Disgaea 3: Absence of Detention Review (PS Vita)

Strategy RPG Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice was released for the PlayStation 3 way back in 2009, just as the recession was turning the world to poop. Featuring a large roster of zany characters, a bonkers story and incredibly deep gameplay, Disgaea fans were certainly well catered for. Well now the game is out on Vita, with a few tweaks and fancy new subtitle – Absence of Detention.

The game takes place around Evil Academy; a Netherworld school where those who skip class and cause trouble become honour students, and those who study hard are labelled delinquents. The main protagonist and top honour student, Mao, is out to get revenge on his dad for destroying his SlayStation and costing him all his game save data. The only problem is that Mao’s dad is the Overlord of the Netherworld and extremely powerful.

[drop]Through reading comics, Mao decides that only a hero can defeat the Overlord, and sets off to acquire that power. As you can see, the story is a little bit mad, which is what Disgaea fans have come to expect. Personally I think Disgaea 4 told a better tale, but 3 is still rammed full of bizarre humour and over-the-top characters, it just takes a while to get going. A warning though, it can be a little bit ‘talky’, with some characters going on and on (and on!)

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So, what’s new for this Vita port? Well, for a start all the DLC from the PS3 version has been included. There are also four new scenarios and a couple of new characters, as well as touchscreen/touchpad support. Tera level magic has also been added.

Apparently the artwork has also had a bit of a touch-up.

Saying that, the visuals are definitely one of Disgaea 3’s weak points. Coming back to 3 after playing 4 probably exacerbated this feeling but to me all the in-game stuff looks dated and blurry. I still really like the artwork, though, and the cutscenes look pretty sharp.

It’s the gameplay rather than the graphics that will keep you coming back to this game; it’s just as deep as ever. Each battle is viewed from an isometric perspective and 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

You can summon multiple characters onto the grid, but you must be aware of their limitations. For example, it’s best to keep your fighters on the front line, whilst have those who use magic at the back, out of harm’s way but still able to hit enemies with spells. You can also pick up and throw other characters, enemies and objects, adding another strategic element to battles. The earliest example of this is throwing blocks to build steps so you can get to, and attack, an enemy that was previously out of reach.

Whilst single attacks are ok, it’s far better to work as a team. Positioning your characters correctly will see the chance of a team attack, which deals far more damage as well as looking pretty damn impressive.

Then there are the geo blocks to master (please, stay with me here). Certain blocks scattered about every level will have either a positive or negative effect when stood on. It’s up to you to decide how to utilize them – for example do you ignore a stat-boosting block, and instead get to an enemy and throw them on a block which will have a negative effect on them?

[drop2]How about just destroying the blocks, meaning that your enemy can’t use them against you, but also you can’t use them either? Then there’s always the good old fashioned mad dash to the best block. It’s almost part RPG, part puzzle game!

Fighting battles, however, is only part of the game; there is so much more to do. The classroom is where you’ll go to create new characters, as well as try to change various aspects of the game. For example, if you want stronger enemies (and have enough mana to pay for it) you can make this proposal to the demon committee. Don’t expect things to always go your way, as more often than not they’ll reject you. When this happens you can apply again, but try different tactics such as bribery or brute force.

In fact, mana is probably the most important asset in the game. You can also use it to purchase Evilties, which are traits you can assign to each character, be they an increase in a certain area or a resistance to something. There are also new weapons to purchase and equip, as well as additional moves to learn.

The Item World is also featured, which will be a familiar name to fans of the franchise. The Item World allows you to choose any unequipped item you have in your possession and, when you do, random battles are generated. Every time you win a battle the item you have chosen levels up, as well as your character getting stronger. Be warned though, the enemies get tougher the further you go, and you can only escape from Item World after every ten battles.

For those who want to go even more in-depth, you can use the Class World. The Class World lets you choose a character, at which point random battles will be generated (much like the Item World). The Class World lets you improve certain character skills, although the mana price can be hefty. Each character can only enter a limited number of times, too.

The only real issue I have with the game is the overwhelming feeling of familiarity. I admit this is rather subjective, and for many this won’t be a problem at all.

Pros

  • Fantastic gameplay.
  • Quirky humour and characters.
  • Loads to do, even when the main campaign is over.

Cons

  • In-game graphics look dated.
  • Story takes an age to get going.
  • Hard to recommend for those with the PS3 version.

Disgaea 3 is hard to recommend to those who have already played it on the PlayStation 3 (unless you absolutely adored the game). If you’re new to the franchise, however, you’ll find lots to love here after a baffling couple of hours trying to get to grips with everything. Yes, the visuals are dated and the story isn’t the best of the franchise, but the gameplay still sparkles and is perfectly suited to the Vita.

Great work, doods!

Score: 8/10

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14 Comments

  1. “all the in-game stuff looks dated and blurry”

    Yeah, that’s what putting me off. Wonder if it’s native res and crappy assets, or just the Vita doing its usual upscaling?

    • To be honest, the PS3 version was criticised for the exact same thing. It’s pretty much PS2 level of graphics.

    • I’m no pixel counter or anything, but the menus, character portraits etc all seem native res, it’s just the sprites that are low quality (I haven’t read the review yet, so sorry if it was mentioned, but you can choose to have the sprites blurry or sharp but pixellated) The environments are all reasonably low-poly but they don’t look bad and I haven’t noticed any aliasing on them. I normally can’t stand bad graphics but I’m not concerned by Disgaea personally.

      You could of course wait until the inevitable Disgaea 4 Vita port, which should have nice HD sprites though.

      • @billsmugs Yeah I did mention it was the in-game stuff that looked a bit dated.

    • Played it a couple of months ago on PS3 and it looks quite rough around the edges, almost as if intentional.

  2. The graphics won’t put me off and I will be getting this tomorrow. I haven’t played this one and I am looking forward to getting a Disgaea that has been redone for the Vita.

    Later doods!

  3. I couldn’t give a monkeys about the graphics. I still play the first game on my Go, plus a load of PS1 RPG’s, so this can’t look any worse!

  4. I’m unsure on this, might wait until the price comes down.
    Never played Disgaea before, so I might be missing out big-time, but it seems really ‘out-there.’
    Plus, I have Final Fantasy Tactics.
    Does it beat THAT?

    • Just as good and just as deep :)

  5. Never played a disgaea game before, but pre-ordered this as it looks like a game I’ll enjoy. So I’m looking forward to it showing up in the mail.

  6. Been playing this all day, It’s been awesome, love the humour. It’s just what the Vita needed

  7. Not for me but good review as per usual peeps.

  8. Went to grab it from the Store last night but it’s 2GB! No. Cart for me.

  9. Think I’ll wait till I’ve got through Tactics Ogre to get this. Looking forward to it though!

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