Disgaea 3: Absence of Detention

Developer: Nippon Ichi Software
Publisher: NIS America
Release Date: April 17, 2012
Available On: Vita

The latest entry of the Disgaea franchise is the third release for a Sony handheld. It also happens to be a re-release of Disgaea 3, subtitled “Absence of Detention”. On the plus side, the game boasts better controls and bonus content, exclusive to Vita players. The game follows Mao, a young demon who attends “The Evil Academy” in the Netherworld. The students gain honor titles by not showing up for class and just generally acting badly. Oddly enough, the “delinquents” are the students who actually go to class and do good deeds.

Mao yearns to defeat his father and take his title of Overlord. Why? Because his father destroyed his video games. Since being late for class is considered honorable, Mao spends most of his time reading manga. These books make him want to become a hero, even though to him that would be considered delinquent activity. The game is almost fully voice-acted outside of battle. As with most traditional turn-based strategy RPGs, the dialogue unfolds through static images and text-based conversations. I usually find these dialogues boring, but the voice acting is so well done, and the humor is timed so perfectly that I constantly found myself laughing at my Vita. Without the terrific voice acting, the humor would have fallen completely flat.

One of the very first things I noticed when I loaded up the game was how clear it looked. Having played Disgaea 4 for PlayStation 3, I immediately noticed crispness on the Vita that I didn’t even see on my HDTV. I’m not sure if it was because of the screen size, or the OLED screen, but the already well-drawn characters seemed much more vivid on my Vita. If there is one thing I’ve never understood about the Disgaea series, it’s how it has not progressed with time. Yes, team attacks are cool, but I’m ready for developer Nippon Ichi to make more changes to the franchise. With the limited time I’ve spent with Disgaea 4, it seems the exact same on the surface. Even dialogue seems similar. The biggest portion of the game takes place on a grid battlefield like most strategy are geo-blocks. Geo-blocks provide bonuses or cause detrimental effects to player characters or enemies. By attacking and destroying linked geo-blocks, players cause chain reactions that can cause heavy damage to themselves or enemies. These Geo-blocks have always been one of the most unique and strategic parts of the Disgaea series.

If you own a Vita and like strategy games, Disgaea is not only the first game of its kind available for the handheld, but could end up being one of the best. I know it’s early in the Vita life cycle to say that, but the game takes full advantage of the Vita. The rear touch pad allows control of the camera just by tapping the back of the system. Tapping the upper right of the pad will change distance from the field, allowing players to see more or less of the battle. Tapping the upper left will change the screen to a top down view, showing enemy positions, and land gaps. To me at least, Disgaea on consoles does not feel nearly as good as its handheld counterparts. The series has always felt like a handheld game being played on a television. To that extent, Disgaea 3 has found a better home on the PlayStation’s new portable.

Graphics: 8.5
Sound: 8.5
Gameplay: 8
Creativity: 7
Replay Value/Game Length: 9
Final: 8.2 out of 10

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