Out of this Netherworld
Last month, I was given the opportunity to review Disgaea 1 Complete. The game turned out great; the mechanics in place were still fun, the story was still enjoyable, and the fresh, HD graphical overhaul made it feel like a new game in its own right. It was a lot of fun, and I’m very happy that I got to play it; but man am I glad that I did so before diving into Disgaea 5 Complete.
There’s nothing like playing the oldest and newest titles back-to-back in a series to really make you appreciate how much its grown; and the Disgaea series has been doing a lot of growing over the years. Really, Disgaea 5 Complete offers almost anything that a Disgaea fan could ask for from the series; more engaging combat, a lengthy story, the introduction of new features, the streamlining of many old ones, and more. It’s all great. Sure, the PC port of D5C may have snipped out all of the previously implemented online features. And, yeah, it kind of sucks. I’ll be the first to admit that. But honestly, the absence of a few small features – most of which a good portion of people didn’t even use – shouldn’t be enough to drive you away from picking up a title as good as this one – especially considering just how much it has to offer.
An UnaVOIDable Battle
Disgaea 5 Complete’s story, without a doubt, is the most expansive yet. Taking place during the midst of an all-out invasion of the Netherworlds conducted by none other than the dangerously powerful Void Dark and his Lost Army, D5C follows the story of Killia – a wandering Demon intent on bringing Void Dark down all on his own. Despite being set in his loner ways, Killia finds himself recruited – much to his distain – into the Rebel Army lead by Overlord of Gorgeous Serephina after rescuing her (although the title of leader is eventually thrust upon him as well). However, while Killia may not be enthusiastic about his new role in the Rebel Army at first, he soon begins to find out that one can’t truly become strong without making a few friends along the way.
Disgaea 5 Complete story isn’t the most creative one that I’ve seen out of the series – both relying too much on the “power of friendship” trope, and drawing some hard-to-miss parallels between Disgaea 2’s Adell and Rozalin and its own Killia and Seraphina – but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t enjoyable. While its narrative might not have had the same pulling power as past iterations of the series, D5C still did very well when it came to the actual characters. The many conversations which took place were all quite enjoyable, and watching each character grow brought a legitimate smile to my face (for anyone curious, my favorite sub-arc ended up being Christo’s) – a fact which was only further enhanced by the game’s excellently over-dramatic voice acting.
Fighting Done Right(ing)
Not much has changed as far as core gameplay mechanics are concerned. Once again proudly operating under the mantra “more is more”, D5C’s tactical combat is all about creating the Disgaea team of your dreams (which is easier than ever thanks to the inclusion of all previously released DLC), sending them out into the battlefield, and dealing as much damage as possible. As always, the basics of combat aren’t too difficult to pick up. Those wanting little more than to go through the game’s story and continue on their merry way can do so without needing to mess around with any of the game’s finer mechanical points. But D5C also follows the tradition of investing back in players that invest in itself. Excessive grinding, Innocent farming, and, barring one small story-related part, even the entirety of the Item World – none of it’s really necessary. But, as any Disgaea fan can tell you, it’s all of those “not technically necessary” parts in which the game ultimately ends up shining through. There’s nothing quite like spending countless hours grinding levels and powering up gear just so you can use your newfound power to… well… go grind so me more. Still, while I’m not sure why you would get into a series like this if you weren’t a masochistic grind-fiend (for real, though), none of that is necessary of beating the game. And, in that regard, it’s at least nice to know that the series continues to make itself accessible to everyone.
Accessibility doesn’t mean that you can just run into battles willy-nilly, however. There are a handful of new mechanics sprinkled into D5C that require player attention – lest you find yourself consistently losing. The most important of these new mechanics are, without a doubt Revenge Mode and Overloads. Signified by a red “revenge gauge” next to each character’s portrait which fills up whenever they deal or take damage, or has an ally defeated, Revenge Mode, when activated, will reduce incoming damage and SP consumption, and guarantees critical hits for 3 turns.
Overloads, then, are special once-per-battle skills that characters can use to turn the tides on their foes. Unlike with Revenge Mode, which can be used by everyone, Overloads can only be used by Overlords (with the exception of a few DLC characters), making them that much more of a precious asset in battle. Despite being fairly straightforward concepts, the new Revenge Mode/Overload mechanics are a very welcome introduction to the series, adding an additional layer of strategy. And, while it would have been cool to see every character get some form of an Overload, their Overlord exclusivity doesn’t end up discouraging players from using other characters due to their limited scope of use in battle.
Disgaea 5 Complete includes a good number of other tweaks as well which, while not as drastic as the introduction of Revenge Mode and Overloads, don’t go unnoticed. These changes – such as the inclusion of Star magic and weapon resistances, and the ability to purchase (with mana) and equip characters with multiple Evilities – further help to improve the overall quality of life of the game, and once again only deepen its strategic element.
Home, Sweet Home
Disgaea 5 Complete’s combat mechanics may have undergone some tweaking here and there, but they almost pale in comparison to the changes made to the game’s non-combat-related aspects. Having undergone a massive overhaul, D5C’s hub world has become more useful and unique than ever. Dubbed the “Pocket Netherworld”, this home-away-from-home throws in a slew of new nifty features for the features to make use of. These features, such as Squads – special groups which allow assigned characters to gain certain abilities in-battle or perform specific tasks – and Research – which allows characters to explore, level up, and find items on their own – make having a larger party actually something to strive for, and greatly ease the burden of having to level each character up individually.
Also introduced is the game-within-a-game known as the “Chara World”. Taking place as a board game (yes, I’m serious), the Chara World is a quick and admittedly very fun way to power up your characters. The goal of the Chara World is the same as most other board games – to get to get form start to finish. Players have a limited number of turns to make their way to the end, with those who finish being bestowed with one of a number of different rewards, including Evility slots and stat boosts. But, as with many things in life, the journey is just as important as the destination. The panels that players land on can nab players some sweet rewards – the most important of which being permanent increases in stat attribute growth (that’s the percentage next to each stat) – and are definitely worth risking a few turns (or potentially losing some money or mana) for.
Finally, and perhaps most interestingly, D5C also allows players to edit the Pocket Netherworld itself. And I’m not just talking about rearranging a few things around, either – players are literally allowed to create their own hub world from scratch. The hub world creation feature offers an almost excessive amount of options for the player to make use of – ranging anywhere from the switching of BGM and visual themes, to actual tile, object, and character placement – making it possible to create a Pocket Netherworld entirely of their own liking. For a feature that has literally no bearing whatsoever on the rest of the game, D5C’s allowance of players to create their own home-away-from-home is a little baffling – but I would be lying if I said that I didn’t absolutely love it.
A Complete Blast
I suppose that, given its lack of online functionality, the title “Disgaea 5 Complete” is technically a bit misleading. Shame on you for that, NIS. But, now that I’ve got that out of the way, I’ll be frank with you; technicalities or not, Disgaea 5 Complete on the PC is still an absolute blast, and once again proves that the latest in the series is indeed the greatest. Not only is the main campaign enough to satisfy players on its own, but its oodles of extras could quite literally have you playing the game for years to come. So, as long as you can get by a few missing features (which I personally didn’t end up missing much at all), this trip to the Netherworld (Netherworlds?) is one that you definitely don’t want to miss.
FINAL VERDICT: 4.5/5
Available on: PC (Reviewed), Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 ; Publisher: NIS America, Inc. ; Developer: Nippon Ichi Software, Inc. ; Players: 1 ; Released: October 22, 2018; ESRB: T for Teen ; MSRP: $39.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a copy of Disgaea 5 Complete given to Hey Poor Player by the publisher.