Review: Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance (PlayStation 4)
- Release Date (NA): October 6, 2015
- Release Date (EU): October 16, 2015
- Publisher: NIS America
- Developer: Nippon Ichi Software
- Genres: SRPG
- ESRB Rating: Teen
- PEGI Rating: Twelve years and older
Single playerLocal MultiplayerOnline MultiplayerCo-operative
Disgaea has always had some of my favorite stories in JRPG’s, and Disgaea 5 continues to impress and exceed my expectations. The game takes a more serious tone and follows Killia, a mysterious demon with an enflamed passion for revenge against the menacing demon emperor, “Void Dark," and his terrible army known as “the lost”. With the help of Seraphina, the beautiful and rich Overlord of Gorgeous, you’ll form an alliance of those that wish to dismantle Void Dark’s hold on the netherworlds. The characters are just as colorful and energetic as previous entries, and every one of them flaunts style and unique qualities.
The other main characters of the story are as interesting and entertaining as ever. Red Magnus is an overlord of brute strength and slightly lower than average intelligence, with his only motivation being to be the strongest of… anyone! Christo is the levelheaded tactician who joins the party for his own secret motives, and is the overall intelligent relief for the group. Usalia, a rabbit girl, is the heir to a netherworld that is met with a tragic fate at the hands of void dark, and though she doubts herself, I welcomed by the group to pursue Void Dark. And lastly, there’s Zeroken a wandering self-proclaimed bad boy looking to perfect an unarmed fighting style he learned from a great and famous demon. This team, much like previous Disgaea teams, makes for an incredibly odd, incredibly powerful, and incredibly entertaining group.
Disgaea 5 certainly keeps its comedic charm, but I was quite surprised with how engaging and empathetic I was made to feel with the characters. Killia’s story of revenge and his inner turmoil certainly has a dark and twisted history, and it really made me feel more of a connection with his character. I've always enjoyed the funny characters, and Killia certainly has his moments, but it’s his determination and strife that made me want to take him and his allies through the story with much more enthusiasm. His determination makes him a more brooding but more adult themed character, and sets him apart from previous protagonists.
Just like the previous games in the series, Disgaea continues to bring back the old and wonderfully flesh it together with the new. You have the hub world, known as the Pocket Netherworld, where you can utilize various shops, portals, other entities that I will elaborate on later. Using the main portal will allow you to progress the story on the various grid style strategy maps.
The gameplay of Disgaea is largely unchanged and instead just adds a few more interesting mechanics. The new revenge mode for overlords adds more craziness to the maps, along with some devastating new attacks. Red Magnus’ Super Olympia for example, causes him to grow into a giant for 3 turns, and lets him pummel enemies with massive damage. Revenge is obtained by a small gauge on your characters status page, which increases whenever teammates are attacked or vanquished. Revenge can be obtained by all characters which gives various bonuses, but only the Overlord characters can utilize special abilities in revenge mode. Revenge also increases your critical rate to 100%, and all abilities will only cost one point from your SP gauge.
Revenge is not only limited to your own characters though. The enemy can also gain revenge bonuses, and enemy Overlords are able to use their own devastating abilities. However, if you kill anyone in revenge mode, they will usually drop a stat shard that gives you a permanent upgrade to certain stats. Revenge does so much to change the Meta game for all sorts of purposes!
Revenge can also be used to initiate Squad attacks. Squads can be formed in the hub world when unlocked, and Squads allow you to perform various tasks both on the battle field, and around your hubworld. When a Squad Leader is in revenge mode, a Squad attack can be initiated, which allows you and any members of your squad to attack a multitude of enemies at one time!
Squad assignments vary from capture squad, which allows you to capture enemies for possible recruitment later, or even giant squad, which automatically makes characters giant when they first enter a map for 3 turns. Other mechanics return to the game, including dual attacks, tossing and throwing, monster transformation, classes and upgrades and more.
Also reintroduced from Disgaea 1 and 2 is the Weapon Mastery System, which allows you to increase your efficiency, damage output, and critical rate as you increase your mastery with a weapon. Armor also has a bigger place in this game than in previous entries. The defense balance that armor provides compared to previous games makes the overall formula much more comfortable to play through.
The pacing of this Disgaea actually seems much slower however, largely in part to the upgrading process and obtainment of weapons. Where previous games allowed you to abuse leveling and buy overpowered weapons quickly, Disgaea 5 sought to rebalance the item shops and gameplay to make the experience a bit more challenging. That isn’t to say that you cannot do the usual protagonist kills everything story and continually grind your characters to overpowered strengths, but it does do a good job of toning that experience down a bit to a less grind heavy pace. This can be a wonderful thing for newer players to the series, but veterans may quickly become annoyed with the overall progression.
The main campaign is 16 chapters, so it certainly won’t be a short experience. Each chapter is incredibly fun with unique world designs that are also prominent features of the story.
Old and New
The item world has been lightly expanded but remains a similar experience to previous DIsgaea entries. While I didn't encounter enormous amounts of enemies on screen, the overall map size was greatly increased and led to some very tactical and entertaining battles. The difficulty level of the Item World seemed slightly toned down as well. This is partly due to the way the levels progress. For example, continuing down multiple floors won’t automatically make enemies more powerful with each floor. Instead, enemy difficulty increases with every level-up you give to your new item. It actually makes it much easier to add levels to your gear, and I quite liked the change.
New introductions to the mechanics include various new shops and game modifiers. The curry shop for example, is a hub world facility that allows you to flesh multiple ingredients together to make stat increasing bowls of curry! But beware, while you can slap anything you want into a bowl, the effects can be both positive and negative!
The Nether Research squad is also debuted, which allows you to send a research squad to explore previously visited areas, as well as new worlds, to find various rare items and gain experience. Keep in mind though, as they are sent away, they cannot be summoned in battle. It’s also a good idea to periodically check on them, as they can die on the expedition, so you’ll eventually want to call them back for some healing!
The Netherworld Editor is another new mechanic, and quite possibly one of my favorite additions. This feature allows you to create netherworlds and share them online for other people to encounter and play in. Editing a world is incredibly simple, and while you don’t get to mess with the terrain too much, you are able to apply various effects and determine monster placement as you wish.
DLC will also be periodically released for the game to add post story content, with extra scenarios to add previous Disgaea characters like Laharl, Valvatorez, Etna, Flonne, Fenrich, and so many more to the game!
Speaking of post-game content, Disgaea 5 continues the trend of previous games, and mostly just adds bigger levels for grinding and playing around with DLC. This IS, however, where the promised over 100 characters on screen is introduced, and it can get extremely hectic at times! The maps will offer plenty of tactical ways to defeat them, whether it is with geo-blocks, netherworld effects, or your own cunning strategies.
Disgaea 5’s sprite work and world design is much more vibrant this time around. Overall the game tends to look like the previous entries, but the combat animations and colorful background environments all look crisp and pretty.
I also just have to rave about the Soundtrack. I've always loved Disgaea’s music, and 5 does not disappoint. The hubworld music is really great, the music of various maps all fit their respective moods, and it all sounds fantastic overall.
Thankyou to NIS for giving GBAtemp a review copy. And a special thanks to Luna for her help with this review.
+ Serious and entertaining story
+ More incredibly fun game-play elements
- Slower pacing
- Graphically only a bit better than previous entries
- Lack of variety with post game content
Presented as the biggest Disgaea adventure yet, Disgaea 5 certainly delivers, and it delivers well!
The formula hasn't changed much but hey, "Never fix what isn't broken". The new mechanics are incredibly fun and continue to expand upon great gameplay.
Disgaea is still a long RPG with a story mode that will keep you busy for at least 25-30 hours. Post-story content is light in variety but still perfectly enjoyable with the potential to add hundreds more hours of gameplay.
out of 10
(not an average)
Bigger, crazier and more spectacular than ever, Disgaea 5 doesn't disappoint and continues to be one of my favorite strategy franchises. While the pacing may be a bit slow, it doesn't detract from the overall quality of the game and it's absolutely worth picking up.