Sparky's Update - Week 1 of Disgaea 4

Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw (6155 posts) -

I'm cashin' checks and breakin' necks in a nearly all-Disgaea 4 week of gaming here, folks. In honor of the football season starting up, I implore you to ignore the TV completely, grab those pork rinds and beer, and settle in for a long fall's read on what might be the most tragically ignored game of the week here on Giant Bomb. The format of my adventures in Disgaea 4 is blatantly stolen from Dan Kempster's "Enduring Final Fantasy VII," which is a MUCH better read here on Giant Bomb. Get to crackin' on reading that if you haven't already - and if you haven't already, for shame!

OF SARDINES AND MEN

Disgaea 4 starts up with its usual bizarre J-Pop/anime-styled intro video, and I"m immediately reliving my ultimate love-hate relationship with this series. For the record, I've played each one of the proper Disgaea games. I've put in close to probably 100-120 hours in each, and though I don't go completely all-out in finding every legendary weapon or maxing them out to level 100, I'd consider myself a Disgaea pro of sorts. After about thirty seconds of that terrible intro video, I skip forward to the main screen and select a new game.

We are quickly introduced to Valvatorez, a Prinny Instructor in Hades who is obsessed with... sardines? And by obsessed, I mean totally bananas about them in true, annoying anime-fashion. I've said it before, but if you tried to make a drinking game out of how often Valvatorez (who I'll refer to as Val from here on out) says "sardine," you'd kill your liver. Anyways, Val's sinister right hand werewolf Fenrich guides him towards completing his goals for the day, insinuating blatantly he wished his master was back to his former glory as a tyrant of the Netherworld.

Anywho, Val greets his students, the Prinnies, but not before gaining a couple of new members for his team. The training consists of basic Disgaea 4 levels, teaching the user how to move and attack, utilize special moves, and the sort of basic know-how to play a game of this sort. It also broaches upon more advanced Disgaea skills, such as the team attack (which really isn't so advanced, as you just group characters next to one another and make a normal attack) and how to utilize and destroy geo blocks and geo panels. The geo panels are colored panels on the battlefield that have special effects. Essentially, a Geo Block will grant those effects, but only when on one of the colored panels. So, say for example, a geo block was in play on the map that had an Attack +50% effect. On a normal, non-colored title, it wouldn't do anything or add any bonuses. But if it were on a colored tile, all tiles of that color would have that effect. These statuses aren't always positive, and can sometimes lead to much more dangerous or even invincible enemies. But by taking the geo blocks out of play, the enemies lose those bonus effects, rendering them much easier to kill.

The graduation of the prinnies is a happy affair, with Val promising each graduate a single sardine for passing. The prinnies are abruptly kidnapped by a mysterious force. Val, who is also obsessed with keeping promises, vows that he will get the prinnies back so that he may fulfill his promise of one sardine per prinny. Yes, it's stupid. Trust me, you don't play a Nippon-Ichi game for its great storytelling.

Val and Fenrich approach the warden of Hades, Axel, a returning character from the Disgaea series. Axel explains that the "corruptorment" has ordered the death of all prinnies because Hades is becoming too crowded. Prinnies, I should explain, are the souls of humans atoning for their sins... as explosive penguins with a love of the word "dood." Val tricks the death squads sent by the President's son Death Emizel (the embodiment of Death, though he has yet to take a single life - I know, I know, the story gets even worse) into believing Axel is with them, and Axel is supposedly slain (a repeating joke throughout the game). Val and Fenrich take on Emizel and defeat him, naturally, after a five or six stage chapter.

At this point in the game, most everything becomes available in terms of starter shops and the Item World. I've taken a little time to grind level 1-2 and 1-4 a couple of times, but now I jump into the Item World on a very basic sword in order to pump up its stats, do some leveling, and grab some loot. I'm given an Mr. Gency Exit, which enables the player to leave the Item World when used, though it does have its disadvantages (we'll get to that possibly in a far-flung Sparky's Update when I feel like explaining the post-game a bit more in-depth). I've also gone to the game's Senate to create a couple of new characters, namely a healer and a Wind and Fire mage. These characters are the bread and butter of the early game for me, so I take care to assign them prime spots on my team, rearranging characters as I see fit and making sure I keep them in play for the first couple of chapters.

My romp through the Item World introduces me to a few notable changes in the game. First, the Item World now has branching paths, where you can choose to focus on leveling the item or increasing its Residents. An Item's Residents give it long-term benefits and can be transferred item to item, but it's not something I really need to worry about in a low level item. I focus on leveling up the weapon, burning through the various stages without much problem. I also find that there are a few new bonuses in the Mystery Rooms, such as a character that will give you an extra Mr. Gency item. Pretty cool stuff. The game also includes a bit of a tutorial on certain Item World particulars, a first for the series as the Item World is usually left unexplained past its initial shopkeeper's explanation. Nice, but not really necessary for an old pro like me.

At every ten levels of the Item World is an Item General (or variant, such as an Item King). This is a more powerful character that acts as a mid-level boss for the Item World. After defeating the Item General, I go to Item Town, which is essentially a breather for the Item World, and allows you to heal up and either continue forward in the Item World or return to the home base. Since I've leveled my party up fairly decently and obtained a few nice loot items, I decided to call it quits and head back to base.

Let's go ahead and call that the first entry, then. I'm actually pretty far into the game, at about Chapter 5 or so, but I don't want to overwhelm you with an even bigger wall o' text. Hit me up if you have any questions, comments, or thoughts, and if I can explain something further, I will.

Moderator Online
#1 Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw (6155 posts) -

I'm cashin' checks and breakin' necks in a nearly all-Disgaea 4 week of gaming here, folks. In honor of the football season starting up, I implore you to ignore the TV completely, grab those pork rinds and beer, and settle in for a long fall's read on what might be the most tragically ignored game of the week here on Giant Bomb. The format of my adventures in Disgaea 4 is blatantly stolen from Dan Kempster's "Enduring Final Fantasy VII," which is a MUCH better read here on Giant Bomb. Get to crackin' on reading that if you haven't already - and if you haven't already, for shame!

OF SARDINES AND MEN

Disgaea 4 starts up with its usual bizarre J-Pop/anime-styled intro video, and I"m immediately reliving my ultimate love-hate relationship with this series. For the record, I've played each one of the proper Disgaea games. I've put in close to probably 100-120 hours in each, and though I don't go completely all-out in finding every legendary weapon or maxing them out to level 100, I'd consider myself a Disgaea pro of sorts. After about thirty seconds of that terrible intro video, I skip forward to the main screen and select a new game.

We are quickly introduced to Valvatorez, a Prinny Instructor in Hades who is obsessed with... sardines? And by obsessed, I mean totally bananas about them in true, annoying anime-fashion. I've said it before, but if you tried to make a drinking game out of how often Valvatorez (who I'll refer to as Val from here on out) says "sardine," you'd kill your liver. Anyways, Val's sinister right hand werewolf Fenrich guides him towards completing his goals for the day, insinuating blatantly he wished his master was back to his former glory as a tyrant of the Netherworld.

Anywho, Val greets his students, the Prinnies, but not before gaining a couple of new members for his team. The training consists of basic Disgaea 4 levels, teaching the user how to move and attack, utilize special moves, and the sort of basic know-how to play a game of this sort. It also broaches upon more advanced Disgaea skills, such as the team attack (which really isn't so advanced, as you just group characters next to one another and make a normal attack) and how to utilize and destroy geo blocks and geo panels. The geo panels are colored panels on the battlefield that have special effects. Essentially, a Geo Block will grant those effects, but only when on one of the colored panels. So, say for example, a geo block was in play on the map that had an Attack +50% effect. On a normal, non-colored title, it wouldn't do anything or add any bonuses. But if it were on a colored tile, all tiles of that color would have that effect. These statuses aren't always positive, and can sometimes lead to much more dangerous or even invincible enemies. But by taking the geo blocks out of play, the enemies lose those bonus effects, rendering them much easier to kill.

The graduation of the prinnies is a happy affair, with Val promising each graduate a single sardine for passing. The prinnies are abruptly kidnapped by a mysterious force. Val, who is also obsessed with keeping promises, vows that he will get the prinnies back so that he may fulfill his promise of one sardine per prinny. Yes, it's stupid. Trust me, you don't play a Nippon-Ichi game for its great storytelling.

Val and Fenrich approach the warden of Hades, Axel, a returning character from the Disgaea series. Axel explains that the "corruptorment" has ordered the death of all prinnies because Hades is becoming too crowded. Prinnies, I should explain, are the souls of humans atoning for their sins... as explosive penguins with a love of the word "dood." Val tricks the death squads sent by the President's son Death Emizel (the embodiment of Death, though he has yet to take a single life - I know, I know, the story gets even worse) into believing Axel is with them, and Axel is supposedly slain (a repeating joke throughout the game). Val and Fenrich take on Emizel and defeat him, naturally, after a five or six stage chapter.

At this point in the game, most everything becomes available in terms of starter shops and the Item World. I've taken a little time to grind level 1-2 and 1-4 a couple of times, but now I jump into the Item World on a very basic sword in order to pump up its stats, do some leveling, and grab some loot. I'm given an Mr. Gency Exit, which enables the player to leave the Item World when used, though it does have its disadvantages (we'll get to that possibly in a far-flung Sparky's Update when I feel like explaining the post-game a bit more in-depth). I've also gone to the game's Senate to create a couple of new characters, namely a healer and a Wind and Fire mage. These characters are the bread and butter of the early game for me, so I take care to assign them prime spots on my team, rearranging characters as I see fit and making sure I keep them in play for the first couple of chapters.

My romp through the Item World introduces me to a few notable changes in the game. First, the Item World now has branching paths, where you can choose to focus on leveling the item or increasing its Residents. An Item's Residents give it long-term benefits and can be transferred item to item, but it's not something I really need to worry about in a low level item. I focus on leveling up the weapon, burning through the various stages without much problem. I also find that there are a few new bonuses in the Mystery Rooms, such as a character that will give you an extra Mr. Gency item. Pretty cool stuff. The game also includes a bit of a tutorial on certain Item World particulars, a first for the series as the Item World is usually left unexplained past its initial shopkeeper's explanation. Nice, but not really necessary for an old pro like me.

At every ten levels of the Item World is an Item General (or variant, such as an Item King). This is a more powerful character that acts as a mid-level boss for the Item World. After defeating the Item General, I go to Item Town, which is essentially a breather for the Item World, and allows you to heal up and either continue forward in the Item World or return to the home base. Since I've leveled my party up fairly decently and obtained a few nice loot items, I decided to call it quits and head back to base.

Let's go ahead and call that the first entry, then. I'm actually pretty far into the game, at about Chapter 5 or so, but I don't want to overwhelm you with an even bigger wall o' text. Hit me up if you have any questions, comments, or thoughts, and if I can explain something further, I will.

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#2 Edited by MooseyMcMan (10913 posts) -

I like how you already know that the game is going to consume so much of your like that you're measuring this in weeks.  
 
Good luck, my only experience with a Disgaea-y game was ZHP, and from what I've heard, that game is pretty "tame" compared to the "real" Disgaea games. (I definitely liked it a lot though).  
 
Edit: I also never knew what Prinnies were before reading this. I'm not sure how to feel about knowing what they really are. Especially since the "dood" you play as in ZHP is married to one. 

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#3 Edited by SpunkyHePanda (1619 posts) -

I've always found the stories in Disgaea games to be pretty forgettable, but they have a silliness that I can really appreciate.

They've made a lot of cool little improvements in this new one (and one big one with the graphics) but there's one I'm still waiting for: some kind of quick-save feature in the item world. Just a separate save that deletes itself when you load it up (to prevent abusing it) so that I can take a break and turn off my system or play something else. Going through ten floors in a row can be a bit much, and I don't want to have to use a valuable Mr. Gency just because I'm a little burned out. But maybe the PS3 isn't built to support this kind of save structure, I don't know.

#4 Posted by SuperWristBands (2266 posts) -

I dig all the over acting and ridiculously silly characters. I just finished Episode 4 and got a character who thinks she is the final boss. It made me smile.

As for the item world, I didn't know that there was so much to it. I have no idea what "innocence" (or whatever it said) are or that they did anything. Also, what is the down-side of using the Mr. Gency Exits? I've used three so far. Should I not be using them?

#5 Posted by Muerthoz (349 posts) -

I can't believe I'e played Disgaea for as long as I have and just now, while reading this, I finally realized why the Mr. Gency Exit has that name.  
M-R-Gency = Emergency.  

#6 Edited by Sparky_Buzzsaw (6155 posts) -

@Muerthoz:

@SuperWristBands:

@SpunkyHePanda:

@MooseyMcMan:

Moosey - ZHP is a pretty great game, and fairly hardcore in its own right. That desert area with the balloons was just about as tough as anything you're likely to find in a Nippon Ichi game. And I kinda enjoyed the ZHP storyline a bit more, but they're all so hilariously awful that they're kind of endearing.

Spunky - Agreed. The stories in a Nippon game are not exactly the draw for me, but the gameplay practically begs me to stick around just one more hour... after hour... after hour. I fully agree with the want of a quick save, but I think that's more of a problem with the game as opposed to the system's hardware. I went through an Item World once in Disgaea 3 with the intent of finishing it at level 100, and when the level capped out at 80-ish, I was both sort of aggravated and immensely relieved. With achievements and trophies, I think you could set up a reward system for people who make it through an entire Item World without quicksaving while still having the feature available to the rest of us to save our sanity.

Super Wristbands - I kinda like Desco too. Her "final boss attack" is crazy useful too, and she does a good amount of damage. I don't usually use monster characters in Disgaea except when I need their immunities for some reason or another, but I've been using her throughout and she's pretty awesome. As for the Mr. Gency items (love that name), the only real downside is that you don't quite get the same bonuses that you would for finishing the 10 levels and leaving through "normal" means. When you get a super-high powered weapon with a very low rarity (1-30 or so), those little bonuses add up in a big way. Throughout the main game, this isn't really an issue, and you should even be fine during things like the Cave of Ordeals (if they have it again in Disgaea 4 - I haven't seen it yet, but I think it'll require one playthrough to unlock). But for super completionist stuff, you'll want to read up on a FAQ. As much as I've played Disgaea, I'm no completionist or nearly on the level of some of the people who obsess over these games. Essentially, though, you're fine using Mr. Gency items throughout, so long as you know you only get one every ten levels or so, and aren't too worried about getting every last little stat bonus on a weapon or are just going through the first few dozen levels or so.

As for the Innocents, they provide certain stat bonuses that wouldn't ordinarily be in that weapon or item. Say, for example, you have a Common Sword whose only stat increases would be ATK. All items will usually have at least one or two Innocents in them, which can be seen next to the stat increases. You'll see ones like SENTRY or MARKSMAN. These will increase other stats, depending on which innocents are in the weapon. Let's use those two as examples. SENTRY will increase your weapon's DEF bonuses by a little bit while MARKSMAN will increase your HIT. By going through the Item World and "subduing" Innocents (read - killing them before your enemies can), you can add more Innocent residents to your weapon, increasing either the number already in there. You can also swap Innocents between weapons, but that's not something I really do a whole lot, as I'm not deep into the end game stuff. However, it can be super useful to read up on this stuff if you're looking to create some super weapons that increase specific stats.

Whew. That's a lot to take in and to write about. I'm afraid I'm a little rusty at explaining all this, so I'll try to write up something a little bit more on the Item World. But don't panic! This game can be played pretty much however you want with as much depth as you want. I highly, highly recommend just playing it normally as you are now, get through the main quest, and then when you start delving into the post-game stuff, start researching then. It's absolutely shocking how much depth there is to these games beyond just the main quest.

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#7 Posted by SuperWristBands (2266 posts) -

@Sparky_Buzzsaw: Thank you very much for the info. I bought the guide but haven't looked through the whole thing. What I have looked though is pretty lame and not very useful. I didn't even know that I was supposed to kill the innocents either. I just assumed that taking the innocent path gave me some decoys or something.

#8 Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw (6155 posts) -

@SuperWristBands: Hey, no problem. I'm not a really great expert on the ins and outs of the game, but if you have any more questions, hit me up any time. It can be a hell of a confusing series to jump into for the first time. You might even want to check out some online Disgaea 3 FAQ's about the Item World as most of it pertains to Disgaea 4 as well. But like I say, initially, I wouldn't worry a bit about the Item World except to level up items and gain experience, and then dip yourself slowly into a guide and have fun with it. Wait'll you start hitting some higher levels and start dealing with Item World pirates - those can be both a riot and a real pain in the ass!

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#9 Edited by Chop (1996 posts) -

I'm on chapter 3 and so far it's a typical Disgaea experience for me. Annoying story, voice acting, and characters but all the gameplay systems still nail the pleasure center in my brain. I still have no idea what does it but ten years later, I still find building my team addicting beyond measure. 

#10 Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw (6155 posts) -

@Chop: I agree completely. In just about any other game, the story and characters would have driven me off years ago. But I've been playing since Disgaea 2 was released (and later played all of them), and the gameplay scratches an itch I can't define. What's your general team build? I usually power level a few main characters (namely Val and Fen in this one), build up two third-tier warriors and mages, and then start the long process of reincarnating them into different jobs and the like. This time's no different, but I'm sorta liking the shaman class as a potential start for the mages better.

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#11 Posted by Chop (1996 posts) -
@Sparky_Buzzsaw said:

@Chop: I agree completely. In just about any other game, the story and characters would have driven me off years ago. But I've been playing since Disgaea 2 was released (and later played all of them), and the gameplay scratches an itch I can't define. What's your general team build? I usually power level a few main characters (namely Val and Fen in this one), build up two third-tier warriors and mages, and then start the long process of reincarnating them into different jobs and the like. This time's no different, but I'm sorta liking the shaman class as a potential start for the mages better.

 
I'm actually rocking a more monster heavy team this time around. My newest favorite trick is putting a gargoyle and my mages on the protect evil symbol. Then in battle I just have the gargoyle follow my mages around and I end up with an awesome three piece mage-monster machine.  
 
I'm really, really digging the evil symbols. They break the game more than ever but hey...isn't that the point of Disgaea?
#12 Posted by ArbitraryWater (11630 posts) -

I admit, I eventually reached a ceiling in the first game where I simply couldn't stand the grinding anymore. That's not to say that Disgaea isn't a good game, because it clearly is, but when the game itself starts making (bad) jokes about how much time you have to spend simply to progress, it's a problem. One of these days I'll have to go back to it... Of course, that would entail me bringing my PS2 to school, which is not an option, at least for now.

#13 Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw (6155 posts) -

@Chop: That's a solid idea. I'm liking magichange a lot more than I used to, and the monster fusion is pretty damn fun, but I haven't been concentrating on beasties too much. I'll probably have some more fun with them when I get to a good leveling position and can boost them rapidly. The beastmaster is also oddly useful this time around, which is a nice change.

@ArbitraryWater:

Believe me, I completely understand. There's a reason it's a super-niche series. Sometimes though, the grind in Disgaea can be almost hypnotic for me. It sounds weird, because I know I rip on the grinds necessary in LOTRO or certain other RPG's, but in this one, I think the randomness of the Item World and the potential for quick grinds in certain maps makes it far more addictive and bearable.

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#14 Posted by dankempster (2252 posts) -

Great write-up, Sparky. As someone who's never played a Disgaea game, and doesn't own a PS3, this will definitely be an interesting journey for me as a reader. Glad to hear you're enjoying the game, and I'm really looking forward to future instalments of this.

Also, thanks a ton for the mention and praise for Enduring FFVII. I really need to find my PSP's charger and get back on that ASAP.

#15 Posted by endaround (2142 posts) -

@SuperWristBands said:

@Sparky_Buzzsaw: Thank you very much for the info. I bought the guide but haven't looked through the whole thing. What I have looked though is pretty lame and not very useful. I didn't even know that I was supposed to kill the innocents either. I just assumed that taking the innocent path gave me some decoys or something.

The big thing with the exits are they are limited in the sense you only can get them by getting to level 10 (or multiple of) in an item or by having them come up on the bonus table in item world. As for the residents of the item, when you encounter one, they are a 3rd faction in the item world and often will attract a decent amount of enemies so its a race to kill them before everyone else does. The big benefit they have is that when captured they can be transferred to new items that you find. So you can transfer part of that work you put in to a new weapon/item which now outclasses the old one.

#16 Posted by miva2 (226 posts) -

@Sparky_Buzzsaw: i had to stop reading to disagree with this [quote]you don't play a Nippon-Ichi game for its great storytelling.[/quote]

I play NIS games for their great storytelling. well, mainly for their awesome gameplay and just total awesomeness in everything,including story.

I really liked the story in ZHP. maybe i just like bad storylines, but the fact is that i enjoy the story.

I just wanted to share that :)

Thank you for writing this Sparky Buzzsaw. I'll read the other installments later.

@Muerthoz: haha, i was so happy when i figured that out. i was pretty far in D1 at that point.

@Chop: I completely agree with you. I spent too much time on building my team.

2 weeks or so ago i, when i played D2 on psp on the bus, i spent the entire drive creating 2 characters and ordering my items(i keep everything). it was a 30-40min drive.

@Chop said:

They break the game more than ever but hey...isn't that the point of Disgaea?

i like this quote :)

#17 Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw (6155 posts) -

@miva2: Hah! You've got me. If you're into awesomely bad stories, then yes, I suppose NIS would definitely be the company to go to! Anyways, thanks for the comment. I'm planning on finishing the series up as soon as I can tear myself away from Skyrim, which should be.... ermmmm.... someday?

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