Disgaea 5 – Initial Impressions

I don’t really know if this can still be considered “initial” impressions considering that I’ve sunk almost 20 hours into this game, but hell, we’re gonna call it that anyway.

Who on this planet who’s already familiar with strategy games doesn’t know of Disgaea? Probably no one. The fifth entry finally arrived the past few weeks (which is actually the sixth main console entry, believe it or not) and what do I think? I would say ask you why I would spend 20 hours on a game I didn’t like. This game is that much fun.

Let’s discuss the plot first. Disgaea is a series based largely on its fun characters and usually highly silly plot – the fifth game takes itself a little more seriously than past entries but still has a silly overtone. While our main character, Killia, isn’t the most dynamic character ever, I’m still quite attached to his personal story just enough to stay interested in his personal motivations. Also joining our main character is Seraphina, a succubus overlord who has poor manners and a “rich girl” attitude, Red Magnus, a beefy musclehead, Christo, an expert tactician, and Usalia, a forsaken bunny princess. There could be more, but these are the star good guys thus far.

The story has some classic shonen staples, including introducing a general early on who you cannot hope to even scratch, demonstrating a difference in power. While many scoff at the idea, I love it – it makes me want to get stronger so I can destroy her the next time we encounter this general. Killia’s motiviations prove to be, more or less, the driving mystery in the story’s plot – why does he want revenge on the big bad, Void Dark, so badly? What is it he had done to him?

How about the gameplay? Gameplay is turn based strategy RPG split into “missions”, with five missions composing a “chapter”. In between every mission you’re permitted to return to your hub world in true Disgaea style, where you can power up your units, buy items, push a new edict through to the counsel, make a new unit, interrogate prisoners….there is no shortage of tasks you will find yourself habitually doing in your downtime. The best thing is that it will never feel like “work” or “grinding” – you will feel amazing as you continually make your units even more powerful than they already were. Yes, that is what I am saying – Disgaea makes grinding fun. Before you know it, you’ll have 15 generic units that you lovingly trained to be killing machines, and you’ll love every second of it.

The strategy RPG aspect is great fun. Because of the way commands are executed, you can do team attacks and set up combinations that would otherwise be impossible in a game like Fire emblem. Leveling up your equipment in “item worlds” is a great way to get experience and money while simultaneously making your weapon even better than it already is, and you can do this nearly endlessly. It’s an addicting cycle and it certainly works.

One of the best changes to the series is that in this version your generic units will actually class up without the need for reincarnation – one of the most irritating aspects in previous disgaea games was that units would need to reincarnate back to level 1 every time they went up one class. You can also further drive class growth by putting sub classes on any of your units.

The music is great. “Moving on”, which is the hub world music, is probably my favorite hub world track I’ve heard in the series yet. It’s soothing melody will calm you every time you decide to leave the game menu on while you get a snack. I like the track so much I even listen to it while I work. Even if you never play this game, give it a listen – you will surely leave with a fond smile.

There is also the trademark goofiness, such as requesting more money from the council by getting the council members drunk or bribing them, fighting over curry, or dealing with incompetent overlords. You’ll be sure to have a blast with this lighthearted but deep strategy RPG. Just know what you’re signing up for.

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