Disgaea 3: Absence of Malice is the third game in the Disgaea franchise and was released on the PS3 console. The series was created by NIS and it is a notable underground Japanese JRPG like Shin Megami Tensei, which also has a media franchise of its own from anime to manga.The series is a turn based strategy game that is set in the netherworld. It is accessible to anybody who hasn’t played any Disgaea games before while remaining familiar to the veteran players.
Mao is an “honor roll” student in the evil academy. An honor roll student is a slacker, one who frequently miss classes and behaves very badly. He's spent the past few months doing “research” by playing video games, reading comic books and watching Anime in order to become a hero. Mao’s main goal is to overthrow his father the current overlord of the realm out of revenge for not only destroying his video game console but also because he wants to be the overlord as well. Mao and his classmates learn of a big conspiracy that threatens the existence of the Evil Academy.
The atmosphere of the game is a mixture of bleak hellish landscapes and also black comedy. The control system was pretty straightforward and easy to learn.
Gameplay is focused on isometric maps each in its own unique setting where you control a group of characters to defeat all enemies in the map. Some maps have significant heights so you may have to stack boxes together to reach the top or stack characters. You can move in a certain set amount of directions in a grid depending on the type of character you are using in combat. Occasionally you have allies fighting along side you that are not playable at certain points of the game.
Before you embark on missions, you can explore the overworld and buy items from shops or interact with the residents and ask for tips about combat. Nurses are available to heal you and your parties’ health for a price. You can visit your classroom but it serves as a meeting room instead of an actual classroom due to the nature of evil academy. You can debate topics and present your proposals to the teachers who may accept or reject your proposals. You can also bribe the teacher into agreeing with your demands. Some items in your bag can be used exclusively for bribing other council members.
You can choose any command like guarding, using an item, skill or attacking an enemy. Keep in mind using skills cost sp or skill points for short. You can throw enemies at each other and they will level up and if you are up ready, you can defeat them to quickly level up faster.
Some maps have enemies calling for reinforcements. Geo blocks make a return and you can now stack them or stand on them. You can move the camera in any direction which is quite handy for puzzle solving. Classes like the thief, can create stacks to perform tower attacks at high reaching enemies or to reach a faraway place. When you throw a monster type ally in the game, they could bounce an extra mile based on the throwing stat or the direction of your aim. You can find treasure chests in maps that you are in sometimes either when an enemy is killed or pre placed. You could sometimes find treasure chests in the overworld too.
You can replay any level in the game at any time in any chapter you like to go through especially with how grindy the series can be. Defeat all enemies and you will win and if your characters die then it is game over. Unfortunately, you are not able to skip skill animations or reset maps to try again. The best you can do is quit the game start back to your save file and go to the map at you last location. Each map has a bonus meter that is randomized every time you enter it.
One of the new features in the game is where since you are a student you could form clubs. You can unlock more club to join as you progress through the game. In Disgea 3, when you form clubs you are able to gain access to unique bonuses for assigned characters. Only members of the club can magichange with other members and can only be part of the same club and cannot belong to other clubs.
The main story theme of the series is cynical anti heroes being forced to work with their heroic foils. Everyone is good for the sake of being good and everyone is evil just for the sake of it and both are going to have to work together in order to defeat the enemies of the Evil Academy.
Prinnies are another common aspect of the series. They are souls of humans who have either led an uneventful life or have committed a mortal sin such as suicide or treason and are forced to serve the demons of the underworld. Those who have made enough money every year during a red moon have the chance to be reincarnated. The souls of the deceased humans are placed into undead like penguins.
In combat, the Disgaea series is known for the extremely high stats and damage numbers that has ever been seen in a video game. In Disgaea 3, a new feature in strategy has been added where characters now have weapons in which they are proficient. Whatever skills are available to the characters who are proficient with certain weapons, will be locked off to other classes and vice versa. There is a large amount of equipment to choose and customize with based on your preferences.
The maximum number you can level up to is 9999, any other JRPG would be to the 100s. You can even level up your equipment in a place called the Item World which is a set of randomized dungeons. The enemies there are either low level or high level depending on the quality of the items. Occasionally in the item world, you could enter mystery rooms where you can either fight powerful enemies guarding treasure or buy special items at special shops like the soundtrack of the game. You can visit the succubus to fill up the bonus meter for a price either half amount or the full amount for the bonus meter. You can also unlock the ability to change the skin colors of your character classes. You can exit the Item World quickly by simply reaching for the exit if it is nearby. You can get Mr. Gency items that allows you to leave anytime but every 10 rounds, you have the chance to leave the Item World and receive a Mr. Gency item to escape.
Besides the Item World there is the Class World where you can increase the aptitude for your character’s classes and also increase their movement, skillset and also new evilties as well for your fellow clubmates. A new feature in the Item World is reverse pirating. By killing all pirates clearing the stages they appear on, you can pass a bill that allows you to loot maps that they appear on. Magichange is a new feature introduced in this game where a creature based enemy, and a humanoid type enemy when they are near each other, the beast type enemy can turn into a weapon and you can also use exclusive special abilities that deal massive damage to enemies.
One new feature in the game that is tweaked from Disgaea 2 is Eviltiies. The characters you play as all have their own unique evilties. You can equip a secondary one as long as it is not exclusive to another character. You can also use mana that you gain from either drinking a mana potion or defeating enemies, especially high level ones, to spend on learning new skills or evilties that give you special bonuses like increased health or speed.
The musical score was pretty good but the soundtrack looped the same songs over and over. The art style was sharp and vibrant and the character designs were appealing. The opening animation by Ufotable is superbly executed. Both the graphics and the animation are outstanding. They do have a dated look like an upscaled Devil Survivor Overclocked ported on a home console.
The game has some really hilarious dialogue many of which is related to the otaku nature of the series. The voice acting was over the top and hilarious for the most part. Some characters sound very annoying and had an overly high pitched voice liked the thief class. The characters range from being likable and honorable demons to obnoxious, annoying, and self absorbed hypocrites. Mao in particular came off as bratty, egotistical and very haughty. He loves to brag about his genius level IQ and basically have others do his dirty work for him. Almaz and Mr. Champloo were the most level headed of all. Both of them were thoughtful and always looked at the bigger picture before acting.
Don’t expect much character development or originality storywise. It is more or less the same thing seen in previous Disgaea games and the characters as well are expys that can also be seen in not only in other Disgaea games but also in other JRPGs.It boils down to Demon seeks to overthrow overlord, meets friends and rises to power, defeats the overlord and all ends well for them.
But that’s actually the main purpose of the series; to have purposely flat carbon copy boilerplate characters with hilariously cheesy dialogue and a recycled generic story as a satirical take on the countless cliches JRPGs and anime have and even Otaku culture itself, to at an extent. The game even has a parody of the power rangers called the prism rangers, a group of recurring gag characters.
There was a lot of extra content to go through after you beat the game. You can also go through other endings to look at. You can replay the game again with much stronger enemies and take part in extremely dangerous challenges in exchange for powerful rewards. You also have the ability to keep leveling up your characters, and going to the dangerous maps like the land of carnage, fight powerful hidden bosses and find characters you may not have encountered in the story.
It’s a really long game even with eight chapters. You can switch to the Japanese subtitles if you wish. There were some low points in the game. Sometimes you had to fight the same boss you fought before in an earlier level. While the game has a variety of enemies to fight, some of them were reskins with different abilities. Some fights could have been easily avoided but were done by impulsive decisions rather than the player’s input.
The game has a very steep learning curve. Menus are in depth but sometimes to the point of micromanagement. Artificial difficulty in an otherwise easy game is prevalent as sometimes enemies could spam attack the same attacks. Geo blocks sometimes give an unfair advantage to enemies.
The same kind of problems I’ve had with Final Fantasy 3, 4 and Rings Of Fates appear in this game. Instead of having the armor and weapons shop all in one place, they are in two separate places. The DLC in the game basically boils down to this stuff you can organically earn in game but you spend a certain amount of money to get bonuses you really don’t need bother getting.
It gets 4 out of 5 stars.
I have other Disgaea games to games to go through. If you are a hardcore veteran Otaku and JRPG player like myself, you could find a large amount of entertainment value in the Disgaea series. Overall, I am really liking the series so far and I will even get around to doing a dvd review of Disgaea 1, the anime.