Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Disgaea 4: 5 Hour Checkpoint

Recent RPGs such as Final Fantasy 13 and Ar Tonelico 3 have made me think about how the game experience can change drastically as you play them, and it can take several hours before things start clicking. As a result, I've decided to start writing 5/10/20 reviews for games i play to talk about the experience at different time checkpoints. First up for review, Disgaea 4.

5/10/20 Review, Disgaea 4:
I have a history of loving the Disgaea series and other RPG/Strategy games that NISA has released over the years, so I've been looking forward to this game for several months now. However, Disgaea games are notorious for their distractions in Item World and the necessity of grinding to do well at later levels in the game, so the question is how well will this latest iteration hold up with these timed checkpoints.

Five Hour Checkpoint:
The first couple of hours are spent on character introduction and a quick introduction of the mechanics. To help get a better feel for the story i decided to focus on the storyline missions and avoid Item World and replaying maps for additional experience.

The first five hours of play was capped off with the completion of the second chapter of the story. The main cast has been introduced, and several other characters have been alluded to at this point. The main protagonist has taken until about this point to grow on me, as his motivations and quirks took a bit longer to grow on me than the previous Disgaea protagonists, however the secondary characters entertaining enough to compensate.

Mechanics and Gameplay:
For those unfamiliar with Disgaea gameplay, the tutorials give basic introductions to the mechanics in the form of quick explanations and examples, driven home by then making you actually do it. For those more familiar with the Disgaea series it lets you skip the tutorial explanation with a quick press of the Triangle button, and jump right into the fight itself.
Due to my decision to focus on only the Storyline missions, and my refusal to grind in the first checkpoint, the difficulty quickly ramped up particularly in Chapter 2, and i was routinely having to revive several characters after every fight due to the foregoing of Item World leveling.
One of the major new features of Disgaea 4 over the previous iterations is the introduction of the "Cam-Pain map" a territory map that expands as you complete more storyline missions. You are restricted to a number of active units equal to the number of territories you control, and through the completion of story missions and passing bills in the Senate you gain access to special building you can put on the map as well to give your characters bonuses. While this adds a new layer of complexity to the game there are tutorials given as new features unlock with story progress, and overall I'm enjoying the addition.

WTF Moments:
Sardines, really?!? The main characters hangups take a bit of getting used to, thought it seems to have settled down in Chapter 2. I also was a bit surprised to get a trophy for watching the opening sequence, does that really require a trophy as incentive to watch it?

Closing Thoughts:
So far so good, the story was a bit rough for me at first but i think it's starting to pull things together. Most of the features seem to be unlocked with the completion of Chapter 2. The Cam-Pain map is interesting, and the challenge of playing the story through for the first five hours without grinding made combat especially entertaining and difficult.
While i wouldn't advise this game for everyone, those that enjoy the RPG/Strategy genre and/or have a quirky sense of humor will probably like this game. I would also say that if you are interested try the previous iterations of the franchise, since their stories are a little easier to get into at the start.
My plans for the next checkpoint include running through Item World a bit and exploring the side-features of the game. My characters felt underpowered near the end of Chapter 2, it's time to address that and level up a bit.

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