Disgaea 4 Complete+
Developed By: Nippin Ichi Software, Inc
Published By: NIS America
Category: Role-Playing, Strategy
Release Date: 10.29.19
Over its lifetime, the Disgaea series has consistently produced some of the most entertaining and challenging strategy RPGs available. NIS hasn’t released a new entry in the series since 2015’s Disgaea 5, but they’ve been more than making up for that by re-releasing previous entries on the Nintendo Switch. The first and fifth games in the series are already released, and they are now joined by the fourth game in today’s release, Disgaea 4 Complete+ for the Nintendo Switch. This game has the same basic system as the other games in the series, buffeted with a wonderful storyline, extremely memorable characters, and a self-aware sense of humor that puts Deadpool to shame. It’s almost anticlimactic how good the games in this series continue to be; luckily, you get an amazing game to make up for it. I’ll tell you right now this is a five-star game, but let’s talk about it a little more so my editor won’t think I’m blowing off work.
Why is Disgaea Prinny Instructor?
Our hero – err – I mean protagonist is the disgraced vampire lord Valvatorez. Eons ago he was a feared lord in the Netherworld, but after making a promise never to drink the blood of humans again, he quickly fell down the demon ranks to the lowest rung a demon lord can reach – Prinny instructor. Prinnies, if you’re not familiar, are penguin-like demons formed from the souls of humans who need to atone for their sins in life. Prinnies make up the majority of the henchman pool in Hades, so training them is an important task, but most demons consider it demeaning work to do so. Valvatorez, on the other hand, has made lemonade out of his lemons and has convinced himself that he has the most vital task in all the Netherworld.
When the Netherworld Corrupternment releases an edict to kill all Prinnies due to overpopulation, Valvatorez sets out to rescue them to keep his promise of giving them each one sardine when they graduate Prinny School. He’s got a thing about keeping promises, that Valvatorez. He’s very honorable for a demon lord, really. From there, events escalate until Valvatorez starts a full-scale rebellion. With the help of his deviously devoted werewolf attendant Fenrich and his own unflappable capacity for turning self-deception into self-actualization, Valvatorez embarks on a cam-pain to overthrow the Corrupternment and bring dignity back to the task of eternal suffering and punishing humans into living right.
As always, the sharply-written script contains the series’ signature irreverent humor and – more importantly – at least one Gin Blossoms reference. I don’t recall the last time I laughed out loud this many times playing a game – it may have been as far back as Disgaea 1 Complete. From broad, character-based humor to genre-specific deconstruction of tropes, this game will have your sides splitting. And yet, despite its heavy emphasis on humor, the game’s narrative also builds relatable, empathetic characters out of its collection of demons, vampires, avaricious angels, Prinnies, not-exactly-Prinnies, and final-bosses-in-training. Disgaea 4 Complete+ has one of the best scripts in the video game industry.
Get On the Grid
The most basic elements of Disgaea 4 Complete’s tactical gameplay will be familiar to anyone who plays a lot of turn- or grid-based strategy RPGs. Every mission takes place on a map broken up into square grids. The object of the game is to maneuver your units around the field and destroy any enemy units on the map. So… y’know… it’s a strategy RPG. SRPG. In order to keep things interesting and add a level of variety to the gameplay, the Disgaea series’ usual twists on the SRPG formula are present as well, with a few new tricks thrown in for good measure. To start, you have a spawn point from which you can summon your units during a mission. You can use as little or as many characters as you want up to the map’s limit, and you can even send characters off the map to replace them with fresher fighters if you want.
Next, you’ve got combo attacks. Any allied units occupying a tile adjacent to a unit making a melee attack have a chance to activate a combo. That means that up to four units can participate in a combo attack, and the more units participate, the more powerful the attack gets. Characters participating in a combo attack also gain experience points, so it’s a decent way to level up underpowered characters. Characters can also cooperate by lifting and throwing each other. Characters can’t jump over gaps, so you have to have another character lift them up and throw them across. It’s a fun mechanic, and the fact that Prinnies always explode when thrown is a fun little touch of series lore. You can also stack multiple units on top of each other, creating a tower. You can use a tower to reach high plateaus you can’t throw to, as well as to activate some special attacks that can only be performed when part of a tower.
Magichange and Fusion
There are two different types of units you can recruit and deploy; humans and monsters. Monster units have two special abilities they can employ in addition to their special skills, magichange and fusion. Magichange can be performed when a monster unit is next to a human unit. It turns the monster into a special weapon wielded by the human. A human wielding a magichanged unit has access to special new skills for as long as the magichange lasts. Two monsters standing next to each other can also fuse, creating a single, larger, more powerful monster. I didn’t find myself using either very much, instead preferring numbers, but it is a really fun mechanic for less challenging levels.
Need Yo’ Geo
Most levels have different colored tiles scattered across the map, called Geo tiles. Geo tiles can confer positive or negative status effects to whichever character stands on one. Adding what is perhaps the most complex layer of extra strategy to the game are Geo Blocks; destructible blocks that confer a Geo tile of the same color their abilities. Destroying a Geo Block will remove that color tile’s effects. If you destroy a Geo Block on top of a different color tile, then all tiles of that color will turn the color of the destroyed block. Any unit standing on top of a tile that changes color takes damage; any blocks on a tile that changes color are destroyed, which then triggers another round of changing color. The damage done to a unit increases with every round of tile changes. Finally, if you place two blocks of the same character next to each other, they will destroy each other.
Scenic Downtown Hades
Between missions, Valvatorez can upgrade his crew from his base in Hades. There is an item shop, a weapon shop, an armor shop, and a few more that can be unlocked as the game goes along. You can also get your characters healed at the nurse’s station (characters aren’t automatically healed after missions; the good news is, as you spend money at the nurse she will give you rewards). You can also view any movies or cutscenes you have unlocked as well as access an encyclopedia keeping track of all your records while playing the game. But the most fun part of visiting Hades is entering the Item World, and, eventually, the Chara World. Entering the Item World lets you fight through multiple maps to level up any item; from weapons to armor to potions. The Chara World is pretty much the same, just for characters. It’s a neat way to get some extra development into your characters aside from just level grinding, while also level grinding all of your other characters. Obviously, you can’t use an item or character when you’re in their world. That would just be silly.
On the Cam-Pain Trail
Meeting with the Netherworld Senate is a long-standing Disgaea tradition. In Disgaea 4 Complete+, you meet with the Senate via the Cam-Pain HQ. From there, you can call the Senate together to do things like get better inventory in your stores, get new stores, create new soldiers, or research new Evil Symbols. In the Senate you can give items to Senators to bribe them to see things your way; if you lose a vote you can attack the Senate to force them to do what you want. This isn’t recommended in the early going; most Senators outclass you by a mile. Eventually you can even stack the Senate with your allies or foreign ministers from other players.
Eventually, you will be able to assemble a cabinet for your Cam-Pain. Assigning one of your characters to be your minister of whatever will confer upon them benefits, like increased stat gains on leveling up or the ability to visit other players’ Netherworlds via the internet. You don’t get to choose what players your Foreign Minister visits, but you get some pretty good rewards anyway. Finally, the Cam-Pain Board lets you place your characters on a grid map for various rewards. Placing characters next to each other increases the chances of those characters performing a combo attack together, while placing a character in range of an Evil Symbol confers that symbol’s bonus to the unit.
Pity and Appreciate the Poor Sprite Artists Who Worked on This Game
The sprite-based character models are colorful, well-designed, and fantastically rendered. The sheer number of different sprites the poor animators had to create to make it look that way is pretty impressive; animating each character for every move available to them must have been quite a feat. It pays off, however, as the game looks great. The soundtrack is similarly well-crafted, with music ranging from intense and dramatic dirges for boss fights to upbeat, sugary tunes for more lighthearted scenes. Of especial note is the voice acting; every actor was able to produce a lively, animated personality for characters represented by largely static images.
A Complete Good Time
There really isn’t much to complain about in Disgaea 4 Complete+. The game looks good, the gameplay is fun and challenging, and the story is hilarious. If that’s not enough, an amazingly talented voice cast brings that story to life with impeccable comedic timing. Even if you’re not normally a fan of SRPGs or JRPGs, Disgaea 4 Complete+ is challenging enough, well-written enough, and overall well-made enough to be worth your time.
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*A game code was provided for review purposes.