First up is our disclaimer. We received this game for review purposes only, and as such all opinions in this review are our own. No money has been exchanged for this review.
The Netherworld is a place of demons, where the soul of sinners is sent and have to work to pay off their sins. It’s also a school (a place of anything but learning). Most children think of school as hell. In this case it’s literal and all of the students are demons. These hellish abominations are bright, vibrant and colorful, with quirky over-the-top personalities and a lot of vices. This motif is mostly played for laughs.
Disgaea is a series of tactical RPG games made by Nippon Ichi Software (lit.: Japan 1st Software). Each game takes place in a different Netherworld setting, with the human realm in the middle and heaven on top.
You start off the game as Mao, the son of the school’s head dean. His goal is to become the #1 honor student. Since this is down bellow, it means doing things the bizzaro way. Forget attending class, just skip them. The teachers don’t care anyway. Along the way he picks up a party of personalities. Most of the tone is happy, with sarcastic humor and surprisingly good voice acting. This game has a lot of grinding and the level cap is 999 or was it 9999. In other words absurdly high. Since it’s a tactical game, combat takes place over a square grid. This means that the player goes first, then the enemy. In order to spice this up and add to the challenge, the game has something called “Geo Effects”. Squares with the same glowing color will have a special effect, if a box is on that color. Effects includes invisibility, enemy level-up, recovery and more. The major challenge in the story mode is the puzzle-like nature of enemy placement and Geo Effects. However if one enjoys the plot and the characters, it’s very rewarding to continue. Not only that, there’s a lot of extra content, multiple endings and post-game things to do.
Another notable thing is that the player can create a party by selecting from a list of classes along with the unique main characters. Every class has strengths and weaknesses, and the higher the level the more absurd their special attacks get.
Another fun and very true-to-life mechanic is the court room, where one passes bills. Since hell is a bad place, corruption runs rampant and the only way to gain the favor of the Senators is to bribe them or beat them senseless. Be warned, they tend to out-level you a lot. Some are drunk, some are sleeping and some are just against you. The total number of votes has to be above 50%.
Aside from that there is the “Item World”, where one enters into an item in order to boost its stats. Each level is random and scales accordingly. In the best items, a persistent player can get all the way down to the bottom and beat up the item good and proper!
For fun, giggles and grinding, there are tower attacks. As the name implies, the strongest party member stays on the bottom and all the others stand on top of that one. When one character attacks, all others in the tower help and the experience is divided equally.
There’s much more to it than what I’ve mentioned, however the game does a wonderful job of explaining all of its internal mechanics. I enjoy this series to the fullest. However it’s quite a niche and most of the humor is derived from stubborn characters and a lot of sarcasm. There’s no blood and the violence is merely for laughs.
The endings and extra content make for a lot of readability, since different characters and team builds can lead to an entirely new flow and challenge.
Also, the fact that it’s turn-based with a lot of grinding will put some people off; especially children. Both the American and Japanese voice actors do a splendid job and the music is quite good, with some exceptions. For those of you who just hate listening to dubbing, there’s an in-game option to switch over to Japanese (with subtitles).
By now the above pictures should give a very clear indication of what to expect. The game is purely anime style, with cell shading and big expressive eyes. On a side note, the body types vary from flat chested to highly endowed; something that most developers seems to shy away from. It’s also a very good source for cosplay ideas.
Disgaea3: Absence of Detention is available on PS3 and Vita platforms. With some luck it will eventually end up on Steam as well.