Review: Disgaea 3: Absence of Detention (PSV)

Title: Disgaea 3: Absence of Detention
Format: PlayStation Network Download (2086 MB) / Game Card
Release Date: December 17, 2011 (JP) / April 17, 2012 (US)
Publisher: NIS America
Developer: Nippon Ichi Software
Original MSRP: $39.99 (PSN) / $39.99 (Game Card)
ESRB Rating: T
Disgaea 3: Absence of Detention is also available on PlayStation 3 as Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice.
The PlayStation Vita version was used for this review.

When people hear the word JRPG, many of them tend to instantly picture games such as Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest. Though not one of the most popular and most played series, Disgaea deserves the chance to stand next to the JRPG juggernauts and show off what makes itself unique: a blend of strategy RPG mechanics mixed with some of the most ludicrous storytelling in all of gameplay. For fans of tactical RPGs, Disgaea 3 is the perfect game for your shiny new Vita. For newcomers to this type of game, the flamboyant dialogue, complicated systems, and nonsensical storytelling may prevent you from investing dozens of hours into this classic tactical RPG (TRPG).

The gameplay of Disgaea is similar to many other tactical RPGs. Each battle requires you to select party members and equip them with the best possible gear before heading into battle. Once on the battle screen, players have the option to move around, attack, defend, tag-team attack, and much more. The objective of each round is to eliminate every enemy on the map, and each level throws unique environmental twists and new enemy types at you to keep things fresh and interesting.

If that was all that Disgaea had going for it, you would be quick to write it off as nothing more than a generic tactical RPG. The strongest part of Disgaea, unlike most other games in its genre, is not the combat. It’s the story. Mao and many of his cohorts spout off some of the best one-liners in any video game, and it truly makes this game enjoyable throughout the epic adventure. Mao’s diehard quest to overthrow his father and become the most evil student never ceases to arouse laughter from the player, and with a game that requires so much time and commitment, it is certainly welcome.

The gameplay, though deep and tactical, is very unwelcoming to newcomers of the genre. The tutorial system can be extremely convoluted and daunting to new players to the series, and I struggled for the first good portion of my adventure to simply understand what all was going on. The combat itself is simple and easy to learn, but it’s all of the extraneous systems that take a while for the player to wrap their heads around. For veterans of the genre, Disgaea will feel right at home, but for newcomers, it can at times seem like just too much to tackle and learn.

For players that have played this game to death on the PS3, there are still many features that make the Vita version more enticing. To start off, all of the DLC that was released for the PS3 is included in the Vita version. In addition to that, the Vita version boasts extra story lines, boss fights, item customization, GPS support, new class skills, super moves, and much more. Nippon Ichi truly went all out to make this Vita version well worth the extra investment.

One thing to mention, though not actually part of the gameplay, is the experience of playing this game on a handheld. For my tastes, it can sometimes be hard to set aside large chunks of time to play an RPG on my home console. Playing Disgaea on the Vita  makes the game much more enjoyable. Rather than having to carve out a time to sit at home, I can play a few turns in a battle and put my Vita to sleep. This allows me to come back to the battle when I want, and allows for those quick gaming sessions to add up. This game a perfect fit for the handheld.

The visuals in this Vita version are largely unchanged from it’s bigger brother on the PS3. All of the same bells and whistles are there, such as the gorgeous hand drawn art and 16:9 support. Even though the graphics are largely unchanged from the PS3 version, the smaller screen size and increased pixel density makes the art truly pop, making this one of the best looking games in the Vita’s short life span. There’s nothing here that will blow you away, but it is still a solid representation of what hand-drawn art can look like on the Vita.

Though nothing phenomenal or ground-breaking, the audio in Disgaea really exemplifies the zany and crazy tone of both the story and the characters. One of the best features of the game is the fully voiced cast. The voice work in the game brings the characters to life in a way that reading the text would not do. My praise for the voice work in this game does not do it justice at all. The music, while very basic, adds to the whimsical and fantastical sense of living in a demon world. Much of the music changes based on the dialogue and actions, which can greatly enhance the comedic tone.

Disgaea doesn’t have much to show in the online department. Even though there is an online component, many players will even forget that it’s there. There is a sort of online leaderboard where players can upload statistics and other game data, and this data can be compared between players. It’s a nice addition, but it’s nothing that will make or break your game experience. As far as multiplayer, there is none whatsoever.

Overall, I enjoyed my time with Disgaea 3. Though I have no Tactical RPG background, the deep story, awesome voice work, great sense of humor, and solid gameplay drew me in and hooked me. This game isn’t for everyone though. The tutorials leave a lot to be desired. The game can be overly complicated at some times, and the genre just isn’t for everyone. If you’re willing to invest a lot of time learning the ins and outs of the genre, this game is perfect for you. If you’re looking for an easy pick up and play RPG designed from the ground up exclusively for the Vita, you may be waiting a bit longer.


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Written by Eric R. Miller

A 21 year old multimedia student who lives, eats, and breathes everything Playstation. Follow me on Google

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