The Disgaea games are now well known for their massive depth, crazy characters and ability to steal hundreds of hours away from the most dedicated players. Each of the main games has had a version for portable systems and Absence of Detention is the Vita’s debut Disgaea title.
Disgaea 3 follows the story of an Overlord’s son Mao as he tries to overthrow his father. In twisted Disgaea fashion this means that our anti-hero is seeking out how to become a ‘real’ hero as only a real hero could vanquish an Overlord. Queue lots of in-jokes and obscure humour and one very odd script.
The game is set in a demon high school where missing lessons is the right thing to do and anyone who attends class and completes work is treated as the bad kid. Aside from the setting, pretty much everything is here that you would expect. Systems have been changed to fit the high school theme (such as the home room being used to build character relationships and the court to build new characters replaced with the school ‘committee’), but it’s all there and a fair bit of it is now a touch more streamlined.
One of the biggest changes is that you can now buy skills for characters with money rather than wait for them to level up. Characters can also be directly assigned as master and apprentice more easily and relationships can be improved by moving characters chairs together in the home room. It’s a bit strange to start with but does give series veterans something else to play around with and think about.
Battles and levels are pretty much what we have come to expect. You pick your team and fight in a grid based arena until you prevail or the enemy does. It works as well as it always has and the transition to the Vita’s smaller screen doesn’t bring about any noticeable issues. There is a zoom function in place when things get a little small and you can also rotate the battle field which means you can always tell exactly what’s going on.
On initial release on the PS3 there was some criticism of the graphics but we are pleased to say that they look perfectly fine on the smaller Vita screen. There are times when things can be a bit small (especially in the hub areas), but nothing you can’t solve with some simple touch control zooming. Characters and monsters are still easily identifiable and you should always know who is attacking who and with what.
The main draw to go through the Disgaea experience once again is the plot and for those who engage you’ll find a suitably crazy plot with a host of unique and unhinged characters. We wouldn’t say it’s a series highlight but it’s certainly good enough to keep fans going. The biggest problem is that the characters aren’t as likable or interesting as those in other Disgaea games so it becomes more about the battles than the tale being told.
As a starting point for Disagea on the Vita this is a good enough attempt. The few tweaks made to the console game, like the touch zoom, are welcome and the games style fits fairly well onto the system. There are minor issue such as the needing to zoom perhaps a bit more than you should but it’s nothing that derails the experience. If you’re looking for some portable strategy then you won’t find anything with more depth than this.