Review: Disgaea 3: Absence of Detention for Vita

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Title: Disgaea 3: Absence of Detention
Price: $39.99
System(s): PS Vita
Release Date: April 17, 2012
Publisher (Developer): NIS America (NIS)
ESRB Rating: “Teen” for Alcohol Reference, Mild Fantasy Violence, Mild Language and Mild Suggestive Themes.
Pros: All of the content from the PS3 version, from the base game to the DLC, is included, four new side-stories have been added, there are new skills and magic for characters to use, you can use buttons or the touch screen to control it and you can customize the way weapons look as well as their abilities. You can also compare your stats with other players online or earn bonuses for traveling due to the PSV’s GPS functions. As always, there are tons of battles, lots of unlockable characters, randomly-generated Item Worlds to explore and battle in and a 9999 level cap. Not that the level cap matters, since you can reincarnate a character after reaching it to boost stats and start over from level 1 again.
Cons: Sprite art is unchanged and still looks a bit dated.
Overall Score: Two thumbs up, 90/100, A-, * * * * out of 5

I’m a huge Disgaea fan. I’ve played every game at least once, more often more than once in attempts to unlock different endings. I’ve even bought the first two Disgaea games more than once, because I wanted to see all the extra content in the ports. So it’s no surprise that even though Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice is my least favorite entry in the series, I was still pretty excited to pick up Disgaea 3: Absence of Detention. Personally, I still think it has the weakest story in the series, but there’s no doubt in my mind that the Vita version is definitely the one to own.

Taking over the school, utterly and completely, again

Lord Mao is the absolute worst student at the Netherworld Evil Academy, which of course means that he’s naturally the school’s best student. He’s also son of the head of the academy, which is this region’s Overlord. Part of his evilness stems from never being able to forgive a grudge. His dad stepped on his video game console right when Mao was in the middle of the best game of his life years ago, and he’s decided he’s going to become a hero to overthrow him to get his revenge.

Apparently to be a “Hero,” you actually have to have a “Hero” title. Mao doesn’t. He’s an “Overlord Spawn,” since his father is the Overlord. Fortunately a novice hero named Almaz shows up in the Netherworld to launch a preemptive strike to protect his country’s princess Sapphire from the Overlord. Mao defeats him, steals his “Hero” title, and then maks Almaz his minion, sticking him with the “Demon-in-Training” title.

Except, it turns out a title doesn’t immediately give Mao the power he needs. He and his party fight only the Overlord’s hand and even it beats them. Plus, it seems Mao and Almaz are now stuck with these new titles, and they are changing who they are as people/demons.

So Mao has to get his own title back, get rid of the “Hero” title, maybe help Almaz, get involved in lots of other events at the Netherworld Evil Academy and eventually still defeat the Overlord.

It may look dated, but it plays beautifully

Disgaea 3 plays just as it did on the PS3. A player will begin a chapter, see some exposition and then be able to explore the small school area to get characters properly equipped and ready for battle, perhaps even to create new characters or start organizing groups to prepare for battles. You then can go to the gatekeeper to start either a new chapter or visit an old one to level up the cast. After some initial dialogue, you choose which troops to send out onto the field in typical strategic RPG fashion. It’s turn-based and set on a grid, so your basic goal is achieve the level goal, which is almost always defeat all or certain opponents.

It’s reaching that goal that’s unique in Disgaea 3. Pummeling a single enemy is rewarded, as you can chain together combos to deal more damage. A monster next to a human character can Magichange into a weapon to be used by the monster, which can make the human character stronger. You’ll also have to keep track of geo-panels and geo-blocks. A geo-block can have a certain status attached to it, like say dispel. If that block was on a green panel, then all characters standing on green panels couldn’t use magic unless that geo-block was moved or destroyed. Geo-blocks can have negative and positive effects, and using them can make a battle easier or more difficult. You can also place geo-panels in such a way and attack them to chain together combos by attacking a colored geo-block on a different colored panel. That panel will then change to the color of the block, damaging any characters on those panels in the process. If enough panels are changed or erased in this fashion, an incredibly powerful magic spell will be unleashed on all enemies.

NIS went out of its way to make the Vita version of Disgaea 3 something people would want by also including every single scrap of DLC from the PS3 release. This means you get the entire Raspberyl four chapter side story, all 21 of the DLC characters and any other extras that PS3 people had to actually pay extra to acquire. NIS also added the Disgaea 4 characters Fuka and Desco, which can be recruited by fighting and beating them in the game. Most importantly, four extra side-stories featuring old and new characters have been included. One stars the new characters Rutile and Stella, while the others all feature returning, minor characters from the main game. As usual, returning Disgaea players can unlock this content early by scrolling to the Continue option of the main meny then pressing triangle, square, O, triangle, square, O, X, then talking to the Parallel Worlder NPC. That code should look familiar, as it was also used in the PSP ports of Disgaea and Disgaea 2 to unlock the new content.

Really, the only thing that the Vita version of Disgaea 3 doesn’t have going for it is its appearance. The graphics look terribly dated, especially compared to the new HD sprites introduced in Disgaea 4. Yes, there are some new character portraits that look really good, but the rest of the game just isn’t as pretty as it could be. If you haven’t played Disgaea 4 yet, it isn’t too noticeable, but if you have then you may find yourself wishing NIS had used the enemy or recurring character sprites from the fourth game here and made new sprites for characters who didn’t get a facelift.

The most complete version of Disgaea 3 you can get.

It’s best to think of Disgaea 3: Absence of Detention as an opportunity. The PSP was the go-to handheld last generation for RPGs, and if Disgaea 3 does well, it could show that people are ready to have the Vita carry on that tradition. It’s a great place to start, since NIS packed every bit of Disgaea 3 PS3 content, as well as original extras, into it. Plus, since each Disgaea game is a stand-alone entry, it can easily be enjoyed by anyone with a passion for strategic RPGs, even if they’ve never heard of the series before. The fact that there also happen to be multiple endings and an absurdly high level cap ensure plenty of replay value as well. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say someone would have to spend at least 70 hours with this game if they wanted to complete even just the main story, Raspberyl’s side story and the four new mini-stories.

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