Disgaea 6 – Spoiler Full Edition

It’s been over a month since D6 came out in North America. We had a spoiler-free writeup on the series earlier, and I’m gonna write this post assuming that you already read that one. Is that entirely fair? No, it’s not, but otherwise I’d be retreading a lot of already-visited ground.

Just in case you still choose not to read it, here’s the five second version. D6 has a new art style, performance problems, and gives you meaningful access to the unique mechanics essential to the game faster than its predecessors. Good?

Few more things to get out of the way before we get into this:

  1. I cleared all content except Raksha Ba’al, the last endgame secret boss.
  2. I played without any DLC except the free Hololive DLC.
  3. My save file has about 300 or so hours on it. I’d say that translates to about 80-100 hours of gameplay, maybe a bit more. The reason those numbers don’t add up is because I spent a lot of time auto-grinding.

ART

Disgaea 6 has a very different look than its predecessors. Instead of using 2D sprites like the previous games, D6 uses 3D models. I don’t like them as much as the old sprites. In addition, the super over-the-top skills feel a bit more toned down than usual in terms of visual flashiness. I didn’t see anything that was super memorable, and many of the skill animations feel shorter, as compared to things like D5’s Super Olympia which crushes an entire solar system as part of the attack.

STORY

If I’m rushing through these elements, it’s mostly because I want to just address them and get them out of the way. Compared to the other games, I’d say D6 has a stronger finish and conclusion than 5, albeit with somewhat weaker middle. The characters are solid. There are some fairly funny moments, and a few more brutal ones. All in all, it’s fine. It does follow the same pattern as D5: many characters get a power up at various points in the story arc that correspond to their growth as a character, making that growth feel a bit forced, but it’s an overall improvement.

GAMEPLAY

And here we are: the big one. The chonky boy. The factor that the rest of this post is going to be devoted to: D6’s gameplay loop. So how is it?

Well… it’s a bit different than other entries in the series, actually. Let me explain what I mean.

Disgaea has a reputation for being a grindy game, but despite that fact, grinding usually isn’t necessary to beat the “Main Game” and see the credits roll. It’s more or less required to beat endgame content, but even then, grinding in Disgaea tends to be a bit different than traditional grinding. Instead of the classic “Walk around, find encounter, spam attacks, rinse repeat,” Disgaea tends to take more of a puzzle route. End game grinding in Disgaea is less about how much you grind and more about making your grind as efficiently as possible.

Let’s take D4 as an example. D4 has a set of end game maps that culminate in a map that is incredibly simple. It’s just a large square of enemies, arranged in a specific pattern. And it’s possible, with the right set of skills, abilities, and setup, to hit and clear this entire map in one hit, and hit the level cap after a single fight in this map. This isn’t an oversight. The map is designed in such a way to be beaten like this, and cleared incredibly quickly.

D6 is different. Unlike other games in the series, you will have to grind to beat the main story, because the level cap has been extended twice, all the way up to something like 9,999,999,999, along with the stat cap. The leveling process itself is much faster, and but there are still a few points where if you’re playing each map once, you won’t be high enough level to clear the next one.

And this is where some of the game’s new systems, Demonic Intelligence (D.I. for short), auto-play, and auto-repeat come into play. DI is effectively a visual programming language. Each unit can store up to five of these, and have a single one active. When you toggle on the auto-play feature, the game will have your units execute commands based off their active DI. If you toggle on auto-repeat, when you clear the map, you’ll just start it over again. Which means this is the point where D6 switches from being a tactics game, to being an incremental game.

DI is a really cool idea. I really would like to say I love it. Unfortunately, I can’t because in its current incarnation, it has some massive flaws. Disgaea 6 doesn’t have any form of documentation/information about exactly how DI works. When I say documentation, I mean explaining how the various functions work. For example, it would be great if the game explained that “The Target an Enemy Function will target the closest enemy starting by checking clockwise…” but it doesn’t. And while normally this wouldn’t be too bad, it brings me to the second point. There’s no real way to debug or step by step execute DI Instead, you can either have it turned on or off. There are also several commands that are effectively useless such as option that lets you target a specific square on a grid, without any way to figure out how gridding for maps works.

The end result is a system that is very hard to get it to dowhat you want. Instead, I found myself just sort of brute-forcing it. I would run DI setups that I thought would fail, and they would end up working. More often than not, though, the DI setups I thought would work instead failed. Instead of using DI as a solution to automate grinding to high levels, I tended to make simple patterns, and just have units leveled up high enough that I could face roll through content.

And generally speaking, this would be mostly fine if it wasn’t for another new system: Karma.

Karma functions as a replacement for the Chara World systems from previous games. These are areas that you would use to permanently boost your characters’ growth and stats.

In D6, instead of having an item world equivalent like D4, or a Mario Party board game like D5, each time you reincarnate a character, you get a certain amount of Karma. You’re then given a menu where you can spend this Karma on a variety of things, including extra evilities, stat boosts, and…. max level and stat caps.

And here’s the problem: because of the ridiculous scaling in D6, scaling your stats with Karma feels like the most effective way to boost scaling. But because the level cap is so high, it takes several hours of grinding with DI to have your party hit the level cap. Or you can do this bullshit and have a single member of your party hit max level in about 5 minutes, but there’s no way to use DI to farm it.

Regardless of how you choose to do it, once you do, you hit one final wall: The amount of Karma you get per reincarnation is “relatively” small. And because this is Disgaea, let me give some exact numbers. Each reincarnation from max level gives about 120,000,000 Karma. Each stat point past 2,000 costs 5,000,000 Karma to buy. Stats cap at 4,000. There are like 6 stats. I was gonna say “I’ll let you do the math”, but that’s a cop out, so instead, here it is.

Getting a single character to max stats would require you to run this 3-5 minute setup about 500 times. So, assuming maximum generosity, just about 25 hours, if each loop took 3 minutes. There is no way to speed it up or make it faster.

I wouldn’t say this is the defining factor of D6 for me, but it does highlight what feels like the weirdness of the game. It’s a game based around massive numbers, but makes getting to them a chore. It adds autogrinding and looping, but it does so in a way that makes the system hard to utilize, and debug, and means that you end up skipping more content than you play. And even when you use those systems, in the hyper late game, they’re less efficient than actually playing the game by such a massive amount that you may as well just ignore them.

While it might seem like I don’t like D6 given how much time I just spent tearing parts of the game apart, those things only came to annoy me because I spent so much time playing the game. I do want to call out D6 for what it does well: making an attempt at innovating with some of its mechanics and systems, and trying to make them more core to the main game.

The attempt at switching to 3D, and the new combat animations aren’t great, but hopefully that’s the result of unfamiliarity with new tools and systems. DI is a very interesting system, but it’s heavily busted because of the lack of ability to debug and step through behavior. The frame rate is garbage for no reason, so hopefully that gets fixed.

As an entry in the Disgaea franchise, D6 simply wasn’t as fun from a purely tactical gameplay standpoint as D5. The lack of exciting combat mechanics like Overloads, somewhat reduced skills, and lower character class pool didn’t feel as interesting.

So here’s my verdict:

If you already like the Disgaea series for the story and humor, D6 is worth playing through for those.

If you already liked the series for munchkining tactics and extensive vidya bullshit, and don’t give a shit about the story, D6 is probably not going to be your cup of tea.

And if you’ve never played a Disgaea game before, well, it depends. D6 is in many ways a good introduction to the series, with some of the simplified systems, and auto-grinding. But those same elements also make the meta-flow of progression less interesting, so if you want to see what the franchise’s mechanics are all about, I’d suggest D5 instead.

Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon

Super Mystery Dungeon came out 5 years ago, but I’m playing it now, so… yeah.

Ed Note: the full name for any of the games in the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series tends to be Pokémon Mystery Dungeon : <Title of the Rest of the Game>. Because these titles end up being 7 words long, I’ve shortened them down to just <Title of the Rest of the Game> for this writeup.

I really like the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series. This shouldn’t be confused with the Mystery Dungeon Mainline series, or any of the spinoffs. In fact, I recently tried to play one of the mainline series, which led me back to playing Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon instead, because Shiren the Wanderer: The Tower of Fortune and the Dice of Fate kicked my ass.

So what exactly makes up the Mystery Dungeon series, why do I like the spinoff Pok é mon games better, and am I filthy casual for jumping off the mainline series?

First off, let’s briefly talk about the Mystery Dungeon Series as a whole. It’s the name for a whole bunch of games published by Chunsoft. And because I’ve only played one game in the series that isn’t a spinoff, I’m gonna just link the Wikipedia article here. Generally speaking, though, it’s one of the few games that can be described as roguelike without annoying that magical group of people who are overly twitchy about the roguelike label being misapplied. That is to say, it’s a turn-based dungeon crawler on a grid.

So, second question. Why do I like the Pokémon spinoff games better? While this article is specifically talking about Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon, I’ve played and really enjoyed Blue Rescue Team and Explorers of Time. Gates to Infinity was mediocre. But it didn’t turn me off the series enough to avoid Super Mystery Dungeon when it came out. To answer why I like the spinoff games better than the mainline ones, I’m going to compare the games to what I’ve seen so far of Shiren, and list the things the Pokémon games do differently. Here’re a few of the reasons:

Wiping in a dungeon in the spinoff games doesn’t reset your level. While you do lose all your items and money, you don’t go back to level 1. This means that you can grind your way through bullshit, and a wipe doesn’t feel like a complete loss of progress.

Speaking of which, escape scrolls/escape orbs (items that let you escape the dungeon with all of your stuff if everything looks like it’s about to go to shit) actually drop in the Pokemon games, while they apparently only show up if you get rescued in a dungeon in the mainline series.

Oh, and revival seeds exist, so that when an enemy you haven’t seen before TPK’s your squad, you can actually keep playing, instead of just getting dunked on.

The fact that the game has Pokémon as the characters is a benefit, but perhaps even more importantly for me, as the games go on, you get the ability to play as almost any of them, which gives a massive pool of playable characters.

Outside of all these mechanics though, one thing I’ve always liked about Pokémon in general is the sense of exploration. There’s always been something neat and magical for me about the idea of venturing around somewhere and discovering something fantastic. And while I don’t get that feeling from the current mainline Pokémon games, it’s still present in the Mystery Dungeon spinoffs.

So now that we know why I like the Pokémon spinoffs the best, let’s talk about why I like Super Mystery Dungeon the most of the spinoffs.

While the general gameplay is the same, there are a few big changes to how teambuilding works for the post game. For starters, you recruit new team members by completing missions and adding them to your connection sphere. This is nice compared to the older games which instead required you to defeat an enemy, and then win a hidden role to recruit them. In addition to that, you then had to either complete or escape the dungeon with said team member.

Next up, treasure! Super Mystery Dungeon has treasure chests, like the games before it, but also has gold bars, a secondary currency that you keep regardless of whether you wipe or not in a dungeon. They’re just fun to get, and unlike other items, they don’t actually show up on the mini-map. Instead, they show as little sparkles that you have to walk over, and when you do, you’ll get gold bars or another useful item.

If I have a complaint about Super Mystery Dungeon, it would be that prior to the postgame, the game felt a bit slow. To be fair, I was playing it about 3 years ago. But I remember being frustrated by how slowly I learned new moves and leveled up.

So that’s the Mystery Dungeon set of games. If the idea of a cool little Pokemon dungeon crawler with a massive amount of content and postgame appeals to you, break out that 3DS, grab yourself a copy off eBay, and dive in.

SNKRX

SNKRX is neat, but not revolutionary.

If I had to boil down my thoughts on SNKRX, it would probably look something like this: It’s a neat little game, but its actual moment to moment gameplay is somewhat lacking, and its upgrade progression structure that it borrowed from the Auto Chess genre doesn’t map super well to its mechanics. On the other hand, it was also $3, and I’ve spent more than that on food that’s made me sick. So I feel like I got my money’s worth.

I learned about SNKRX several months ago, and then proceeded to forget about it until last weekend, when I saw an unfinished article about it in the drafts folder. This wasn’t my article, because someone else promised me they’d write me an article, and then didn’t, because they’re preparing to “Follow their dreams and move to another country for school.” And since that effort took most of their time, they didn’t really have the space to finish their article.

Which is fine. I’m not upset or anything.

So after reading what they’d written, I decided to go grab SNKRX myself. While I’ve seen people describe it as like the game Snake, I’d say it’s closer to Geometry wars. Each level places you in a large square, while waves of enemies spawn in and try to kill you. There are no level layouts other than the square, and there are no obstacles. Occasionally variant enemies spawn in, and I’m pretty sure they start showing up based on what level you’re on, but I didn’t pay enough attention to be sure.

Every few levels, instead of being presented with waves, you’ll be tasked with killing a single larger enemy/boss while waves of normal enemies spawn in.

These are the two level types in the game.

After you beat a level, you go to the buy screen, where you purchase more units for your snake/train.

A Brief Side Note: If you’ve ever played an Auto Chess style game, such as Underlords, Team Fight Tactics, or the original Dota 2 mod, SNKRX pretty much completely copies the upgrade mechanics from those games, and you can skip this next bit.

Here’s how it works: After each round, you’re given gold based on two factors. First is the gold that you earned during the round, from killing enemy units, and also from enemies dropping it, based on various combos and perks. The second main way is interesting: You get up to 5 gold per round based on how much gold you have saved up.

You spend this gold on either upgrading your items, (which you get a choice of after specific rounds) or buying more units for your train. After each round, you’re given a selection of three units to buy. You can buy as many or as few of them as you want, and you can also spend gold to get a new pool of three units.

Units have a few separate factors. They have one or more classes, they have an ability, and they can also be upgraded. More on upgrades in a moment. Classes function as a sort of set bonus style mechanic. For example, when you have 3 Rogues, all Rogues get a chance to deal 4x damage with each attack. When you have 6, that chance increases. Most of these bonuses are threshold based, requiring you to hit some number of units before they come into play, and usually play to those units’ strengths. For example, Rogues’ fast attack speed and multiple projectiles benefit from the damage multiplier.

Some of these set bonuses are more interesting than others. The Infestor class bonus buffs up the mini-units that many Infestors summon while the Curse class bonus increases the number of enemies that can be cursed. On the other hand, the Warrior class bonus just decreases enemy defenses.

So let’s go back to talking about those upgrades, shall we? Upgrading items is straightforward. You just spend money, and after buying enough levels, they upgrade.

Upgrading units is a bit more convoluted.

In order to upgrade a unit, you need to collect 2 copies of the unit. So to upgrade a level 1 Blade to level 2, you need 2 more level 1 Blades. To upgrade a level 2 Blade to level 3, you need 2 more level 2 Blades.

And this brings me to my first big problem with the game: Unit recruitment.

See, while the game’s upgrade structure is almost an exact copy of the Auto Chess structure, the game doesn’t allow you to use multiple copies of the same unit at once in your train. What this means is that where in Autochess, picking up your second level 2 of a unit can be a small, but useful power spike, in SNKRX, that gold is effectively gone until you can actually finish the upgrade. Again, because you can’t use more then one a unit in your lineup, if you roll a unit in your buy pool that you already use at level 3, it’s effectively a dead slot.

So yeah. Despite the interesting between level progression, the actual gameplay itself only has two types of levels, and few types of enemies, meaning that it’s not super satisfying to play, and the post round progression isn’t the most satisfying thing in the world. I don’t really hate or love SNKRX, but it’s not a terrible use of $3.

SNKRX is on Steam, and also apparently, this Github page?

Luck Be A Landlord

I wish it was as easy to write about this game as it was to play 20 hours of it.

I like Luck Be A Landlord. Fin.

I’m pretty sure this isn’t good enough to qualify as an article, but I’ve been trying to write about Luck Be A Landlord for quite a while and failing completely.

This might be because there is only one aspect of being a game that Luck Be A Landlord does well, but it’s also the only thing about games that actually matters to me: the gameplay. Luck Be A Landlord is an incredibly unique take on a deckbuilder, where instead of building a deck, you assemble a slot machine.

And this leaves me in a bind, because I can’t faff around about other things in the game that I like, such as music, animation, art, and story for several paragraphs like I normally would. All of those elements are pretty mediocre, but it doesn’t matter, because Luck Be A Landlord is mental crack.

The general gameplay loop is pretty simple: you have a slot machine, and a certain number of spins. At the end of those spins, you have to pay up a certain amount of cash. After each spin, you choose from one of three symbols to add to your pool, meaning it can now show up on future spins. Each time you have to pay rent, your rent goes up, and you have to pay more rent the next time.

And this probably doesn’t sound super enthralling, but I think it’s worth pointing out that a summary of Bejeweled’s mechanics would be something like “You have a grid of jewels, and you swap them, this removes them, so you can match more jewels.”

Let’s use this run as an example of why Luck Be A Landlord is so interesting to me.

At first glance, this probably looks like a fairly boring setup. I’m only using 3 different symbols. So why is it satisfying at all?

Well, the effort to get to this point was fairly massive. The symbols in question that I’m using are the Amethyst, the Dame, and a wildcard.

The Amethyst is part the Gem family of symbols. These symbols include Diamonds, Pearls, Emeralds, Sapphires, and a few others. The primary thing that’s unique about them is that they’re a family of symbols, much like the Fruit family, that are far easier to get by having symbols interact on the board, than by drafting them.

The Amethyst’s gimmick is that it’s the only symbol in this family that scales, and it does it in a fairly unique way. Each time another symbol would increase the value of an Amethyst prior to the end of a round, its score permanently increases.

The second symbol, the Dame, is from what I tend to think of as the humanoid family. The Dame buffs up any Gem family symbol she’s next to, meaning that when next to an Amethyst, she makes it worth more both in the current round you’re scoring, and in addition triggers the Amethyst’s unique ability, making it worth more permanently.

At the same time, the Dame also destroys and scores points for Martinis, making them an effective symbol to use in combination with Bartenders and Dwarves, as part of an alcohol removal engine.

I’m rambling a little bit here, so I’m just gonna try to get to my thesis: Luck Be A Landlord does a really good job of balancing moment to moment tension, and longer term play. Choices that might get you through your current rent cycle might not be ideal for you build, but choices that could be better for your build might mean you’ll never complete it in the first place. Most symbols have at least 1-2 meaningful interactions with other symbols, or symbol families.

The end result is a game where it’s just a lot of fun to try to build different types of engines, from Cultist based builds, which rely on having a bunch of the same symbol on the board, and then transition into eldritch horrors, to pearl harvesting builds, to pirates cracking open treasure. Watching a build come together is incredibly satisfying, and having one fall apart is frustrating, but not frustrating enough to keep you from doing just one more run.

Luck Be A Landlord is a video game. You can buy it on Steam. It is $10, and it is in early access. Oh, and there is a free demo, if after all of this you’re still on fence.

Disgaea 6 – Spoiler Free Pre-Review Preview Views

Ed Notes: Few quick notes at the bottom, but here’s the TLDR:
We got a pre-release code for this game.
This article is spoiler free.
This article is NOT a Disgaea 6 deep dive.
Oh, and all of this is based on the Switch release.

Disgaea 6: Defiance of Destiny comes out tomorrow (well the English release does), and I think it’s pretty fucking great.

From a purely abstract sense, it also has one of the most interesting twists on the series’ mechanics that I’ve seen before.

See, one thing I’ve heard said a lot about Disgaea is that “The Game Doesn’t Really Start Till You Reach Endgame.” But I’d disagree with that statement. I’d say it’s more that Disgaea games don’t usually give you access or incentivize using the series’ unique mechanics until endgame.

Elements like reincarnating characters to boost their base stats, entering the Item World to level up items, and abusing the cheat shop for grinding don’t usually come into play before you beat the story. This is a bit of a shame, since they’re some of the more unique and interesting systems in the series. Usually, you don’t need or want to do any of these to beat the game’s main story.

Disgaea 6 doesn’t do that, and instead opts to bring these systems in and make you want to use them far, far earlier than previously.

So, before I spend several paragraphs gushing over the rest of the game, I do want to quickly talk about the elephant (and some accompanying mice) in the room. The game’s performance isn’t great. Disgaea 6 was originally released for PS4, and it’s also the first game in the series with 3D graphics. The end result is, regardless of what I set the graphics quality to, it looked like garbage when using my Switch as a handheld. Strangely enough, the low quality is entirely constrained to the tactics map and overworld. Menus, combat animations, and cutscenes all run good.

If graphics are potentially a deal breaker for you, I heavily suggest you download the demo from the eShop, and give that a whirl. I’ve heard tell that there may be performance improvements, and I plan to reach out to NIS to ask, but I don’t expect an answer anytime soon. So yeah, consider playing the demo first. (Your save also transfers over to the full game, so no reason not to.)

Elephant gone, time to talk about mice. This is the first game in the series with 3D graphics for characters instead of sprites. They are fine. I would not say that I love them. The special attack combat animations are much shorter and less complex than in previous games. I liked how over the top they were in previous games, but that might have just been me. Whatever, mice dealt with.

Okay, so let’s go back to talking about why this game is great. Like I mentioned above, Disgaea 6 incentivizes using all of the game’s ridiculous systems.

Reincarnation, the process of resetting a character back to level 1, in exchange for making their base stats and stat growth higher is a central part of the game’s story, and you’re actively encouraged to use it from the moment you start.

Auto-battle and Demonic Intelligence turn grinding from a slog into a task to be automated and perfected, making early game grinding feasible.

The Item World loop has been updated so that once an instance of an item has been boosted, that boost applies to any versions of the item bought at the shop. Now, instead of leveling dozens of boots, you level one, then buy half a dozen copies, with the end result being it’s much easier to get cool equipment across all your characters.

The Story Is Good. Not gonna say anything else on that one just yet, but yeah. It’s fun. (Although I didn’t like the English voice acting personally)

There are a lot of interesting risks and design choices with Disgaea 6. I don’t necessarily love all of them, but the game does a lot to allow earlier access to many of its series-defining mechanics, and I think that’s to its credit.

Disgaea 6 comes out tomorrow, and if you like tactics games, I cannot recommend it enough. If you’re already a fan of the series, I’d say you should get a day one copy. If you’ve been interested in playing, but always thought it felt a little overwhelming, Disgaea 6 is the most new player friendly entry into the series.

See you in the Netherworld, dood!

Editor’s Notes Ultimate Plus Complete Edition

  1. We reached out to NIS America and requested a pre-release code for Disgaea 6, which we received. Was it because of our blatant pandering? No idea, honestly they sent us the code like immediately after we requested it, we hadn’t even really kicked our “Pretty Please NIS, let us play it” campaign into high gear.
  2. This article is spoiler free, for reasons. Please don’t assume that this policy will apply to things here in the future about Disgaea 6, but we’ll try to give it a month after release (so anytime after July, it’s open season) before we start discussing spoilery… stuff.
  3. This article is what it sounds like: It’s a general set of thoughts on the game, why you might want to pick it up when it comes out tomorrow, etc. It’s not an exhaustive deep dive on any level, to any system in the game.

Disgaea 5 Complete

I like Disgaea 5. While I didn’t enjoy the story as much as Disgaea 4, there are a variety of improved mechanics, UI, and massive quality of life features that make it a massive upgrade over its predecessor.

Also, just for clarity here, I’m mostly going to be discussing my experience with the game pre-endgame. I’ve played about 40-45 hours, and while I plan on playing more, that may not happen for a little bit for secret reasons.

So, let’s start with the story, and some of the related mechanics. Across the Netherworlds, now rendered as planets, Demon Emperor Void Dark is trying to take over everything. You’re introduced to some of the main characters, Seraphina, and Killia, both who have a bone to pick with Void Dark. In Killia’s case, he’s a brooding loner. In Seraphina’s case, it’s an arranged marriage to Void Dark that she has no interest in. She’s decided the best way to deal with the problem is to kill Void Dark so she doesn’t have to marry him.

Adventure intensifies, and as the duo go on their merry way, we meet an increasing cast of other indivuals, including Red Magnus, Christo, Zeroken, and Usalia, who all also have their reasons for wanting to see Void Dark six feet under.

There’s not too much else to say. Our band of misfits proceeds from Netherworld to Netherworld, trying to push back Void Dark’s advance while not getting slaughtered. Each of them gets a mini-arc/story around their background and flaws, usually followed by a redemption or adjustment.

While I appreciate that these moments existed, most of them feel standard anime trope-esque. There are a few that are more interesting, but most end up feeling predictable. This annoyed me because 4 did (at least by my standards) a much better job of handling these sorts of changes. Here’s an entire mini-writeup on what I mean, but be warned, here there be story spoilers!

Oh, yeah, this whole thing was supposed to be about new game mechanics, wasn’t it?

Well, one of those new game mechanics is Revenge. Each character has a Revenge Bar that fills as they or their allies take damage. Once a character’s bar is filled, they enter Revenge Mode, where all of their attacks are critical hits, and all of their spells and specials have their costs reduced down to 1.

In addition, characters that are Overlords of a Netherworld, like our MC’s mentioned above, also get access to their Overload. Some bosses get them as well!

Overloads are one-time use per battle skills that have a variety of effects, many of which either play with tactic game tropes, or just utterly break them, and all of which are fun. While some are simple (Deal damage to everyone on the map, stat boost, heal all friendlies) there are also a few really neat ones. My personal favorite would have to be Zeroken’s “Superluminal Wolf” which creates 4 temporary copies of the character. And when I say copies, I mean full copies. Each copy can take any action the original can, up to and including casting all of his specials, throwing units, and lifting enemies. Another character has an ability that allows them to temporarily take full control of a few enemy units.

Overloads can turn fights that are going badly, and at the same time add an interesting element to some of the boss fights. You know your enemy has an Overload, and you have to try to manage their access to it. You can do this by chipping them slowly, trying to take them out in one hit, or just finding ways to avoid the Overload’s effect. Dealing with bosses’ Overloads is a fun and interesting change from how static boss fights were previously.

Pretty much every side system has also been improved, but going into detail on each them would be both a waste of time, and not something I’d be capable of doing. So instead, let’s take one system as an example: innocents.

If you haven’t played a Disgaea game before, it might be easiest to think of innocents as a sort of sub-item that can be socketed into other items. They have a type, and a value. The type determines their behavior, and the value determines the impact. For example, socketing a Gladiator gives the item it’s located in additional ATK, and the Dietician gives additional HP.

These are both fairly straightforward examples, but there are also innocents that give extra EXP, extra Mana, innocents that change the damage type of basic attacks, and innocents that give you chance to steal items from defeated enemies. There’s a lot of variety.

Acquiring innocents is a little more complex, though. One of Disgaea’s primary features is the Item World, a series of semi-random procedurally generated levels that exist inside an item. And inside items is where you get innocents. When you get an item, it will usually have a few innocents inside of it, but they’ll be in the hostile state. When you go into that item’s Item World levels, those innocents can show up as enemies, and if you defeat them, they go to the subdued state.

So how do Disgaea 4 and 5 handle innocents differently?

In Disgaea 4, innocents couldn’t be moved until after they were subdued. This meant that collecting an innocent you wanted required going into an item, clearing levels until it appeared, defeating it, and then repeating this process for each new copy of the innocent. Because of how innocents level up, getting an innocent to its level cap could be even more painful, requiring gathering lots of copies of a single innocent, and fusing them into each other.

In Disgaea 5, non-subdued innocents can be moved between items. So instead of going into 5-10 different items you might not be interested in leveling up to get a bunch of innocents you want, you can now move the innocents you’re farming into a single item, and do one run to gather them in a single fell swoop.

But these changes on their own wouldn’t solve the problem of needing to grind a silly amount of innocents. And that’s where the Innocent Farm comes in.

The Innocent Farm is a daycare center zone where you can leave innocents, and they passively gain levels as you do other things. In addition, if you leave two or more innocents in the Innocent Farm, they can breed, giving you even more innocents.

And these sorts of improvements are present across the rest of the game’s systems as well. Better capture mechanics and prisoner management. The Chara World is now its own unique Mario Party style world… thing, instead of being a sort of rip-off of the Item World.

Okay, so looking back at this whole writeup, I think I might have rambled enough. Here’s the five second version of my thoughts:

Disgaea 5 is a mechanical improvement over 4, both for its subsystems (and tweaks to make them more friendly), and also its improvements to the combat structure. While the story didn’t grab me the same way 4’s story did, it’s still solid. It just doesn’t surpass the usual JRPG tropes the same way some of it’s predecessors do. The end result is an incredibly solid game that I’d probably recommend over earlier games in the series, because as much as I like the story, this isn’t a series that I personally play for the writing.

Disgaea 5 Complete is available for Switch, PC, and Playstation 4. I played on PC with a controller, because, well, mouse and keyboard just doesn’t cut it for grid based tactics games.

Disgaea RPG

I have mixed feelings on Disgaea RPG. The reality of it is that when you strip away much of flavor and art, it’s a fairly bog-standard mobile phone game. On the other hand, it’s also Disgaea flavored which means I’ve been playing it every day more or less non-stop for a week.

Yes, I know. I’m weak.

So, Disgaea RPG. It’s a mobile unit-collection RPG. In practice, this means that you spend most of your time playing the levels you have access to, grinding out the highest content you can when you hit a wall, and waiting for your energy to recharge (or running the item world) when you run out. And saving up as much premium currency as you feasibly can to roll gacha.

In terms of actual gameplay, you build a team of five units, then select and play levels. Units have a basic attack and a few abilities that require SP, which recharges over time…. and that’s pretty much it. There’s no grid system, and you only have a maximum of these five characters in your party.

If it wasn’t for the Disgaea theming, I’m not sure I’d still be playing. But since it is Disgaea themed, the flavor and ability to get a bunch of characters from the other games that I like (such as Valvatorez and Desco) is actually pretty neat. The polish on the art and animations is very solid, and I’d be surprised if the assets weren’t taken directly from the other games. The same is true of the background music, the voice acting, and story elements.

Unfortunately, outside of that, Disgaea RPG doesn’t do too much that most other mobile collection games don’t do already, from what I’ve seen so far. While some elements of the combo system are interesting (such as the way tower attacks are ported over), they aren’t interesting enough to force you to really think about what you’re doing at any given point in time. There have only been 2-3 fights so far that have even made me do anything more complex then “Use best attack I have access to, then keep using it”.

Outside of this though, the aspect of the game I’d say I enjoy the most is the story and character interactions. None of it has quite hit the level of quality I’d expect from a mainline series game, but even if it feels like glorified fanfic, it’s good fanfic. Etna planning on murdering Laharl is still funny, Fuka and Desco’s questionable teamwork is amusing, and Mao cackling maniacally is still fun.

Overall, Disgaea RPG is… fine. I think it’s enjoyable if you’re already a fan of the series, but if you’re not, there isn’t much there for you. It’s definitely carried by the setting and art. But there simply isn’t much mechanically that hasn’t been done in a mobile game before.

Of course, if you’re curious, you can grab it yourself. It’s free on the app store and google play store with in-app purchases. (The ratio of real world money to in-game stuff is pretty garbage in my opinion though.)

Prinny: Can I Really Be The Hero?

You can do it, dood!

Ed Note: Images are from theSwitch re-release press kit.

“Prinny: Can I Really Be the Hero?” was re-released for Switch back in 2020, after originally being released on PSP. It’s a game that I first played on a whim, but grew to love and play religiously. And what with this being Disgaea Week, I figured now is as good a time as any to talk about it.

I was still in high school when I heard about its release, and while I thought the animation looked good, and the gameplay seemed cool, I knew nothing about the Disgaea series. Still, I grabbed it anyway, and on a cold day after class while waiting for the bus, a friend passed me his PSP and I was off on a journey where I learned the most important lesson in life: “Gotta be smart, dood!” 

Starting the game, you’re introduced to our expandable super cool hero, the Prinny, a penguin-shaped husk that houses the spirit of a criminal sentenced to hell. After a quick meeting with your master, Demon Lord Eta, you’re told someone ate her Ultra Dessert and that unless you and your fellow Prinnies get her a new one, you’re all dead. With this promise of an asskicking should you fail, Etna gives you a magical scarf, and it’s off to the races.

Take three hits, and it’s the end of the line dood!

 Once the story begins your UI shows you the main helpful info: your scarves, combo bar, points, a timer, and the total number of Prinnies left. The UI’s not overwhelming when playing and all of the elements are spaced out nicely, so you never have a moment where the action is covered or blocked. The game has a very roguelike feel considering how your Prinny can take three hits, and then they’re gone.

1000 Prinnies might seem like a lot, but they disappear quickly and watching the life counter in the bottom left adds a very fun sense of impending doom. I’ve always been a fan of watching the counter go down as I struggle, getting closer and closer towards the end but also getting better and better, learning boss and enemy mechanics.

Overall, the game is a very snappy side scrolling platformer, and it feels great; there are only rare moments where I felt like a death was due to confusing level design or weird controls. One thing to note is that the game changes perspective when you do an air attack from 2d to a pseudo-3d. This can be awkward at first, but once you get used to the perspective shift it can be helpful for platforming or trying to find hidden areas. 

For combat, your character has a ground slam attack and a sword slice that can be used at short range. The slash attack can be used on the ground or in the air which will cause your Prinny to float while the attack is active. 

Combat is simple and honestly that’s what I loved about the game. Prinnies are supposed to be a weak throw-away characters, and while they are (sorta) the hero of this story, you can tell they’re not traditional overpowered protagonists. 

Enemies and boss fights feel challenging but absolutely beatable. The level design is streamlined and makes it hard to get lost. Additionally, if there was ever a moment where I entered a boss room and didn’t immediately know how to complete the fight, a quick look around the room always guaranteed I knew what was needed to beat them. 

The music and voice acting is also a huge part of what makes the game great. The soundtrack has a very Nightmare Before Christmas/Disgaea vibe. It’s always very fitting for the level and really gets you bobbing with music. As for voice acting, the Prinnies have their go-to catchphrases that after 4 hours I found myself yelling as I beat enemies or made lots of progress: “Gotta be fast dood!” They all have an attitude and speech type that makes you want to help these doods.

Additionally, the supporting cast of demons and lords are hilarious and as an unassuming Prinny walking up to these powerhouses, you get amazing dialog as they ridicule you or even pay no attention. And when you end up interrupting, rest assured, it may end with you running for your un-life.

In short, the game is a great time. If you’re looking for something to pick up and play mindlessly for a few hours, or just laugh at all the crap the hero endures, only to see him finally succeed, it’s still worth it. It’s a simple joy to play and one that shouldn’t be overlooked. As I noted above, the game was released on PSP before, but your best bet at this point if you’re interested is to grab the Nintendo Switch re-release.

Disgaea 4 Complete+

God I love this game.

Ed Note: Images for this writeup are from a combo of the Disgaea 4 Complete press kit, and my own save file.

Disgaea 4 is, somewhat strangely enough, the first Disgaea game I played. Specifically, Disgaea 4 Complete+ for the Switch. As far as I can tell, the “Complete” part just means that they opted to include all of the additional DLC and scenarios that were added to the game after its initial release in… 2011.

10 years ago.

Okay, so we might be a teensy bit late on this one.

One of the best things about Disgaea is the ability to customize your hub world and move all the NPC’s you actually care about next to each other.

In any case, like the other games, Disgaea 4 primarily takes place in the Netherworld. The main focus of the story is Valvatorez, a previously incredibly powerful vampire and also arguably total idiot, who never breaks promises he makes. One of these promises involved an agreement to not consume human blood ever. Pretty much all the other side characters are great as well, including Fenrich, Valvatorez’s second in command, who feels like an inverse version of the traitorous vizier trope, and Fuka, a elementary school child who dies, goes to hell, and then proceeds to determinator her way through the Netherworld by refusing to accept her death.

Valvatorez, the vampire who doesn’t drink blood, and Fenrich, his loyal servant who would really like it if maybe he would again.

These games can be kinda weird.

The general arc of the game is Valvatorez’s staging of a coup against the current President of Hell, in an attempt to fix the problems the Netherworld is having, including lack of energy, an inability to handle the influx of guilty souls, and just general failure to… well, be hell.

Behold, the… grid that I don’t remember the name of.

Mechanically, this comes in with the Corrupternment and building placement map. As you advance through the game, you’ll unlock political titles, buildings, and other elements that give benefits to units placed within their area of effects on this grid. You can also pass bills and policies to boost yourself, your rate of EXP gain, unlock new units, make friends, and also just shake down senators for cash.

The general structure of the rest of the game is fairly straightforward, with both the Item World and Chara World in Disgaea 4 following a similar structure of being procedurally generated combat levels where you need to clear all enemies, with a few additional minor changes between them. The game also has Magichange, the ability to turn monster characters into weapons temporarily for your other characters to use (don’t worry, they get better), and monster fusion, which lets you fuse monsters into larger versions of themselves with better range and damage.

Is it really a Disgaea game if the stats aren’t measured in hundred thousands?

Overall, Disgaea 4 is currently my favorite of the games story-wise, if not mechanically. While the game’s art style and mechanics haven’t aged terribly, many of the UI elements and menus do feel a bit outdated at this point, and some of the connectivity features, like fights and pirate ship leaderboards, feel a bit dead. Despite all of this, though, the fights are still interesting, the grind is nice and grindy, and story and characters are still funny.

Okay, so maybe I’ve played a bit too much of this.

You can get Disgaea 4 Complete+ here for Switch, and here for PC if you’re interested.

Disgaea Franchise Week – Kickoff

Here we go dood!

This post inaugurates what I’m calling Disgaea week. Some of you may be wondering why we’re doing this. Is it blatant pandering? Is it because America NIS approved my press credentials? Is it because I love Disgaea and really want them to send me a review copy of Disgaea 6?

The answer has two parts. 1. How dare you question my journalistic integrity, and 2. Yes.

Yes to all of the above.

On the flip side, it also gives a good opportunity to talk about some of the things that are similar between the games, without having to rehash them each time I write about the series.

So lets talk about Disgaea. If I had to summarize the game series in one sentence, I would say: “Disgaea is a tactics game about unleashing your inner mechanics munchkin.” Of course, this ignore the great art, the really solid writing, and skips over all the actual mechanics. But I only had one sentence, so we’ll get to that in a bit.

If you’re not familiar with the series, the Disgaea games don’t necessarily have any continuity between them. Instead, it’s a franchise more in the form of something like Final Fantasy, where each game is a separate cast of characters and goals, but certain elements remain the same, such as the primary combat mechanics, character classes, and Prinnies. Prinnies are the souls of the damned, doomed to pay for their sins in the afterlife by being sewn into a penguin shaped costume and used as the servants/cannon fodder/meat shields/target practice dummies for everyone else in the netherworld.

I’m expandable, dood!

The mechanics of the games often consist of a few fairly nested systems, but the general core gameplay is pretty simple. You’re given a gridded map, a deploy point to move units out onto the map from, and a bunch of enemies you need to defeat to clear the map. The complexity of these maps ranges based on the game, and how you’re expected to beat the map. Some maps are effectively puzzles, requiring moving boxes/blocks around, or destroying various patterns. Some are just standard “Brawl your way across” fights. And some are a combination of the two, or exist to teach you to understand specific mechanics.

Of course, this is just for the standard levels included throughout the campaign. You can also go to the “item world,” which is a series of randomly generated challenge floors. Clearing each floor levels up the item that you’re currently inside, and you can also collect “Innocents” which are people that can be moved between your items, and equipped to your items. So, you can level up your items that you equip to your characters and also equip characters to your items that you equip and where are you going please come back.

And it’s this sort of systemic and mechanical orgy that defines what a Disgaea game is for me. Disgaea games are games where you can level up everything, and once you hit the level cap, you can reincarnate and do it again. They’re games that let you graft and move skills and Evilities (think passive Pokemon-style abilities) from character to character. They’re games where your skills gain experience separate from your character, where you can tweak every inch, and relevel a character over and over until the number on their stat bar is larger than the GDP of the entire planet.

Oh, and you can also go to the chara world, which is different depending on the game, but lets you adjust additional bonuses, and okay, I promise, I’ll stop talking about the systems for now.

Outside of this smorgasbord of interesting interactions, the other biggest thing I’d say the games have going for them are that they’re actually well-written and have voice acting that doesn’t make me cut the cables going to my headphones.

Most of the characters involved, especially the protagonists, are deeply flawed individuals in a variety of interesting ways. My personal favorite would have to be Valvatorez, the main character of Disgaea 4, who is a powerless vampire who could instantly become extremely powerful if he wished, except for the fact that he absolutely refuses to break his promises.

In either case, the key take away from this article is as follows:

  1. I really like Disgaea
  2. Disgaea is a tactics game about being a complete munchkin.
  3. NIS America please send me a review copy of Disgaea 6.
  4. This entire week is going to be me pandering to try to get that to happen.

So buckle up mother fuckers, because this entire week is about to a roller coaster ride of exploding penguins, exceedingly strange mechanics, vampires that don’t suck blood, and the other weirdness that makes up the Netherworld(s)!

Lets go Dood!