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The Underworld is full of sardines: Disgaea 4 review
I wasn’t much of a PSOne guy. Hell, my prepubescent ass was still secured in
front of my SNES. “Gaming in three dimensions?” I scoffed. “Pah!”
There were a couple of exceptions, however, that made me envy my PSOne
friends. First, of course, was Resident Evil. I’d be stupid to not appreciate
the beauty of that game. And second was a little gem called Vandal Hearts—
arguably the first grid-based, turn-based, strategy RPG. Most of you will
be more familiar with the Final Fantasy Tactics series. But, Vandal Hearts
was the O.G.
Grid-strategy RPGs are simple on the surface: move your assortment of
fantasy-based characters from one square to the next. Each character,
depending on class and movement score, gets across the board at varying
speeds. In opposition, you have the fantasy-based baddies on the other side,
also strolling across the board for the kill. Your knight moves three spaces
forward, kills an orc, and in turn gets smacked by the orc’s buddy.
Hours, people. Hours and hours of gaming fun.
Fast forward to 2011, and one of the only developers pimping this old school
gameplay is NIS, and they’ve done it again with Disgaea 4: A Promise
Disgaea 4 is the grid-strategy RPG fan’s wet dream. Here we have crisp,
funny, fantasy-based characters, and there are tons of them. You can
choose to use any of virtually hundreds of different characters and classes.
In fact, there are so many options for your party that part of Disgaea’s
challenge lies in character selection—will you pick the gargoyle for his cool
whirling air attack, or the thief with her ranged gun attacks? The slime
monster for his awesome slithering animations, or the zombie for brutal,
skull-pounding strikes? You could spend hours recruiting and experimenting
with the different characters. Or you could go a more traditional route and
stick with the main story characters and still spend hours grinding and
leveling and grinding and leveling.
Grinding is an inherent part of this experience. For starters, the level cap is
9,999. That’s right. And don’t think for a second you gain levels at the drop
of a hat. It takes effort. So, depending on your taste in RPGs, you might find
yourself bored to tears or completely psyched. Be warned: Disgaea 4’s
gameplay is not for the weak-hearted. In fact, I could imagine grinding in
this game even ten years down the road. It’s that dense.
And speaking of dense, Disgaea 4 truly lives in a world of its own. The game
speaks its own language (evility, corrupternment, chara world, prinnies, and,
yes, sardines), and it can be a little confusing learning that language, not to
mention learning the different modes of play.
Aside from the main story quests, gamers can enter the Item World, which is
basically a little universe inside every single potion, weapon, or piece of armor
you can own. There you can easily spend an hour or two just raising your
chosen item by ten levels. Each item in the game can be leveled to 300. Ouch.
This game will suck your hours away. It is simple, yet extremely addictive.
And each character does not get to change classes at the drop of a hat,
or die permanently (two traits of later Final Fantasy Tactics' games that
totally turned me away from the series).
Rating a game like that has its own challenges. It’s a niche genre to be sure,
so comparing it to shooters or even other kinds of RPGs seems unfair.
My previous love for this genre also colors my review, so I must underscore
that fans of the genre will be jumping for joy over this game, but if you’re not
an acolyte, it may leave a dirty taste in your mouth. However, as an example
of Grid-strategy role playing, this game shines over every previous incarnation,
Vandal Hearts included.
|For The Fans, By The Fans. Look Beyond The Mainstream.
Slick looking anime style. Fun attack animations.
Sound: Given the length of gameplay, the music may be
capable of driving you insane, though the sound effects
are entertaining over and over again.
Gameplay: Best Grid-strategy gameplay I’ve ever experienced.
Layered and incredibly dense.
Story: Some good anime-style comedy and satire going on here, but
after a while I skip the conversations in order to get to more gameplay.
Replayability: I wonder if this game even has a definable end.
Overall: Disgaea is an exercise in superior grid-strategy.
It takes the genre to unexpected places and boasts a gaming
experience that is deceptively simple yet utterly addictive.
As a grid-strategy RPG, it easily takes the crown.