|System: PS Vita|
|Dev: Nippon Ichi Software|
|Release: August 12, 2014|
|Screen Resolution: 544p||Animated Blood, Drug Reference, Fantasy Violence, Language, Suggestive Themes|
by Becky Cunningham
Nippon Ichi is on a devilish mission to port its Disgaea series to every platform imaginable. The latest manifestation of that mission is Disgaea 4: A Promise Revisited for the PlayStation Vita. With an entertaining story, great characters, insanity-packed combat system, and a nice balance between progress and grind, the original PlayStation 3 game was a high point for the series. This ultimate edition makes it even better, packing it with a number of useful quality of life improvements, all the original DLC, and a new scenario.
Disgaea 4 tackles the world of politics with the series' trademark lighthearted satire, reflecting our society through the funhouse mirror of the demonic Netherworld. Instead of having the task of caring for its citizens, the demonic “corrupternment” is tasked with creating powerful demons who can scare humans into behaving. When that government fails at its task, it's up to the fallen vampire lord Valvatorez to mount the demonic version of a political campaign, which involves beating the opposition into submission on the battlefield. Politics is a great target for Disgaea's trademark wacky humor, and a bit of unconvincing wordplay aside, the humor is spot on.
Lord Valvatorez and his faithful but conniving werewolf servant Fenrich form the heart and soul of the game. Lord Val is a painfully sincere demon who lost his power centuries ago when made a promise that stopped him from drinking human blood. Fenrich, in a reversal of the usual vampires versus werewolves trope, is completely devoted to his lord and determined to help Val become a powerful tyrant again, even if it pulling dirty tricks in order to save Valvatorez from his own tendency to make foolish promises. The contrast between these two characters makes for some highly amusing scenes, and the game is at its best when they share the screen together.
The rest of the game's cast is often better in concept than execution, like Fuka, a deceased middle schooler who firmly believes she's having a dream despite ample evidence to the contrary, or Desco, an adorable octopus monster who desires to be a powerful final boss. They're fun in small doses, but tend to get a bit repetitive the more they're given the spotlight. Still, the story as a whole is a fun ride that is almost as good as the original Disgaea. It's not quite as laugh-out-loud funny, but it treads new ground and doesn't go completely off the rails as much as that game did.
Since politics is literally war in the Netherworld, the main gameplay consists of turn-based strategic battles that take place on gridded battlefields. Players have the ability to create a plethora of different character and monster types for their army, each of which brings unique attacks to the battlefield. Success in battle requires smart character development, good troop placement, and a strategy that protects vulnerable characters and takes advantage of enemy weaknesses. It also requires a bit of grinding for most players, since the enemies in the game's story levels tend to outpace the average player party. Luckily, the game provides several options like the infamous Item World to allow characters to level up without endlessly repeating the same maps.
Players have the option to delve into various systems that add complexity to battle, such as using monster characters as weapons or learning crazy attacks that require characters to stack on top of each other, cheerleader-style. These systems can be quite fun and provide interesting options that keep things fresh. Enemy characters will often demonstrate the game's advanced tactics, giving players the opportunity to organically learn how to perform the more interesting feats. As long as you're the kind of player who has the patience for this kind of turn-based system and either tolerate or enjoy the occasional grinding, you'll find a lot to enjoy in Disgaea 4's battles.
Out of battle, there are lots of avenues available to customize and advance your characters. Most notable in Disgaea 4 is the Cam-Pain Headquarters, in which characters can be placed strategically on a map of the world. Those who stand next to each other have a higher chance to perform linked attacks, and the player can also place various buildings that help characters perform better in battle or share experience points. It's a nice extra layer of strategy which also gives players options to reduce grinding time.