Disgaea 7: Vows of the Virtueless is a jumbo-sized SRPG sequel

Disgaea 7 Thumbnail

Having run for two decades now, Disgaea is a landmark in the SRPG genre, with a light and characterful tone, big number chasing gameplay (from before that was at the core of so, so many game franchises), and hours upon hours of fun strategic combat. Disgaea 7: Vows of the Virtueless wants to draw you back into the Netherworld for another offbeat, demon-filled tale.

Now, to be up front about it, I’ve never played a Disgaea game before sitting down with this seventh entry in the series, but the little snippet of what this game offered me might just be enough to lure me into exploring one of the older games over the next few months. Then again, as Disgaea 7 is making overtures to newer, more time-starved gamers, I might be better off waiting until October.

So much of this game’s story floats right past my head, as Fuji tries to find a path through the demonic realm of Hinomoto, where it’s less about bushido code and now more about the Hinomoto Code of Destruction. There’s just one hope to bring back the good ol’ days, and that’s the bushido fangirl Pirilika, who manages to rope in demon mercenary Fuji for her quest to collect seven weapons of legend and challenge the Demmodor Opener and their Demonic Magistrates.

Disgaea 7 Demonic Staff

It’s all nice and daft, putting some quirky anime trappings to the solid strategic RPG battling that is at the heart of these games – and as I go hands on with a development build of the game, it’s here that I can immediately see the appeal.

Alongside your hero characters like Fuji and Pirilika, the Disgaea series has you creating generic ally characters. Disgaea 7 has 45 ally character types to choose from while creating your team, with plenty of returning characters and a bunch of new ones. The Maiko is a dancer who hops on the spot, dealing extra damage to male enemies, while the Bandit has abilities like Grand Theft and Stealth for a sneakier approach, and you’ve got the monstrous The Big Eye with extra-dimensional attacks.

Battles take place in arenas with a square movement grid, and you spawn from your team lineup at your will – just beware that you’ve a limited number to spawn and might want to hold some characters in reserve to account for losses – speaking of which ally characters can be reincarnated, recreating a previous character at level 1, but keeping a hold of certain stats and class abilities from their previous lives. In this way, Disagaea 7 lets you morph them into hero characters as their stats and abilities continually grow. That’s a familiar feature from previous games, but what’s new in Disgaea 7 is that you can also reincarnate items, which has the daft possibility to completely transform them into something completely different while retaining previous properties – a staff made out of slippers will still affect movement speed, a sword from a gun will still have range, and so on.

Disgaea 7 Combat Throwing

I really love the ability to pick up and throw allies – or just yeet neighbouring characters if it’s a monster – which is not only kind of hilarious when you can stack them into towers, but when considered alongside team attacks, it also adds a lot strategic depth and planning to how you move characters into position, how you juggle movement and ability use, and more.

The biggest new feature – literally – is Jumbification, which sees battles heading down the same path as the last couple of Pokémon games with their Dynamax and Gigantamax transformations. Basically, Jumbification lets you make one of your characters absolutely massive, so big that they simply don’t fit on the field of battle anymore, and can swat big areas of the stage and deal broad AoE damage to enemies on any part of the stage (and any allies that happen to be stood in the way), and unlocking special ‘Jumbilities’. Of course, when you’re fighting against key enemies that can also Jumbify, there’s added strategy to knowing when to pull off this move, which character to use, and how to counteract the moments of weakness that you’ll face.

Disgaea 7 Jumbification

If your character is holding onto a Demonic Weapon – like Fuji is  – then they also build up a Hell Gauge during battle, letting them unleash the full power of their weapon with special skills.

Beyond these flashy new gameplay element, Disgaea 7 looks to do a lot to appeal to both long-time fans (especially those who weren’t so enamoured with Disgaea 6 for a variety of reasons) and to newcomers with some notable quality of life improvements. In particular there’s the auto-battle which, while it might not completely banish the series’ reputation as a massive grind fest, should at least help to soften the blow to your personal life and aspirations to play literally any other games. You can just use the default settings and run auto-battles on stages that you’ve previously cleared, but there’s also depth through being able to customise character Demonic Intelligence to programme input patterns for different scenarios.

For reasons that I’m honestly not all that clued up on, Disgaea 6 wasn’t a step in a direction that fans really wanted from the series, but Disgaea 7 promises to be a mini reset that gets back to what they loved about it, while trying to be a bit more inviting to newcomers as well.

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