Disgaea 5 layers its brand of comedy over a mature setting

Up until recently, I had little attachment to the Disgaea series. I had neglected the series for a long time, having only spent a few hours with the original “Hour of Darkness” way back on the PlayStation 2.

While I was initially intimidated by its sheer scope, I gave the series another chance a couple years ago before I reviewed Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness. So, I sat down and played every single mainline series entry up until that point.

While many gamers are quick to point out the over-the-top action and spectacle the series is known, I fell in love with the story beats and the characters. The comedy is certainly there, but there were plenty of heartfelt and dramatic moments to keep me involved.

Disgaea's brand of humor and charm makes a return.

I had a chance to play the upcoming Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance at this year’s E3 2015, and I can tell that this will be yet another game that will pull me in. The story alone strikes a darker tone with a focus on deeper character development. Rest assured - the exaggerated abilities and bizarre moments are retained.

Nippon Ichi took player feedback into account when developing the new entry. Built to be far more approachable to newcomers, the game takes advantage of the PlayStation 4’s hardware. The developers have removed any hint of slowdown, increasing character movement speed, and upping the sprite count on screen from 10 on Disgaea 4 to 100 on the latest Sony console.

Although it may seem insignificant, any fan can tell you the amount of detail that goes into every individual sprite. This enhancement will prove instantly noticeable to anyone who has played the earlier entries.

The top performing characters in battle can earn MVP status, giving them a boost of experience points.

In Disgaea 5, a demon emperor known as "Void Dark" and his million-strong army known as "The Lost" are unleashing a blitzkrieg, taking over one Netherworld after the next in the bid to spread their power. Their ultimate goal is to enslave the populace. The only ones who can stop this oncoming evil are the Overlords.

Our protagonist, the loner KilIlia, is soon confronted by Seraphina, a prima donna of sorts who is the Overlord of the Gorgeous Netherworld. Together, the pair travels from one Netherworld to the next, recruiting more Overlords to band together and halt Dark Void’s advancement.

Anyone who has played a Disgaea game or a tactical RPG for that matter will feel right at home with Disgaea 5’s gameplay mechanics. Players move around a grid with tiles of different heights, unleashing different abilities while either taking advantage of or avoiding environmental traps and other hazards.

Stacking is made more useful by allowing players to throw a characters in the totem pole at a diagonal direction. This helps to avoid the nuisance of wasting turns getting someone in just the right spot.

Movement speed is drastically faster, which makes the processing speed of the new consoles all the more impressive. New to the series is Revenge Mode. There is a gauge at the bottom of the screen that fills up over time from landing successful attacks among other tasks that may vary between each map.

The Character World which helps to power up party members makes a return from Disgaea 4.

While the gauge is full, stat parameters are boosted. When triggered by a plot-relevant character, they can unleash a powerful and stylish attack that can help turn the tide of battle.

Along with a wide assortment of new classes including the popular Zombie Maid, and Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance is shaping up to be the best entry in the series yet. 

NIS America is promising a high volume of content for fans to become absorbed in, including the return of the fantastic Character World from Disgaea 4. There have been refinements that make it appear more like a board game. It's somewhat similar to Final Fantasy X's sphere grid system but clearly more elaborate.

You can bet we will have a review for the game when it launches here in the West later in the Fall exclusively for the PlayStation 4.