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October 22 2015
Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance - PS4 Review
Release Distributer Publisher Developer Offline Players Online Players
6/10/2015BandaiNamcoNIS AmericaNippon Ichi1None
Version HDD Install Resolution Touchpad PS4 Exclusive OFLC Rating

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Being a RPG, there is plenty of story dialogue.
It's hard to believe but the Disgaea franchise has been around for over a decade now. Since its arrival on the PS2 way back in 2003 Disgaea has earned quite a following thanks to its deep fighting systems and irreverent humour in the usually staid role-playing genre. The gaming world has moved on a lot since 2003 and it's fair to wonder if a strategy RPG like Disgaea can still hold your attention like it once did. With a number of interesting additions to the series and hundreds of hours of gameplay Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance has a lot of promise. Does it deliver?

Disgaea 5 is once again set in the Netherworld and the game begins with a narration about how Overlord Void Dark is perpetrating the biggest ever Netherworld war with the help of his Lost army. Exactly what Void Dark wants remains unclear, but many Overlords resist him. In the opening scene we meet one such Overlord - Seraphina, the Overlord of Gorgeous. Her army of Prinnies are fighting a losing battle against the Lost, but luckily for Serpahina (and the few remaining Prinnies) it's at this point a mysterious Overlord joins the fight. Killia steps up and, after dispatching a bowl of food, wipes out the Lost forces with a single attack. After a short chat Seraphina decides to ally herself with Killia (whether he wants it or not) and the two of them return to her pocket Netherworld which serves as the hub in Disgaea 5.

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Choose where to throw the item.
There isn't much to do in the pocket Netherworld initially, though its functionality grows as you progress through the story. Once you head out to battle you'll come across the familiar grid-style map common to strategy RPGs. Disgaea is great at giving you a number of choices about how to perform your attacks. For example, rather than setting everyone up and then executing the attacks as one long sequence, you're given the option to execute them individually, in small groups, or as one long chain. The advantage to doing them as a group is a combo bonus (that nets greater rewards at the end of a fight), but performing them singly or in small groups gives you much better control of the fights.

The tutorial system is quite thorough so you'll learn the ropes quickly enough, but another of Disgaea's strength is adding more and more elements to fights that you need to understand. Stacking and throwing characters is a key way to get characters all over the map as fast as possible. It's easy to do – simply walk one character on top of another (you can stack all ten characters if you want to) and then use the Throw command to toss your allies willy-nilly around the map. It's both fun and funny, though it's nothing new for series vets.

Geo-nodes – coloured triangles that put specific effects on all squares of that colour are next up. Some effects are beneficial, like Exp +50% or Movement +1, but many others are not, such as Def -50% and Enemy Boost. Finding the relevant geo-nodes and either throwing them onto different colours, or destroying them to set off a crazy chain of destruction is another key aspect to come to grips with.

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That is indeed a Mega Fire...
Outside of combat the pocket Netherworld is expanding and whenever a new store opens up you're given a brief introduction to its function. The Recruiter is obvious enough, and allows you to hire characters to buff your squad. Innocents – monsters that live in items and equipment to give them special functions – can now be farmed, which is to say you can take them off one item and place them into another.

Innocent farming leads naturally into the Item World, another series staple, which allows you to enter an item (including weapons and gear), complete a series of fights, perhaps subdue some resident Innocents, in order to level the item up. I don't know for sure if there's an end to the Item World or if you can go on indefinitely, but suffice to say you can make almost any item extremely powerful by delving into its depths.

If all of that wasn't enough there are other things to explore in your pocket Netherworld. Quests are passive activities you complete through the story, things like defeating three Imps or finding a specific piece of treasure, for which you're rewarded with money and items, or maybe a new class of character at the Recruiter.

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Disgaea 5's battles get quite busy.
Speaking of new character classes, by using characters you improve their class proficiency and once they hit a certain level you'll unlock new hybrid characters that are even more deadly than the generic versions you start off with. For example if you get a fighter and a mage to class proficiency of three you'll unlock the Magic Knight who is capable with both the sword and magic.

Before long you'll have a squad much larger than can be sent onto the battlefield at once, but rather than have them sit around doing nothing you can assign them to a research team that explores other Netherworlds. This is a great way for those characters to level up (though their skills and class proficiency won't improve this way) to keep them around your level, while also finding treasure and capturing enemies. Captured enemies can be interrogated and either coerced into joining your army, or broken down into magical essence to boost your characters.

The Dark Assembly remains intact, and here you propose bills to demon senators in the hopes of receiving certain boons. For example you can request better items at the store, triple experience on the next map, a boost to the end of battle rewards and a host of other things. Senators are notoriously difficult to deal with though, so you may need to bribe them to get your bill passed.

Interestingly the Dark Assembly's role has been greatly reduced by the inclusion of a so-called Cheat Shop. The Cheat Shop allows you to tinker with certain settings, so for example you can reduce the amount of money earned in battle and increase the amount of experience instead. It's also possible to boost the enemy level all the way up to twenty, which increases both the difficulty and XP rewards from a fight.

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Stage clear with the Bonus List.
If you're new to Disgaea you might think the Cheat Shop is a bit cheap, allowing you to level up disproportionately, but the reality is this is one of Disgaea's greatest strengths – it wants you to have fun and gives you the tools to tailor the game however you like. Besides, you'll quickly learn that finishing the story in no way completes the game – powering your way to obscenely high levels and strength is a large part of what Disgaea is really all about.

If all of the above wasn't enough there is now a map editor that allows you to create your own maps or play other users' creations. And a Netherworld editor that does the same thing for your pocket Netherworld hub if you're sick of the way it looks. Basically the only limit to how much you can do in Disgaea is you.

As you can tell from the surrounding screenshots Disgaea, while colourful and pretty, is not exactly a graphical powerhouse. In fact it's not a large step up from the other titles on previous gen systems. While that is a little disappointing, particularly when it comes to spell and ability animations, Disgaea is a game that thrives on gameplay rather than graphics so it's not too detrimental overall.

On the upside there is excellent diversity in terms of the environments you visit and the way maps are laid out. In each chapter of the story you visit a new Netherworld, and while Blood Parch is a barren wasteland full of thorny trees, Poisondise is a full of vast purple pools… of poison admittedly, but it's still pretty to look at. There are a few standard looking places, like the ice world Icic-Hell, and the fire world of Scorching Flame, but from one world to the next there isn't a lot that looks the same.

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Disgaea 5 is out now on Playstation 4.
The sound is a bit of a mixed bag, but that's often the case when it comes to anime-style characters whose over the top nature is frequently hit or miss. For example I enjoyed Red Magnus, a firebrand character who lets his muscles do the talking 100% of the time (and sounds a lot like Mr Torgue of Borderlands 2), but I've read plenty of internet comments basically saying he sucks. Meanwhile Prinnies, who have developed a cult following, annoy me with their need to put "dood" in every sentence. All of which is to say the voice acting is subjective, but is similar to what you'd find in an anime for better or worse.

The music is a different story and I found it got repetitive really fast. That's particularly true of the song that plays on a loop when you're in the pocket Netherworld. Considering how much time you spend there you'll hear it a ridiculous number of times. Suffice to say I have the game on mute whenever I'm in the Netherworld. Other tunes are standard RPG fare – catchy little tunes that are fine in small doses, but that repeat a bit too often for comfort.

Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance is a title that shows even video games can age gracefully. While it may not boast cutting edge visuals or excellent music, what it does have is gameplay and character in spades. If you enjoy strategy RPGs, and especially if you've not played a Disgaea title before, Disgaea 5 comes highly recommended.

Review By: Mike Allison

GRAPHICSIt could be a straight port from the PS3, maybe even PS2. It's pretty enough, but in no way pushing the PS4.
SOUNDCapable voice acting accompanied by ok music that gets repetitive oh so quickly. Perhaps play your own music in the background instead.
GAMEPLAYThis is where Alliance of Vengeance shines, delivering top notch SRPG action with hundreds of hours of gameplay. New aspects are added to the story at the perfect pace too.
VALUEDisgaea 5 is a time sink in the nicest possible way. You will lose weeks to it if SRPGs are your thing.
OVERALLDisgaea 5 Alliance of Vengeance is an entertaining game that boasts an almost endless amount of content. If you enjoy strategy RPGs Disgaea 5 deserves a place in your collection.

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