Lets get this out of the way right now: I’m not a fan of strategy games. I’m also not a fan of RPGs outside of Chrono Trigger, Y’s, and Lunar: The Silver Star Saga. One, naturally, would think that combining the two game genres into one would produce something that I would not want to touch. That’s sound. That’s logical. It’s also quite wrong.
I really dig NIS’ Disgaea 3: Absence of Detention.
Disgaea 3: Absence of Detention is the third game in the Disgaea series, a turn-based strategy RPG franchise made popular on Sony’s various gaming platforms. It’s a hardcore series that features plenty of abilities and chunky numbers to crunch that are belied by the spikey-haired, anime-style visuals.
At its core, Disgaea 3 isn’t radically different from other turn-based strategy games. Character units have limited movement and attack ranges based on their levels and equipped weapons. But it’s the humor, unabashed goofiness, and sheer amount of content makes this game worth the $39.99 asking price.
Humor is something that video games rarely properly capture, but Disgaea 3 does it so, so well. The story–that of Mao, the demon overlord’s school-age son who seeks to become a hero–is silly, but silly in the best possible manner. Disgaea 3’s script is full of several chuckle-worthy moments that are powered by some rather choice voice acting. It’s reminiscent of Working Designs’ ’90s output.
Beneath the laughs dwell one of the most stacked combat engines to appear in a video game. The sheer amount of options is staggering–you can perform joint attacks with other party members, hurl blocks, and load up on weaponry–but Disgaea 3 does an excellent job of walking players through each variable. The best games present you with a challenge and then let you find your own particular solution.
The key gameplay features are Geo Blocks (cube-shaped terrain-altering objects allow players to manipulate a stage’s rules and approach enemies that would normally be out of reach), and Geo Panels (colored panels on the game map that bestow various effects depending on which Geo Blocks are placed on them). Here’s how it works: Drop a Geo Block on one panel, and every panel of the same color will share that Block’s effect, which can range from EXP bonuses to unit damage, or even invincibility.
That said, combat proves tricky at times due to the diagonal perspective. NIS, thankfully, gives gamers the option to switch to an overhead view, but doing so removes the visual impact of the 2D sprites. The characters may be small, but they’re expressive and lovingly-crafted. Unlike Disgaea 4 sprites, the ones found here are low-res, but they look great on the PS Vita’s 5-inch OLED display.
Disgaea 3: Absence of Detention is a strategy-RPG fan’s dream game. Not only do you get a very entertaining SRPG story, but also a ton of sidequests that will keep you busy for months to come. Genre fans, this is your game. Disgaea fans, this is a must-buy.