Disgaea 6: Defiance of Destiny by developer Nippon Ichi Software (NIS) and publisher Nippon Ichi Software America (NISA)—Nintendo Switch review written by Pierre-Yves with a copy provided by the publisher.
Estimated reading time: 9 minutes
If you say Nippon Ichi Software, or their North American localization and publishing group Nippon Ichi Software America (NISA or NIS America for short) I’m going to think one of two things. The first, is turned based strategy RPGs that have been their bread and butter for decades now. The other? Is a solid turn based strategy titles and the latest entry into the Makai Senki universe, Disgaea 6: Defiance of Destiny, is no exception.
Note: Please be aware that this review contains some spoilers either in the text or in the screenshots taken during gameplay.
Having recently released a demo in order to see how much damage one could deal to an enemy within the first chapter and three quarters, the intro was enough to show the direction of the latest title without spoiling the rest down the line. Solid base mechanics? Quirky character design? Smart and sassy dialog? The latest has it all but there’s one thing I feel that D6 has over D5 and that was the magic of the originals which were more about the characters than it was about the Netherworlds that they could be found in.
As a fan of the series it’s an honor to be able to review something that you hold in such high regard. At the same time, reviewing something that you hold dear can sometimes be a bit complicated as you’re not only sitting down to potentially and hopefully enjoy, but you’re also sitting down to analyze and critique what has been put in front of you. In that regard, while having only ever upped their game with each new entry into the Disgaea series I felt that the new systems in place were both several steps forward and maybe one back.
Straight up, from the gameplay mechanics into the story, Disgaea 6 is solid. The writing is on point for the series with a blend of nonsensical and dark humour. The voice acting only ever does the characters justice and helps to further bring them and their trails to life as our protagonist Zed recounts the story to Overlord Ivar and his Darkest Assembly just how exactly he took out the most powerful God of Destruction in written history.
Split as it’s always been, each chapter of the adventure has multiple sub stages each with their own challenges ranging from awkward layouts making you have to think through your approach, or die. Really there’s no inbetween. In these stages you’ll also be facing off against a variety of foes in a variety of numbers. The less you see the more you should be prepared for a fight as like the laws of the ninja, the less you see the more powerful they are.
What’s changed this time around though is that there are a lot of other systems in place to help boost you through these challenges. I had poked at them in the demo but they didn’t really shine until I was six or eight chapters in and almost religiously using them to get ahead. The Juice Bar, Squads, Skill Upgrades, the Rozen Queen Store and the Darkest Assembly. Some of these have been around forever while others I could only gawk at times at their sheer brilliance.
Starting off with the new, Zed and company will now have access to what is known as the Juice Bar that allows for the infusion of experience points, mana and any other extract such as attack, intelligence or hit. All of these can be banked over time as you trounce countless enemies that stand in your way. Each of these values costs money, as money does make the world go round, but when you leverage that out against another new feature, Super Reincarnation, it’s totally worth it.
Unlike normal reincarnation, Super Reincarnation comes with Karma that not only makes your units more powerful, but also allows you to increase their stat values as you see fit. Want to make sure that a spell caster takes a hit? Add more defense or hit points. Want your tank to withstand a magical attack? Increase their resistance. If you’ve got the karma to do it, the Netherworld is your oyster! Compared to the previous version where you just made your units more powerful, now you REALLY make them powerful with careful, or carless I won’t judge, allocation of new stats.
Making returns are the skill shop that allow you to learn new evilities and to power up skills whether it’s to throw more power behind the hits or increase the range of your spells. Side to that the Dark(est) Assembly is back again in order to pass Netherworld rules such as being able to create new unit types, increased experience earned in the next stage, steal all of the mana for just one character, and once you’re done the main story, open up the end game for some real brutal turned based tactics fun!
Now there were two things in the demo that I wanted to hold reservations on until the full release. The first, was the autobattling system as I wondered firstly how well it would really work and secondly if it wouldn’t pull the player away from the experience. In order? Works really well and to a degree, takes the player away from the experience. The reason that it works well is that the autobattle system isn’t just “rush in and destroy”, you can set parameters to it. Use skills, heal teammates, target specific enemies like the toughest. A bit convoluted at first, there’s at least decent tutorial to teach you how to set up your if-then structures. The premades are pretty decent but you’ll find them a bit limited over time especially when it comes to healing status effects such as poison that can destroy your team in seconds.
Still on the subject of the auto-battle, is that as much as I loved being able to use it as speeding everything up and disabling animations made fighting go faster, in an automatic fashion it was even faster as you’re not moving each individual member on your own, the system is moving them all at the same time. It was perfect to grind for experience and mana in order to level up skills and Super Reincarnate, BUT, I felt that it took you out of the experience. This long running series as well as the others such as Phantom Brave, Makai Kingdom, Soul Nomad, each of these is so hands on that you’re in it, and you’re in it to win it. With the auto-battle, you’re around, but you’re only really checking in to make sure parameters are up and running or if it’s a new stage, make sure to toss your units up and over to another location to continue the fight.
The other reason that I found myself a bit more disconnected and more and more as time went on using the auto battling system other than to throw a few prinnies around here and there, is that there’s been an adjustment to the base values. Now, instead of starting off with 10HP and moving over into the hundreds and then thousands, you start with thousands, you deal thousands and by the final chapters you’re grumbling if you don’t see at least 500K to 1M popping up against your enemies. The numbers get so high so fast that you almost want the system to handle the math especially when you can gain hundreds of levels per stage which works with the new max level, but at the same time, removes some of that finesse that used to be present.
The second of the two after the auto battle is unfortunately the graphics. The move to 3D is great. The characters look alive and it really brings the world a bit more forward then the 2D based 3D models have over the years. Where it doesn’t work is that it’s just not optimized for the Nintendo Switch. Performance, Balanced or Graphics, none of the three really ever make it pop and stand out. Instead, Performance makes things work but looks like so many textures are missing so it’s a very pixelated experience. Balanced is ok but then it’s a bit fuzzy around the edges and from time to time there are hiccups in the animations where you can see the screen freeze. Finally, Graphics if you stayed still were fine but the frame rates would tank even moving around your base. I’m not sure if these issues would exist in the PS4 version that launched in Japan, but for right now, as fun as it is, it doesn’t look as good as it could.
So on a final note, I really do want to highlight the story. For the past few entries, and for as much as I love the Fuka and Desco Show to poor FenFen’s attempt to get Valvatorez to drink blood and get back to being a supreme badass, the stories have been more about what’s going on in a particular Netherworld more than it’s been about the characters. Even Mao and Almza, it was about their adventure through the school in order to defeat Mao’s father. Going back just a bit further, Adel and Rozalin (who I was so happy to have as up front DLC party members to wreak havoc) theirs was a story more about them just as Laharl, Etna and Flonne’s was about Laharl becoming the overlord. Returning back to that point where this story was all about Zed, Cerberus, Beiko, and their party members from a Human King to a ten thousand year old magical school girl, it was refreshing and it brought back that comfort of a more simple story as Zed fights again and again against a God of Destruction.
Overall, Disgaea 6: Defiance of Destiny is a solid entry into the Disgaea Series. Fun characters, great dialog, amazing voice overs, it hits all of the notes. While there are some issues on the performance side on the Nintendo Switch, it’s never enough to completely remove you from the experience and with plenty of new additions such as an auto-battling system to do your Netherworld grinding for you, you may not even notice as you gawk seeing the millions of hit points disappearing per turn!Score: 8 / 10