I’ve always had a slight interest in the Disgaea series, just out of the corner of my eye. The odd person pops up to proselytize its virtues and I think, “yeah, sounds pretty cool.” Then I forget to play it. So, when NIS America invited me to try out a handful of its new titles, I jumped at the chance, seeing a development build of Disgaea 7: Vows of the Virtueless at the top of the docket.
Disgaea is a twenty-year-old tactics RPG series that’s always had a good sense of humor. If you know anything about the series, it might be a Prinny. A Prinny is a type of penguin. In Disgaea, if you throw a Prinny with one of the other characters, it explodes on landing. This is hilarious.
Throwing is a surprisingly big part of Disgaea. Any character can pick up another, and you can stack characters so someone can hold up a chain of around a dozen (I forgot to count exactly how many). You can throw your characters around the map to extend their movement.
The map is a grid. Every character has a limit to their movement. So throwing is very helpful. It’s also really quite funny, as well. In general, this is the key to Disgaea – it’s a pretty straight tactics game that gets goofy with it. While XCOM makes you painstakingly make every decision or Fire Emblem gets you terrified your favorite character will die forever, Disgaea lets you play around.
This is loudly obvious from my quick Disgaea 7 demo. As I said, I’ve only ever had one eye on the Disgaea series; I’ve never actually played it. So, I jump in and get some standard storytelling with cartoon voice acting and try and get my head around everything. And it’s all pretty seamless.
Beyond getting to grips with the overwhelming “itselfness” – that’s something that’ll likely take some time – Disgaea 7 is slick, clear, and entertaining within minutes. You have a grid before you, enemies to take down, and various characters and different classes to bring into battle and do some fighting.
You select a handful of characters, all spawning from the same point, and move them (read: throw them) toward the enemy. Once there, you have different abilities to take them down, and it’s all familiar to any tactics fans. There are melee attacks, ranged attacks, magic, and specials to make use of.
Main man Fuji is paired up with Pirilika, our two protagonists. Fuji is a loose and lazy demon who has a massive pile of debt, while Pirilika is known as the “Otaku with a Heart of Gold” – all cat-eared and klutzy. Fun, overblown characters that loudly express their archetypes goofily. But they also behave uniquely in combat.
Fuji has melee attacks and Pirilika has ranged attacks, and as my two strongest characters, I get them into the fray immediately. A good example of how easy Disgaea 7 is to get your head around is the way you involve these two characters in battle.
If Pirilika picks up Fuji and throws him, he can attack an enemy because he’s near enough, most of the time. But Pirilika can also still attack thanks to ranged attacks. This is obvious, of course, but all these things add up with your other side characters with different classes. You line up everyone in the right order, push them in the right direction, and build out quite a simple spiderweb of interactions quite quickly. Or at least I did, and I only had about 45 minutes.
This probably all sounds like same old Disgaea, though; but there are some new things. First up is Jumbification, a Gigantamax-kaiju-Bowser’s-Fury-esque mode where one of your characters becomes very, very big. They no longer stay on the map’s grid, instead launching outside the map with access to every square on the grid to attack. This is funny, visually exciting, and silly. It wasn’t clear from my short time how much depth this thing has, but it’s sure good fun.
There are also other weird things going on. There’s item reincarnation, which lets you take an upgraded item and turn it into literally anything else. A sword into a pair of sandals was one example I heard. I have absolutely no idea how this works in the game, but again, it sounds silly. That’s kind of the overall vibe I got from Disgaea 7: Vows of the Virtueless. Big, silly fun.
Whether it steps over the line from silly to stupid (in a bad way) is going to be a matter of taste, but I suspect the best litmus test will be how you react to the Hinomoto Code of Destruction:
- “Decree #1
- Bushido: BUST IT TO BITS!
- Decree #2
- Someone unhappy with taxes or wages? KILL ‘EM TO DEATH.
- Decree #3
- Friendship and love: HARD PASS.
- Decree #4
- Boost strength, crush weakness? YES. PLEASE.
- Decree #5
- Fighting makes the Netherworld go ’round. GO FOR IT!
Anyone who disobeys these laws gets HARAKIRI’d.”
If you’re new to Disgaea, its style of comedy is likely the biggest hurdle to getting into it. The gameplay itself is great, loose fun, and very welcoming to newcomers. So, if you’re looking for a new tactics title, this is a good bet. But maybe it’s best for Switch, letting you grind on the go, volume down, podcast in one ear. It’s hard to say yet, but that’s likely how I’ll be playing.