It’s been a while, Disgaea. I was pretty obsessed with the franchise, back in the days of the first two releases: I was a huge fan of strategical role playing games and, for some reason, animé had not worn out its welcome, tropes and all. I suppose that the localization team was busy trying hard to carve its niche in the industry. Over time, though, playing the games to their utter ends required quite an investment in time and patience and… well… the franchise had worn out its welcome in my mind. I had to take a break… coming back to it, now, it feels as though I’m reminded of why I loved it and why I grew tired of it, all at the same time.
The First Twenty Minutes
The demo that I played pretty much takes you through the largest portion of the tutorial levels and gives you free reign up until a point in the story progression, which is more than enough to get a pretty good understanding of the game. As someone who had really enjoyed the first two games, I found myself going “oh, wow, that’s still a thing in this game” as well as going “sweet Jesus, they’re really going to beat the shit out of that horse, aren’t they” in equal amounts. One hugely noticeable difference that I came across is the sheer amount of everything that’s going on at any given time, whether it’s the animation quality of the sprites, the complete and utter business of the environments and shop menus, the utter detail given to the “under the hood” stuff, and the subtle praise given to the players who still obsess over this franchise. NIS definitely knows its core audience and always has: this game feels like a love letter to them as a kind of thanks for sticking it out for so long.
That being said, though, it feels as though this game and its staff knows exactly what they can and can’t get away with now and it shows in some of the stuff that they repeatedly beat you senseless with. I found myself repeatedly rolling my eyes at how often the game takes the opportunity to remind you that it, essentially is also an animé in the sheer volume of the tropes they are constantly pumping down your throat. Seraphina is probably the greatest example of this: in the short time I spent with the demo I was constantly reminded that she fits the condescending man-eater trope; I’m not talking about once every scene, I’m talking about once every goddamned minute or so, if it even waits that long. And it keeps on going like this: the main character literally stops before every battle to eat something that amounts to pho, which causes the same reaction in his opponents almost every time he does it.
It’s a great game and all, I just wish it wasn’t like every other NIS game out there by taking every possible opportunity to remind you that it’s appealing to animé fans. Every. Goddamned. Opportunity. Possible.
Critical opinion seems to be the same, mostly: functionally, the game is wonderful, one of the best of its kind. However, the game gets tedious quickly and only the most dedicated of the players that play this game are truly rewarded, something that’s been a problem with this franchise right from step one. As for the aesthetic and presentation and story, it’s really hard to get past for people who just want to play the game and even for people who are just casually into animé it’s really a big pill to swallow as this will really test your patience right out of the gate and will never let up. IGN gave it an 87, GameTrailers an 86, Game Informer an 85, and Gamespot an 80; that’s a pretty consistent opinion of this title, critically, painting this title as one of the best in the series by fans and non-fans alike, with its problems and benefits weighed in equally.
The Final Word: Should I Buy?
I’m gonna say no on this one, unless I am afforded a really good opportunity to pick it up for cheap. I don’t really have the time to commit to this game to really make it worth it and even if I did, I’ve done it all before, meaning that all I would really be getting from this game is a new story with new self-references and new features, all things that, honestly, just don’t amount to a full price purchase for me, given that the story is so very typical and the feature adds haven’t really shown me anything that really wows me. I think that, in all honesty, I’ve had my time with franchise and that ship sailed from my port a long, long time ago.