Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Disgaea 4: A Promise Revisited (Vita) Review

As was the case with the previous Disgaeas, Disgaea 4 has made its way to handhelds, currently the Vita.  It brings some new improvements and the DLC while making it all portable.  The game looks great on the Vita's screen, although there were times where it was hard to see the field because there is only so much space and the text has to be readable.  Thankfully, most times you can minimize the clutter and it never hindered me, it was just a minor annoyance.  The audio sounds a little off, but I'm betting it's because of the Vita's built-in speakers.

Gameplay is similar to other Disgaeas.  Battles are all on a grid-based area, with your movement and attack ranges dictated in # of panels.  There are colored areas, called geopanels, that can have various effects if a geoblock is placed on it, which affects all panels of the same color.  Unlike the geosymbols from other Disgaea games, the blocks can be stood upon to also gain there effects.  Plus, there if a block of one color is thrown onto others, they will disappear, similar to puzzle games where you match the colors.  I really like these changes and hope they return in future games.  Old staples from the other games, like lifting, throwing and tower attacks are still present here.

The game controls really well on the Vita, with the only negative being the slowdown that occurs in the item world.  Floors with item generals are so big with so many effects that the system is trying hard to display them all.  Moving the cursor is noticeably slower, and using skills also makes everything look like it's in slow motion.  The touch screen functions aren't very plentiful, but they don't need to be.  What is there works fine, even if I rarely used it.

The biggest gripe I have with Disgaea 4: A Promise Revisited is the reliance on mana.  In the other titles, mana was used to pass bills in the senate (or version therein), make characters and reincarnate.  Now, almost everything seems to need it.  Want to learn a weapon skill or spell?  Need the mana for it.  Want to make that skill stronger?  Use mana for it.  I can't decide if I like powering up skills and spells with mana.  On one hand, it's great because it makes them noticeably stronger, and you can finally upgrade skills like Espoir painlessly.  On the other, it sucks to have to choose to power up a spell and increase its damage range, or save up for a new spell.

Because of the new system, you also don't get weapon proficiency.  I'm ok with this, since it makes it easier to switch weapons types if you have too many of a particular type.  However, then you need mana to buy the weapon skills.  To make it better, units will learn unique skills, which are awesome (and I hope they return in future games).  Overall, I'm torn by the system.  I like parts of the mana necessity, but not others.  I can't say it's an improvement, but it's not really worse, either.  While you do get a lot more mana in Disgaea 4 than previous games, the huge need of it isn't necessarily for the better.

The item world of course returns.  For the uninitiated, the item world allows you to enter any item or piece of equipment you own to power it up.  It makes a series of random dungeon floors that you have to traverse.  Every ten floors you get an option to exit for free, otherwise you need to use an item.  In addition, there is a feature called Charaworld.  It's like the item world, except you go into one of your characters to power them up.  Things that before were done from the senate, like increasing your movement panels or throw distance, are done in this way.  It's cool, but sadly this is the way you learn other spells and skills.  While I like the charaworld for its other functions, I vastly prefer the mentor/pupil system for learning skills.  Especially the one in Disgaea D2, since you could change them so easily.  Also, it does take awhile to get the charaworld, since you have to reincarnate and store 100 levels with a single person to get the bill for the senate to pass.

As in the other portable versions of Disgaea, there are added features to pull those repeat buyers back in.  First off is the cheat shop, found in D2, which, while not as robust as that game's one, is still great.  That could be why the mana wasn't as big a problem as I though it would be at the start.  All of the DLC characters and things are in the game as well, although you have to beat it to get access.  They even threw in two extra stories, Fuka and Desco's (ugh) and Valvatorez and Artina's backstory.  They are fun extras, but if you've played the PS3 game, it might not be enough to pull you back in.  Normally, these open up when the main game is completed, but there is a code to unlock them from the outset.

As with all the other Disgaeas, A Promise Revisited is long with lots to do.  I lost count how many hours I sank into just the main story so I could complete it (it was easily over 40).  I felt it went on too long though, considering they call the last four chapters "the final chapter".  The story was engaging and interesting, which helped push my through to the end.  A few of the battles in those chapters felt like filler battles to pad its length.  The other part I really didn't like was all the artificial difficulty.  Since they want you to grind and overpower your characters, many battles had odds completely stacked against you.  Large areas of ally damage or enemy boost were common, or setups where enemies would fuse and magichange to catapult their stats.  Many of those times could be countered with understanding how to work the system and change it in your favor.

A few battles, notably in the last two chapters, would make me roll my eyes with how cheap they were.  The real final boss is especially guilty, as it can move almost the entire field, attacks a large area, has jacked up stats, and gets a 10% stat boost for every enemy on the field.  Did I mention it also creates and enemy every turn?  Yeah, it's frustrating... but not impossible.  I wouldn't mind stuff like that for extra battles, but I don't like them while I'm just getting through the story.  Good tactics could overcome many of the one-sided levels, but there's always at least the option of grinding and using brute force to get through.

Disgaea 4: A Promise Revisited has a lot of content for your money.  If you like strategy RPGs or the Disgaea series, I definitely recommend picking it up.  If you have not played Disgaea 4 on the PS3 (me), then get this version instead, since it has several additions and improvements.  If you have played #4 before, there is some new content that you can actually jump to right away (hopefully one day the console save files will carry over to the handheld ones, so you can save yourself a few hundred hours), so it would be worth playing if you wouldn't mind starting over.  The story might drag on for a bit and there is an over-reliance on mana, but the story is engaging, the game is fun and there is a ton of stuff to do.

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