Strategic role-playing on the Vita.
Disgaea 3: Absence of Detention is the first of the strategic RPG series from Nippon Ichi Software to appear on the PlayStation Vita. The fact that it is a port of a 2008 PS3 game, and that the series has moved on since then, would usually generate grunts of disapproval from the fans. But with the drought of new games on the Vita at the moment, RPG lovers will be pleased to hear that the game has ported over really well and includes the original content, the DLC and even a couple of Vita exclusive bonuses.For the non-fans or players just discovering the series, it’s pretty damn good too.
The story surrounds Mao, a young demon student who is a bit of a juvenile delinquent and attends the Evil Academy School based in the Netherworld. Mao has a tendency to play truant, avoid doing homework and even skipping class once in a while, which are all good things in a school for evil, but this doesn’t stop him becoming a little bit of a demon rebel. Whilst attending the Evil Academy as an honor student, he decides he wants to become a hero. He also decides to seek revenge on his father, the big underworld boss, after he accidentally destroyed Mao’s videogame system, along with four million hours of saves. Mao’s bubblegum pink haired friend Raspberyl decides to join him on his epic journey, partly to deter Mao from becoming a hero and defend her position as the Netherworld’s juvenile delinquent.
The story within Absence of Detention is undenaibly quirky, which is a large part of the games’ charm. The main characters, along with most of the supporting characters that you will meet, are likeable and it is very easy to drawn in to their bizarre world.
As with other strategic RPGs, the combat is set on an isometric grid in which you can control a group of characters who have to defeat a set number of monsters. The core mechanics of the combat remain the same as previous Disgaea games, in which you move your characters around the grid and assign them actions, such as attacking or using items, one at a time before ending your turn and allowing the enemy player to make their moves. It is all very tactical and will take some getting used to for players who are new to this type of game.
There are some new aspects which players will have to get their head around in order to successfully progress through the game. The first are the Geo Blocks. The coloured Geo Blocks have positive or negative effects on the characters standing on them, be they friendly or not. For example, one of your characters may be standing on a red Geo Block which will then give that character a 50% attack bonus. The varying effects of the Geo Blocks have a strong impact on the game and will require some seriously strategic thinking to use effectively.
If your characters encounter damage or die, you can return to the Netherworld and attend the Hospital, where you’ll be seen by the Netherworld nurse, who will offer treatment to heal or revive them, for a price. Other places to visit include the Rosen Queen shop, where you will find a great selection of weapons to choose from. You can try out each weapon before purchasing it, which is handy as the game will show you how the weapon will affect your stats, making choosing the best weapon possible much easier. As you purchase more items and weapons, your customer rank increases which gives you access to a wider selection, and eventually the more impressive products. There is also the Homeroom where you can create characters, if you have enough Mana, and even monsters that you have defeated in battle.
Mana is obtained when you defeat an enemy character in battle and you will need this energy for learning and powering up Special Skills. Once you’re feeling more advanced, you can learn about Evilities, passive evil abilities that can be purchased for Mana. Some Evilities are specific to the character, while others are more general, and they provide a variety of effects such as increased damage inflicted or reduced received damage. The stronger the enemy that you defeat, the more Mana that character will receive, making even the leveling up process tactical as you have to think about who you want to deliver the killing blow.
The rear touch screen of the Vita can be used to zoom into the map and navigate the menu screens. The problem with this is it is far too easy to accidentally touch the rear screen, but fortunately this option can be turned off.
Visually, the game looks nice and crisp, if a little dated at this point. Although at times the three-dimensional battlefields can make it difficult to actually see all of your characters, the shoulder buttons can rotate the screen and the zoom option usually fixes any of these issues. I would also like to point out that the soundtrack is annoyingly addictive and will stay in your head for hours after you put the game down.
Disgaea 3: Absence of Detention is a brilliant strategic RPG game with an immersive storyline and a cast of memorable characters. The game offers hours and hours of gameplay, if you’re willing to invest the time and dedication into your journey in the Netherworld. It is a pretty hardcore game and some newcomers may feel a little out of their depth with the complex battle sequences. However, if you are looking for an RPG on Vita, and didn’t already try this particular offering out on the PS3, then Disgaea 3: Absence of Detention comes highly recommended.