Electronic Theatre In-depth Review: Disgaea 3: Absence of Detention

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Electronic Theatre ImageDespite presenting one of the most well rounded launch line-ups in console history, one of the weakest aspects of the PlayStation Vita’s (PS Vita) software catalogue is its selection of role-playing games (RPGs). An unusual predicament for any Sony console, the hope of many was that it wouldn’t take too long for a keen-eyed publisher to spot the weak point in the line-up and fill that void. NIS America are the first to try, and thankfully, they’ve not made too bad a job of it.

Disgaea 3: Absence of Detention is a PS Vita conversion of the well received PlayStation 3 exclusive Disgaea 3. Despite being three years old (four in other parts of the world) and having since been superseded by Disgaea 4, Disgaea 3: Absence of Detention does well to make itself worthy of the attentions of both fans and newcomers. Electronic Theatre ImageFor the former, Disgaea 3: Absence of Detention includes all of the downloadable content (DLC) that was made available for the PlayStation 3 version, two new characters and various other minor tweaks. For the latter, Nippon Ichi has delivered a peculiar and accessible tactical RPG in their own imitable style.

The player is cast as Mao, the son of the demon Overlord and Principal of the Netherworld school, Evil Academy. The videogame beings as Mao reaches the conclusion of a three month study into the laws of fiction in comic books, anime and videogames. From this, Mao decides that in order to overcome his father and secure himself the respect he desires, the best path open to him would be to renounce his princedom and become a hero. From here on Disgaea 3: Absence of Detention is a tale of friendship, betrayal and revenge, served with a healthy dose of nerd humour.

Beginning the videogame is an enjoyable but longwinded experience. Final Fantasy XIII was criticised by many for being too linear, with the suggestion that the first five hours of the videogame simply funnelled you along a set Electronic Theatre Imagepath; with Disgaea 3: Absence of Detention, there isn’t even a path available to travel along for many hours, simply skipping back-and-forth between conversation panels and lengthy tutorial sequences. Just as with Square Enix’s overly criticised blockbuster, Nippon Ichi’s cult classic reveals it’s intentions for such a prolonged introduction by way of almost overwhelming freedom later on; freedom that without a heavy hand at the start of the videogame could easily back you into a corner that there is almost no escape from bar reloading a save from several hours earlier in the adventure. Disgaea 3: Absence of Detention is of a stubborn design, but it’s all the better for it.

The combat in Disgaea 3: Absence of Detention is a complex as one would imagine from a forty hour videogame specialising in tactical action. Playing on isometric grid-based maps, players take their band of variously skilled warriors into battles against literally hundreds of different opponents, and must use their own initiative to work out combo plays and abilities that work best against specific types of opponent. Players select each character individually, plotting their attack of movement before moving Electronic Theatre Imageonto the next. Once all characters (or at least, all that the player intends to use) have been given relevant commands, the player then selects the ‘execute’ option from the turn menu, and watches their decisions unfurl on the battlefield, with no chance to change the action should a manoeuvre not quite pan out the way they expected.

With revised rules for the Geoblocks and the all new Magichange system, Disgaea 3: Absence of Detention demands investment to get the most out of it. Opposed to simply ‘grinding’ through levels in the normal RPG fashion however, Nippon Ichi has decided to renovate the mechanic somewhat. It’s true that levelling-up still remains an important aspect of Disgaea 3: Absence of Detention, but equally beneficial is the new mana system, which can see you learn new skills and attributes for your desired character simply by landing the fatal blow.

From a technical standpoint, Disgaea 3: Absence of Detention is everything that a new platform could possibly ask for. Making use of the unique features in an innovative – albeit particularly unexciting – way and delivering a visual quality that leaves many of it’s peers in the dust, Disgaea 3: Absence of Detention is clearly a Electronic Theatre Imagevideogame designed to capitalise on the gap in the market not by force, but by simply being good enough to recommend to friends and colleagues. The cast of colourful characters is simply of the highest calibre of both imagination and delivery, and the voice acting is not just some of the finest on the PS Vita, but on any console.

While it’s true that many gamers will have already experienced the delights of Disgaea 3 on PlayStation 3, Disgaea 3: Absence of Detention puts up a good fight in persuading players to revisit it. With a reasonable amount of new content and a high quality conversion to a new platform, there’s little here that Nippon Ichi fans could argue against. For those who have yet to experience the Disgaea series, the first few hours may seem like an underwhelming experience, but paying attention to the lessons being taught while persevering will offer great rewards for the player to reap later on. PS Vita gamers had lots of enjoyable titles available for their brand new console at launch, and now thanks to NIS America, an absorbing, inventive RPG is one of them.

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