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Disgaea 5, a dissapointment of a perfect game
Disgaea 5, a dissapointment of a perfect game
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Disgaea 5, a dissapointment of a perfect game

How can that be? Well, it's just so fun to play, except when I have to wait through one of the main story scenes. The gameplay is definitely the best in the series, but the A-plot is beat for beat the same generic, hackneyed JRPG fare that previous games in the series parodied, played absolutely straight. It would be a much better Disgaea game if Killia (most prominent of the six-member main party, and as you can see from the image above front and center only a bleach job and a half-dozen extra belts short of being another clone from the "every Squeenix MC ever" bin) was written right out of it, making the A-plot Seraphina (the pink one) running from an arranged marriage and not falling for her muscle-head childhood friend (the red one) when they cross paths again. Let Killia be a background-only element or post-game character to explain why Void's (the white one) daddy issues spilled over into dimensional conquest, if you can't live entirely without him. To quote The Supreme One, there are a lot of things I super hate, but I definitely can't forgive this!

The skit-style segments in the base area are full of the classic Disgaea flavor, so you know the writing team was up to it - or maybe they were added as an afterthought when play testers came back saying it was a great Final Fantasy Tactics sequel, but not so much fitting Disgaea lore and tone - the whole, "this is what goes on in the background of the afterlife" aspect is ignored entirely aside from timeline-breaking DLC characters from other games and a couple of lines if you track down the right Prinny (the penguin-y ones) and talk to him between missions in the base as well, to the point of eliminating the otherwise series-wide Ghost and (allowing for the redesign from D1) Reaper type monsters.

This is also the first DIsgaea game I'd actually give a content warning for - one of the CGs that gets repeatedly shoved in your face is Killia's standard issue tragic backstory girl, which isn't too bad at first glance but if you look closely she's being blown in half and that red blob at the left is where it's happening right now, with flying shreds and everything. You could probably still show it on morning cartoons - it's not super-explicit and it's more of a colored energy ball than an explosion of gore, but still. Girl with nothing left below the rib cage. Part of the package of why I think it would be better with Killia and the details of his story removed.

Control layouts are mostly familiar from previous games with the occasional hiccup, most notably having the same buttons do different things depending on whether you're looking at the item inventory from the basic menu, while equipping items to characters, the Innocent Management screen, the Innocent Farm screen, the Item World screen, or the Item Assembly screen. They do all have different purposes to fulfill of course, but the way you sort and change sort order or move innocents to and from an item, for example, are the kind of interface elements that should be the same all the time. At least there are button prompts at the bottom of the screen rather than having to try to memorize it, or look around everywhere on the screen to find them when you just want to get done and away from the Ensemble for Hold and Elevator shop-music loop. Changing the Character World from another variation on normal battles to a virtual board game is particularly appreciated, partly because it makes for a nice way to change up the play style for a bit of a break, and partly because it's just plain faster. Since it still takes somewhere between dozens and hundreds of runs through to max out a single character, that's a major improvement.

Music is something I've seen other people complain about in D5, but I'm not going to. Serphina's taste in base music may run to saxophone-laden soft jazz, but you can change that if you don't like it (except for the shops) and there's plenty of old favorites and fun new pieces to go around. The voice acting is also unexpectedly good for a non-AAA title, with emotion that doesn't (usually) come off as being wooden or melodramatic and overdone, both in the Japanese and English versions. Some of the DLC characters' English voices are terrible, due to contract disputes with the original performers from what a quick search tells me, though that's "some guy on the internet said..." level reliability so don't go betting the server farm on it or anything. I leave the Japanese audio on most of the time anyway so it's not a prominent feature in my mind.

My rating: 7/10, all time low for any Nippon Ichi game. That is praising them with faint damnation I suppose, but being demons they should be offended by merely faint damnation.

However, if you've never played a Disgaea game but like long JRPGs, call it 9/10 after knocking off a point for how much you're going to have to grind the post-game to see all the content when most games don't even have anything but a cut scene, credits, and maybe a NG+ after you beat the final storyline boss. I've seen a six-hour speed run video to complete all trophies, but expect more like 100 hours as a first timer, because there's 80-ish story maps plus item worlding to power up your equipment plus level grinding your characters plus the character world mini-game for passive abilities plus doing it all again with the enemies hundreds of millions of points stronger in the Land of Carnage and maxing absolutely everything out for a party of 20 so you can (just barely) survive having characters enter the map and make an attack against the Truly Final Boss, aka 20 Star LoC Baal. Two hundred hours wouldn't be unexpected for that last one, though normal Baal or even no-stars LoC Baal are much more manageable.

The most critical advice for new players, I'd say, is ... actually, that's still long enough to stick in a spoiler. It's a complex game with lots of stuff to do!

Finally, remember that the purpose of a game is to have fun. If you feel like things are starting to drag, go ahead and do something else for a while -- Disgaea (any of them, but especially D5 with its more refined game play) will still be waiting right there to suck you in again when you come back to it in a few days or weeks or months or years later you will never escape this is your life now, dood.

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‎noli esse culus

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