Eating Sardines with Disgaea 4: A Promise Unforgotten

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.

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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.

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[drop] There is a reason for his sardine consumption, though. After a “certain incident”, Valvatorez has forbid himself from ever drinking human blood, preferring to live off the “Omega 3 rich” oily fish. The downside to this is the loss of almost all of his power, reducing this once feared creature to a mere Prinny instructor.

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.

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14 Comments

  1. Lovely write-up Dan!

    I’ve always been interested in the Disgaea series, but I’ve always been weary of diving in. It looks really interesting, and I love me some JRPG goodness, but I never quite knew what to make of it.

    I may give this a go. Actually, would you recommend Disgaea 3 Dan? I know it’s cheap enough these days.

    • (Sorry to DP) – Disgaea 3 is great fun, as was the first one. Mad as a box of frogs and loads to do in it. Hundreds of hours of gameplay (I think I’m on about 400hrs – ouch!). Only things that might put you off are the PS2 level graphics, and hard as nails trophies, if that sort of thing bothers you.

      • “Sorry to DP”

        That’s what … they said? *zing* *ducks*

      • the trophies aren’t actually hard as such just you need to spend a potentially long time getting to the point of doing the trophy, I personally have 78% of the trophies and I’m not the greatest player and I spent the first 100 hours with a basically crap game save, but now I can get from lvl 1 to 9999 in about 20 seconds amongst other fancy things

    • The first episode of the game is probably the best, and also helps to keep track of the in-jokes as the characters often appear in later games. Looking forward to sinking a couple of hundred hours into this.

  2. Can. Not. Wait. But Late October? I thought it was the 14th. No…………, dood!

  3. Turn based RPGs are too big of a time investment for me nowadays unless they are handhelds. I think I still have Disgaea 3 in the shrink wrap somewhere :0

  4. I….I couldn’t get into D3, help??

    • You have some serious problems, dood! Go see Dr.Phil.

  5. Wow this game sounds complicated.

    • Yeah! I played the beginning of Disgaea 3 where it teached you how to play, I don’t know I just found it be to be very overwhelming, haha..

  6. Sounds good, I might see if I can pick up Disgaea 3 and see if the gameplay does anything for me. It sounds like something I will enjoy and I really love those graphics.

    Very nice write up Dan, judging by how long you can apparently sink into these games it might be a good thing you’ve got so long until the review is due ;)

  7. Losing a fight makes you have to restart from the beginning of the game? I’m not liking the sound of that. But apart from that, I’d love to try this game out.

    • Well you can always choose not to do the new save, and restart at the checkpoint before the battle :o)that’s assuming you’ve been saving regularly!

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