Playing Disgaea 5 as a Newcomer

Ah… I’ve been on a Strategy RPG drought lately… What with Fire Emblem Three Houses being delayed into July, I feel as if I haven’t played a proper SRPG in 3013 years… Eh? There’s a few others on the Switch?

Alright, but what to get… Oh, Disgaea 5. I’ve heard many good things about the Disgaea series- Funny writing, quirky characters, unique setting, and fun gameplay. Also prinnies, dood. So maybe I’ll give it a shot. Yeah. Let’s do that.

So Disgaea! It’s a SRPG series made by the guys at Nippon Ichi software, the same guys who made the Yomawari games and published the Danganronpa series. In the past, Nippon Ichi was mainly known for Disgaea and other SRPGs, such as Phantom Brave and La Pucelle: Tactics (not to be confused for Jeanne D’Arc’s noble phantasm.) In general, Nippon Ichi’s SRPGs are known for this stuff:

  • Gameplay that’s simple on the surface but gets rather in-depth.
  • Cute-anime-style often employed by Takehito Harada.
  • Over-the-top animations. 
  • A level cap of… 9999!? WAIT WHAT SERIOUSLY YOU’RE KIDDING

So here’s what little I actually knew about the series prior to playing Disgaea 5. I knew about the trio from the first Disgaea (Laharl, Etna and Flonne), I knew about the prinnies- These penguin guys that exist to be everyone’s plaything, and I knew it was a weird 2.5D SRPG.

Entering Disgaea 5, it was rather simple getting a hang of the gameplay style and such. It’s an SRPG as I said, which means you’re playing a more complicated game of chess with more stats and less specific-moving-areas.

I like how this game allows you to skip the tutorials and still gives you access to them in case you need a reminder. More games need to do this, honestly. It’s good for newcomers but doesn’t turn away veterans. Sun and Moon, as much as I love ya, even I have to admit your tutorials are way too long for your own good. Plus some of the commentary the characters make in these tutorials is kinda funny. Like this tidbit about Prinnies- They explode when thrown. And I kid you not this is their distinguishing feature beyond adding “dood” to the end of their sentences. 

And that’s one of the unique features in Disgaea– The ability to throw your allies. Yes. Somehow this cute little mage can pick up and throw this giant muscle man 2x her size. Throwing is actually very useful- Though it uses up a character’s actions, it can be extra helpful for mobility. It’s especially helpful for the more hard-to-navigate stages, such as Poisondise, where the poisonous ocean can render your characters poisoned for three turns if they don’t get on land. And trust me, poison is not just chip damage in this game. It deals about 20% of your health every turn, and you’re gonna need that health to survive hits.

Also unique to Disgaea is the combination-attack mechanic! It works kind of like Fire Emblem Awakening in how you have to place two party members by one another to attack an enemy. If the characters can both attack an enemy, then this percentage will appear by their name. That’s their chance to possibly get a combo attack in. And when they do, be ready to (hopefully) watch the damage numbers pile up! These animations are over-the-top, though I’ll admit they get a bit repetitive to watch. Good this this game has an option to turn animations off. But eh I like seeing my attacks in RPGs so I kept it on. Oh and these combos go beyond just two units. Nope, quite a lot can do it. It’s satisfying getting all those cut-ins on the same screen. That’s when you know that you’ve done something really cool. …Even if it only ends up doing exactly ten damage. Yeah, thankfully this mechanic is not as broken compared to pairing up. It’s also extremely useful for grinding multiple characters. 

There’s also the revenge mechanic, introduced in this game. It’s part of the subtitle and is a central theme in the story! You can think of it as a sort-of super-meter. The bar fills up whenever characters attack, or whenever a character is KOed. When it fills to the top, revenge mode is activated for three turns! It makes the critical chance 100%, and makes all skills cost only 1 SP. So prepare for a lotta damage. Some characters have overload skills, which can be activated when in revenge mode. Some of these are widely-ranged debuffs, while some just have a meteor come crashing down for some reason. Either way, wise use of this mechanic can change the tides of battle in your favor! …But keep in mind the fact your opponents also have the revenge gauge. So be careful.

Next up is upgrading skills! Every time a unit kills an enemy, they get mana, which can be used to upgrade skills or get evilities, which are basically passive abilities. Most of the time skills can be upgraded for power, but some allow you to upgrade their power or their range. I love this so much- It allows for plenty of choice in regards to approach upgrading these skills. I mean you can have a powerful AOE attacker but that would require a lot of grinding. What I generally do is try to make the most of what little I have. Until I unlocked the item world and found a good excuse to grind. But I don’t like grinding to the point the rest of the game is obsolete, so I only do it when I feel the need to upgrade items.

…Wait, I didn’t explain it at all!

The item world is another recurring feature in Disgaea. This series has a lot of them, geez. I probably won’t be able to cover them all here. In a nutshell, it’s a way to upgrade items by going through a bunch of battles. Every ten or so you get a small break with a chance to heal and some items to buy. Then you can choose to either leave or go even further. I tend to lean towards the former due to some RNG events that can happen. Such as this kitsune levelling my item down by five gET OVER HERE YOU SCAMMING-

Oh.

So that’s why all the NPCs have levels!

…Let’s just say I had to learn to be careful down there and let’s leave it at that.

I bet you’re asking- Okay, that gameplay stuff is cool, but what about story? Isn’t there a reason they’re beating up each other?

Well, it’s a rather simple story. Void Dark, an overlord, is conquering netherworlds with the Lost, his army of about ten billion or so. Of course, a bunch of lesser overlords and demons got mad and begin to rebel. The story follows Killia, a wandering demon who’s out for revenge against Void Dark. Joining Killia is the ojou-sama runaway princess Seraphina, the hammy and manly Red Magnus, the strategic and calm Christo, and the troubled but cute Usalia. Together, they will fight Void Dark and maybe do some cool stuff on the way. Also Zeroken joins later on. 

…Yeah that’s the general summary. Since this is an article from a newcomer, I actually haven’t finished the game’s main story yet… But here’s how I feel about it so far-

It’s decent. Not particularly engaging, but decent. I heard this game has one of the weaker main casts in Disgaea history, which I’m not too surprised to learn. But this doesn’t mean they’re bad characters.  I haven’t played enough of the other games to tell how they fare in comparison to the others. 

Out of the main cast, I like Christo and Usalia the most. To say the least of it Usalia is adorable and she must be protected. It’s not that I dislike the others-  Killia is kinda bland, Seraphina is honestly annoying, and Red Magnus… Actually I like Red Magnus. He’s funny and reminds me a bit of Maui from Moana.

Keep in mind that I haven’t beaten the game’s main story yet. My opinions may shift at the end of the game. This is less of a review and more of a “let’s gush about a game I haven’t even beat yet” post.

Thankfully, you’re not locked to these five nerds. SRPGs normally have a lot of party members anyway! Much like Etrian Odyssey, you can hire other people of various classes to join your army! You can name them, set their color palette, and distribute additional stat points. They’re divided into two types, humanoid and Monster-classes. Humanoids are your standard weapon users. They do mostly everything. Monsters however, are locked to two weapon types but have a different way of throwing and can even become weapons for you humanoid characters! …Wait a sec. Isn’t this just Soul Eater? Eh, nevermind.

Other than the main story, this game has a lot of funny quotes buried in the item descriptions and names, sometimes with references to other video games or media!

Here are few that stick out to me-

  • Just a stick: Is that really the best name they could come up with?
  • Medal of Greed: I want it! Buy it for me! Please please pleeeaaase!
  • Bikini armour: Just imagine this on a big ol’ burly manly man.
  • Parazonium: Raise your hand if you thought it was a chemical.
  • Attaxe on Titan: If you don’t fight, you can’t win! So get choppin’!
  • Assassin Dagger: My god! You killed him! You MURDERER!
  • Sunset Lance: Damn you, sunset! I hate you so muuuUUUCCCHHH!!!
  • Guilty Axe: The axe is guilty! You’re guilty! We’re ALL guilty!

Conclusion (for now, anyway): Disgaea 5 is a fun SRPG with nice sprite art, cool tunes, with stupidly fun and addicting gameplay. Well done, Disgaea. You won me over. I already played over 75 hours and I haven’t even beat the main campaign yet. Am I ever gonna play Fire Emblem: Three Houses at this rate?! Will I ever?!

I will, no worry. Disgaea 5 shouldn’t take too long to finish up, post-game aside. But with the quality Disgaea 5 has in gameplay and charm alone, I think it’ll be difficult to go back to Fire Emblem after finishing this game. 

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