Disgaea 4: Promises, details and the perils of depth

September 3, 2011

Disgaea, we love you, but you’re bringing us down. It’s not that you’re bad. (Far from it, actually.) We see these enhancements you’re making, and they’re not detrimental to your core product. That’s good. We’re with you there. We’re just not sure where exactly you’re taking the series.

In the fourth installment of the revered turn-based strategy series, you give us Valvatorez, a fallen Overlord who… oh, we can’t do it. Look, the first game’s characters? Off-the-wall, crazy people who say nothing based in logic or reality. It was endearing. Okay, the second? Lots of the same crazy people, but these felt a little more virtuous and with a goal we could at least relate to. The third? Basically back to the first’s insane evil, except in a school. Now we have this new one, with a quixotic lead character and the opportunity to be able to pull for him. Great! Or it would be, if you didn’t have him babbling about sardines and yelling for no particular reason. You have sidekicks with indecipherable motivations, enemies with indecipherable motivations and cameos by characters with, well, you know. So the story’s about Prinnies and something vaguely politics-themed, but the way you treat it, we basically have to throw it out to maintain some semblance of rationality.

It’s a testament to you, then, that we still had a lot of fun. People love the previous games’ systems, like the Item World, Senate and action-based tactical gameplay, and it’s still here. It’s gotten a bit of an upgrade, too. Most of the attention was obviously paid to the higher-resolution character sprites and the more-detailed battle animations. That’s nice. It looks cool. It’s not really what you’re about, but the Disgaea 3 hybrid-HD look was a little awkward.

What’s holding you back, then? Well your games basically never end, so you really need to shake up the formulas in ways that make the core experience different. You’ve added monster fusion, allowing for two monsters to form one crazy-big monster. That’s cool. We’re not sure it’s a viable strategy in many situations, but it’s certainly fun to do. You can play somewhat-custom levels. That… okay, that part’s actually really cool. Too bad it was limited to keep people from doing obscene things with it.

Our point, though? Those things add replay value to a game that didn’t need it. Replay value is your bread and butter. And all the other food you eat, for that matter. In the future, maybe you can work on making the game more fun to play, rather than just giving us more game. There are a lot of menu elements and tactical processes that could be streamlined or altered or something. We know, it’ll make a few fans mad, but as it turns out, altering a future title doesn’t make the old ones blink out of existence.

All that said, Disgaea, here’s the bottom line. People who just adore you will enjoy another order of the same recipe, and people who haven’t played you will find Disgaea 4 to be the most full-featured, polished iteration yet. Yes, you’re bringing us down a bit. But we still love you. Hang in there.

Your friend,
Snackbar Games

Pros: New polished visuals, never-ending gameplay
Cons: If anything annoyed you in previous games, it’s still here

Score: 4/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.