Tactical RPGs just belong on portables. There’s something about them that works best to fill any amount of time, and they don’t lose anything from being on a smaller or less-powerful device. We saw that with the first two Disgaea PSP ports, and Absence of Detention, a port of 2008 PS3 title Absence of Justice, is no different: this is where the series belongs.
A primer, for those who missed the original: you’re Mao, a demon trying to gain “the power of a hero” and generally be all-powerful and in charge of everything. There’s Raspberyl, who’s a “delinquent” because she does good things sometimes, Almaz the “hero” and… I mean, there are other people. It doesn’t really ever matter that much, because Disgaea isn’t about the story.
No, Disgaea is the forever game, with lots of leveling up, lots of items to buy and augment and lots of… well, everything. The combat is known for two things: Geo Panels, that are areas with stat boosts or hits and change how you proceed, and ludicrous formations that cause combo attacks. Disgaea 3 had all these things in spades, so they’re here.
Before we go any further, though, it should be noted: Disgaea 3 isn’t the definitive installment in the series. The first is the iconic one, 2 was nice and refined and 4 fixes a lot of things that the series needed in its HD transition. The story’s probably the weakest, too, but as we mentioned, that’s not really the point. Still, this brings about all the Disgaea you need, and that’s pretty nice as it is, as it’s a whole lot of game.
So how did it fare in the transition? Fine, really. The Vita’s features aren’t used in any way you’d actually want to use, though you’ll need to deal with the second shoulder button functions thrown onto the touch screen and touch pad corners. One of the tough things about the Disgaea series has been its reliance on low-res sprites, and the small screen does a good job of mitigating this. (In fact, for optimum slickness, use the middle zoom setting.) The loading screen lets you tilt around a Prinny. That’s nice in an “ooh, shiny object” kind of way.
Then, of course, there’s the added content for series veterans. There are new bosses, new skills and online leaderboards. There are “super moves,” that trigger when your health is low and deal a lot more damage. There’s a new class of magic, which we’re not sure the game needed but okay. Oh, and you can customize the look of your weapons. More interestingly, the game includes all of the PS3 version’s DLC, making it a nice value proposition for those deciding between the two.
We’re still around the Vita’s launch, which means we’re dealing with shorter, shallower experiences. Disgaea 3: Absence of Detention is certainly not that, and it’s the type of game we’d recommend getting digitally and keeping on the system, since it’s never over. (Seriously, never.) There are some great tactical RPGs to play using the PSP backward compatibility, but (and I never thought I’d say this) if you really want to show off your system, Disgaea is the way to go.
Pros: So much game, slick port, added content and features
Cons: Weird touch implementation, won’t change your mind about Disgaea