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PS4, Nintendo Switch
June 29, 2021
Nippon Ichi Software
Nippon Ichi Software
Time to explode peg-legged, demon penguins because Disgaea 6: Defiance of Destiny returns with an all-new story and lead. The tactical role-playing game series has been around since Disgaea: Hours of Darkness from 2003 and is popular for its bonkers plot and addictive gameplay. With the sixth mainline game, developers Nippon Ichi introduce changes that may or may not excite fans. Regardless, Disgaea 6: Defiance of Destiny continues its tradition of otherworldly narratives and extreme grinding goodness.
The main protagonist is Zed, a boastful zombie who has the ability of Super Reincarnation, allowing him to die and resurrect infinitely. For an unknown reason, the God of Destruction threatens the Netherworlds and it’s up to Zed and his allies to put a stop to it all, mainly to prove to himself and everyone else he’s the strongest being alive (or dead). So you’ll level up, gain new skills, buy stronger weapons, level up, reincarnate, level up, and of course – you’ll level up.
“Each dimension of the Netherworld has its own sub-story arc like a long-running anime.”
Story in the Disgaea games have never really been the focus but they’re always fun and comedic. Each dimension of the Netherworld has its own sub-story arc like a long-running anime. There are plenty of jokes and absurd plot points, some of which is slightly concerning but not enough to be egregious.
Parts of the narrative can be rushed and confusing. New players will be thrown straight into the deep end, with the first act of the game introducing Zed almost as if he’s a known character in the universe. As a previous Disgaea player, I thought I had missed or forgotten about the plot from a different game. The God of Destruction is also an intriguing villain, but more could be done with its links to the dating-sim and roguelike spin-off Trillion: God of Destruction.
Post-game content features an array of familiar faces from the Disgaea series. Laharl, Etna, and Flonne make a return with an additional story to play through. Disgaea 4: A Promise Unforgotten and Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance have Nintendo Switch versions which many newer players to the series may enjoy drawing connections between. With so much whacky story, there is no doubt players can get upwards of 50 hours of playtime from them alone. Three waves of DLC are on the way and Disgaea 6: Defiance of Destiny is already filled to the brim and overflowing.
With Disgaea it’s always “make it bigger, make it better” and Nippon Ichi has done so with numerous gameplay improvements. Missions are set across isometric grid-based battlefields in a similar fashion to Fire Emblem or Front Mission, with alternating turns as forces attack or defend. Using various classes, weapons, skills, Evilities, squads, Dispatch Groups, and reincarnation tactics, players will continue to level up and find new ways to dispose of enemies as quickly as possible for big bonuses.
The core of Disgaea gameplay remains the same. It’s always been a smooth and thrilling experience, with lots of throwing exploding monsters called Prinny. Group allies together to perform combo attacks and deal huge damage numbers, use items to boost or heal, take advantage of Geo Effects which provide significant buffs and nerfs, and unleash showy Special Attacks. After a tough battle, head back to the hub world and level up or use EXP to purchase direct stat boosts and equipment, among other things.
“The core of Disgaea gameplay remains the same. It’s always been a smooth and thrilling experience, with lots of throwing exploding monsters…”
Level design in Disgaea 6 has vastly improved upon its predecessors. Verticality, Geo Effects and other interesting design choices feel carefully considered in each stage. There is purpose to how each level is articulated, often enabling several ways to play. Yet, a handful of boss missions result in one foe surrounded by an assault of characters, continually using combos for easy victories.
Once stages become difficult, the grinding begins. Disgaea still lets players speed through with auto-battle and auto-repeat options for effortless grinding. Demonic Intelligence is an unlockable feature that grants basic AI programming for auto-battling. You can set specific characters to go for treasure chests, perform as support and healers, or be powerhouse offence. It’s a wonderful way to make an otherwise mind-numbing task feel slightly more strategic.
Equipment from treasure or purchased from the shop never seem to keep up with levelling stats. New weapons and armour will be useful for only a brief period until characters begin to level up to obscene power, once again. The Item World is a feature where you battle inside items to effectively upgrade them, but unfortunately, it’s faster to level characters and their skills. Unlike other Disgaea games, there really aren’t any unique encounters here, either. You can largely ignore the Item World and levelling equipment due to serious balancing problems.
Levelling is overhauled with major changes. Instead of earning experience after killing enemies, the game awards you at the end of a mission. In addition, the new Juice Bar takes EXP, Mana, and Extracts you earn, blends them into tasty smoothies, and can directly improve the stats of characters. This is great for further into the game when grinding can become a chore and enables buying stat upgrades rather than repeating levels.
“…the level cap is now much larger… 99,999,999 when players reach the Carnage Dimension.”
Onto that, the level cap is now much larger than 9000: 99,999,999 when players reach the Carnage Dimension. Health and Skill Points can exceed 10 quadrillion and everything else can reach 100 billion. In this zone, five exclusive stages are unbelievably hard for those wanting a true challenge. These are some exceptional updates for Disgaea fans who always still seem to reach the level cap.
With lots of new additions, there are a few elements that aren’t returning. Monster Classes are streamlined now, with specific weapons and abilities gone, working much more like any other Generic Class. Additionally, characters can only equip one weapon at a time, meaning sub-weapons are not coming back either. These are welcome changes that untangle the complexity of the equipment system.
Mecha Girl, Psychic, Pincer Shell, and Evil Eye are among the new Generic Classes, but a common complaint is that there isn’t enough of them compared to older titles. It looks like a slimy ploy to resell the missing popular classes as DLC, which has happened before and isn’t so lovely.
Now, characters are completely 3D modelled in-game and as result, the entire game world is fully rendered. This is the most noticeable style change between sequels, and it radically changes the quality. The new models are very low-detailed with often simple textures, on full display during Special Attack animations. In the top-down view, they look okay from a distance, though in handheld the crispness of the outlines varies.
Three quality modes are available to balance how you’d prefer the game to perform versus how it looks, and on the Nintendo Switch, it’s either blurry character models or running at ten frames per second. Whether you prefer the 2D or 3D art is subjective, but the clean and sharp style of Disgaea 5 is much better.
On the other hand, the OST for Disgaea 6: Defiance of Destiny is outstanding. The Disgaea games always have remarkably orchestrated soundtracks, with absolute legend Tenpei Sato composing once again. Tracks will vary from intense and angelic battle music like in Prophet’s Song and bouncy beats such as You Go Girl2020. The range and consistent quality continually astound, and this game is no different.
It’s unmistakable that Disgaea continues to be genuinely unique – there really isn’t anything else like it. Nothing really comes close with such a zany story, beyond ridiculous levelling, and an extreme amount of systems within the game. Every entry tries to change enough to warrant its existence, making improvements but creating new flaws. The 3D modelled characters will be hit or miss, and the current level balancing issues and lack of classes will certainly annoy fans. Yet the chaotic isometric tactical gameplay will always reign supreme over these issues, providing hours upon hours of complex mechanics and charming characters to tinker with. Disgaea 6: Defiance of Destiny is a delightfully addictive game packed with personality and content.