Five months ago we asked NIS America why its forthcoming turn-based strategy game, Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice, would make the next-gen leap to the PS3."It's simply because PS2 lacks the processing power and memory capacity to support Disgaea 3," commented marketing coordinator Jack Niida at the time, a response we didn't buy entirely back then and after pouring over the game in recent days we're even less convinced.
Not that the game isn't fun. The fact that this article is being penned at 4am after 9 hours spent playing and losing track of time should be a testament to Disgaea 3's addictive nature, a trait that the series has had in spades since its freshman effort.
Disgaea is a series that refuses to evolve, graphically or otherwise. Niida told us in that same interview that the sprites in Disgaea 3 "take 3~4 times the amount of labor to create compared to Disgaea 2," and that the artists were working to improve the quality of the sprites for this latest sequel.
Unfortunately, to all but the most discerning eye, the game remains largely indistinguishable from the previous two games. The sprites look identical to those in earlier titles, if not muddier thanks to the leap into high-definition. The only graphical luster that's apparent is in the various environments and menus, which look much sharper than before, but this polish means nothing when the character sprites don't share the same resolution. There's nothing here that looks like it couldn't have been just as easily accomplished on the PS2, and for fans who have not yet moved on to Sony's latest console, this alone is likely to feel like a slap in the face.
Nevertheless, Disgaea 3 remains an absolutely massive game. With nearly 50 character and monster classes on top of guest characters from previous games, it would be easy to spend more than a hundred hours digging into the game's strategic nuances, from character creation and combat tactics to loot manipulation through the series' famous (infamous?) Item World.
The sequel builds on this even further, adding a new area, The Academy, which adds yet another layer of depth, allowing individual character stats to be adventured into and improved as well. Other changes sure to be noticed by series vets include those made to skills, which are no longer earned through experience, but rather purchased using mana points collected in combat. In addition, Disgaea 3 bumps up the available special attacks, spells, and abilities, giving an otherwise stale experience a bit of unmistakable flavor.
Recycling aside, Disgaea 3 is still probably the best game in the series to date. With humor that hits more than it misses, memorable characters, and ridiculously deep gameplay, Absence of Justice will be adored by fans looking to once more grind their way through the Netherworld one more time. For anyone else, however, or for those simply wanting to see what all the fuss is about, we suggest picking up one of the previous two games instead. The experience is much the same and the overwhelming need to apologize much much less.