Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice Hands-On

We take another trip through the Netherworld with this demonic sequel.

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Disgaea has always been one of the more elaborate strategy role-playing games, but that's more a case of its combat mechanics than the look of the game. "Old school" would be an apt description when talking about the sprite-based characters and isometric backgrounds. So when it was announced this February that the third installment in the series, Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice, would be arriving on the behemoth hardware of the PlayStation 3, a few eyebrows were certainly raised. We recently got a chance to see how that transition is working out by taking a look at Disgaea 3 at a Nippon Ichi Software press event. While the retro look of the game remains in full effect, combat has been ratcheted up a considerable amount with what NIS jokingly calls "stupid hard levels."

Mao (left) is one funny little demon, and so are the characters he encounters.

Disgaea 3 features a new story with a familiar setting. You'll once again venture through the cutesy anime Netherworld, but this time you're setting forth from an academy rather than a castle. The main character this time around is named Mao. He's been diligently studying anime, comics, and video games for a solid three months, having come to the conclusion that he needs to defeat the Overlord to become a truly renowned hero. The problem is that his father is the Overlord. But no matter--Mao has accepted that he'll need to defeat his father to ascend to the status he seeks to inhabit.

The demon academy Mao attends is an odd institution where honor students are the ones who constantly misbehave and delinquents are those who manage to arrive to class on time ready to learn. This twisted set of standards has deemed Mao a top honor student. It's also labeled Raspberyl, another student, as a delinquent. Raspberyl is one of the characters you'll encounter throughout the story. In addition, Mao enlists the help of his butler, Geoffrey, to help strip a lesser-known hero of his title so that Mao can skip all the initial growing pains and go straight on to conquering the Overlord. From there, it's the usual assortment of eccentric characters and absurd humor you've come to expect from a Disgaea game.

One of the combat mechanics that has given the series a unique feel among strategy RPGs is the ability to stack characters on top of each other and toss them around the battlefield. You'll still be able to do this in Disgaea 3, but now, you've got a few more uses for your human totem pole. You'll be able to use what are called tower attacks to go after enemies in a variety of ways. We were shown a clip of a tower acting as a 10-person cartwheel to roll over and do damage to those caught in its path. There was also a moment with one person grabbing the entire tower and swinging it around, as well as several bizarre chain reactions where characters are shot from the tower like bullets from a loaded magazine.

Another new feature is the skill merge, which takes skills you've acquired throughout your various battles and fuses them together to achieve hybrid results. You can also use an ability called magichange to transform your character midbattle. A few other enhancements include the ability to deal damage up to a million points at a time and a class world that gives you access to 40 randomly generated battle stages per character. With 270 characters in the game, that should add up to quite a bit of space.

Beyond these, one of the bigger features added to the battle system is the idea of geo blocks. These introduce a puzzle element to the fights. They're multicolored blocks that can be stacked and arranged on the battlefield, which can then be taken out in chain attacks to achieve all manner of strange results. We're not yet sure about the specifics of the geo block placement (how much of it is done by the player and so on), but suffice it to say, they should take an already deep battle system and make it even more extravagant.

Tower attacks get to be pretty crazy.

Visually, Disgaea 3 is a bit of an odd duck. The backgrounds have been improved immensely with much sharper textures, but the character sprites still look just as they did before. This creates an odd contrast between the clear backdrops and relatively blurry characters. But with the radiant battle effects, dramatic transformations, and colorful attack animations that occur throughout the course of combat, it would be hard to classify the look as being overly simplistic.

We're looking forward to getting another chance to play Disgaea 3 because there have been far more tweaks and additions made than we've been able to mention here. Until that time comes, you can mark your calendar for an August 26 release.

Discussion

92 comments
Lale_21
Lale_21

How can people waste lots of money for this crap?... This shouldnt be on PS3, PS3 is a powerfull machine that looks like PSX with games like these.

LastRenshai
LastRenshai

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

LastRenshai
LastRenshai

what crappy graphics..i mean yeah, it's an art style but hell they could make it look a lot better.

xTSUKAIMAx
xTSUKAIMAx

well what ever im still a disgaea fan and i own a ps3 mainly for final fantasy and star ocean and other jrpg but look how thats going so yea im gonna get this

9th_SolBadguy
9th_SolBadguy

This game shouldnt be on the PS3 what were they thinking this is a PSP type of game something the PSP needs but no they just send a whole bunch of wasteful ports, poor remakes with little features, just plain out boring games. i'll be honest with you the only games i'm looking out for this system is the Dissidia, Kingdom Hearts, any good 2d fighters, Lego Batman, Star Wars, Spiderman W.O.S.........

IPwnNooBs666
IPwnNooBs666

I seriously can't wait for this game. Hell, this game was one of the reasons why I purchased a PS3 ( worth EVERY penny, woot!). Disgaea was never about flashy graphics, it's more about absurd story lines and kick-ass gameplay that will have you hooked for hours on end. The only downside is that this game series is not for everybody. However, the peeps that like this sorta game will be in for a endless joyride of fun. Nippon Ichi, bring it!!!

Hikaru_Isamu
Hikaru_Isamu

I'm usually the guy who's perfectly content with lack-luster graphics, but the graphics in Disgaea 3 really translate to me as a lack of effort. I can't tell the difference between these screenshots and those from the first game. This is the PS3, it's not like Nippon Ichi didn't have room to experiment with better graphics.

DarkDante152
DarkDante152

Damn, why can't this come out sooner? I'm dying to play this(and of course, other's are as well). Ah well, I guess I'll do...something else.

jeremiah06
jeremiah06

@someguy503 it doesn't have o be 3D to look beautiful

Dualmask
Dualmask

Generally, I prefer sprite based games anyway...as an artist I find hand drawn characters more aesthetically appealing than 3D polygon models. They seem more vibrant. I'd rather play Guilty Gear or SFIII over Tekken or Soul Calibur any day of the week. That said, my only issue would be is if this game costs $60, because I would be led to ask what exactly is making this game cost as much to develop as games with high resolution 3D graphics and textures. But Disgaea is still a hot series and, as long as it's priced right, it'll be added to my PS3 library.

in2DarKneSs
in2DarKneSs

The current trend in gaming to damn sprites is lame. It certainly keeps me from enjoying games like Tales of Destiny R, Tales of Destiny 2, and Tales of Rebirth here in North America. I mean a mix if the two is awesome.

unhinged_one
unhinged_one

I don't know why graphics are such a huge deal. Both Disgaea 1 and 2 were great games solely based on gameplay and storyline. The 3rd installment looks to be following the same pattern. More games should worry less about how pretty their game looks and concentrate more on the overall experience.

jnewco81
jnewco81

They've always used sprites for the Disgaea titles, as its possible to make more expressive character animations that way - play one of them and you'll see what I mean. If you like strategy / rpg's then you can do a lot worse than this series, so don't let the graphic engine put you off - they are charming and engrossing games

jackrocks123
jackrocks123

i love final fantasy tactics so might pick this up

darkwater12
darkwater12

This will be a definate import for me, since europe will most likely not see it for lord knows how long, and since Soul Nomad is finally being released over here, that should tide me over till August, long live Nippon Ichi.

TheLegendKnight
TheLegendKnight

OmegaNemesis28 : geoblocks are new, in D1 and D2 there were geo panels and when you throw one of them on the other one it would break it but now with geoblocks you can stack them on one panel ( saying what i heard from some other sites since GS doesnt mention it ). we should be thankful, Nippon Ichi knows that they should not break the formula that works. I look forward to see new features and new funny characters

ff_medo_lp
ff_medo_lp

if this game a system seller so what Final Fantasy XIII is going to do !!!!!!!!

FallenAngelXBL
FallenAngelXBL

High Def graphics age badly, whilst sprites look great through out time...

Plethorinda
Plethorinda

I'm sure sony didn't predict that Disgaea would be a system seller but it will be for me... Though I really hope the ps3 comes out with some other games I actually want to play. I LOVE Disgaea but I'm not sure if its worth $500+, lol.

someguy503
someguy503

But if it were 3d and had high graphics would it still deliver the same charm its known for?

jeremiah06
jeremiah06

im going to buy the game when August hits but i do wish they would update the graphics and before everyone start to flame me i know its all about game play but whats wrong with being able to enjoy beautiful life like characters on top of the already wonderful game play and plot

IZoMBiEI
IZoMBiEI

whats the point of releasing this on the ps3 if theyre just gonna stick with the ps2 graphics?

Takibi
Takibi

I think this just might be good

cegmp
cegmp

Consider my calendar "Marked!!"

Sushiisownage
Sushiisownage

Looks good. Depends on release price and how much money I'll have at the time. But probally a must buy for me.

cyw1988
cyw1988

I actually have yet to play any of the Disgeas... So I'm hoping to rent this one out when it's released.

SnakefromRussia
SnakefromRussia

I guess, It's just the right time for this game. The point is PS3 really lacks role playing games, That's why people eager to have it.They want something new. Let's wait for Final Fantasy XIII with its new great graphics and see, what will happen with your "old style - gameplay" talks.

Sony_Loyalist
Sony_Loyalist

Another great exclusive for the PlayStation3! Keep up the good work Sony!

Imagine09
Imagine09

thank god for the gamers who still can appretiate what an actual good game looks like. One that doesnt need all the flashy good graphics to make it great.These kinda of games are needed to keep games from going into a direction of graphics are more important than game play and plot.

Imagine09
Imagine09

I loved Final Fantasy Tactics and always will. If this game brings the same tone to the PS3 then ill buy it. I think they need to come out with a real sequal to FFT though.

smollett13
smollett13

These are all some of the funnest games I've played (and continue to play). I wondered how things would look on the PS3, and I'm kinda glad that they stuck with the sprites. Its just the "tone" that they set and the off-the-wall humour that disgaea is known for.

realgundam
realgundam

to joet1973: totally agree. Disgaew3 in particular have a decent difficulty to it. These days ALL STG style games are getting a bit too easy... It doesn;t really test you. Look at SRW series for example... getting way too easy.

CageFury
CageFury

You guys are missing the point. Nobody is telling you to compromise the gameplay to improve the graphics. Gameplay is king, I agree, but it's still no excuse for these horrible sprites.

joet1973
joet1973

I agree that Disgaea is the best SRPG series out there. Final Fantasy Tactics would probably be the best if SquareEnix would release a true sequel to the original game. All we get with FFT these days are games made for children that require no real skill from strategy-loving gamers. Actually.. Thank the heavens for Nippon Ichi!

barrett_rob
barrett_rob

As much as I love disgaea common guys just a little bit of effort with the sprites, if you don't want to do it I'm sure the fans will do it for you.

SnakefromRussia
SnakefromRussia

"it's about gameplay overall so get past the whole next gen graphics stuff PLEASE! If games were made around graphics and not gameplay then most games would suck." Whoa...Then why don't we all just play Pacman, Rogue and Tetris? The gameplay is awesome...what else do you need?

combatsoldier
combatsoldier

i think its great to have these types of games. these are probably some of my favorite because of the old school feel. You have so much crap out there now because everyone wants the new break through and then it turns out horrible. but this is what we need. definitely more old school and its like the old saying. if it aint broke dont fix it. I love old school rpgs, and this one is going to be worth checking out.

coold_steam
coold_steam

wow the graphics ,i mean c;mon what the hell

GothicWar
GothicWar

This seires very awesome and has that old school feel to it, the reason people don't understand this style of gaming they been doing is the humor, the fun, the diffculty and challenges. This may look like the usual SRPG (to those who don't know the term Stragetey Roleplaying Game). this game has alot of great charm and better then other tactical or srpg like games. The fan base is larger then you think people, and trust me it just about graphics and such, it's about gameplay overall so get past the whole next gen graphics stuff PLEASE! If games were made around graphics and not gameplay then most games would suck.

SnakefromRussia
SnakefromRussia

Well, I'd say I am really surprised of the looks of this game. We are in the 21st century for a while already...it's like "Hello, we are talking about PS3, not game boy advance". I would accept this level of graphix on PSP, but not PS3. And all this HD thing will make it even worse. Imagine those HUGE pixels all over the screen of your HD panel. No thanks...This game maybe ment for small amout of people...true fans. But they could have atleast tried to make it look a bit better. High resolution textures, high quality sprites, shaders, fire and water effects, and so on. Improving all this could have made this game a lot better. But no...they've decided to leave them as it is. And I don't actully get what's so special about this game series...Yes, it's nice in some places, it's made with good sense of humor...but the battles feel all the same after a while, an they are not as much tactical as they could be. And to my mind, it's not acceptable for a game, where battles take almost all the game.

xXGr4veXx
xXGr4veXx

I Cant Wait To Get The Third Disgaea! Ive Played The Other Ones And Am Still Playing Them Over And Over!