Review: Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice

Disgaea 3 is a turn-based strategy role-playing game from Nippon Ichi that seems to have all of its core mechanics based in insanity. Aside from the basic over-the-top game mechanics and some recurring characters, Disgaea 3 has almost nothing to do with the previous titles aside from the basic theme, story tone, and art styles.

The story revolves around a demon, Mao, convinced that becoming a hero is the only way that he can defeat his father and become an overlord; sadly, he does not understand the concepts of friendship or being noble. All levels of the game are based in an evil demon academy, where demons go to learn the traits that they will need for the rest of their lives. During the journey, Mao meets up with a slew of characters that continue to join him and begin forming his army.

One thing that has not changed since the first game is the series standard 2D sprite models with full voice acting. The sprites are fluidly animated, but can be painful to look at when viewed from the games default (and useless) camera position of roughly three inches away. When zoomed out to a functional camera angle, the game looks more stylized than dated. The voice acting is always enjoyable and manages to get across the point that none of the plot should ever be taken seriously.

A tactical RPG at its base level, Disgaea 3 differs itself from other tactics games by expecting players to exploit its resources to the fullest extent possible. The max level for Disgaea 3 rests at 9,999 with the choice to reincarnate that character, bringing them back down to level 1, and receive a bonus in the way of permanent stat increases. Characters can also literally enter any item in the game and can clear up to a hundred series of stages, each one increasing the power and level of the item. A similar process can be done for any playable character in the game as well.

The problem with all of these options is that none of them ever seems to be fully explained. Normally when a new option is given, such as the item world being unlocked, an amazingly brief tutorial is given explaining what it is and why it is important. Any further knowledge requires the player to go into the help section and read FAQs about other tidbits that can be unlocked. Even if all of this information is read and fully understood, though, there is still more content that has never once been discussed or explained.

The depth of the game starts to feel almost like a problem after the game itself is beaten. As in other Disgaea titles, this is where the real game begins. All of the extreme character leveling, item powering up, or character diving isn’t ever once needed to finish the main story, but after the game is done, that is almost all any player can expect to be doing. While this edition of the game has possibly the most well-placed end-game goals, boss battles, and unlockable characters/weapons, new players might see all of the end game content as impossible and not worth their time as it can take hundreds of hours to reach. Also, good luck finding out about any of this content without some form of players guide for reference; most of it is never discussed in the game proper.

Even though Disgaea 3 manages to explain all of the depth of the game poorly to the player, it does manage to do so in such a way that makes the games feel mysterious. When event cubes start appearing in the item world or the Dark World is unlocked, it feels like an entirely new depth of the game appears springing the game to another level of tasty complexity. This causes the game feels as if it evolves the more time is invested in it, making the entire game feel like a very rewarding puzzle.

The problem is that it is a love letter written to the dedicated fans, but no one else. It makes very few exceptions for people who are new to the series, even leaving out information on things that have changed since the last game. But for all of its flaws, the game manages to be one of the most hardcore role-playing games around, and if the time is put into figuring out the true depth, then Disgaea 3 becomes possibly one of the most enjoyable experiences on the PlayStation 3.

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