Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice Preview
When the original Disgaea: Hour of Darkness hit store shelves for the PS2 back in August of 2003, few knew what to expect from Nippon Ichi Software. But it quickly became a strat/RPG phenomenon that dragged down high scores from critics around the world, and the niche title spawned a legion of hardcore followers. Later, NIS provided several sequels and follow-ups, including La Pucelle Tactics and Phantom Brave, and with each successive entry, the gameplay got deeper and deeper…and deeper. If a player was so inclined, he/she could take advantage of the almost non-existent level cap and jack characters all the way up to Lv. 9999, and if you factor in the complex Transmigration system, there are hundreds upon hundreds of hours of entertainment. We’re always looking at some of the most intricate video game titles on earth when it comes to the Disgaea series, so is it any surprise to learn Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice for the PS3 will probably be the deepest yet? Nah, of course not. But are you prepared for it?
You will start your seemingly never-ending adventure in the Evil Academy, and the students hone their dark skills here before setting out and wreaking havoc around the world. Most interesting of all is the fact that there will be four separate storylines, which must imply four separate main characters (as if they needed another way to lengthen the gameplay). We do know that, according to IGN, one of the main characters is Mao, whose father is both the headmaster and principle of the Academy. Now, you may think they’d go with the cliché and make Mao the brash, cocky, “I don’t have to listen to my instructors” kinda kid, but instead, he’s more like the class geek. He likes “geeky” things like comic books and video games, and he’d rather spend time doing homework than hanging out with friends. However, when the Overlord starts to get a little overly aggressive, Mao decides to utilize his 1.8 million EQ (evil genius level) to take down the reigning king. …that king just so happens to be his father, but hey, everything is fair game in the Netherworld. There has always been this “underworldly” comical tinge to all these games, and it’ll likely continue in the third entry.
For whatever reason, schools of higher learning appear to be a common setting for Japanese RPGs these days, so it’s no big shock to see it pop up in Disgaea 3. But as you already may have guessed, the Evil Academy doesn’t really operate the same way as an earthly university; the former actually encourages bad behavior. Well, of course! In other words, Mao needs to stop burying his nose in books and get out in the world to cause all kinds of trouble, especially if he wants to land the distinction of being an Honor student. Now, we aren’t sure if Mao will have companions in his quest, or if you will have to take control of other main characters to see the other three storylines, but we do know the same gameplay style will return. When you venture outside the safe walls of the Academy, you will face a variety of trials and tribulations, and all of them involve some form of combat. These are turn-based strategy games in the purest sense, in that speed is not a factor; one side moves and assigns actions to all its units while the other waits. The turn ends, and the other side does the same. The key to success relies on predicting your opponent’s moves ahead of time, or wiping them out before they have a chance to play evil strategy games with your head.
Special abilities and team combination attacks have arisen in past installments in the franchise, which adds yet another dimension of depth. Given the fact that battles can be gigantic – perhaps as big as 12-on-12 encounters – there’s always a lot to survey and a lot to think about. Hence, it only makes sense that we have a lot of options. There are always many job classes to choose from (most of which have to be unlocked as you progress), and the Transmigration process involves dropping back to Lv. 1, keeping some of the statistical traits you’ve acquired, and boosting up again. In this way, a Lv. 50 un-transmigrated character could never be as possible as a Lv. 50 character who has transmigrated once or twice…yeah, it’s a little complicated, but it’s a very cool system, and capable of yielding endless hours of fun for micromanagement freaks. We’re not certain if this mechanic will be in the third Disgaea, but we do know that NIS America will be including “more features than any other Disgaea title has ever seen before.” (source-IGN) They’re talking about literally “millions of hours of entertainment,” and that’s just nutty. Remember the Item World? Well, how’s about a Character World, too? ‘head spins’
We have heard of something called Skill Merging, though, which is one of the many new features. Fans of the series are quite familiar with the Dark Assembly, which presided over some of your requested actions. In this new game, the Assembly is more like a school club, and their decisions will not only affect the character and the entire school, but it will also let characters combine their skills via Skill Merging. Essentially, this is based on where you sit in the classroom. If you can formulate a relationship with a fellow classmate, you can start combo-ing skills with that person to form insanely powerful attacks, and it seems the possibilities are limitless. This reminds us of the system found in Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3, which had us attending classes and joining school clubs. Depending on the clubs we chose, we’d gain new abilities for battle, which – you have to admit – is quite similar to this Skill Merging system. Oh, and if you’re wondering about the level potential; it’s once again 9,999 (sorry, no shattering the 10,000 mark), but at the same time, we can still cause up to 10 million HP damage! We haven’t seen anything like that since…well, we’ve never seen anything like that.
Tons of characters, jobs, items, weapons, accessories, combo possibilities, battle scenarios, etc, etc, etc…it’s all here, and just waiting for those who are already drooling over this preview. Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice is already available in Japan – it released on December 31, 2007 over there – and we’re going to have to wait until next year, but it should be well worth the wait. If you’re a fan of the genre, you’ll never find another title that gives you more bang for your buck; $60 for what amounts to limitless hours of gameplay? Yeah, that’s tough to find.
6/10/2008 Ben Dutka