If there's one thing you can never accuse the Disgaea games of, it's being light on content. hefty turn-based, grid-based strategy games, these are the sort of titles you can sink hours upon hours into, and barely scratch the surface. And that latest instalment, Disgaea 5, even delivers in the story department too.
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The latest iteration in the long-running series, Disgaea 5 brings us a beautiful story of love and loss, of finding your true calling and overcoming your inner demons - in the most literal of senses! We thought we had problems! Petty arguments with our siblings, and the cute barista in our local coffee shop not even acknowledging our existence are nothing in comparison to the issues the characters in Disgaea 5 have to deal with. From a brother accidentally killing his sister, when all he wanted to do was obliterate her boyfriend (understandable), to an unlucky demon who oversleeps and wakes up to find his world has been destroyed… The feelings are real in this game.
The main storyline revolves around an evil demon known as Killidia, who decides to turn his life around and try to ignore his dark side, as he falls in love with the kind and loving Liezerota. He becomes peaceful, taking on the new name of Killia, and develops a bond with both her and her father, leaving her brother, Void Dark, mad with jealousy. Void Dark tries to eliminate this threat, but tragically, Liezerota is killed instead, and they are all left devastated by her death.
Putting you in control of Killia (less peaceful than his past self, and incredibly broody), it's up to you to set off on a quest through the underworld, and take part in dozens, if not hundreds of turn-based strategy battles. Starting out with only the cute Seraphina for company, a woman who enlists the help of Killia in her quest to destroy the evil overlord Void Dark for the cheek of trying to make her his wife, more characters are gradually introduced and added to your team, with each one sharing the same goal -the removal of the now Emperor Void Dark from their universe.
The intricate stories of these loveable characters are unveiled subtly throughout the game through lengthy visual novel style sections, and short anime style cut scenes that add an extra layer of pizazz. Full of comedy, we loved sitting back and enjoying the show.
By going into dungeons located in areas known as Netherworlds, you learn bit by bit how to fight against Emperor Void Dark's Lost minions, which are led by various powerful Overlords. Explaining exactly how to play the game, but doing it in a fun way that encourages you to experiment and develop your own style of victory, this is a great introduction to the series.
The key to this game is strategy. Each stage is divided up into a grid, and you can move your characters a certain number of spaces each turn. Kind of like a giant game of chess, only with spectacular amounts of damage, it's up to you to position your characters in such a way that they can take advantage of the bonuses that come from standing next to each other, while not leaving them vulnerable to the opposite team.
And there are plenty of little tricks you can take advantage of when you go into battle with your enemy. One of the nice touches is how you can lift one character using another, and throw them across the dungeon to another spot. Letting you get a weak character out of trouble fast, or chuck your power character across the map to start your pincer attack, it gives you so many more options for strategies, and lets you clear dungeons much faster. You can even throw a character who already has someone on their shoulders, as in the underworld, everyone is as strong as a god. There is a catch though - should you try this with any of the Prinnies, the cute but irritating penguin like creatures, they explode on impact, hurting those in the vicinity…
That said, having discovered that Prinnies are the reincarnation of criminal human souls, we are kinda OK with their sacrifice [how can you say that! - Ed] (and no one dies forever in this game, so a quick trip to the hospital will revive those who fall in battle). Sometimes we even used them to remove objects blocking our way, so they certainly have their uses. It just gets tiring hearing them shout "'sup, dood!?" every time you place one in the dungeon…
Making sure you take a well-balanced team can make the game a lot easier, with different classes of character having different strengths and weaknesses. By including a range of close combat and range fighters, a healer or two and some magic wielders, you'll cover most bases when it comes to the enemies in this game. As usual with the sort of games that involve building a team, levelling each one equally can make the game easier, and our tip to you guys is to always keep well stocked up on food and drink to replenish health and special points (needed to perform your most powerful attacks!)
A lot of the game consists of watching flashbacks. These are largely entertaining, and are where a lot of the character development in the game happens, so we think we're OK with this. However, there are a lot of cut scenes which involve reading through loads of dialogue, which can start to grate after a while. Luckily for us, when you feel like just getting on with the game you do have the option to skip these scenes!
We mostly found that we progressed through the game without too much frustration, the well thought out storyline largely to thank for that, but there were a couple of times when we came to a standstill and didn't know what to do next. From going around and interacting with various characters, we eventually came across an average-looking Prinny who apparently was the key to moving the story on. We literally had no idea this Prinny was something special, so maybe we weren't paying close enough attention at some point, but this did interrupt the flow of the story for us.
Still, in all, we loved playing Disgaea 5, as the range of different worlds to explore and unfolding storylines really made it feel like we were traversing around some unknown universe, but one that soon came to grow fond of, and wanted to save from any further destruction. Having the option to save regularly also made it comfortable to drop in and out of playing; whenever we had an hour or so spare we boot up our PS4 and knock out a dungeon or two!
Overall, Disgaea 5 is another cute Japanese role playing/strategy game to add to your list of games to play, especially if you like ones that require putting planning into your moves, and not a mindless hack 'n' slash. Even the toughest of characters in this story will melt your heart with their personal tales of hardship, and even though many of them appear to have forgotten to get fully dressed before heading out to save their universe, you can't fault them for their team spirit and ability to make friends with each other, no matter how diverse they all are in appearance and personality! The world could learn a thing or two from these guys!
Format Reviewed: Playstation 4