Disgaea 3: Absence of Detention

Nippon Ichi’s Disgaea series is a tactical RPG franchise renowned for its deep, engaging mechanisms, debuting on the PlayStation 3 as Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice to continue this tradition. As happened with its two predecessors on the PlayStation Portable, the third entry received a port to the PlayStation Vita as Disgaea 3: Absence of Detention, with this iteration of the game perhaps being the best this reviewer has played thus far, thanks to some new features.

Disgaea 3 sports a structure similar to its predecessors, with a hub area where the player can perform functions such as purchase new equipment and consumable items, go to a classroom session that replaces the Dark Assembly in the previous games to use Mana gained from killing enemies to pass proposals through the student council to unlock new character classes, reincarnate characters of certain classes into more powerful iterations of their classes, and so forth, or go to the Item World to level up items to make them more powerful with each floor conquered.

The story battles necessary to advance the game largely resemble those in the third game’s prequels, with a spot from which the player can draw characters to walk across the map to attack enemies and use special skills, with victory coming when the player defeats all enemies. Although player death results in a Game Over, the third installment merely slaps players on the wrist by taking them back to the hub area instead of the title screen, with the player still needing to pay to revive all characters that died in the lost battle, this aspect making the third game significantly easier than its predecessors.

The game mechanics work well for the most part, with the aforementioned anti-frustration feature definitely helping the game well and even make it accessible to newcomers to the franchise. Many story battles also revolve around Geo Cubes that provide effects to colored panels, and involve a greater deal of strategy to triumph. Perhaps the only real flaw in the mechanics is the slightly-incompetent enemy A.I., with foes occasionally attacking their own allies to attack the player’s weakest characters, although in the end, the gameplay serves Disgaea 3 quite well.

The interface also serves the game well, with an easy menu system and character management, and a linear structure that always keeps the player moving in the right direction. An equip-best option would have been nice, although this area of the game helps far more than hurts.

As with its predecessors, Disgaea 3 features a humorous storyline about a demon student named Mao who wants to overthrow his Overlord father and claim his throne for himself, a narrative that never becomes dull, with decent character development and story characters rarely falling out of memory once they join Mao’s party. The translation is well-polished, too, although there are some areas where, for instance, Japanese characters still show, not to mention some minor punctuation errors.

Tenpei Sato, as usual, does a nice job with the soundtrack, with many vocal tracks left untranslated, and the English voice acting is generally tolerable, with players that disagree able to switch to the original Japanese voices.

Disgaea 3 used a polished version of its predecessors’ graphics that utilize two-dimensional character sprites and three-dimensional environments, with the latter largely devoid of blurry textures or pixilation, although pixels occasionally show in the character sprites. The anime portraits used to narrate many cutscenes now have animation, however, and in the end, the game is a nice visual treat.

Finally, completing the third game in a straightforward playthrough takes somewhere from twenty to thirty hours, although the post-game content and extras can naturally increase this time infinitely. In the end, Disgaea 3: Absence of Detention is a solid port that hits many of the right points with regards to its superb tactical mechanics, excellent control, humorous plot, great soundtrack, and polished visuals, and doesn’t leave too much room for improvement. Those that can look past the decreased difficulty compared to its predecessors will likely have an infinitely exciting experience.

The Good:
+Excellent game mechanics and control.
+Humorous plot and translation.
+Great aurals and visuals.

The Bad:
-Enemy A.I. can be incompetent at times.
-Some minor localization issues.
-Theme songs left in Japanese.

The Bottom Line:
One of the best tactical RPGs to grace the PlayStation Vita.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: PlayStation Vita
Game Mechanics: 9/10
Controls: 9/10
Story: 10/10
Music/Sound: 9/10
Graphics: 9/10
Localization: 9/10
Lasting Appeal: 10/10
Difficulty: Easy
Playing Time: 20-30+ Hours

Overall: 9.5/10

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