We find ourselves in a tricky situation with Disgaea 4: A Promise Unforgotten. Whilst the game has just been released in North America, it won’t be gracing our shores until the end of October. A review done now would benefit those across the pond, but will be forgotten by the time the EU release comes around, and similarly a review done in October would be no use to anyone in NA right now.
So, the plan is to do this hands on article, based on a few hours play, to give a taste of what to expect. This will then be backed up by a review at a later date.
Disgaea 4: A Promise Unforgotten starts off in a most bizarre fashion. Lord Valvatorez, former Tyrant Vampire, seems to be sucking the life force out of an innocent victim, shuddering with pleasure as the blood touches his lips and starts to run down his throat. It’s quite grim, right up until the camera pans back and the victim is revealed to be…a sardine. Wind up your car windows and lock the doors, folks; we are now heading into crazy town.
A Prinny is a human soul that has been sent to Hades. Stuffed into what looks like a blue penguin suit, the souls are trained up and used as servants (who end every sentence with “dood!”).
It’s during a Prinny graduation ceremony that Disgaea 4’s story kicks off. Just as the Prinnies are about to receive their celebratory sardines, they are teleported away to places unknown. It turns out ‘The Corrupternment’, Disgaea 4’s version of a Government, have decided to partake in a Prinny cull due to a strain on resources.
This doesn’t sit well with Valvatorez, who had promised a fresh sardine to every successful Prinny. Never one to break his word, he sets out to see what’s going on. In the background, however, Valvatorez’s faithful Werewolf attendant, Fenrich, has other plans that involve his master rising to power once again.
Are you still reading? Brilliant, then let’s plough on.
In terms of genre, Disgaea 4 is a strategy RPG. Every level takes place on a grid-based field, with opponents and allies only able to move a set number of squares at a time. The aim is to take control of the field by eliminating all the enemies. It sounds simple, but my goodness this game gets complex.
You can summon multiple allies onto the field during a battle, each bringing something new to the table. Fighters are strong in melee, whilst magic-based characters are best kept towards the back, casting spells from afar. Of course, they are just a fraction of the classes on offer, but I’m keeping examples short, as to not waffle on for a few thousand words.
Weapons play an important role in combat. Each character has a preferred weapon, so it’s best to stick with them to get the best results. New weapons and items can be looted during a battle, or bought from your hub world.
Monsters on your team can be transformed into weapons using the ‘Magichange’ command. This gives the person wielding the weapon unique powers depending on what monster you have. If that’s a bit too simple for you there’s also a ‘Fusion’ command, which will turn two smaller monsters into a single, larger, more powerful version.
When facing off against the stronger enemies, you can utilize a ‘Team Attack’. By positioning your allies in the right place, you can launch a consecutive strike which not only looks gorgeous, but packs a punch.
You can also purchase a special attack, which uses up SP but is far more powerful than a standard attack. It’s not just a case of pressing a button and watching the sparks fly either, as you need to be in a certain position for it to work. Case in point, one of Valvatorez’s early special attacks will only affect an enemy either one square to the left or right.[drop2] Think that’s enough? Well we haven’t even got into Stack Attacks, Evilties, Combos, Geo Effects and Item World yet. There’s a lot to learn, which will delight franchise veterans, but perhaps put off those looking to get into Disgaea for the first time. Don’t get me wrong, the game plays beautifully and there is a wealth of tutorials to play through, but even so it does have a tendency to fry your brain.
So far the game hasn’t been too difficult, although I’m only on episode 2. However, I do get the feeling that the game is just easing me in before starting an absolute massacre. It’s not been plain sailing though, and I have lost a battle. Rather surprisingly instead of restarting the fight, the game ended and offered me the chance to start from the beginning, albeit keeping my current level and weapons. Fans of level grinding will be in heaven here.
Outside of the main episodes, you’ll find yourself Cam-paining (not a typo). Every time you conquer a field a new piece of map opens up. You are then able to create a new character to add to your party, and assign them to take control of that piece of map. You can also place symbols on the map, which grant effects to those around it.
As part of your evil regime, you can submit bills to the senate for approval. These can be things like “make enemies weaker” or “make items cheaper”, although you may need to take part in a little bribery to make sure things go your way.
One of the new features getting the most attention in Disgaea 4 is the updated visuals. Whilst it perhaps doesn’t come across in the screenshots, the sprites are all created in beautifully crisp HD, and look all the better for it. I also really like the voice acting, which manages to be hammy without ever being annoying. There’s loads of it as well, reducing the need to read reams of text.
I really like what I’ve played of Disgaea 4: A Promise Unforgotten. Despite sometimes being a bit overwhelming, the game is packed full of content and, just as important, charm. There’s no doubt that once the game sinks its hooks into you, you’ll lose your social life trying to level up items and find out just how powerful the mighty sardine is.
Stellar stuff, dood.