The Disgaea franchise has always been the game that people think of when they hear of Nippon Ichi Software but few would have guessed that a mobile spin-off of that series would nearly finish the company. Despite these issues, the company still managed to hold it together and put out a proper entry in the franchise, Disgaea 6: Defiance of Destiny. Starring a protagonist that refuses to give up despite dying may be a bit close to home for the developer and now that the team has made a number of changes to the classic formula in an attempt to streamline it, is this change a step forward for the series?
The appearance of an unbeatable God of Destruction has thrown the Netherrealms into chaos as no one has managed to stand up to the being and lived to tell the tale, let alone put a scratch on it. As such an emergency meeting of Overlords and other powerful beings is held in an attempt to find a way to defeat the creature and save the land. This meeting is suddenly interrupted when the main character Zed, a lowly zombie, breaks into the meeting after beating down every guard in his path and announces that he has already defeated the God of Destruction.
While no one believes him, Zed begins to tell his tale of victory through failure as his special ability, Super Reincarnation, allows Zed and his allies to reincarnate into a different world every time they are slain in combat, meaning that not only is it possible for Zed to grow infinitely stronger, but he will never stop even when killed over and over again. The strongest element of Disgaea 6: Defiance of Destiny‘s storyline is the way that players never quite know who or what they will encounter next as Zed’s reincarnation ability means players will meet a large number of different allies, all of which have their own motivations for trying to fight and are just as ridiculous and humorous as one would expect from a Disgaea game.
That being said, it is only the side-characters and their growth that actually shines as part of the best parts of the story while, for once, the main character is the worst part of the story. Zed’s personality and actions are incredibly one-note and quickly grow as stale as his corpse, though if you like undead puns then there are plenty to be had at his expense. It is also worth noting that, since the story is built around Zed and crew dying, players should expect the standard win in battle and die in cutscenes to happen over and over again to the point that, while initially funny, becomes a bit old and lacking variety after some time.
This is a result of an incredibly slow start that makes it feel as if Disgaea 6 has one of the weakest storylines of the franchise until things eventually pick up near the end of the game, but it takes far too long to get there even if the over the top humor and ridiculous situations still run as strong as ever. Thankfully, as mentioned before, the many side characters, especially the undead dog Cerberus, help keep the story from falling too flat as players make their way through the game.
In most ways Disgaea 6: Defiance of Destiny still plays the same as most remember as this SRPG features turn based combat that takes place on a grid-based map with the goal being to defeat their foes using basic attacks, skills with various attack ranges that can potentially hit allies as well, throwing enemies and allies, and of course the ever constant Geo Blocks that can add buffs or hazards to parts of the grid depending on the ground color. Attacking enemies from the side or back can deal extra damage and having allies nearby to execute a “team attack” that boosts the damage dealt from any attack rewards careful team placement but it is also worth noting that this game takes things to the extreme almost immediately right from the get go.
While the Disgaea series has always been known for its large damage numbers and character levels, players will quickly find themselves exceeding level 1000 within a couple hours of playing and dealing damage in the millions just a bit beyond that. This is partially thanks to the fact that players can now also choose to Super Reincarnate any unit at will, returning them to level 1 and gaining Karma that can then be used to boost their base stats, allowing units to grow at an incredible rate even without the other mechanics available. Couple this with the Juice Bar, which uses Mana and money called HL to raise levels, weapon mastery, class proficiency, and of course the return of Evilities, the Item World, and even a Cheat Shop that allows players to boost certain earned rewards at the cost of others, and players will find that they are given a wealth of powerful growth options far earlier than any other entry in the series.
This massive level of power boosts right at the start is introduced simply enough through a rather extensive tutorial that eases newcomers into the game and can thankfully be skipped by longtime fans but longtime fans will also notice that their customization is also far more limited than before. A significant number of basic classes found in previous Disgaea games have been removed entirely from Disgaea 6 and even the monster classes have been given a large reduction in number with many classic staple monsters being removed, though some new ones have been added as a result. That being said, the monster classes now simply act the same way as any normal humanoid class and no longer have a special mechanic tied to them in any way, further reducing the amount of options players have access to with even weapon skills being removed.
Perhaps the most interesting and also brand new feature for a Disgaea game is the auto-battle system and Devil Intelligence mechanic. While these games have always featured some level of grind, players can now choose to auto-battle almost any stage that they wish and even repeat auto-battles ad nauseum in an effort to level up, gain Evilities, complete quests, and earn D-Merits. Although a few basic auto-battle systems are available players can go rather in-depth by heavily modifying their units’ AI through Demonic Intelligence to perform certain actions, skills, and movement depending on a variety of conditions to make sure an auto battle runs as smooth as possible. That being said, the fact that the game so heavily focuses on using this auto mechanic is a drawback in itself as players are heavily encouraged on multiple occasions to simply run things automatically rather than learn the game itself, something that is a rather shocking change to the genre and a step in the wrong direction.
Visuals & Audio
The most noticeable change that longtime fans of the Disgaea series will note is the fact that Disgaea 6: Defiance of Destiny now features character models that are entirely 3D. These models still appear as 2D during dialogue sequences with gorgeous looking artwork but gone are the detailed sprites that fans have come to know and love. This transition to 3D is a rather smooth one as the character models are nice looking and the special moves are as intricate as ever, but it does seem to be the root cause that so many classes and skills ended up removed.
Considering Disgaea 6: Defiance of Destiny was released exclusively on the Nintendo Switch in the West compared to its original Japanese release, players will find that a number of graphical options have been given as a result of the system’s limitations. Players can choose to focus on Quality at the cost of performance, ensuring that the character models are as amazing looking as possible with a number of fancy special attacks and this option is honestly the only choice the player should make. This is because focusing on Balance drops the quality of every visual element significantly both in combat and in the base and Performance turns everything into a blurry mess that is barely recognizable.
The soundtrack for the game features some great pieces of music, including a stellar sounding base theme and a number of solid battle tracks and it is also nice to note that players will have the option to select between the original Japanese voice actors and NIS America’s English dub. The English voice actors have done a solid role here as every major scene is voiced by the cast and even the special moves are translated and voiced properly.
Disgaea 6: Defiance of Destiny tries to make a number of changes to a tried and true formula that fans have come to love in an effort to try and streamline things. Some of these work for the better as long as player’s hold themselves back from abusing them, such as the auto-battle turning grinding and the game itself into nothing, while others come at the cost of long term enjoyment. Between a slow start with a lackluster protagonist as well as numerous cut mechanics and classes longtime fans will find the series moving in the wrong direction even if it still retains most of the charming humor and insane damage values the franchise is known for.
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