You can’t deny that there is a real lack of any decent titles appearing on the Vita, the most powerful handheld console felled by complete lack of support with the months following the impressive opening line-up all but barren. Even more surprising is the lack of any RPG’s on the console; thankfully though Nippon Ichi Software have stepped forward with Disgaea 3: Absence of Detention. With Disgaea 4 already on our home consoles NIS have opted to port over a slightly updated version of Disgaea 3:Absence of Justice as their first of hopefully many handheld versions.
We again return to the Netherworld, a land full of strange characters and the now trademark Disgaea style of humour and of course Penguins that say “Dood” a lot, which on most counts leaves us with most of the series’ plots being seen as utter nonsense – Disgaea 3: Absence of Detention is no exception. Based in the Evil Academy, the backwards nature of the Netherworld means that the academy grants the most disruptive more respected positions, like in the main characters (Mao) case, having a 100% truancy rate grants him the Top Honour Student whereas doing good deeds classes students as a being a delinquent. The story kicks off with the ever dossing Mao unexpectedly deciding to become a hero; whilst this seems to be the ultimate in delinquent choices, his reasons are far from honourable with him looking to overthrow the Dean of the academy, the Overlord, who is also his father; the reason? He accidentally stood on Mao’s games console, destroying millions of hours of unrecoverable game saves. Assisted by his loyal and almost physic servant he gathers a group of slaves to assist Mao in capturing a hero, stealing their title and overthrowing the Overlord, which of course in true Disgaea style does not quite turn out as expected.
Those who have never played a game in the series before should note that Disgaea 3: Absence of Detention is a strategy role playing game based over isometric viewpoint gridded maps. The initial few hours of this game are quite daunting, with loads of dialogue, via both a recorded soundtrack (which sounds great) and text, slowly taking you through the story whilst trying to teach you the general basics required to get through the game. With most areas locked off from the start it’s just a matter of running to the arenas to get the story moving along, with Mao scheming and obtaining his hero power very early on in the game. Though the tutorial covers plenty of areas essential for newcomers, Disgaea still seems to assume you have played a turn based tactical game before, with no real explanations about ranged attacks and even what your initial group of slaves are capable off, leaving an awful lot of trial and error; gamers familiar with the title will have no problems with this but newcomers will need to persevere, it’s worth it.
Each arena you enter ultimately requires you to defeat all enemies on the map, with each of your team members having their own movement and attack styles, allowing for special moves, basic attacks, picking up and throwing not just items but also team members to get to higher platforms, healing and of course, lots of magic. The sheer amount of different moves, be they solo, team combos or via the slightly confusing Geo Panels that add a deeper strategic and puzzle element to the battles, attacking enemies is initially a little daunting, but again, trial and error will slowly show you the way.
During battles characters will level up separately from each other and also gain Mana when they throw the killing blow on an enemy. Levelling up will generally unlock more items to purchase, like stronger weaponry but the Mana allows for even more personal stat building by spending it at the Evility Research Center which offers plenty of new and unique powers and weapon based skills. The hub area that you can wander around after fights is crammed full of shops to purchase new weapons and items to use in the field and nurses to tend to your wounds. Most RPG’s would settle there but the depth of Disgaea 3 is seemingly never ending, with a secret headquarters (a classroom which no one goes to) where you can create new characters to join the ranks of your slaves, approve topics in the Homeroom which will alter certain areas of the game, create a Student Club in where members of which will be granted special abilities like the sharing of magical powers; you can even alter the positioning of the students desks in the classroom, with those close to each other increasing their team attack chances.
The Vita is well suited for this type of game, showing off well animated (though not as crisp as the recent Disgaea 4 high resolution) characters in bright and colourful wide-screen, with the shoulder buttons able to spin the map around 90 degrees at a time to get the perfect camera angle and tapping the left portion of the rear touch pad to zoom in and out, leaving the right side to moving through all available characters. The main touch-screen is underused with no ability to select characters directly, leaving us with just a general ability to move the map around which is a shame. The GPS is also used here and is combined with Mao’s Honour Quotient. As you play the game on the move the game will use the GPS data to see how far you have travelled, with the distance then being converted into his HQ, with it steadily growing and offering many bonuses like shop discounts, group bonuses like experience and Mana boosts and stats growth. It’s not essential to progress through the game but is yet another reason to take Disgaea 3 on the road with you.
This Vita version offers the full game just like the PS3 version, plus all of the additional downloadable content, a couple of new chapters and characters to enjoy, so if you have never ventured to the Netherworld and have a gap in your Vita collection, this is well worth your time.
Rating: ExcellentReview Policy(version tested: PS Vita)
Disgaea 3: Absence of Detention is available on PS Vita now. You can order from ShopTo here.