DISGAEA 3: ABSENCE OF DETENTION REVIEW
Turn based strategy is better on the go, but is it worth the extra?
Posted by PlayDevil.com Staff on Jun 26, 2012 14:41 (331 days ago)
Written by: Alex
Absence of Detention:
Turn based strategy is always a good fit to handheld platforms. Advance Wars and Final Fantasy Tactics both became incredibly popular on Nintendo handhelds primarily because their pick-up, put-down gameplay was so suitable for the platform. Thus the port of "Disgaea 3: Absence of Detention" to Vita from the PS3, seems to be a shrewd one.
But how well has developer NIS America dealt with the transition, and does the change of platform and new content justify its price over the now budget priced PS3 original?
Disgaea 3:AoD tells the story of a demonic child called Mao who wants to overthrow the Overlord, who is coincidentally also his father. To do this he deduces he will need to become a hero, so set out to find one so he can capture their soul. Once discovered, Mao is certain he will be triumphant over his dad, enabling him to become the new ruler of the underworld.
It’s a comical tale that anyone even remotely familiar with Japanese fiction will doubtless already have worked out from its school setting, is crammed full of teen drama, frustrated plans and convoluted plots.
What Disgaea 3 does manage with some success is painting the picture of its fantastical world. It all proves quite charming, with the demonic school’s rules defying convention; as diligent students are dubbed delinquent and honours are awarded for diabolical acts. These bizarre twists on expectation with interesting location are what really make story stand out and prevent its lengthy prose really ruining the games flow.
Still manga characters against a plain background, is hardly the most challenging design-choice, but that is how the majority of Disgaea’s story is told. It is basic, which at this early stage for the Vita feels unwise given most owners desire to show off its powers. Flashy it may not be, but the characters are well designed and (even stationary) exude personality.
The voice acting and music does go some way to make up for the game’s visual shortcomings. While the story is far too verbose for a handheld game (undermining the ability to dip in for a quick game), both the English and Japanese voice tracks worked well to keep my interest in the story (though I would recommended the Japanese). To its credit all the cut scenes can be skipped at the press of a single button, and with most or the text redundant (simply adding flavour) this is often a reasonable option; though then you would miss the wonderfully exuberant Japanese music.
Planning and gamplay is where Disgaea comes in to its own. There are dozens of layers to the turn-based systems, and even some twenty hours in I am still learning. From selecting a team of (up to ten) fighters and equipping them, levelling up, deciding what school clubs they will join (offering perks and buffs), right down to mid-fight positioning and tactics, everything can be tweaked to improve Mao’s chances.
To help with getting your head around all the systems there are innumerable pages of text explanations and tutorials on hand to enable players to master them; but like so much of the game, they do drag on. It takes a good hour or four just to clear the training, and this still leaves vast gaps in knowledge that must be studied alone. It is a godsend to have these resources on hand, but proves laborious to master.