Wednesday 24 September 2014

Disgaea 4: A Promise Revisited Review (PS Vita)

We are big fans of the Disgaea series at Retro 101 but the Vita version of Disgaea 3 never really gave us the levelling bug that other games have in the past. It lacked a bit of personality and was somewhat cumbersome to control (and to see). This port of Disgaea 4 promises to fix all that with some refined graphics, better control and an all-round better storyline.

This time around the plot revolves around a Prinny trainer by the name of Valvatorez, a once powerful tyrant who has renounced much of his power based on a promise he made many centuries ago. A noble demon he never breaks a promise and when a group of Prinnies are taken away by the government for execution he leaps into action to save them. Why you ask? Because he promised them some sardines for tea and they were taken before they could eat them. Yes. Really.

Of course as things progress it gets much more complex than that and before you know it you’re on a mission to overthrow the powers that be with a bunch of rag tag companions, failed demons and several Prinnies. It’s possibly the maddest plot yet and it’s beautifully written and funny throughout with a lot of fourth wall breaking, several of the characters believing they are the main hero and one thinking they are the end of game boss. 

The game is now much easier to see on the Vita screen. Graphics are smoother and while that removes the pixel style it certainly helps out with knowing what is going on. You can also pan and zoom around the battlefield a lot better which gives you all the angles you need. That said, it did takes us a while to work out exactly how you were meant to do it by pressing square and both shoulder buttons together without it just flipping out the camera everywhere (hold square down first).

The standard systems are still in place so if you’ve played Disgaea before you’ll know what to expect. There are new systems as well with tower combat given more flexibility and monsters being able to morph together to create bigger monsters or turn into special weapons for human characters. You can also place special buildings on a game board then place characters around them to gain special effects such as gaining experience from the head of that building. The more levels you complete the bigger the board gets and the more buildings you can place (after senate approval of course).

While it’s not too tricky to pick up for fans of the series it’s not massively newcomer friendly. With a fair few systems added to what was already there it means there is a huge wealth of stuff to take in. There is a very short tutorial section but you’ll have to do a lot of playing around to see how things work if you want to really get into the meat of the game. 

The levels don’t exactly ease you in gently either. While enemies are generally of a manageable level the layout and design of stages is somewhat advanced. Very early on we were taking on intricate patterns of Geo Symbols which in previous games haven’t appeared until quite some way into the game. By world three we were already facing strings of snipers and archers placed out of reach on panels that allowed double shots and health recovery.

There are certainly very few levels where you just rock up with your squad and hit the enemy until they disappear. This isn’t of course a bad thing but we can certainly see how it might be too much for newcomers. While we’re on the subject there really needs to be a colour blind filter implemented in some way as well. Having so many different Geo Symbol colours is fine but it’s impossible to identify what panel is what when it gets so crowded with different colours and characters.

Small issues aside this is the best Disgaea for some time. It has the more flexible difficulty curve of Disgaea 2 while having a sense of humour and quality characters that rival the original game. If number crunching, levelling and bizarre characters are your thing then there isn’t anything out there better than this on Vita. It’s certainly going to last a very long time as well. If you aren’t shouting SARDINES! Within a week of play we’ll be amazed.

Overall 9/10

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