Many of my truly formative gaming years were spent with Japanese RPGs. Final Fantasy, Kingdom Hearts and Wild Arms made up much of the time I spent dedicated to the medium. While that love has waned a little over the years, RPGs out of Japan are still games that I often go back to over and over. The most recent of those games is Disgaea 6: Defiance of Destiny, the latest game in Nippon Ichi Software’s long running tactical RPG series and the first to be a 3D affair. While the transition has been a good one, the game doesn’t quite hit the highs that earlier entries did.
While many of the other Disgaea games have followed Demon Lords and heroes, Disgaea 6 instead follows Zed, a lowly Zombie. Zed is determined to destroy the strongest being in existence, and constantly throws himself against it, dying and reviving over and over. You get a glimpse of his eventual power at the beginning of the game, before being thrown back to a time when he was much weaker. It’s an interesting concept, working well with the reincarnation system the series is used to, and leads to plenty of fun and humour. The writing itself doesn’t set the world on fire, but it gets the right mood across and did enough to keep me coming back for more.
Where the story’s core concept of death and rebirth falls over is in its main antagonists and subsequent boss battles. While other games in the series have had multiple distinct antagonists and boss battles, Disgaea 6 almost entirely focuses on the God of Destruction. While having a central antagonist to follow can work well in the right context, it doesn’t work particularly well here. Instead of having a range of boss battles, you’ll instead throw yourself against the God of Destruction repeatedly throughout the game, which leads to those boss battles feeling less and less interesting over time. There were potentially some budget constraints here, with reports of Nippon Ichi struggling financially in recent years, but it does unfortunately feel like a limiting factor.
Disgaea 6’s combat will be immediately recognisable for anyone that has played a game in the series before. For those who haven’t, the game takes the form of a grid-based Tactical RPG. You strategically move units around a battlefield, taking advantage of terrain and modifiers to swing the battle in your favour. Where the game differs from other Tactical RPGs is in its sense of style. While many games are light on effects or somewhat based in reality, Disgaea is all about bombastic style. Huge over-the-top explosions, giant laser beams, multi-person combo attacks and more are completely the norm in the game. Combined with some interesting encounters, Disgaea 6 is another fantastic combat spectacle from the series.
Outside of combat, your time will be spent building and improving your party. You’ll spend currency creating and recruiting new members of your party (with higher spends directly translating into stronger characters), make use of Super Reincarnation (resetting a character to level 1, while gaining Karma to improve their base stats), upgrade your Shops and more. There always plenty to do outside of combat to improve your party, keeping you busy and ensuring you never run out of stuff to manage. The downside of that is that the game can sometimes feel overwhelming, especially as grinding sometimes feels necessary.
Where Disgaea 6 is unfortunately at its worst is its graphics and technical performance. While Disgaea has never been a particularly resource-intensive series on consoles, its sprite-based graphics have always been flashy and sharp. With the switch to 3D, that trademark sharpness has been completely lost. Instead, the game is often a blurry mess, with characters looking like they blend into the background and model details sometimes completely lost. Couple that with issues with low framerates, and Disgaea 6 is far from what I’d hoped for.
Overall, Disgaea 6: Defiance of Destiny is another solid entry in the series, but the shift to 3D and potential budget issues have held the game back. An interesting concept tied into death and rebirth, and strong combat aren’t enough to overcome the visual and performance issues, along with a lack of variety in its antagonists. Still, if you’re a fan of the series or are desperate for a new Tactical RPG, you’ll still get some value out of the game.
Disgaea 6: Defiance of Destiny was reviewed on a regular Nintendo Switch with a review copy provided by the publisher.
- A new concept for a Disgaea story - Plenty of style - Combat is solid
- Lack of variety in antagonists and boss battles - Graphics are a blurry mess at points - Plenty of frame rate drops