Reviewed: September 16, 2008
Released: August 26, 2008
Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice is the third title in the popular Strategy RPG series and the first in the series to jump to the next-gen bandwagon. The series has been known for its quirky humor and hardcore gameplay and Disgaea 3 is no different.
I am a big RPG fan, but sad to say I have never played any of the previous titles, so my experience with this series is next to nil. However I do have experience with Strategy RPGs as a whole. I’ve always liked the Final Fantasy Tactics titles as well as the more recent Wild Arms.
You play as Mao, a demon and heir to the Netherworld, who wants nothing more than to destroy his own demon father. Why you might ask? Because his father, the Overlord of the Netherworld, stepped on his game system and destroyed his 1 million hours of hard-earned data. Okay... not something I’d do if I had my system trashed, but then again I’m not a demon. Mao sets off to destroy his father with the aid of a “hero” and with a do-gooder demon named Raspberyl (don't try aznd lick her) at his heels. On top of all that he has to uphold the title of No. 1 Honor Student at the Evil Academy with out becoming a Delinquent.
I will say that despite all of Disgaea 3’s quirky happenings, it is a huge undertaking to play. There is so much to do in this title that it really isn’t funny. So without further ado I give you my review of Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice for the PS3.
The interface of Disgaea 3 is pretty much like every other SRPG made in the last five years and is fairly straightforward and very easy to pick up on. Disgaea 3 features a main “hub” system where everything is done from in the form of the Evil Academy itself or various other locals, but mainly from the school. Ah yes I said school… those were the days…not!
Before I go on I will explain a few things about the world of Disgaea and how it functions. As you’ve probably figured out, Disgaea basically takes place in the equivalent of hell, sans the fire and brimstone stuff. Even the world’s money source is called “Hell” or rather HL as it is seen on screen but it is pronounced just like the opposite of heaven.
The first thing you will also notice is that the school system in Disgaea 3 is completely warped from what you remember when you were going to school. In the human world, i.e. the one outside of gaming, an Honor Student is someone that excels in doing everything right in school like acing tests and perfect attendance. A Delinquent in our society is the exact opposite and is more than likely three grades levels behind where they should be.
Well in Disgaea 3, wait for it, being an Honor Student is the exact opposite. In this title, slacking off, falling asleep in class and making others do your evil dirty work is actually rewarded. Ah to be a demon. Okay maybe not. Anyway so you get the point. Honor Student equals Excellent Demon; Delinquent equals the scourge of the netherworld that goes around calling themselves badasses for doing all their homework and following their self appointed curfews…!
Okay on to the good stuff. For starters Disgaea 3 is one of the most in-depth Strategy RPGs that I have ever played. I thought Wild Arms: XF and Jeanne D’Arc were deep games in terms of gameplay but I was wrong. While it is a pick a character, tell it what to do and then execute said command on an isometric battlefield, type of game there are a few things that set this title apart from most of the SRPG world.
The first thing that Disgaea does that is different that most SRPGs and is one of several apparent additions or changes to the series is that despite all of the weapons there is a rather cool feature called a “Magichange”. If there is a monster on your team, including the somewhat funny demonic exploding penguins that say “What the Hell dood!” in the first five minutes of Disgaea 3, you can make them transform into different special weapons that humanoid characters can use to inflict some serious damage upon unsuspecting enemies.
However both parties must be part of the same club (which I touch on in a bit) for you to do a Magichange. This does have its consequences though. Obviously you lose a teammate in the process but its attacks make short work of that loss. However if a character is defeated you lose both characters for the entire fight. Also the magichanged monster will disappear from you party after using its deadliest attack.
While the Magichange is cool, one of the coolest new features in Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice is the added Geo-Blocks. Geo-Blocks add a bit of puzzle solving to this already complex series. A lot of the battlefields that you will fight on will have Geo-Blocks that are more than likely obstructing you way as you fight to defeat all of the creatures on the map or complete a certain objective.
The trick is that the player must make the character pick up a Geo-Block and toss it at blocks of the same color to cause those blocks to disappear. This has to be done strategically as not to be overrun by enemies, but it’s fun to watch your enemies falling down some 20 feet in the air as the platform that they were standing on has now dropped down to ground level. Also each individual Geo-Block has its own status effect ranging from increasing attack or defense, to limiting player actions like throwing and spell casting.
The one other thing I really liked was the ability to go INTO an item to increase its power. So not only do you have the demon world to test your metal, but entire worlds inside items to deal with too. Joy! The catch is that once you enter an Item World you cannot leave until you reach Level 10. So pack some Mint Gum and Hard Candy for the trip. You can however leave an item world if you have an escape item, like the “Mr. Gency Exit” item. Ha ha get it.
Despite all of the good things about Disgaea 3, there are unfortunately some downsides. The first being the camera controls which are at times poor and don’t always help you try and see where you’re going to move your character next as the levels are usually multi-tiered and sometimes obstructed in certain viewing angles. Also sometimes the levels itself will obstruct what is going on when the camera switches to the view of its choice and you listen while you character is getting the crap beat out of them behind a wall. Also when you move the cursor across the battlefield the camera also tries to keep track of it, which leads to a lot of disorienting camera bobs. This is mainly due to the random level designs.
Okay Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice is a Strategy RPG, so anyone that has ever played one knows that graphics are usually second to gameplay, thus usually never that good. It is also agreeable that most developers haven’t been able to tap into the PS3’s capabilities yet. But when I popped Disgaea 3 into my PS3 on a 1080p set ad saw what was before me, I was rather disappointed. This title supports the full gambit of resolutions straight up to 1080p but the series is seriously showing its age.
I seriously feel like I am looking as PS2 graphics when I play this title. Sure the menus and the still image cut scenes look rather nice, but for a title that is on a next-gen system, I expected more. In Disgaea 3’s defense, the opening video was superb and holds true to the series’ anime look.
Okay sound wise, Disgaea 3 fairs better in this category than the visual department. Starting off the theme song is sung in Japanese (with English subtitles) which is a major plus. No I don’t speak Japanese or know how to translate it, but these types of games always sound better in their native language. Which brings me to the other high point of Disgaea 3; it features both the English and the Japanese vocal tracks for the characters, which is just awesome and well done at that.
But what I like even more is that several prominent voice actors supply the voices to Mao, Raspberyl, Almaz and Geoffrey. These actors include Vic Mignogna (voice of Edward Elric), Laura Dawn Bailey (voice of the sexy Rayne), Johnny Yong Bosch (voice of Ichigo, Vash and an ex-Power Ranger) and Dave Wittenberg (voice of Kakashi Hatake from Naruto). I am a huge fan of most of these voice actors and they all pull off wicked performances in this wacky title.
Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice is one handful of a game that will have you playing for hours. You can literally level you characters up to a staggering 9,999 levels if you want. Who has that much time, I’ll never know, not sure I want to either. There are so many opportunities to level grind that is borders on the nearly insane.
The only thing that could make this game anymore crazier is making you characters god-like. Oh wait…you pretty much can, thanks to the Item Worlds. Folks plain and simple, Disgaea 3, no matter how warped it is, blow pretty much every SRPG out of the water. Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice retails for $50 bucks at most retailers.
At the end of a very long demonic road, I was fairly impressed with Disgaea 3. I didn’t care for the subpar graphics or the frustrating camera controls, but the story, voice acting, and depth of this title make up for its shortcomings. If you are a Disgaea fan I would by all means rush out and get this game.