- Plethora of content
- Evolution of series' mechanics
- Sharp and detailed sprites
- Great voice acting
- Item World is endless fun
- Story takes itself a bit too serious at times
- A bit daunting due to abundance of systems
The Disgaea series is one of those known because of the large damage numbers, the grinding, and the zany characters. It started out on the Playstation 2, to a niche fanbase, which has remained throughout the years, all the way up to the Playstation 4 release of Disgaea 5. The game initially came out in 2015 on the PS4, then was later ported to the Switch and PC in 2017 and 2018, respectively. The series is highly regarded as one that steadily improves with each entry, but it can also be daunting, with all of its mechanics. Does Disgaea 5 continue to be the Overlord of the Netherworlds, or has it been reduced to a mere Prinny?
There exists countless Netherworlds in the universe, with each one being ruled by an Overlord. However, the sudden appearance of someone named Void Dark is threatening the very existence of these Netherworlds, as he takes over them through sheer force. There is one lone demon that is standing up to him, though, with his goal being to take revenge against Void Dark. His name is Killia, a one-demon army that eventually saves Princess Seraphina, the Overlord of Gorgeous. As someone who makes all men bend to her whim with her powers, she takes Killia as a servant, who begrudgingly accompanies her to help overthrow Void Dark.
The story in Disgaea 5 is decent and has the usual Disgaea charm, with there being a number of comedic moments, but it does tend to steer towards the serious side more often than not. It’s not going to win any awards, but it does get the job done, with the game throwing some twists here and there to try and keep your interest. As far as where it stands in the Disgaea stories, it’s probably somewhere in the middle or so, as the first Disgaea still stands on top as the best story in the series. One of the bigger problems, though, is that the characters tend to fall flat, especially when compared to some of the other characters in past games.
Nippon Ichi, the developers of the Disgaea series, continued to use the 2D sprites approach to the game’s characters. Considering they didn’t really go HD with the sprites until the fourth entry, Disgaea 5’s sprites are crisply well done and fit well with the backgrounds. The Playstation 4 version of the game doesn’t experience any slowdown at all, especially with all of the crazy animations for some of the skills. Also, all of the skills are really extravagant, especially the ones learned later on by characters, as they tend to be a bit more cinematic in their execution than earlier ones.
Of course, it isn’t a Disgaea game without the loads of systems and gameplay elements under its belt. As with other games, you have a central hub, where you are able to go through your units, equip them with items, and do a bunch of other things. From here, you can go to individual maps, where you will do battle against preset units. Battles take place on grid-based maps, where each party will be able to take a full turn before the other side goes. You deploy your units from a Base Panel (up to a maximum of 10 at the start of the game), then you can do a full turn with each character, meaning move and taking an action of some kind.
Of course, the actions you pick aren’t immediately used as soon as you choose. What Disgaea does is let you choose all of your actions and put them into a queue, then choose to unleash them all at once, if you wish. This adds a layer of strategy to the game, since you can also just fire off your attacks as soon as you input them. To make things even more strategic, there are special skills the characters learn, lifting and throwing, Team Attacks, Combos, and much, much more. Luckily, there are help files in the game, as well as tutorials, that will teach you a lot of this basic stuff, so newcomers to the series aren’t going to be sitting there scratching their heads on what to do.
Thankfully, maps aren’t just cut and dry like that, as Disgaea has something called Geo Panels and Geo Effects. These come in the form of colored panels on the ground in some maps, which offer both beneficial and negative elements to the fight. Sometimes you might want to get rid of the Geo Effects, as some of them can prove to make the battle a lot more difficult. This can be done by destroying the corresponding Geo Symbol, but there’s a bit more to this than what meets the eye. As previously mentioned, Geo Symbols are colored and depending on the color of the panel it’s sitting on, you can change the color of the panel. For example, if a red symbol is on a blue panel, destroying the symbol will change all of the blue panels to blue. With this in mind, there is another layer of strategy on maps with Geo Effects, although the puzzles that featured in past games aren’t really a thing here.
As you progress through the main story, you will unlock a bunch of other services in the game, such as a Cheat Shop, one of the main attractions. Yes, demons will cheat to win, but the Cheat Shop makes it easier to grind, as you will be able to adjust a slider that allows your characters to earn more experience than normal, as an example. You can also make the enemies stronger than normal with the Cheat Shop, so that will be one of the more used services in the game. You will also be able to unlock new classes, both humanoid and monster, as you delve deeper into the story. Unlike previous games, they are unlocked via the new Quest Shop, which are basically little throwaway sidequests that have you either killing specific enemies, or handing in an item.
There are many different things to do in Disgaea 5 and listing them all here might be a bit overkill. However, one thing that will be talked about is the Item World, which has been an inclusion in every game since the first. All of the items you can use, either as consumables or the various pieces of equipment, have a randomized dungeon inside of them. You are able to go inside of the items and as you clear floors, not only will you encounter stronger enemies, but you will also power up the item that you’re inside. While this might not be important for something like a healing item, it becomes valuable for a piece of equipment, since it basically makes them stronger in the process.
Since there are so many items in the game, it’s really easy to get lost in the Item World, as there’s much more to it than just the randomly generated dungeons aspect. There are Innocents, which are special NPCs that are related to the various stats you can boost, as well as Mystery Rooms. These are special rooms you can randomly find, which are preset and serve different functions, like map with a plethora of Prinnies or one such Mystery Room that allows you to duplicate the item you’re currently leveling. The Item World really adds a lot of extra things you can do in the game, with Disgaea 5’s iteration probably being the most involved in the series.
Besides the Item World, Disgaea 5 introduced a new means of powering up characters themselves, or rather, a different spin than what was kind of introduced in Disgaea 3’s Class World. Chara World, as it is called in Disgaea 5, is basically a board game that has multiple difficulty levels. Your goal is to get to the end within a certain number of turns, but there are panels on the board that allow you to get more turns. However, there are panels that also have negative effects, such as removing Mana from the character, losing turns, and much more. The Chara World allows you to increase your character’s stats and aptitudes, as well as allowing you to choose from a number of special rewards, like increased movement, or more Evility slots. Chara World is basically another layer of allowing you to improve your characters and the board game aspect breaks up the monotony of playing normal maps.
If you’ve played any other Disgaea game in the past, then you might recognize that the main story is just a minute portion of the game. A running joke in the Disgaea community is that the story is just a 30-40 hour long tutorial, as the real game starts after completing it. That’s because the postgame is where things ramp up and Disgaea 5 offers one fo the more extensive postgames in the series. There’s actually a postgame story, with a number of extra maps that bring an end to some of the stories presented during the main game. To make things even longer, there is a Carnage set of levels, which are harder variants of the normal levels from the main game.
As briefly mentioned above, the main story of Disgaea 5 will probably only take around 30-40 hours to complete. It’s a great story and all, but that is literally just scratching the surface as to what this game can provide to the player. Should you opt to continue after the main story, then you’re looking at a lot more time spent playing it. The postgame, and all of the content contained within that portion, could last another 60+ hours for the player. Of course, playing through the game once and doing all of the other content will likely not make you want to play through it again, so you’re not really looking at a lot of replayability. There is a lot of game here, though, so you’re definitely getting a lot of mileage from it.
Disgaea 5 is the best game in the series, mechanically, as it streamlines a lot of the options that were present in the previous entries. This makes it a lot simpler to get into, although there are a lot of things present, so it can be a little easy to get lost in everything. The game regularly goes on sale and if you can manage to snag the Complete Edition, either via Playstation Network or on one of the other platforms, then you will get more bang for your buck, as the DLC offers more characters and some tiny scenarios to play through, possibly extending your playtime even more. The Disgaea series can be daunting, especially because of all the high numbers and grinding needed, but it can be a rewarding experience through and through, if you just give it a chance.
Disgaea 5 is one of the premier strategy/tactical role-playing games. It is the best game in the series, mechanically, offering a lot of content and possibly 100+ hours of enjoyment.