Another day, another PS3 game being re-launched on the PS Vita. Nippon Ichi Software took on the job of porting Disgaea 4 – from its landmark series – over to the Vita for some more handheld loving. Is it another cash-in, or is there some fun to be had for buying a handheld port years after the release of the original?
For those who have no experience with the Disgaea series, it is NIS’s bread and butter series that put the studio on the RPG map. Starting with a grid-based, tactical RPG gamestyle, they infused the formula with their own brand of humor. Disgaea 4 is no exception to that formula. It also introduces us to a new protagonist named Valvatorez, a once-great tyrant now turned prinny instructor, who has a habit of making promises and sticking to them no matter what. Those promises are a key part of the story as his honor forbids him from breaking any promise, no matter the consequences, and thus we are given a lot of the reasoning behind parts of the storyline where he tries to usurp the government.
The story is funny and laidback, but has a deeper level of meaning to it for those who want to believe the narrative is an analogy to the state of real world governments and politics. But the great thing NIS does brilliantly well with their Disgaea series is make completely new casts of characters that all jive together, have differing personalities and just work for the new slice of the netherworld they have created. I call it ‘brilliantly well’ because for anyone who has read my numerous reviews of NIS games, almost every non-Disgaea game seems to fall flat in that regard.
The government theme of the title is what sets it apart from previous entries and D2, released last year. Simple tricks like making your own cabinet and having them interact with other players over PSN, or having bases on a map to give bonuses to your units, is a fun way to incorporate a normally strategy-game mechanic into an RPG without the game losing its identity.
All the NPC characters you know and love are still here from the series, and all the same basic in-game activities are intact. The item world, senate, and pirates all still pose the challenges they always have. The cheat shop makes life easier for grinding levels by allowing you to change the experience point outputs and levels of enemies. With all the extra side-content like the cave or ordeals, any player will have lots to do once the story is over. Speaking of the main story, there are multiple endings, again adding more depth and replayability for any RPG fan.
The music in the game is the best in the series. The overall depth had me actually wanting to listen to the soundtrack, for once. The episode preview music, boss music, and even some of the generic battle songs got this reviewer’s ear drums excited and my fingers itching to continue. Usually, it is just the boss music that makes the combat exciting, but thankfully whoever did the musical score this time added more drama and pomp to give the player a grandiose feeling to coincide with the rebellion theme of the narrative.
What is a slight drawback to the game is the story. The political theme is interesting, and the characters are well fleshed out, but the issue at times is their dialogue. The A+ voice acting helps save it from tedium, but having every character speak about their own singular motivation on constant repeat gets a bit boring. Valvatorez’s sardine addiction is funny, but when coupled with Fuka’s belief she is in a dream and Desco’s obsession with being a final boss taking up half of their lines, with nothing else motivating them, it starts to all run together and create a ho-hum feeling. There is no one in the main cast without an obsession taking up their dialogue to help balance things out.
Since this is a port of a PS3 game, the big question is what makes it worth re-buying for owners, or getting for the first time for those who skipped it. The first answer would be all the DLC comes automatically with it, so it can be considered an ultimate edition for those wanting to pinch their pennies like Hoggmeister. The second, better reason, is there are extras to the game not in the PS3 version. New characters and scenarios make this more of a semi-remake than a simple ultimate edition. Granted, the new stuff is not a whole lot but it is more than a simple redo.
The game was never a graphical beast originally, and with the type of battle system used, this is a better game for the Vita than the home console. There is no graphical degeneration from the system spec differences, meaning they look the same. But what I enjoy about playing it on the Vita compared to the PS3 is the bite-size way they do the story; it’s perfect for those commutes to work. When someone only has 5-10 minutes, you get a small battle and then a brief bit of story–just enough so that nothing is forgotten, unlike with Final Fantasy X HD, for example.
Disgaea fans will enjoy another shot at redoing the game with some extra goodies, and for those who skipped on it for the PS3, there’s ample reward for prudence. The ultimate edition treatment may not be enough to entice those who waved it off out of gameplay disinterest, but for everyone else, there’s a great RPG on offer.