In 2003, the Disgaea series debuted as a quirky, anime-inspired parody of the tactical RPG genre. The addictive level grinding and zany characters took the world by storm, leading to a bevy of sequels, spin-offs, and remasters.
18 years on, and the series is hardly on top of the world. Nippon Ichi Software has had bankruptcy scares, the last main Disgaea game barely made a splash, and it’s hard to see where the series could go to recapture that spark. Disgaea 6 is at least a promising start in a new direction. With even more over-the-top level caps, incomprehensibly high damage values, and new gameplay mechanics that literally let the game grind automatically, Disgaea is no longer a parody of the tactical RPG – it’s a parody of itself, and that kind of rocks.
Your protagonist this time around isn’t a demon lord or a vampire tyrant or anything so grand, but instead a zombie named Zed. Zombies are typically on the bottom of the food chain in the Disgaea universe, but Zed is no ordinary zombie – he has the power of Super Reincarnation. Every time he dies Zed just comes back stronger, and he’s died a lot. Disgaea 6 throws us into what seems like the epilogue of Zed’s battle against the God of Destruction, before taking us on a backtracking journey to see how exactly Zed managed to finally defeat the titan.
The overall narrative in Disgaea 6 is just fine. The story doesn’t go in any surprising or sharp directions, and the gimmick of most of the story being a flashback gets a little repetitive. However, the ho-hum story is carried by the absolutely amazing cast of characters that inhabits it.
Disgaea 6 has some of the weirdest and funniest companion characters the series has ever seen – there’s a twisted princess from a musical world, a super sentai TV heroine obsessed with her ratings, and a demon lord himbo who thinks he’s the most powerful man in existence. They all gravitate toward Zed and join his journey for one reason or another, but they’re hardly friends at all. It’s hilarious seeing them just barely put up with each other as their volatile personalities constantly clash.
While the humor of the series remains intact, the visuals have gone through a major overhaul as the series jumps from 2D sprites to full 3D. The isometric Final Fantasy Tactics-inspired perspective is still here, but the new 3D assets do a perfect job of emulating the aesthetic of the usual sprites. Colours and character outlines are especially bright and vibrant thanks to the new 3D art.
Unfortunately, the Nintendo Switch is hardly able to keep up with the new aesthetic. Disgaea 6 has three different performance modes, and none of them solve the technical woes. You can opt to have the game run smoothly but look like a blurred mess, or run like a slideshow but display crisp visuals. The middle ground Balanced option runs just decently and looks just okay, but even that mode can chug when there are a bunch of characters on screen.
You might not always notice the performance issues, though, because you might not always be playing the game yourself. Disgaea 6 has a basic auto-battle function that lets your team run up to enemies and blast them with attacks on their own, as well as an auto-repeat tool that lets the game instantly replay a level after you’ve cleared it. With the Demonic Intelligence system, you can customise the behaviour of your AI teammates to an insanely granular degree. You can dictate exactly how they’ll act and what they’ll do in an endless amount of hyper-specific scenarios, letting you set up a party of balanced characters ready for any challenge. You can also use the Demonic Intelligence system to set up incredibly specific battle strategies to take advantage of certain map layouts or character combos to rake in massive experience points.
I don’t typically grind through the side content in Disgaea games, like Item Worlds or Reincarnation. With Demon Intelligence and Auto Battles, though, I was way more interested in exploring all of the grindy corners of Disgaea 6. There are new features like Super Reincarnation, D-Merits, and the Juice Bar that not only reward you for grinding, but give you plenty more reasons to grind.
At the same time, a lot of features and content from previous games have gone by the wayside. While Disgaea 6 has some new character classes, a bunch of usual ones have been cut, there’s less equipment and items in the game, and the back-tracking nature of the story means you’ll be revisiting a lot of map types as well. While some of the system removals lead to a more streamlined experience, others feel like oversights that longtime fans will miss.