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Disgaea 3 Absence of Justice


Ah, Disgaea, how do I love thee? What started out as a small amount of buzz surrounding some Japanese strategy RPG with cute artwork turned into a full-blown successful franchise that helped put NIS on the map. Gamers everywhere didn't know what to expect at first but once Disgaea landed on our shores it changed the perception of SRPGs and what the genre could be. The title immediately carved itself a niche market with a cult following and to this day is a highly sought after title.

In case you're unfamiliar with Disgaea though let's fill you in with the basics. The series follows the exploits of demons and monsters as they go about their daily lives in the Netherworld. Maybe they are murdering someone, plotting against a rival, or just trying to take over the world; you know, the usual stuff. It's this twisted concept where "good" is actually considered "bad" and likewise the other way around that sets the Disgaea universe apart from others. When everyone is a demon wouldn't an angel be a bad guy? Makes sense if you think about it. The other commonality throughout the franchise in terms of story and characters is the fantastic sense of humor that pervades each installment. It's charmingly hilarious and thankfully the third installment follows each ideal flawlessly.

The basic spin this time around follows the exploits of a kid demon (over a thousand years old, but still a kid) named Mao who attends an academy of evil. He skips classes, never does homework, and is a general reprobate; in other words he's considered to be the school's honor student. His life's ambition is to overthrow his father and steal the title of Overlord from him but in order to accomplish that he gets it into his head that he needs to become a hero. This sets him on a quest filled with all sorts of twisted logic in an effort to grow more powerful, gain more titles, and ultimately kill his father. Like the other Disgaea games this one offers a story that is decidedly different from the mainstream trend. In other words it really stands out.

Gameplay


Now, story, characters, and quirky (strange) humor aside Disgaea has built its fan-base up almost entirely on gameplay alone. With nary a limit on what you can achieve there is an intense amount of game awaiting you. Hours, days, weeks, months, and probably beyond will melt away as you attempt to level up characters and get those stats maxed out. Of course it's not necessary but if you really love the game and you really want a RPG where the sky is the limit then you'll eat up the system in this franchise.

Assuming you're a newcomer for a moment, if you have played even one strategy role-playing game before then you most likely know the basic formula in Disgaea 3 already. You build up a collection of characters to bring to each battle, move them around on a grid, set up attacks and magic, and release the hounds as it were by executing your offensive strategy. It's a simplistic set up that allows for a great amount of depth to be explored no matter what entry into the genre you're playing. Other nuances come into play as well and they are definitely components that set this franchise apart from others you may have played. Disgaea 3 is arguably the most accessible of the trilogy for rookies so if you have ever been on the fence before there has never been a better time.

On the other side of the fence, if you're a Disgaea veteran then you'll instantly feel right at home; though probably a little too much so in some instances. The gameplay engine simply hasn't been overhauled which isn't necessarily a bad thing but if you burned 200+ hours over the past installments of the series then you should expect to churn in at least that much here if you want to see everything. A few new touches are sprinkled throughout the game and these institute further need to farm for experience points and customize characters.

For the stuff that is returning I suppose we should bring up the Geo Panels first. The colorful squares once again return as expected but this time around pyramids don't operate them and you will find stacks of destroyable blocks instead. This is a slight change and it forces you to alter your strategy somewhat but ultimately it's a very minor one. Throwing comes back and it's just as important as ever though this time around the system allows for more exploration with tossing pals around. Sure it's silly to toss one character to another or use them as a weapon but in the world of Disgaea it makes sense and it's essential.

Another thing that returns is the Dark Assembly though keeping up with the school theme this time around it has been turned into Homeroom. It essentially works the same but there are some further options to explore such as clubs to join which help the voting outcome. Every weapon still offers a gateway into the Item World and you can explore much the same way to boost the power and abilities of said armament. The Item World also offers some greater opportunities to gain experience but other variations of previously encountered maps and Class Worlds even further the level grinding probability ahead of you.

One of the newer components that the third installment brings to the table include the ability for monsters to transform into a weapon that another character can use. Characters also have weapon proficiencies which allow then to build skills based upon their designed usage. Skills can also be combined on the battlefield to allow even better team ups between partners and it adds yet another layer of depth and strategy to an already daunting experience.

NIS arguably reinvented the wheel when it came to strategy role-playing titles. The first Disgaea started a trend by offering some interesting concepts and the developer explored these with other titles such as Makai Kingdom, Phantom Brave, and La Pucelle. The second Disgaea improved upon things and the third continues to do the same.

The gameplay hasn't been revamped for the newest generation of the PlayStation but rather it has been added to. More grinding capabilities, more skills, better weapons, further strategy requirements in battle, and tons of customization await you. If you like your RPGs to be insane then you'll latch onto this title the moment you pick it up. It's a dream come true for the gamer with OCD and that is truly a good thing; trust me. Disgaea 3 doesn't push the envelope but it does make some improvements here and there to set it apart from the others in the series which helps it stand on its own two feet.

Graphics


Ok, the good news first. Disgaea 3 is presented on the PlayStation 3 with support for up to the full 1080p output and it offers up the charming art style and unique design that helped make the series popular. Unfortunately that's the only real good news because the rest of this game is severely dated to the point that it appears as though NIS has become lazy.

The first Disgaea wasn't exactly a graphical powerhouse but it did offer simplistic graphics that got the job done. The second offered much the same with straightforward designs, some blurriness, and an all around moderate amount of detail for the PS2. Granted the second looked mostly like the first and there were only a few touch ups but you catch my drift.

Despite the fact that the last game came out two years ago and the third has been released on the PlayStation 3 we still have graphics that look as though they belong in a mid-life PlayStation 2 title. It's virtually the same engine with limited animation, smallish detail, flat textures, dated sprites, and blurry resolution. That's simply not what a PS3 should be and though the game has charm, itís a trait that only takes appreciation of the graphics so far. As a PS2 game this release would look "decent" but it's really time for NIS to push the envelope and revamp the graphics engine to keep up with technology. It's also worth mentioning that this game still offers some annoying issues with the camera which will impede your ability to strategize in some battles depending on the terrain.

Sound


While the graphics may be disappointingly dated the audio is simply fantastic. The musical score is perfect for the game with a wide variety of content that captures the mood of each situation, cut scene, or battle. The sound effects are on par with what you'd expect for the series and most of them have been recycled. Once again the voice acting is a cut above with amazing work churned out by both the English and Japanese dub casts. These guys and gals are one of the reasons Disgaea is as charming as it is and the third installment is no slouch in this department.

Conclusion


Taken by itself Disgaea 3 has a lot to offer with some fantastic gameplay, fun mechanics, open-ended customization, and plenty of opportunities to grind for levels. You could literally play this game for over 100 hours and feel like you've just started scratching the surface. With that being said if you've logged in about the same amount of time in previous Disgaea titles then you'll probably feel a little worn on the concept. There is enough new to warrant playing it but your mileage may vary depending on how much you've played in the past.

The biggest flaw with this title is with its graphics. I typically don't fault a great game for its visuals but the fact that the franchise hasn't really made any improvements over the past five years is very disheartening. The technology is out there to spruce things up a bit but the presentation here is severely dated by today's standards (it was dated in the sequel two years ago!). If you can get past that and look at the game for what it is you'll find another enjoyable and charming experience with a lot of laughs and "oh cool!" moments scattered throughout.