Who let the Prinny out?
Within the tactical RPG genre, the Disgaea games have always held a special place. Unlike most other games of this genre, the Disgaea titles have always offered a combination of humour, craziness and solid mechanics. Some gamers may find the Disgaea games a little too quirky for their tastes, and the huge amount of grinding that the games often require will certainly not appeal to all, but the Disgaea titles have still managed to gather a fairly impressive fanbase. With the launch of the fifth core title in the series by NIS America, Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance, the series makes its first outing on the new generation of consoles, appearing for the PS4 to entice both fans of the series and hopefully some newcomers into its somewhat insane world of strange characters and satisfying turn-based combat.
It may sound obvious, but Alliance of Vengeance is all about revenge. The story revolves around a bunch of demons in the netherworlds coming together to inflict vengeance upon the evil, by demonic standards, Void Dark. So far as stories go, the tale woven in Alliance of Vengeance is fairly entertaining, if it does drag a bit from time to time. Pacing issues aside, the story is a great vehicle for the variety of strange characters in the game, who are the real stars.
The player is first introduced to Killia, a particularly emo demon with a sketchy past. So far as main characters go, he is not the most likable or entertaining, but he is supported by a stellar cast of other demons who join his group on their quest for revenge. Each of the other characters that form the group bring with them interesting reasons for being there and personality traits that bring about a lot of the humour in the game, and while serious subjects are touched upon, it is the humour that keeps the game alive.
As with previous games, the player can build on their group with the addition of extra hired characters, for the right price. With the opportunity to build the group to in excess of 100 characters, and a huge range of different character types available for hire, the possibility is there to create a team to go into battle and deal with every possible threat. And with plenty of customisation options, players who are thus inclined can build a team to their own tastes. Some character types from the previous games have been dropped, but some new types are added for Disgaea 5, bringing more flavour to your squad.
When it comes to battle, little has changed with Alliance of Vengeance. Each battle takes place on an isometric map, with the player moving and taking actions with their entire team before waiting on the enemy player. With such a large team involved, turns do take a while to work through. mechanics from the previous games are still pretty much in place, with the likes of combos for placing characters near each other, coloured squares in the form of Geo Panels, and the hilarious stacking of characters on top of each other. Fortunately the game does a good job of slowly introducing all of the different concepts and teaching the player about them, making this possibly one of the most accessible games in the series and an ideal jumping on point for newcomers. However, regular difficulty spikes will require a fair amount of grinding from the player to get past, so be prepared to head back into older encounters to get those levels up.
But it is not all same old, same old. A new revenge system is introduced in Disgaea 5. This brings a meter which gradually fills, leading to a more powerful character and a truly impressive special move which really can turn the tide of battle, even in the most dire of circumstances.
Also new to Alliance of Vengeance is the ability to send unused group members away on their own research missions. Not only does this help them level, but gives them the chance to bring back all manner of equipment and weapons. Weapons can be improved with Item World, a world within each item that the player can visit and do battle for improvement. Then there is Character World, a world found within a characters heart which plays out like a board game and allows certain boosts to the character.
Of course, the big change that players would expect from this jump to the new, more powerful PS4, would be in the visuals. There is certainly more crispness, more colour and more pop to the visuals in Disgaea 5, and many of the sprites look much more detailed than in previous games. There are new animations and menus, and some of the special moves totally fill the screen with colour. But will some areas are obviously improved or upgraded, other areas feel left behind. Disgaea 5 looks good, but could look better.
Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance is an excellent tactical RPG with a quirky overcoat, providing an incredible amount of depth and content. Although possibly the most accessible game of the series, there is still a lot to learn to make the most of the game, and sudden increases in difficulty may be a cause for frustration. Still, the game is huge and undoubtedly entertaining, making it easily one of the best Disgaea games available, and one of the best tactical RPGs on any console.