The best part about the portable ports of the Disgaea titles is they allow you to see the games in hindsight. In Disgaea 4 for Vita, a promise isn't the only thing revisited; I'm getting a chance to see the entire game in a new light. Disgaea 4: A Promise Revisited isn't an innovative title for the series, but having played through it again, I've come to the conclusion that it's one of the best.
When I reviewed Disgaea D2 on PlayStation 3, I felt that it was a safe entry in the series. That game returned to the cast that started everything in the first place, trying to recapture that lightning in a bottle. The heart and humor were there, but it made me realize that I was largely done with Laharl and his crew. Their story was told. Young Mike may have wanted Laharl and friends to stay on the board forever, but older Mike realizes that Disgaea needs a new cast. The game itself remains largely the same, so the fun is in exploring familiar mechanics with a new family.
Disgaea 4: A Promise Revisited casts you in the role of Valvatorez, a former Netherworld tyrant who has given up his evil ways due to a promise he previously made. Now Val eats sardines instead of drinking human blood and teaches brand-new Prinnies how to do their job. It's a huge fall from grace, something Val's manservant Fenrich is always key to point out. When the latest class of Prinnies is kidnapped before Valvatorez can fulfill his promise to them, he springs into action. He eventually finds out the Netherworld Corrupternment has ordered the destruction of all Prinnies. That's enough to jar Valvatorez out of his complacency, so he starts a full-scale rebellion.
Valvatorez is my favorite Disgaea protagonist. I liked Laharl, but Disgaea 2's Adell and Disgaea 3's Mao didn't do much for me; Adell felt too boring and vanilla, while Mao seemed like a photocopy of Laharl. Valvatorez is just so damn earnest. He has the clear power and ability to rule over everything, but he's chosen his path due to his promise. Val doesn't grumble about his lot in life, in fact he's rather happy about it until the game's events spur him into greatness. He's fun without seeming too cartoonish, something I felt happened to the original Disgaea crew when they returned in D2.
And his supporting cast is equally fun. Fuka, the Prinny girl who retains her human identity due to lack of Prinny bodies; Desco, the artificially-created demon weapon who's afraid of abandonment; the ever-loyal Fenrich; and Vulcanus, the money-stealing Angel of Avarice. (I could take or leave Emizel.) Together, their trials and tribulations provide a solid reason for all the grinding.
I started with the story, because in gameplay, Disgaea 4 is largely the same as the rest of the series. You'll enjoy well-tuned isometric tactics combat, a wide variety of classes, and some crazy number-spewing attacks. The 9999 level cap, the crazy combos, Reincarnation, Promotion, Apprenticeship, the Magichange System, and the Item World all return.
The Dark Assembly has been replaced by the aforementioned Corrupternment, which adds a Cam-Pain HQ map to the normal Senate-style system. The Cam-Pain map represents the Netherworld itself and it's up to you to take control of territory, which will allow you to send your own characters to the Senate as voters. You characters can also be placed in your Cabinet, which adds the 3DS SpotPass-style ability of helping online friends in their Senate. The Cam-Pain map is where you place Evil Symbols, buildings you'll find while playing the regular game. These Evil Symbols unlock benefits like shared party experience, shared mana, and bonus item shops. Disgaea 4 also adds an online mode, allowing players to customize a pirate ship to fight other players, via level-based matchmaking.
Is there a bit of bloat in the Disgaea series? Probably. This is not an entry to ease newcomers in. There's systems upon systems and they all stack together to make your characters better. Any Disgaea game requires a lot of digging and research to play correctly and Disgaea 4 is no different.
The surprising thing is all of this content has made the transition over to the PlayStation Vita. Everything is here, including the Desco & Fuuka Show DLC and a new Vita-exclusive Nagi Clockwork Time Leap scenario. There's even an English and Japanese voice switch, an option I miss whenever an import game omits it. Everything is here. Somehow, NIS was able to cram an entire PS3 game into the Vita's tiny cartridge. (This is why the Vita is such a great little system.)
The graphics have made the transition mostly intact. All the 2D art and animation is here, backed by the 3D levels and the crazy spell effects. The only problem that rears its ugly head are the occasional framerate drops. The Vita can fake being a PlayStation 3 really well, but when push comes to shove, it's not a PS3. It's not a constant problem, but sometimes things can slow to crawl.
If you play Disgaea or any other Tactics game and you own a Vita, this is a great purchase. Disgaea 4: A Promise Revisited is just as good as NIS' other handheld ports and looking back Disgaea 4 is my favorite game in the series. There's not much that's particularly new here, but classic fans have another great Disgaea to play on-the-go.
The Nitty Gritty
- Visuals: Beautiful hand-drawn 2D art and 3D spell effects make the transition to Vita, despite the occasional framerate hiccup.
- Sound: The music is classic Disgaea fare and players have the choice between Japanese and English voices.
- Interface: The interface in Disgaea 4 looks the same as every other Disgaea game before it.
- Lasting appeal: You can play Disgaea 4 forever without fully appreciating all the game has to offer.