The Disgaea series is a bizarre franchise of turn-based strategy RPG’s. Focusing more on the gameplay and tactical aspects of the genre, Disgaea treads a different path than its other Japanese brethren.
After more than a decade of five main titles and a number of spin-offs, Disgaea: A Promise Revisited finally proves that this brand has neither aged well nor evolved well. Though solid in gameplay and story, this latest entry utterly fails to breathe much-needed life into the franchise.
Disgaea 4: A Promise Revisited is a PS Vita re-release of Disgaea 4: A Promise Unforgotten. It tells the story of Valvatorez, a former tyrant turned Prinny instructor of the Underworld, and moves from fighting for his Prinnies to fighting to conquer the entire Underworld.
As a tactical RPG, Disgaea 4: A Promise Revisited is the perfect choice for a handheld port. The PS Vita provides the perfect home for a game that doesn’t need the visual real estate provided by the PS3.
Mimicking a Playstation controller and adding a touchscreen, Disgaea 4: A Promise Revisited handles just fine on the system. It attempts to incorporate the rear touch buttons for a few functions, but they are ultimately useless and unnecessary; the game’s basic controls are smooth, accurate, and complete.
Visually, Disgaea 4: A Promise Revisited keeps the style of its parent console’s rendition and the other games in the series to boot, so the graphical intensity (while not a high bar to begin with) is maintained on its new PS Vita home. The platform used for this review was the newer PS Vita Slim model, complete with an LCD screen over the original’s LED variety, but color-wise and sound-wise Disgaea 4 was perfect.
Yet with this latest entry into the Disgaea franchise, the series has finally exhausted what goodwill it had. While a port can be excused for not modifying the original material to any great extent, the re-release of Disgaea 4: A Promise Revisited only hammers home that this is a game that does almost nothing new, failing to justify why it should have been ported from the PS3 in the first place.
Disgaea 4: A Promise Revisited features almost the exact same gameplay from its predecessors. Though it integrates three new features, they ultimately fail to shake the game up enough to make it feel sufficiently different. After over 10 years, Disgaea’s staple modus operandi got too old.
Disgaea 4 features turn-based tactical RPG combat over a three-dimensional grid. Players deploy their forces from a single square against an array of enemies on different elevations configured with different “field effects” and destructible and moveable “blocks.” As with previous games, just about anything can be picked up and thrown, though this now includes allies, and “controlling the field” is again touted as an important tactical skill.
Where Disgaea 4: A Promise Revisited builds on its predecessors is “Demon Fusion,” a modification of Magichange where two monster units can “Magichange.” The result is not a monster wielding another as a weapon, though, but a massive giant version of the creature, which can then be used as a weapon or as a super-unit.
As mentioned previously, allied units may now be “stacked,” increasing movement and allowing towers to be made for reaching high elevations and long distances. Finally, the game’s focus has departed from the typical school setting to Hades itself, as Valvatorez plays the political game with the lords of the Underworld and grabs territory for himself.
Players are given access to a map of the Underworld and must place created and recruited units on unclaimed tiles. Doing so grants the player more power in making changes to the game via voting sessions as well as other gameplay modifications.
And at the end of the day, Disgaea 4: A Promise Revisited still comes across as overdone and completely stale for a number of reasons. Despite these strategic additions to the game, this is still a mediocre game in a dying series.
Disgaea, as a franchise, has always focused on its incredibly dense tactical combat system and its monster creation. Rather than introduce the player to a number of playable characters a la Fire Emblem, Disgaea always relied on only a few major characters, favoring a huge quantity of “quality” combat. Disgaea 4: A Promise Revisited is no exception.
And these few characters are good. They’re even slightly funny. They alone, however, are not enough to get the player attached and involved in what otherwise is a pretty predictable story with a few good emotional moments. The dearth of meaningful character development outside of very few moments is paining – except in combat, where the death of characters means nothing, as the player’s attachment to them is close to nonexistent.
Without any gravity, the series’ long-standing reliance on the Prinny characters for humor and Disgaea 4: A Promise Revisited’s reliance on sardine-related jokes just can’t carry the day. As a comedic game, it can’t stand. As a serious game, it can’t stand. It might seem reasonable that a blend of the two elements would work well, but since the characters involved aren’t dynamic and interesting enough to capture the player’s attention, it will leave the player unsatisfied and wanting.
Disgaea 4: A Promise Revisited is a solid, polished game. This is expected, as it’s essentially the same battle system used back in 2003 on the PS2. It fails to exceed the low side of mediocrity, however, as its lack of interesting characters and compelling narrative fail to overcome stale humor and very tried yet true tactical gameplay.
[+Challenging and complex combat] [+Crisp and clean port] [+Interesting political gameplay] [-Stale gameplay] [-Characters fail to matter] [-Below average story]