With the PlayStation Vita still in its infancy, the flow of games after launch has been a little slow. One game that’s just been released, and may fly under many people’s radar, is Disgaea 3: Absence Of Detention. Originally developed and released by Nippon Ichi Software for the PlayStation 3 in 2008 (under the name Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice), the PS Vita game is a port of the popular entry in Nippon Ichi’s flagship Disgaea strategy-JRPG series. Absence of Detention isn’t just a simple port though, it has been enhanced, and brings a host of new features and content with it.
Disgaea games rarely take themselves very seriously, and Disgaea 3 is a perfect example of this. The protagonist, Mao, is the son of a demon overlord who runs a school called Evil Academy. As a demon academy, it’s good to be bad, and Mao is striving to be the number one honour student. This means that he’s never been to a single class, and would never even consider doing his homework. As the game opens, his new goal in life changes to killing his father. Why? Because he accidentally broke one of Mao’s game consoles, destroying all of his saved games (4 million hours worth) in the process. Meanwhile, his childhood friend Raspberyl wants to be the number one delinquent, and is notorious for being the only student in history to have attended every class. She often gets in his way as he tries to plot his evil deeds, trying to get him to come and donate blood with her, and various other good deeds. The game follows Mao, and a rather unfortunate hero named Almaz, as they try to take on the Overlord. As you can see, the game’s premise is pretty silly, in typical Disgaea fashion. Thanks to some great writing and voice acting though, it actually turns out to be a lot of fun, as we follow Mao’s crazy adventures in the netherworld. The Disgaea games have always had strong soundtracks, thanks to the talented composer Tenpei Sato, and Disgaea 3 is no different. No matter what you’re doing, there will always be a catchy piece of background music to accompany you.
For those unfamiliar with the series, Disgaea games are strategy-JRPGs which use a grid-based map for battles. It employs a turn based system, but one big thing that sets Disgaea apart from most strategy-RPGs is that you can execute your units’ moves individually, without ending your turn. This means that you can easily set up multiple team attacks, or simply move a few of your units without having to worry about the rest. It offers a lot of freedom. The ability to have units throw each other is also a great feature, allowing you to sacrifice other units’ turns in order to rescue a weakened character from danger, or to quickly get them to where they’re needed. It can also be used strategically, as you can throw enemies as well, even allowing the possibility of capturing them by throwing them into your base. Outside of battle, your characters can create new units at any time, choosing from a large list of different character classes; with more lots more unlocking as you level up your existing ones. By placing units next to the character that created them on the map during battles, they can even learn new skills and attacks from each other (it’s called the apprentice system).
The game allows for as much grinding and play time as you wish, featuring massively high character levels (with a max level of 9999) and amounts of damage possible (over 10 million damage per attack). It’s a game series which has a lot of fun with stats, with the numbers growing to levels that would be considered insane in most other games. Accommodating this, Disgaea 3 has an extensive post-game section, with a number of challenge maps as well as high level encounters with cameo characters to for players to try and overcome. It supplements the experience of the main story (which will last you 15-20 hours) nicely, and offers a good incentive for players to keep pushing their characters’ limits.
Now that the explanation is out of the way, I hear you asking, what’s new in the Vita version? First of all, character portraits are now animated. This really helps to bring extra life to the game’s story and cutscenes, and is a nice visual touch. Secondly, you can now view the play data of other players, and even see how you stack up against them by viewing the online scoreboards. It’s nice to be able to see where you stand, and there’s all kinds of interesting info to look at, such as total combined play time (over 370,000 hours have been logged so far). Thirdly, and this is the most major addition, every single piece of previously released DLC for the game is included in the Vita version. This includes a stack of extra playable characters, an enhanced mode, and a fully-voiced side story containing four chapters where you get to play as Raspberyl.
On top of all that, there’s even a fair bit of PS Vita exclusive content in the form of two completely new (also fully voiced) side stories, two cameo characters from Disgaea 4, as well as two entirely new ones who were specially created for Absence of Detention. There’s still more though. Tera level magic (as seen in Disgaea 4) has been added to the game, and comes complete with beautiful illustrations by guest artists which are displayed whenever the attacks are used. These illustrations also feature cameo characters from other games in them, and are a bit of a treat for dedicated players. Last, but not least, there’s also a new combination system for special attacks. As long as they’re compatible with each other (the majority are), your units can combine their special attacks into a single, more powerful attack as long as they are both targeting the same enemy. Combining the attacks makes them deal more damage than usual, which can sometimes make or break a battle. Included with this system are new “Awakening” versions of every unit’s special attacks. These will trigger when a unit has a very low amount of health left, and will have a slightly different animation, with the result that they will deal a little more damage than usual. Both of these systems are new to the series, and are very welcome indeed. What’s not so welcome are the added touch controls, which don’t work very well, and have little used. You can tap the corner of the back touch screen to change your view of the map during battles, but that’s as good as it gets. Fortunately, despite being largely useless, they won’t get in your way as you play.
Overall, Disgaea 3: Absence Of Detention really is the definitive version of the game. Nippon Ichi have taken an already highly enjoyable game and managed to improve on it by adding many new features. With the addition of some all-new extra scenarios, many hours of extra gameplay and entertainment are added. All of them are high quality, and include some original music and artwork. These alone are a great incentive for owners of the original version to get on board, particularly if they’ve never tried the Raspberyl scenario before (it’s good fun). The series’ strategy-RPG gameplay proves to be just as addictive as ever, and if you haven’t gotten into the series before, then this is a great place to start. I highly recommend Disgaea 3: Absence of Detention to all JRPG fans.