Mao is the son of the overlord of the netherworld. A true honor student of the netherworld academy means that he's never attended a day of school and is diabolical as can be. Once upon a time, his father stepped on his game console and ruined a 4 million hour save file of his favorite game. Now destroyed, Mao has vowed to defeat his father by any means necessary. Even, enlisting the aid of a 'hero'.
The story is insanely goofy. More so than the story is the dialog and characters. I can't tell you how many times I laughed out loud while playing this game. Whether it's the characters arguing over 'titles' or characters pointing out how a plot point is cliche. It never gets old and it entertains so well.
Disgaea has never really strayed from it's roots. It's a tactical RPG that runs on a grid. The more unique aspects of Disgaea is generally the absolute off the wall leveling, abilities, gearing, and tactics you can use. Once you've unlocked the features, the academy area becomes your central hub. From here you can buy gear, train abilities, customize your gameplay, or select your destination.
When you select a destination, you're greeted with a battle. As stated earlier, battle is done on a grid. Each round you select where your characters move to, and what abilities they trigger. Each character can move and perform an action once per turn. After a turn, the enemy moves and attacks with their units. This continues til you meet your goal or lose.
The spice Disgaea adds to these standard tactical RPG elements is the off the wall things you can do during combat. Grouping multiple character together when performing a standard attack can group them together to unleash a crazy group attack. You can stack your characters on top of each other in order to chain throw your characters across the map to get to a destination quicker. You can turn a monster character into a special weapon for one of your other characters. You can utilize special blocks to make certain grid tiles give you benefits. Those aside, the most satisfying aspect of combat is definitely the special abilities you perform with each character. The insane explosions and off the wall attacks just make the game so entertaining.
Outside of combat, there's a host of things you can do to customize your gameplay. Each character has a weapon slot and 3 armor slots. Anyone can wear any weapon (though some are required for certain abilities) and any armor can be put in any slot. There's an ability trainer that will allow you to spend mana (gained in battle) to learn new abilities or level up current ones. There's also class and character based potentials you can buy as well. These potentials can give you stat increases or special attributes like immunity.
Any weapon, armor, or item can be upgraded by doing what's called "Item World." At the Item World vendor, you'll select what item you want to level up, then you'll enter the item's world where you'll defeat level after level of enemies. Leveling it up as you go along.
Final way of customizing your gameplay is to enter a classroom session. Here you can assign characters to clubs that share bonuses, move seats to give group attack bonuses, and even call a vote by the student council. These votes can be anywhere from having the vendors sell more expensive (and better) gear, to raising difficulty, to even being able to create new characters with new job types.
New to the Vita is the newly crafted art for the dialog screens. They are definitely well done and very colorful. The only real downside to NIS's love for tradition however is in it's character sprites. Using similar methods to previous gen models, they have become slightly dated. I personally have no problem with it as I rather enjoy the old school sprites, some may find it a turn off as they are pixelated at times. The backgrounds and abilities are also rather dated looking. However that's not to say the backgrounds, abilities, and sprites being dated pull from the game experience.
First off, I want to say that the voice work in this game is stellar. Typically with JRPGs the first thing I do is scramble for the Japanese voice option (which yes, this game has!). However they did so well here, I actually preferred English over Japanese.
The sound effects themselves are well done and work to enhance the experience. I will say however that it seems some of the effects were not transferred to the Vita's speakers well. As sometimes you'll get some slight crackle in the more noisy situations.
The music is very quirky and fun, however after some time I chose to turn it off in favor for some music played from my personal Vita music library. It's just too off the wall for my taste.
Plain in simple, this game is chock full of things to do. It's utterly a time sink that is so much fun if you get into it. A huge bargain for the money as you can easily sink hundreds of hours into it. Best of all, they want you to break this game. Get 999999k damage hit. Over-level your weapon to one shot bosses. Do it! The downside is that if you're not too into it, you may end up becoming overwhelmed. Rest assure though, if you start playing this game and decide you won't get into the insane depth, there's still a standard game at it's surface.