Friday 2 July 2021

Disgaea 6: Defiance of Destiny Review (Switch)

Just when you think you’ve cleared your Switch backlog here comes the next version of the everlasting time sink that is Disgaea. It’s pause for thought that someone out there may have spent a large portion of their waking life playing Disgaea games. 1, 4 and 5 are already available just on the Switch and multiple versions of all the games span all the way back to the series debut in 2003 on the PS2. It’s a testament to the quality of the series that such a niche genre has had consistent Western releases for so long. And we’ve played all of them.

This time the story focuses on a lowly but arrogant zombie named Zed who’s realm and way of life is threatened by an unnamed God of Destruction. However, Zed has the unique ability of Super Reincarnation which means not only that he cannot permanently die, but also that each time he does he comes back to life stronger. Naturally, Zed sets out across the Netherworld to defeat the menace and win the day. As stories go we found it to be solid but perhaps not as weirdly humorous as some of other games. (But then how can you beat a vampire that shouts SARDINES! As Prinny’s charge into battle).

It’s an intimidating series, but Disgaea 6 is the first game in the long running franchise to put in real allowances for newcomers with numerous things now in place to try and placate the ‘grind’. It’s impossible to go through every system without effectively creating a hundred point list but some of the more obvious thing include – experience being able to be shared with non-fighting characters, an adjustable cheat menu, auto-battling and game speed-up systems. But don’t let this put you hardcore Disgaea fans off because these new systems have actually been built into the makeup of the game with level caps being raised to 99999999 and the Dark Assembly and other options available to add twists onto just about everything.

The auto-battle system can also become like a meta game in itself. Much like games like Final Fantasy 12 you can programme your team with all sorts of detailed instructions meaning taking the time to properly prep your team will likely become an obsession for many players before they try and beat the levels from a more managerial setting.

The wealth of systems we have come to expect from Disgaea are all still here. So the lifting, geo symbols, team system, teams attacks and character creation systems remain. It looks like the occasionally seen system that allows monsters to be turned into weapons is absent though. The particular gimmick of this game (aside, from the speed up systems), is that of mounted units and large monsters. Mounted units have greater movement and combat reach and the oversized monsters are incredibly strong and can attack multiple panels at once. It’s an interesting dynamic to add to levels which can often feel condensed and cramped and certainly adds another level of both attacking and defensive strategy.

So far so good, but the problem is we really struggled to engage with Disgaea 6. It just seems a little off in places and it’s hard to really identify why. The most obvious aspect is perhaps the new 3D look of the game. We’ve always had an issue with the colours being used in Disgaea (geo panels especially), but the added detail to levels seem to serve to make them cluttered and it’s really difficult to see colour dependant objects on the map. At times we were even struggling to find the cursor. Non-colour-blind gamers out there may well feel differently about this of course. To us it just looks a bit too busy.

The other thing that stands out a bit is how strangely the characters move - especially in the base area. It just looks really odd. It’s like frames of animation are missing and when you jump it feels like Zed has no weight to him. The base area is also incredibly cramped together which obviously means less wandering around but also less grandeur and opportunity for flourishes in what should be your super evil lair. Again, it’s not a big thing but it just didn’t feel quite how Disgaea should.

Overall, the mechanics of Disgaea 6 are as strong as ever and all of the new additions are both welcome and integrated brilliantly. The story and overall visual design may not be quite as inspired or anarchically crazy as before but that is somewhat of a minor point. If you like Disgaea then here’s another time sink for you and if you’ve never played it before then this is a great place to start. Just because it’s not our favourite Disgaea ever (SARDINES!), doesn’t mean it’s still not better than almost every other strategy RPG out there. You’ve finished the other three Disgaea games on the Switch now anyway right D00D?

Overall 8/10

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