Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice Review

Anyone who knows me knows that Disgaea is one of my absolute favorite franchises. One of the most underrated series of the PS2’s lifespan, Disgaea mixed clever writing, memorable characters, and gameplay mechanics in a way far beyond what other mainstream popular RPG and strategy titles managed to pull off, yet it remained nothing but a cult hit. The release of the game on the PSP (and soon DS) will hopefully usher in a new audience of gamers, but in the meantime let’s hope that the latest iteration in the Disgaea saga brings in a new number of NIS faithful.

Set in the Netherworld, Disgaea 3 takes the series back in the direction of the stellar first title, revolving around a soon-to-be Overlord: Mao. Unlike Laharl, Mao seems to know what’s going on from the get-go, and plots to understand a hero’s power so that he can use it to kill his father, the Overlord.

For the top honor student at the Evil Academy, the demons expect nothing less. Mao’s Macgyver-esque butler Geoffrey is his main helper in his quests, always seemingly one step ahead of Mao, opening portals to the next destination that needs to be conquered.

Of course, it wouldn’t be Disgaea without a radically different group of supporting characters. The secondary character and co-protagonist is Almaz, a hero from the human world who has come to kill the Overlord. Unfortunately for Almaz, he’s not exactly the World’s Best Hero and ends up becoming Mao’s slave–and finding himself on the quick path to turning into a demon–before he can get anything done. The game then revolves around two quests: Almaz’s journey to restore his humanity, and Mao’s journey to usurp his father. Who said there was no high school drama in the Netherworld?

Writing-wise, Disgaea 3 is my favorite of the series. While nothing will top that refreshing first title, compared directly against one another Disgaea 3 just has it beat. Mao is a better protagonist than Laharl, Almaz is a better foil than Etna, Mr. Champloo is a better comic-relief character than Gordon, etc. The voice work is also a notch above anything yet seen in the series, which is a huge claim to make (as any Disgaea fans will know).

If superior writing wasn’t enough, the gameplay is also the best yet. While Disgaea 2 offered improved gameplay at the cost of the setting and writing which made the first so awesome, 3 combines that improved gameplay, kicks it up a notch, and throws it all back in the best environment yet in the series. Several new mechanics are introduced, including geoblocks, which act as a 3D geo panel. Basically, they’re blocks with effects which can be stacked on top of one another, adding a Y-axis to the battlefield. According to NIS the reason this game is on the PS3 and not the PS2 was because the PS2 couldn’t process all of the environmental data the same way the PS3 can. I’m not sure if that’s true, but I will say that Disgaea 3 does have quite a bit of interactivity in terms of where your character can go height-wise and where you can send enemies.

Other changes such as new worlds to co-exist with the always-time-killing Item World and the Magichange system are also available in the game. Unfortunately, for the most part they seem more tacked on than integral to the gameplay. Magichange involves monster characters combining with humans in the form of a specialized weapon. While powerful if used, the balance between monster and human characters just hasn’t been fixed enough to easily allow the leveling up of a monster character. Swords and other weapons have been brought to similar playing fields, but humans still rule the day. (Except for Beryl, but then again she’s a main character.)

Yes, the graphics remain the same as previous Disgaea titles, but that’s not really a big deal. If you only care about graphics, there are plenty of other games out there. The art style is still unique and the characters are well-done, so if sprites cause you to not purchase a game… Well, you’re definitely missing out.

I considered Disgaea 2 a good game, but one that was a fall-off from the original title. We were all curious to see if the third would continue the downtrend or right the ship, and it’s easy to see now that the ship has been righted. Disgaea 3 is easily the best in the Disgaea series, and if you care enough about gameplay, writing, and characters to overlook old-school graphics, you’re in for quite a treat.


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Author: Brendon Lindsey View all posts by

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