Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance Review – Delightfully Droll, Dood!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

The Good:

  • 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
  • Nekomatas

The Bad:

  • A somewhat forgettable story
  • Pretty lackluster English voice acting

 

  • deadeye

    Lackluster English voice acting is regrettable, but at the same time, I’ve mostly used the Japanese voices in these games anyways.

    Plus it’s not like NISA has a good track record of English dubs, so I expect it to be bad.

    Glad to hear the gameplay is still solid. Will definitely pick this up whenever I get a PS4.

  • Tyrannikos

    I’ve been looking to give Disgaea another go. I haven’t played since its PS2 era. Maybe I’ll pick this up to tide over my wait for next year’s games.

  • Dammage

    I still need to beat 3 and 4 on my Vita, these games take a shitload of time to beat

  • Raspberry

    can’t wait to spend hours upon hours on this! Disgaea games are just so good!

  • GonzoLewd

    >Lackluster English voice acting

    In a Disgaea game? Wow.

  • chaoguy

    Great review! I assume there’s no major bugs as you didn’t mention them, so it’s good to hear NISA has finally stopped dropping the ball there.

    Very interested in this title… but still tempted to wait for a “deluxe edition” with all the DLC put back in.

  • flashn00b

    I thought the English voice acting always sucked since Disgaea 1. I’m personally glad that they always include Japanese voices.

  • Syndromic

    Awesome, good to see it’s getting a positive review. And a lackluster performance from main voice actor, hardly a dealbreaker for me. Still probably going to give English dub the chance.

  • OverlordZetta

    Solid review, but I’ve got a couple of nitpicks.

    You started off with “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.'”, but as you yourself point out later, “the gameplay and visuals might have been vastly improved since 2003.”

    I think it’s important to remember with sequels like these that while they do stick to their formula, they also do usually fine tune and evolve their own formula over the years. So certainly, to a casual player, these games might look and even play the same, but having played all of them extensively, I personally find the first two entries of the series borderline unplayable after the improvements the initial leap to PS3 brought it with Disgaea 3.

    I suspect people who follow series like Warriors and Pokemon, series also criticized for never changing, probably can speak similarly about those franchises, and they wouldn’t be wrong about them either.

    I’m also surprised at how you leave out that this game is, as seems to have become tradition with Disgaea games, actually missing a number of classes from previous installments. Much as it includes a lot of them, some are just flat out not there, and this has been a recurring problem for the series for a while now (to the point that 3 and 4 added some of them back in as DLC, though at least 4 also added some cool new ones as DLC too).

    Lastly, and this is more of a personal thing, I think they just stuff in the Disgaea trio because they know nostalgia sells. It’s why Charizard and Mewtwo get special treatment, for instance.

  • Inevitable Vita release when?

  • GonzoLewd

    Dude, Disgaea 3’s was fucking awesome.

  • Misogynerd

    Yeah, I really dislike that attitude that people foreign to a franchise think they are all the same. Worse when they apply it to whole genres. It’s why I think insulting CoD for doing it seems hypocritical, since people tend to love a franchise, yearly releases and expensive DLC and bad gameplay is fine, but the number of games I think only becomes a problem with franchises like Neptunia (the spin-offs are different genres), Guitar Hero, 5NAF or Assassin’s Creed where they release multiple games a year.

  • Watchman of Yomi

    Ummm… Excuse me? Up until now the English voices have been on par with the original…(Arguably better in D4)

  • Watchman of Yomi

    Nis all ready said “No can do” a loong time ago =W=

  • Watchman of Yomi

    Now to wait until late 2016 when I can maybe afford both Ps4 and this ._.

  • Goodbye Gravy

    Oi, get back in your cage already.

  • Cody Long

    That’s a fair bit of criticism! The gameplay improvements did take place over the span of five games, though–which was a pretty gradual process. While 5 is a tighter experience than 1, it still ultimately plays the same, with a few tweaks here and there. I’d also be concerned if a game on the PS4 looked worse than a game on the PS2.

    As for the missing classes, I feel like the reason they’ve done that is due to some of the jobs feeling redundant. Would I say it’s great? No. But I don’t think it would be a serious black mark on a review.

    Anyhow, I appreciate your feedback!

  • Cody Long

    I was pretty disappointed! Even if some of the previous entries have had cheesy voice acting, I feel like it’s always been at least passable :X

  • Watchman of Yomi

    GRRRRRrrrr…

  • Cody Long

    If there were any bugs, I didn’t experience them. Thanks for reading, though!

  • Michael Long

    That last negative makes me sad. I’m going to have to youtube some samples.

  • GonzoLewd

    From what I played in the Demo, it’s not really bad, just decent.

    My only guess is that there’s no Laura Bailey or Erin Fitzgerald?

  • GonzoLewd

    Didn’t they add all the DLC in the Vita versions?

  • Fighunter

    It really bugs me, and that remark about the voice direction being to blame rings true to me. Christine Cabanos is one of my favorite VAs, she always has lively and emotional performances, but in this game it just sounds like she’s going through the motions and it seriously bugs me.

  • Dr. Evil’s Brother’s Evil Twin

    So it’s safe to assume there was no liberties taken with translation?

  • alterku

    Disgaea 2 turned me right off of the series up to this release, and what I’ve seen from 5 so far doesn’t seem phenomenal either, from any standpoint: characters, VA, story, gameplay… Maybe it’s one of those proof in the pudding deals where as you play you enjoy the stuff you unlock and level up more and more? I always found the item world a neat concept.

    Heard terrible things about 3, mostly that it’s a retread of the first’s characters in different forms with worse personalities and bad class choices, 2 disgusted me with how unenjoyable it was on all levels, and the first game was magic overlord lightning in a bottle. Anyone feel like answering the question of which is better, Disgaea 4 or 5?