Most game series that have been around as long as Disgaea have gone through some serious changes over the years. However, it seems NIS has solidified their niche in the SRPG market, favoring solid, consistent experiences over any real major changes to the formula. Some might complain that every Disgaea game plays about the same as the last, but I posit, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance centers around six main characters, the main focus of the story being rebellion and revenge. The game begins with Killia—a young demon with a penchant for eating during battle—meeting with Seraphina, the Princess Overlord of Gorgeous, which is the richest nation in all the Three Worlds. They decide to team up to defeat the evil Void Dark together.
Killia seems to have a mysterious history with Void Dark, whereas Seraphina was forced into an arranged marriage with him, but instead plans to assassinate him. Along the way, they team up with Red Magnus, a hotblooded demon overlord, Christo, an effeminate tactician with ulterior motives, Usalia, a sweet girl who is cursed to eat curry, and Zeroken, a fistfighting overlord that helped the party even though no one asked him to.
The story is, in typical Disgaea fare, goofy and nonsensical. Some of the jokes and dialogue made me laugh out loud, which is always a nice touch. It feels like the series might be straying a little too far into the goofy category though, which might sound blasphemous to a Disgaea fan—but the original was so good due to its ability to balance the silly nonsense with serious and heavy moments.
All in all, the narrative is passable, but nothing to write home about either.
With Disgaea‘s first foray into next-gen, I’m happy to report that it’s certainly the best-looking game in the franchise. Sprites are super crisp and vibrant, and the backgrounds are well-animated and fun to look at.
From a technical standpoint, it also runs a lot better than previous iterations, and is able to render many more characters on-screen as well. I swear, Takehito Harada’s art just gets better and better every time something new comes out featuring his work.
The first real black mark on the game crops up the moment you start playing. The first time the main characters open their mouths, it’s apparent how poor the English voice cast is. Seraphina at least gives a silly performance, but the voice actor for Killia seems to just mumble through his lines.
It’s likely not his fault, as it was doubtless the direction given to him that caused such a monotone voice, but it’s still a complete drag to listen to. Luckily, Disgaea 5 has dual-audio, eliminating most of the issue for me.
The music, as always, is delightfully catchy. The song that plays in the hub area put me off at first, but it slowly grew on me, and before long I was humming to it as I went about my business. There’s just something about Disgaea music that makes me feel nostalgic and content, and 5 is certainly no slouch in the audio department.
That brings me to the most important feature of a strategy RPG—the gameplay. Thankfully, Disgaea 5 plays like a dream, being a thoroughly enjoyable improvement on the formula while still clinging tightly to its roots.
New features added include Alliance Attacks, Revenge Mode, and Overloads. Alliance Attacks build on the notion of team attacks, though instead allow you to pair up specific team members for special moves!
Revenge Mode allows your characters to power up when their allies are wounded or defeated, and if they’re Overlords, they unlock Overload abilities—which are mostly ridiculous, over-the-top special attacks.
What was also added, and is my favorite part of Disgaea 5, is the ability to have a main weapon and a sub-weapon. This comes in handy so often, and coupled with all the previously-mentioned additions, makes this the most satisfying game in the series to play. It certainly helps that the attack animations have been given a serious upgrade after moving to next-gen, accenting all the fun with striking visuals.
The wealth of classes is also a major boon in D5‘s favor, as three new playable jobs add to the ridiculous amount from previous entries in the series. Undead-looking maids with guns are certainly relevant to my interests, and the support magic from the fairy class proved fairly useful. With 40+ different classes to pick from, it’s hard to ever complain about a lack of variety.
So, should you buy Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance? Well, if you’re already a fan of the series, I’m sure you knew you were going to purchase this the moment it was announced. However, if you’re just getting into strategy RPGs, I’d still recommend Disgaea 1 over this title.
While the gameplay and visuals might have been vastly improved since 2003, there’s a reason characters from the first game keep finding their way into other iterations—it’s simply as good as it gets.
Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance was reviewed on the PlayStation 4 using a code provided by NIS America. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.
The Verdict: 8.5
- Amazing artwork and sexy sprites!
- Catchy, fun music and great Japanese voice acting
- The tightest and most satisfying gameplay in a Disgaea title yet
- Hilarious writing
- A somewhat forgettable story
- Pretty lackluster English voice acting