Disgaea 3: Absence of Detention: review

  • Format: PlayStation Vita (version reviewed), PS3
  • Unleashed: Out Now
  • Publisher: Reef Entertainment
  • Developer: Nippon Ichi Software, Inc
  • Players: 1
  • Site: http://disgaea.us/dis3vita/

The PlayStation Vita has been starved of games since its launch in March, which is one of the main reasons for its slow start at retail. Disgaea 3: Absence of Detention is a much needed new title for Vita gamers looking for something to play on their shiny new console. Disgaea 3 originally appeared on the PlayStation 3 in 2008, and has been succeeded on the console by Disgaea 4. So is the strategy role-player worth forking out for again on Sony’s new handheld?

The graphics are functional, rather than outstanding.

The plot of Disgaea 3 involves Mao, the top student at Netherworld’s Evil Academy, whose dad (the Overlord of the Netherworld) accidentally stands on his SlayStation Portable; losing millions of hours worth of game saves (we’ve all been there). Mao decides that he needs to take down his father and become a hero. This will be difficult seeing as he has an evil quotient of 1.8 million (in this school the good guys are the delinquents, and the bad kids are the prefects.) It’s all pretty bonkers stuff as you can imagine, and the script writing is very funny throughout, with small penguin like characters calling you ‘dood’ and an equally impressive and memorable cast of teachers and fellow students.

The gameplay involves tactical turn-based combat, played out in an isometric viewpoint. The characters and objects in the world are simple sprites and you can rotate the viewpoint at any time to see where your characters are positioned, although it can still be quite difficult to see what is going on. If there are too many characters in the same area, the camera angle makes planning your attacks difficult at times. The graphics are more functional than outstanding, although the anime style cut scenes between battles are quite impressive. When it comes to your turn the game gives you a grid to show you where your heroes are able to move. Once you have finalised the movement and attacks of your characters, you end your turn and see what damage you have done to the enemy monsters. It is then their turn to inflict pain onto your roster of characters.

There are a vast amount of spells and attacks that you can unleash on your enemies, and a huge list of Evility upgrades that can be learned by spending your experience points. As you upgrade your squad you gain more gloriously over the top super moves which can involve multiple characters joining forces to kick your foe up into a hilarious maelstrom of pain. Along with the grid based combat there is also the addition of Geo Blocks, which are differently coloured blocks that can be used in combination with Geo Panels, which alter the stats of whoever stands on them. The Geo Blocks can be stacked onto one another, or can even be destroyed, so you have to utilise them as best you can as your enemy can also use them to their advantage. Each item in the game contains a randomly generated world which you can dive into to gather extra experience points and to upgrade your items. This is a great way to grind your character through the levels. There is also a homeroom, which is a classroom that you can use to help boost team attacks by placing characters next to each other in the seats of the classroom to maximise effectiveness.

The homeroom is used to boost team attacks.

We have to say, having never played a Disgaea game before we were initially a bit lost with all the different areas of combat, and the menu system can be quite bewildering to first time players. There are so many menus to deal with which could quite easily put new players off. However the basics are pretty easy to pick up thanks to the opening tutorials which allow you to acclimatise before you gain the courage necessary to explore some of the game’s more obscure intricacies. With the game originally coming out on the PS3 in 2008, obviously the graphics are rather dated, and if you were looking to showcase the almost PS3 power of the Vita, then this isn’t a title that will turn heads. Nippon Ichi have added touch screen controls to this Vita remix, but they don’t really add anything significant to the game. Also we must say that the price is a bit steep at £35-£40 for what is essentially a four year old game, even though all the DLC from the PS3 version is included, and the game has additional story quests and bosses to fight.

The anime cutscenes are impressive on the Vita's screen.

If you manage to get to grips with the tactical nuances of the game, then there is a lot of fun to be had with Disgaea 3: Absence of Detention, and its cast of memorable characters. With a sparkling and funny script, and more depth than even James Cameron can handle, there is plenty here for fans of the genre – although if you have already completed the game on PS3 there is not a lot of incentive here to replay it on the Vita. It might be hard for casual or new players to get to grips with, but when they do, this game does enough to warrant dusting down their neglected portable for some truly crazy over the top strategy role-playing.

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Written by Kevin M

I've been addicted to gaming since my parents bought an Atari console way back in the 70's. I progressed to the iconic Speccy, Amiga, and all the Playstation platforms. Having seen games evolve from single pixel bat and ball, to HD constructed environments, gaming has changed much from my early years. Having defeated the rock hard R-Type on the Speccy, the biggest challenge I've faced so far is putting up with the hordes of American teens spouting abuse in the current generation of consoles, noob indeed!

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