Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance marks the arrival of Nippon Ichi Software’s tactical RPG series on current gen systems. The franchise has been doing the rounds for over ten years, since first debuting on the PlayStation 2. If you enjoy quirky anime humour and strategic warfare I strongly recommend giving the Disgaea titles a go, as they are a “blast” to play (and no I am not making a reference to the game’s penguin underlings, who are known to detonate when hurled across a battlefield.) Disgaea sequels have appeared on various consoles/handhelds and soon the PC master race will be able to partake in arctic bird abuse too, as a remake of the original is due out on home computers early next year.
The central theme of Disgaea 5, as alluded to in its title, is revenge. When the game begins players are informed that the barbarous Lord Void Dark is waging a campaign of conquest against the Netherworld’s many kingdoms. Opposing his wicked machinations is a rebel army comprised of overlords who wish to dispense retribution upon the tyrant. Leading the group is Killia, a demon with a big appetite who has vowed to punish the man responsible for murdering the cat girl of his dreams. Aiding Killia in his quest is the muscle bound ruler of Scorching Flame, a wealthy seductress, a goofy martial artist and a bespectacled tactical genius. The rebel ranks also include a petit bunny girl named Usalia who is out to assassinate the necromancer who turned her floppy eared family into zombies. If that’s not wicked enough for you – said evildoer also placed a curse on Usalia, which will turn her into a beast unless she devours a daily ration of curry.
Gameplay wise Disgaea 5 is identical to its predecessors. Players lead a ten-man squad of demonic entities and monsters against Void Dark’s forces, in a story that spans across sixteen worlds. Battles are waged on maps viewed from an isometric perspective, similar to the classic Final Fantasy Tactics, with victory requiring that you rout all of the opposition’s troops. In keeping with the vengeance motif a revenge status has been added to combat, which units may trigger whenever one of their allies is struck. Demanding payback for their pal, any character afflicted with the revenge condition is able to cast spells at a reduced cost, in addition to unleashing a special attack. Red Magnus for example can beef up his stats by growing into a titan whilst Seraphina, the gun-totting succubus, can seduce male fighters into following her commands for one turn.
My rating for Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance is five stars. The title may be lacking in innovative new ideas, but given how highly lauded Disgaea’s turn based gameplay is you can’t blame Nippon Ichi for simply iterating on a successful formula. Although I am a huge fan of the original Disgaea there is an argument to be made for Vengeance being the franchise’s strongest title to date. From a mechanical point of view, when compared to its more clunky forerunners, Disgaea 5’s improved interface makes commanding your units a more streamlined and pleasant experience. The forty-hour story is packed with levels that will test your strategic mind and that’s barely scratching the surface of what is on offer. Those seeking a challenge can tackle the post game content and attempt to hit the level cap, which is… over nine thousand!!! (Scouter explodes.)
In terms of visuals Alliance of Vengeance is the finest looking Disgaea title to date. The game’s 2D sprites may not push the PlayStation 4’s graphical capabilities to its limits, but they are well drawn and should appeal to devotees of anime artwork. Moving onto sound, the voice cast do a stellar job of delivering their witty lines – be it Seraphina chortling after filling a peon with lead or Killia rattling off cooking ingredients, which are so obscure that they put Heston Blumenthal’s dishes to shame. All in all I can highly recommend Disgaea 5 to anyone with a passing interest in strategy RPGs. I don’t however condone the practice of turning penguins into living bombs. The world would be a much happier place if Happy Feet stuck to dancing rather than mimicking the acts of kamikaze terrorists.