by Virgin Wolf
reviewed on PS3
Strategy RPGs have always been a niche genre. They are not something that every gamer loves, but have enough of a following that developers can turn a profit. Case in point, Nippon Ichi Software; while it had other companies such as Atlus and Mastiff publish its earlier titles in America, the games sold well enough that the developer began self publishing its own games in the US. One game can be pointed at to mark the beginning of their success, Disgaea: Hour of Darkness. It was a game that embraced traditional strategy RPGs fully, added new elements to the genre, had an appropriately wacky story, and introduced the world to the concept of an exploding penguin.
Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice carries on the proud tradition of its two prequels and is the first game NIS has developed for the Playstation 3. There are few connections to previous Disgaea games other than a cameo appearance in the intro movie and the ability to unlock the original game’s characters in the post-game. Disgaea 3 is set in the Netherworld Evil Academy where Honor Students are those who skip school and don’t do homework and delinquents are the good students. The top Honor Student in the school is Mao, who has never once attended class. His greatest desire is to overthrow his father, the Overlord, to exact revenge for destroying his game system and saved files. Mao becomes convinced that the best way to do this is to become a hero, even though he doesn’t understand what a hero fights for.
The game’s plot is much better than Disgaea 2’s and almost reaches the uniqueness of the original game. The characters are the best part about this game; each one is as memorable as the first game’s cast. Along with Mao, you have the number one delinquent and her two followers, a wannabe hero, a princess who is more than a little violent, and a Home Ec teacher that has a lot in common with a famous TV chef. The inherent craziness of the series is intact with many moments that break the fourth wall.
The gameplay itself has remained unchanged in Disgaea 3. Characters still move around on a grid and have the ability to throw characters, enemies, and objects. Geo Panels still give stat bonuses or weaknesses if a character stands on them. Interestingly enough, NIS decided to change up the way characters earned and leveled up new special moves. In past games, the more you used a move, the more it leveled up and gained range and power. Disgaea 3 forgoes this system in favor of purchasing and powering up new abilities with Mana, which is earned by defeating enemies. Mana was and still is necessary to create new characters and new clubs (which provide stat bonuses), and open up new items in shops. It is also used to acquire Evilities that strengthen your characters.
The dynamic of requiring Mana to gain all these abilities that used to be given to you changed the strategies in a major way. Healer types that you could leave in the background sometimes have to be used in combat so that they can gain Mana. It makes managing your stable of characters necessary and when special attention is paid, the rewards pay off. There are several other gameplay changes and additions that I don’t have time to go over, but the game is packed with potential strategies.
No Pros and Cons at this time