Disgaea 3 Preview

Playing hooky, Japanese-style.

And no—you would-be, Shibuya-trawling pre-verts, you—I’m not talking about ‘phone-dating’ (that’s, like, another kind of ‘hooky’ entirely); I’m talking about NIS America’s forthcoming, eagerly-anticipated North American release of Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice for the PS3.

[image1]It’s usually safe to count on Nippon Ichi Software titles being a little, well, off-the-wall… even by mainstream-Japanese standards (this is, after all, the game company that gave us the deceptively-cute, usually-disgruntled, more-than-occasionally-exploding, penguin-esque flunkies called Prinnies, not to mention the alternate PSP game-mode that kills off the main character before the damned game even starts). In still another forthcoming title for the Nintendo DS, they’ve devoted the DS’s upper screen to a running, mocking, MST3K-style ‘Prinny Commentary’ that cracks wise on the developments on the lower screen throughout the progress of the player’s entire game. So, yeah—11 out of 10 for style, whatever else happens.

NIS America recently had their first San Francisco-based event in years, at the South-of-Market area’s Zebulon club. They showed off their forthcoming lineup of PS3, PS2 and even Nintendo DS titles. The announcement of Nintendo DS titles made for lots of buzz, but the big-console belle of that particular ball was the forthcoming Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice (formerly released in Japan under the subtitle Makai Senki Disugaia SurÄ«).

Disgaea 3 is not a continuation of the previous game’s story and characters, but a new setting altogether:.Imagine a quirky, fantasy-minded, dysfunctional-student-intensive Netherworld University populated by aspiring demons who all go to the same cosplay clothiers—a sort of Hogwartian-Harajuku-on-the-Styx. A place where the ‘honor students’ (like our new protagonist Mao) are the ones who A) don’t show up for class, and B) endeavor to be as cartoonishly, epically-Evil as possible, up to and including offing their own parents in the name of power-play; and the ‘delinquent’ screwups (like Miss Raspberyl) are the ones who actually show up to class, [gasp] try to do the occasional Good Deed, and eventually aspire to become Legendary Delinquents (whatever the, literally, Hell that means in this tooled-up, infernal/academic world).

[image2]We’ll be seeing new characters, ‘heroes’ and exploding Prinnies—but all presented with the same level of oddball humor (and cartoonish character psychopathology) we’ve come to expect from Nippon Ichi Software. And thanks to Playstation Network functionality, long-time NIS fans will have game-content to look forward to even after (perhaps we should say ‘even if’) they eventually beat this newest wave of the Disgaea brand of wacky, incredibly-deep—and self-described “Stupid Hard”—turn-based strategy.

Jack Niida (Localization Director for NIS America), interviewed by Chris Hudak (Prinny Wrangler and former Penguin Recorder for the San Francisco Zoo):

GR: Regarding the general flow of the game: How much of the game is Battle Mode (turn-based battles), and how much is ‘preparation’ (non-combat activities in the Academy)?

Jack Niida: We believe Disgaea always had a good balance between game play and preparation, so we’ve kept that tradition. The ratio would be about 80% battles and 20% for preparation and storytelling. However, once you beat the game and you are trying to unlock or defeat the various extra stages that ration changes to about 95% and 5%.

GR: Is the Academy an environment that players spend time in, or that they can explore?

Jack Niida: The Evil Academy is like the Overlord’s castle in Disgaea 1, where players will use it as there HQ and prepare for upcoming battles. Here you can create new units, power-up items, check game status, and beat the crap out of the student council to get your requests through. For new gamers the Student Council is where you could request ridicules things like “make the enemy weaker”, “become a pirate”, “meet a main character from another game”, etc.

[image3]GR: Is the game-story essentially linear, or can players get different results by choosing different actions?

Jack Niida: Disgaea has a different twist to the non-linear game system in which the result changes according to how you play the battles, rather than what you choose to do during the story mode. For instance, you could watch one of the bad endings by attacking and killing your own units or by defeating a certain enemy with a specific character. Also you could even “ask” the student council of the Evil Academy to create a whole new story chapter for you. These new chapters usually have a unique ending that could be either a good ending or a bad ending.

GR: What exactly is the ‘preparation’ aspect of the game?

Jack Niida: Preparation is a very important part of the game in which you create, form, and maintain your army of demons. You could create your own custom characters and modify them by giving them unique stats and weapons or challenge the Item World. In Disgaea, character units aren’t the only thing for you to level-up, things like weapons and items can power-up exponentially by beating the battle stages known as the Item World. There are many more interesting features like the student council (to make bizarre wishes), and the classroom system to form your own unique battle squads.

GR: Do any of the main characters from earlier Disgaea games appear?

Jack Niida: Absolutely, from the fan favorites of the series to the more hardcore characters, players can expect to see many familiar faces. Not only that, Disgaea 3 will have a downloadable content feature through the PlayStation Network to download new and old returning characters. It should be a lot of fun for many Disgaea fans, so please look forward to our updates. You might see some surprising characters.

GR: Are there any separate or special modes/activities (like the Item World in Afternoon of Darkness)?

[image4]Jack Niida: The Item World for one will return for sure, but aside from that, there are many fun modes, like the Class World, that powers your characters up instead of your items. The system works similar to the Item World in which you enter a number of randomly generated battle maps and the further you go, the tougher it gets. Upon clearing the Class World your character will become super strong. And if you’re lucky, you’ll encounter a secret room within the Class World where you could pay Mana points to become even stronger.

The Dark stages are another new mode that you could challenge yourself. Here, the object is to defeat more puzzle-like battle stages, rather than straight on fighting stages. Dark Stages can only be unlocked through the student council, so you’re gonna have to start bribing your rivals to see it.

GR: Will the U.S. release of the game still have the option for Japanese audio?

Jack Niida: Yes, this feature has been around ever since our first Disgaea release and we plan on keeping it. Many of our fans prefer the Japanese audio, so it’s a must for Disgaea.

GR: Are there any ‘Extras’ (making-of materials, artwork, anime videos) on the disc?

Jack Niida: The most awesome feature of Disgaea 3 would have to be the downloadable content. There have been games where you could download new characters and items, but Disgaea takes that one step further and allows you to download new complete story chapters. These new chapters can be for stand alone play, so it gives Disgaea 3 life even after completely beating the game. These new game contents will be available through the PlayStation Network soon after the game release.

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