Nothing Fishy Here!
Nippon Ichi Software has done pretty well when it comes to pampering both the latest (and arguably greatest) Disgaea title, Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance, and the game that got the zany, Prinny-filled series started, Disgaea: Hour of Darkness. Unfortunately, for quite some time, NIS seemed to be forgetting about all of the other games in its series (there are a few numbers in between 1 and 5, after all), and there were more than a few people worried that we’d never see updated versions of anything else. But, then, something amazing happened; NIS announced Disgaea 4 Complete+. And, while I still think that it could have gotten here a little faster, I’m over the moon (do Netherworlds have moons?) that it’s here at all.
Disgaea 4 Complete+ is a solid entry in the Disgaea franchise, and it quite possibly has my favorite story thus far (seriously, how can you not like Valvatorex?). It’s significantly improved upon the formula leading up to it, and still an absolute joy to play. But I feel as though there’s something that I should point out; Disgaea 4 is older than Disgaea 5. No, no, don’t leave—I’m not trying to insult your intelligence. All I’m doing is trying to remind you (as I had to remind myself while playing it) that there are a few things here and there that make it fall a tiny bit behind its successor, but that the two games are so similar in so many different ways (and I mean that positively) that it can actually be hard to forget that they didn’t come out at the same time. Make sense? Good. Now, without further ado, let us continue onward into the review!
Sar-Denying the Masses
Disgaea 4 Complete+ begins in the same way that every other Disgaea game starts out—with a protagonist. Aside from that, it’s not like any of the other Disgaea games at all… well, apart from the fact that it’s really weird. More specifically, D4GC+‘s weirdness surrounds the story of Valvatorez—a former tyrant of the Netherworld whose power was so great that even speaking his name would cause any and all to quake in fear. However, a promise that he once made to someone caused him to fall from grace (tyranny’s graceful in the Netherworld, right?) and land him where he is now—working in Hades as a comically proud Prinny Instructor. He also loves sardines. Like, a lot. Because of his predicament, you might think Valvatorez to be a miserable shell of his former self, intent on one day rising to the top, but, that actually isn’t the case (I guess you could call him a “shell” seeing as how he’s lost most of his power, but whatever)—he’s actually quite happy where he’s at (unlike his servant Fenrich). But, happy or not, his destiny doesn’t lie within teaching penguin creatures to say “dood” forever thanks to an order by the Corrupternment (the Netherworld government) to execute a literal Prinny genocide—an order which ultimately stirs Valvatorez step into the political ring himself and overthrow the Corrupternment… you know, for the Prinnies’ sake.
Say what you will about its gameplay, but in my opinion, there’s still no other Disgaea title with a story that can beat this one. Between its story revolving around overthrowing a government to save a bunch of idiot penguin-shaped criminals, to the ridiculous situations which its always throwing players in, to the cast themselves—especially my man Valvatorez—this game still has the ability to illicit more genuine laughs from me than most others out there. It’s also impressive if you stop to think about it that it revolves around so many potentially serious issues without making much of a statement at all—something that I don’t believe that many games are capable of doing. And, when you top it all off with that classic Disgaea voice acting that somehow feels over-the-top but still fits everything perfectly, you’ve got yourself a recipe for a successful story—and, boy, is D4GC+‘s recipe a good one.
You Basically Know How This Works, Now, Right?
Yeah, yeah, I know, I probably shouldn’t have used such a blunt subtitle for the portion of the review dedicated to D4C+‘s combat. But, I mean, come on. You know how Disgaea 4 Complete+ plays; almost exactly like Disgaea 4. I suppose that isn’t a good enough description, though, so let’s delve into it a little bit more, shall we? It’s not a stretch to say that D4C+‘s combat is the zaniest yet within the entire series—Disgaea 5 aside, of course— taking everything that worked within the previous titles and polishing it to a nice sheen. This isn’t just a simple re-skin of its predecessors, however, and players (who haven’t played this before) can expect a few new mechanics to pop up pretty early on in the game. The most noticeable of these has to do with the game’s own monsters—and their shiny new fusion mechanics! Monsters are now able to use “Magichange” to transform into literal weapons of destruction for humanoid characters to use, granting those wielding them a nice boost to their combat abilities—including new skills! Similarly, monsters are also able to fuse with one another in order to temporarily grow in both size and stats, allowing players (or enemies!) to seriously lay down some hurt on their opponents. And, if that still isn’t cool enough, players can even use Magicange after fusing—resulting in weapons so comically oversized (and insanely powerful) that they put Cloud’s Buster Sword to shame.
Even more interesting than Magichanges, however, is the fact that Disgaea 4 Complete+ (and the original game, of course) messed around with Geo Panels and Geo Symbols—or should I say Geo Cubes. Gone in this game are the pyramids that you know and love (or hate) so well, and in their place are cubes whose basic function remains the same but add in a few more things for players to mess around with. Unlike with Geo Symbols, Geo Cubes can act as platforms, meaning that players can stack, or even stand upon, cubes in order to gain their effects or use as footing to get somewhere else. Just be careful when you’re throwing Geo Cubes around, though, as placing two cubes of the same color atop or next to one another results in them—and any other same-colored cube touching them—to disappear. Maybe it’s just because I’m used to the Geo Symbols, but honestly, this game’s decisions to replace them with Geo Cubes has always seemed a bit strange to me. Sure, they work fine, but were Geo Symbols so bad? I suppose it doesn’t matter, though, as we already know that they didn’t stick around forever.
There are a few features unique to this version of the game that, while on the smaller side, are worth mentioning as well. The first of these additions specific Disgaea 4 Complete+ is that of stronger spells. Just in case you were feeling like the original D4 was lacking in the magic department, D4C+ adds what the game calls “Peta” spells, but are basically so strong and so visually unique that they might as well be summons. In addition to that, D4C+ also throws in class-based skills, which, as I’m sure you’ve figured out, are skills unique to each class (as opposed to most skills which are learned through weapon or magic proficiency. These basically work in the same way that the main characters’ special skills do in that they’re non-transferable, and, more often than not, seriously come in handy. Although I’m happy that NIS went out of their way to add new things into this game, it makes me wonder why they didn’t just include everything that they added in Disgaea 5—the lack of mon-toss is kind of disappointing. That aside, however, I think that D4C+ did a good job adding just enough content to make the game stand out as the superior version, without making it feel like a different game entirely.
A Real Campaign-In-The-Neck
Battling is fun and all, but haven’t you ever wished that Disgaea was a more political series? No? Well, too bad, because Disgaea 4 Complete+ is very political… in the most apolitical way possible. In between battles, players can visit their base and take charge of what is known as the “Cam-pain” and, as the name suggests, it’s less about becoming politically savvy and more about getting better at pummeling the heck out of your opponents. Accessed through the Cam-Pain HQ, the Cam-Pain allows players to power up characters by utilizing artifacts known as “Evil Symbols,” organize their party, and, of course, bribe the heck out of demons in the Dark Assembly. It’s a little clunky to use, admittedly, but it’s fun and fits the overall theme of the game very well, so I didn’t mind it too much (and hopefully, you won’t, either).
The Cam-Pain isn’t the only thing to do in your base, though. Features like pirate shipbuilding (and pirating, naturally), and the level creator are back as well, alongside a few features new to this version of the game such as the oh-so-glorious Cheat Shop and a weapon appearance-changer (is that even an actual term?). As with the changes to the battle system, nothing is intrusive to the point of being game-breaking… except for the Cheat Shop, maybe… but it’s all still very welcome. After all, changes don’t need to be big in order to be good!
Back, and Better than Ever
Disgaea 4 may still be outclassed by its successor, but that doesn’t stop Disgaea 4 Complete+ from being an absolute delight for Disgaea fans. Featuring an already beloved story and cast of characters, and a bevy of small-yet-refreshing changes, raising hell in the Netherworld as the Valvatorez Party has never been so satisfying.
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), Nintendo Switch; Publisher: NIS America; Developer: Nippon Ichi Software, Inc.; Players: 1; Released: October 29, 2019; ESRB: T for Teen; MSRP: $49.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a copy of Disgaea 4 Complete+ given to Hey Poor Player by the publisher.