 3 is one of those games that just make you ask "why?" After all, it's a port of a PlayStation 3 game on the Vita, a system veritably deluged in ports. It's a port that doesn't really add anything that wasn't already in the PlayStation 3 version, and even the original game looked like a PS2 game despite being released for its newer sibling.
So, why should you get Disgaea 3? Because, even at it's weakest, Disgaea is a series that's an awful lot of fun, even if for the wrong reasons. The graphics are still incredibly dated--there's nothing you'd see aside from the admittedly pretty HD fonts that you couldn't also see on the PS2 or PSP--but they're serviceable enough and clean; lacking a lot of the strange blurring effect that many PSP ports had. The main character, Mao, is no less hilarious than anyone familiar with Disgaea should come to expect. He's the son of the demonic Overlord of the Evil Academy, a school that somehow teaches its students how to be evil by encouraging them to skip out on classes. His goal: to overthrow his father by becoming a hero... Not because he's a valiant supporter of disgusting (from his perspective) things like truth, justice and love, but because it's always the hero who defeats the evil overlord and saves the day in his favorite manga and video games.
He's joined by a cadre of interesting and funny characters, such as a "delinquent" girl that does such unthinkable things as actually attending class and doing her homework, and of course, the always-lovable (well, sometimes) Prinnies make yet another return.
Combat options in Disgaea 3 remain as varied as they always have. As a strategy-RPG, you can expect to be moving characters along a grid-based, isometric battlefield with various differences in height... And Disgaea staples such as team-based combination attacks and throwing people across the room are all still there. Unfortunately, there's very little reason to actually use the various options that make Disgaea such a deep game. Early in the game, you'll unlock the item world, which allows you to jump into randomly generated battlefields that exist within different pieces of your equipment. Completing these areas not only nets you a ton of experience, but allows you to enhance even your weakest weapons into foe-rending monstrosities. There's also the classroom: a replacement for the original Disgaea's political options that allow you to enact various rules, recruit new party members, and so forth... But outside of recruiting a few new members, there's not much reason to use the options available to you. Mao isn't quite as overpowered Laharl was in the original, but it's still far too easy to take all of the "strategy" outside of the "strategy RPG," particularly because it's possible to reach a maximum level of 999, and thus unleashing enormously large amounts of damage against your foes becomes trivial.
One thing I absolutely adore about Nippon Ichi is their willingness to include a lot of the "little" touches that make the game worthwhile. Indeed, Japanese and English voice acting options are available, as is often the case in NIS gams. There's even a host of other options, like the ability to (thankfully) turn off the sensitivity on the PS Vita's awful rear touchpad, and the ability to change the little icon on the save screen to one of any number of various characters from the game. All in all, Disgaea 3 may have dated visuals, a lack of challenge, and a silly story, but it's so over-the-top that it's impossible not to love. The catchy, upbeat soundtrack by Tenpei Sato is easy on the ears and fits the mood of the game perfectly, despite being set in the Underworld.
So, why should you get Disgaea 3? Because even at it's weakest, Disgaea is--if you'll pardon the pun--a hell of a fun time.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.