We’re kind of past the age of exclusives when it comes to consoles. Don’t get me wrong, there’s some solid exclusive titles out there like the Xbox One’s Sunset Overdrive, the PS4’s Bloodborne and the Wii U’s…uh, pretty much everything. Still, there’s no reason beyond marketing that these aren’t all out on PC, and it feels like these days your choice of console comes down largely to loyalty as most games are available on every platform.
The relative scarcity of exclusive games in this generation means that one comes around, our collective ears perk up, and that time’s come once again. Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance is the latest PS4 exclusive, and it’s a fantastic experience that PS4 owners are bound to love.
For those who aren’t familiar with the series, Disgaea is basically the SRPG genre as exemplified by Final Fantasy Tactics taken to extreme levels. Stats can potentially go beyond the millions and the level cap is 9999, allowing you to level grind for weeks. If you want a game to dump hours of your all-too-short life into, a Disgaea game will happily accommodate you.
As the latest main-series entry in the franchise, Disgaea 5 continues this tradition by incorporating even more content to pour your time into. Obviously, you’ll start off by digging your way through the game’s plot maps. The story in Disgaea 5 focuses on Killia, a mysterious wandering martial artist with a grudge against the tyrannical Demon Emperor Void Dark. Void’s been conquering demonic Netherworlds left and right; in order to fight back, Killia forms a rebel army consisting of powerful demons, eventually taking the war to Void himself. Assisting him are a colorful cast of Overlords, including the vain Seraphina, the absolutely-not-an-angel-no-sir Christo, the comically-manly Red Magnus and more.
Basic gameplay is largely similar to other titles in the series with a few tweaks. This includes most of the changes made up until the most recent entry, Disgaea D2, so if you haven’t played in awhile you’ll have a bit of system shock to deal with. You’ll take turns moving characters around a map and using bombastic special attacks to lay waste to your foes. Victory typically involves throwing characters around to bypass their movement ranges, as well as manipulating stat-altering Geo Panels to your advantage.
Some of the combat tweaks in this title deserve special mention. Perhaps most notably, Disgaea 5 includes a vital adjustment to the game’s signature lift-and-throw system in D2 – namely you can now throw diagonally without “cheating,” which is huge! Overload skills, powerful abilities unique to Overlord characters, are another new feature that can make a significant difference in combat; these range from Seraphina’s wide-area charm gaze to Red Magnus’ ability to grow to five times his size and start wreaking havoc. The final noteworthy change is the fact that monsters can now get involved in throwing with the Mon-Toss ability, allowing you to create complex chains of throws and vastly increasing the utility of monster units.
In any case, clearing plot maps isn’t all these is to do in Disgaea 5. Get sick of working on the plot? Go grind in the Item World instead! This fan-favorite feature makes yet another return, allowing you to play through limitless amounts of randomly-generated maps while grinding your characters and improving their gear. The Item World is packed with interesting encounters as usual, including the triumphant return of a dreaded boss from Nippon Ichi’s earlier title Zettai Hero Project. If you want to reach the upper limits that 9999 level cap, you’re going to be spending a lot of time in the Item World.
Tired of grinding? Go play a board game at the Chara World, which returns from Disgaea 4! This is another new feature reminiscent of the board game minigames from Kingdom Hearts. Your character will run around landing on spaces, gaining or losing stats in the process. Successful completion allows you to choose from several interesting boosts, such as improving the character’s gear affinity. It’s a nice change from the usual SRPG madness.
And it goes on and on – board games getting dull? Make your own maps! Done with creativity? Go interrogate some prisoners and turn them into stat-boosting items! Interrogation feeling a little unethical? Make some stat-boosting curry out of your spare items! The point is that you’ll really never run out of new things to do in Disgaea 5; I haven’t even talked about Netherworld Research, for instance, or the ability to customize your base area, or…well, long story short, you aren’t going to be bored.
This is combined with some of the best presentation we’ve seen from this series. We’re past the era of laughable sprites from the PS3 days! Now everything is in glorious HD and it shows. Battle animations are appropriately seizure-inducing…and they’re all perfectly skippable when you’re tired of watching them repeatedly. The game’s almost entirely voice acted as well, and this is generally high quality. The weakest performance comes from our hero Killia, who tends to sound a little more bored than you’d expect, but the actor seems to get with the program a little as the game progresses.
If it wasn’t clear by now, Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance is one of the best purchases one can make for the PlayStation 4 if they have any interest at all in SRPGs. It goes without saying that series fans will love this one, and with its beautiful graphics and high-quality voice acting it’s a great introduction to new players. If you’ve got free time – LOTS of free time – then this is a must-buy. Just be prepared to watch all that free time slip away…