"If you've been looking forward to Disgaea 5, rest assured that it's exactly what fans will be after."
Imagine the Disgaea you know, but faster, sleeker, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound (by stacking characters on each other's heads), and you have Disgaea 5. At E3 this year, I was told that Nippon Ichi had taken on player feedback from the last couple of titles, and it clearly shows: characters move more quickly, there are new ways to learn skills, and while the systems are still complex, they're generally easier to wrap your head around.
Disgaea 5 follows a group of Overlords from their own Netherworlds as they team up to take revenge on the villain called Void Dark. Killia takes the lead with his "I can do it myself" attitude, but he's joined by a colourful cast of characters including Seraphina, the Overlord of the Gorgeous Netherworld. In fact, you'll get to visit most of these netherworlds, and there's a new one for each chapter in the game. The cast fit the typical Disgaea mold of kooky and colourful, but the humour was spot-on, notably with dialogue during a battle with a luchador. I was also assured that most feature deeper character development, notably Killia.
The turn-based strategy functions essentially as it always has. Each battle is based on a grid where you take turns to move characters around, select and then execute attacks, or use a wide range of special abilities. Added to these is the new Revenge Mode where, after building up a gauge and meeting certain conditions that vary between characters, you can unleash an ultra powerful, and flashy, move. These Revenge Attacks look spectacular and are unique for each story character. New skills can be learned as before by purchasing them with mana, but now many can also be acquired in battle or through single-use items.
There's a solid variety of refinements and changes to combat too, including significantly faster character movement. While stacking characters into a tower, you can now throw them diagonally for additional strategic options, and each battle awards an "MVP" who gains additional experience. Hardcore item world explorers will be pleased to hear there's a new Innocent management system for easier optimisation, and a new Squad Shop replaces Disgaea 4's HQ board.
I didn't have a chance to see much outside of combat, but Disgaea 5 appears to progress in the same fashion as past entries. The game centres around a hub world that gives you access to all other areas, including the new Character World board game, and new maps are selected from a distinctly different looking menu screen. The quest system is back, and by taking on challenges from the board such as learning certain abilities, creating classes, defeating enemies and more, you can earn various rewards.
If you've been looking forward to Disgaea 5, rest assured that it's exactly what fans will be after. It's more of what we've seen before, but with a fun new cast of characters, refined mechanics, more easily accessible features, and some great new ideas. The graphics are still 2D and look a little rough during certain abilities, but on the whole, the spritework is clean and clear. There will be, of course, various DLC characters on the way soon after launch, and the game is set for release this fall. If you never liked the series, then Disgaea 5 probably won't change your mind, but it looks like fans will easily spend hundreds of hours in another evil adventure.