Sparky's Update - Disgaea 4, Episode 10 - A Finale of Sorts

To be honest, saying that this is the end of Disgaea 4 would be misleading. There is an absolute ton of post-game content, including some goofy side missions, the Cave of Ordeals, pirate hunting (and reverse pirating!), and so much more that it's bananas to even think about finishing all of it. But this, readers, marks the end of the main story of Disgaea, and for a time, it'll mark the end of this series of blogs. I fully intend on bringing up what I'm doing in Disgaea 4 in future Sparky's Updates, but I don't believe they'll be nearly the length of these blogs. Thanks for all the support over these ten blogs. I know I've been completely inconsistent on their schedule and am about a month late in delivering the last one, but here it finally is - the so-called end of Disgaea 4.

Defying God

The episode opens with Artina explaining what she recognizes as Fear the Great. Fear is a system put in place by none other than God himself to destroy the world should the level of malice on Earth reach a certain point. It doesn't take long for the party to figure out that the cause for the terrible malice is Judge Nemo. Despite the seemingly insurmountable odds of defying God and destroying Fear the Great, the party saddles up. Flonne declares she cannot take part in the upcoming battles, but she createst a link for the party to appear before Fear the Great. Convenient - and I'm extremely grateful I don't have to listen to her screeching voice anymore. Seriously, imagine a five year old with a screech like nails on a chalkboard, and you'll get an inkling of how annoying Flonne's voicework is.

Now that we've ditched the Love Angel, the party discovers dark, malice-formed versions of monsters. It takes Valvatorez a minute to recognize the voice of Nemo, muttering in pain and anger through all the creatures' voices. The team quickly takes out a great many of the malice-monsters. Slowly throughout the next few battles, Artina reveals the tale of how she knows Judge Nemo.

Four hundred years prior, when Artina and Valvatorez met on their fateful day upon the battlefield and he made his promise to her to never drink blood again until he had frightened her, there was a war going on between two nameless sides. A soldier from one of the sides was wounded and brought to the enemies' camp as a prisoner. There, he was treated by a beautiful and kind woman - Artina. He eventually escaped back to his own side, where he was thought to be a spy and a traitor. He was tortured, his family was persecuted and killed, and he was left once again to the enemies' mercy, where he was also tortured and beaten again. Artina was believed to be a traitor for treating him, and she was killed in front of Nemo. In anguish, he vowed to live his years finding retribution for her.

His rage lasted beyond even his death, and Nemo became a ghost. Although he didn't seek vengeance against the entirety of mankind or demons at first, slowly, as he witnessed the atrocities of man, he came to hate mankind and blame the demons for not doing their duties on Earth by punishing the wicked. His mind cracked, and he became the entity known as Judge Nemo. Artina, who had become an angel upon her death, had stayed with him every day, trying to convince him there was good in the world and to stop his quest for vengeance, but due to his lack of faith, he never saw her.

Back in the present, the party is nearly overwhelmed by the malice-monsters. Fenrich devises a plan to get at the heart of Nemo, by convincing him the angel Artina was there and that she wanted him to stop his madness. Nemo continues to refuse and deny her existence, despite the fact that she slowly starts to get through to him. During one rough battle, Fear the Great and Nemo put up a desperate last stand together as a giant dragon-creature. To the delight of the party (save Fenrich), Valvatorez vows to protect Artina until he keeps his promises to her. The party manages to defeat the malice-monsters yet again, cornering the dragon-monster and forcing him to see Artina for who she truly is. Valvatorez and Artina gently convince him to stop his search for vengeance and retribution, and realizing his madness, Nemo agrees. Before leaving, he says that he and Fear the Great will "disappear."

Realizing that Nemo means to end his existence entirely by taking Fear the Great into the void of nothingness and erase his own soul in the process, Artina and Val agree that they must stop him and make him atone for his sins the hard way - by becoming a Prinny! Truthfully, the story of Nemo and his regretfulness seems to have struck a chord in the party, so saving him and punishing him seem to be the goals in equal measure. They encounter Nemo at the very core of Fear the Great, and inform him that they will save his soul in order to punish him properly as a Prinny. Each demon member of the team cheerfully informs Nemo of the particular nasty things they have in mind for him to do to make up for his sins, and grateful to Valvatorez and Artina, Nemo agrees to be reborn as a Prinny. Before that can happen, Fear the Great mkaes one last grab at Nemo, transforming him into the real final boss of the game - the malice version of Nemo himself.

This was a ridiculously hard battle this time around, due to my self-imposed restriction of "No Valvatorez." The map itself is straightforward - no Geo Blocks or areas, just a beeline to Nemo and about four generic, powerful enemies... at first. Every turn, a new enemy is warped into a random spot until Nemo is defeated. I tried at first to strategize this one, using a warrior and fighter to fend off the normal enemies while my damage-dealing Shaman and Masked Hero blasted Nemo. It worked like crap, and I quickly realized I needed to focus all my characters on killing Nemo as quickly as possible - a task made much more difficult due to his high hit points. Still, though, drawing him in towards the base, chipping away at his HP, and sending out as many characters as possible to deal combinations of damage whittled him down, and soon enough, the battle was won.

Valvatorez asks Emizel to perform his duties as Death and reap Nemo's soul. Emizel is reluctant, having never actually taken a soul before, but eventually cuts down a grateful Nemo and sends him to Hades. The narrator gives a few lines about how the six companions would go on to become legends, and the game ostensibly ends there. Being Disgaea, however, there are all sorts of alternate endings and additional scenes after the credits roll. I won't spoil any of these for you here, because I've gotta leave you with SOME reason to do the quest. Suffice it to say, though, that these add quite a bit to the replayability of the game and I look forward to eventually unlocking them all.

And that's it, really. The credits roll, a couple of scenes play out, and we're dumped right back into the game. There are two options from here - continue playing the current game, which allows you to access a bunch of post-game stuff, or start a New Game+ with everything - and I mean everything - intact. For me, for now, this is the last I'll play of Disgaea 4 for a while, but someday soon, I'll be back for the Cave of Ordeals and the post-game missions.

I genuinely hope you enjoyed this blog series and learned a little bit about what makes Disgaea and an NIS game tick. It's a game that I personally adore, having now spent just over about 50 hours with it. There's really nothing like it on the market (save for its predecessors), and if you're the kind of person who loves an incredibly deep game that requires a ton of grinding, this is exactly the game for you. Even if that doesn't sound appealing, I dare you to try it, and I'll bet you'll be surprised at how much you enjoy it.

Good night, folks, and a very happy New Year.

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Sparky's Update - Disgaea 4, Episode 9

I've got my PS3 on and am downloading a patch for Disgaea 4 as we speak. Hopefully when that's done, I will be able to dive in and finish up this blog series tonight with Episode 10 sending us home. In the meantime, kick back, drink a Pepsi Max (so damn good with rum), and dive in.

Oh, and happy New Year's to everyone. Whether your year was good, bad, or somewhere in between, here's hoping 2012 sees a better year for all of us.

To the Moon, Alice

The party has just learned that the nefarious Judge Nemo has plans to destroy the moon. Incredulous, the party demands an explanation. Nemo explains that this is his Plan B (not the day-after pill, you filthy heathens). He has set up explosive devices on the moon with a little help. The party, as always, vows to stop him. The party argues amongst themselves how they should get to the moon, be it through rocket ship, a badass robot of some sort, or through other means. Fenrich snaps at them all to stop being such idiots, and that he's already arranged for the dimensional guide to create a portal there for them.

On arrival, the party immediately notices that there are all sorts of structures dotting the moon's surface that look like some sort of base. Oh, and Fuka lets out an explosion of breath, not realizing that as a demon, she apparently doesn't need to breathe (look, it's an NIS game, just forget science exists, mmmkay?). The party storms the base, and discovers that Nemo's helpers are aliens. This episode is full of not-so-sly nods to its inspirations, and these aliens, though humanoid in appearance, are obviously directly inspired by the bureaucratically obsessed Vogons of Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. They insist that the party must follow all its rules and regulations, including submitting the proper forms to visit the base and its leaders. Of course, the party refuses and takes out some aggression on those alien scumbags.

Once that's over and done with, Fenrich flies off the handle, demanding to know how to shut down the explosives on the moon. The aliens don't give in right away, insisting again that regulations must be followed. Fenrich and the crew make a few threats here and there, and soon enough, the aliens spill the beans. Apparently the moon base has an ignition switch that must be demolished to destabilize the explosives... but if the party does that, they risk destroying the gravity generator or some such and creating a black hole - again, this game kind of ignores centuries of science in favor of... well... weirdness.

The party is at a complete loss as to what to do - risk a black hole and destroy the ignition switch, or let nature run its course and let the moon be destroyed. Fenrich flies into a quiet, sulking rage at himself for not knowing what to do, and the rest of the party mulls over the choice... except for Val. For him, the choice is obvious - take a chance on saving the Earth, of course. He gently chides Fenrich and the rest of the party for even thinking that they shouldn't take a chance like this, and relieved that someone is once again taking the reins, the party agrees that destroying the ignition switch is the best move. The party continues on, finding the ignition switch surprisingly close, and after a quick confrontation with some of the aliens, they destroy it. The party is just about ready to metaphorically pop the champagne bottles and get in the celebrating mood, but Judge Nemo pops up and snickers that they've not won yet, that there is still another ignition switch to go.

The party hunts down this second ignition switch, and in a slightly more difficult battle, they manage to destroy it too. The nefarious Nemo crops up yet again, and tells them a quick little story about how he came to work with the aliens. It seems that the humans were scheduled to be destroyed by a Pan-Galactic Council (see what I mean about Douglas Adams, again?), so Nemo asked them to let him try it his way first, with the demon clones. When that failed, together Nemo and the aliens devised the alternate plan to destroy the moon, which would create tsunamis, global disasters, and the end of mankind. And if that plan was somehow stopped, well, then, a black hole could be created, ending the Earth once and for all.

The team hunts down the base's reactor core, the source of all energy on the moon. Of course, it's being guarded by more alien scumbags, so they've gotta deal with them first. But once that's done, Val and his merry crew take down the reactor, which creates a rumbling earthquake. Uneased and unhinged, the party panics, and Nemo rears his ugly head one again, explaining that they've managed to stop the black hole from being formed. However, in shutting down the moon's power, they've destabilized the gravitational field keeping the moon in its place, and so the moon is now plummeting towards Earth. The only thing that could save the Earth would be for some great force to push it back up into orbit. Naturally, Desco and Fuka assume this means that they've gotta start jumping up and down, which is perhaps my absolute favorite moment in the game - it's just such a silly, childish moment that it's hard not to laugh as they hop up and down with all their might.

In any case, of course that doesn't work. But in a flash of light, a newcomer appears with a piercingly annoying cry about love energy. Enter Flonne, a character first introduced in the original Disgaea and the Lady Archangel to whom Artina/Volcanus is sworn to serve. You don't need to know much, if anything, about Flonne's backstory in Disgaea 4, but essentially, in the original Disgaea, she was sent from the heavens to assassinate an Overlord and winds up joining with the characters in that game to teach the protagonist all about love. In successive games, she plays mostly minor roles in post-game content. So, back on topic, she's essentially an angel of love, a point thoroughly emphasized and shoved down the throat of both the characters and me, the player. Yeeeech.

Flonne has brought with her a secret weapon to help stop the moon from crashing into the Earth. In one of the game's rare actual cutscenes, we see the parts of a giant lady robot quickly assembling, much like an anime Mega-Maid (and if you don't get that reference, FOR SHAME). The robot tries to push the moon up into orbit, but Flonne claims it needs more awe energy, the energy formed when humans pray to the heavens. Val decides that the party must pray, to which Fenrich denies vehemently. He believes that they can do this without prayer, that there must still be some aliens left with the technology to help them instead. Val agrees that it's worth a shot.

Somewhere in the midst of all these happenings, Flonne lets slip Volcanus's true name, Artina (which we've known but the party hasn't entirely confirmed - they've guessed). Judge Nemo doesn't hear it from Flonne or Artina's lips, because he can't hear angels, but in shock, the party repeats Artina's name, to which Judge Nemo is utterly shocked. He knows the name of Artina, and curses the party for saying that she was there, disbeliving that she was there in the room too because he can't see or hear her due to his lack of faith.

We are also shown a snippet of how Fenrich came to be in Val's service, and why Fenrich is so adamant about saving the moon. Fenrich had been critically wounded by an unseen something, but Val saved him. In return, Fenrich offered his eternal servitude to Val. Val tried to dissuade him, claiming that Fenrich should live his life however he wished to. Fenrich states that he wants nothing more than to serve Val for the rest of his days. Val states that so long as the moon shines, Fenrich will serve him, a vow Fenrich is completely happy with. So that's why he's so set on saving the moon. Bleeeeeeargh.

In the final battle, the few aliens left fight against my team, which has seen a few notable changes since the last boss fight. I've reincarnated my two primary mages into different classes in order to try out some different things. I've never really used the Shaman or Masked Hero classes, so I decided I'd give them a go. When humanoid characters reincarnate in Disgaea, they retain the abilities of their former class(es) and can receive stat boosts if they've collected enough Mana from killing enemies (or by gaining mana from other characters as they kill enemies if they are situated correctly in the Senate). My new Shaman, therefore, has some great Fire, Wind, and Star spells while my Masked Hero has Ice and Star abilities to boot. The Shaman class looks interesting in that there are a ton of support abilities to learn, all of which are a low cost in Mana, while the Masked Hero gives my character a nice boost in movement range. I haven't yet experimented much with their new Evilties, which I plan to do once I can boost their Mana, probably post-game. In any case, I've taken some time to level them each to about level 70-ish, which leaves them sort of vulnerable but able to still cast devastating spells, especially with their top-notch equipment.

These two characters pretty much run the gauntlet of this boss fight. I've kept an archer/healer and Volcanus behind them, healing them and supporting them. It isn't much of a fight, as most everything goes down quickly save the boss itself, a Magichanged alien with lots of hit points. Keeping it at range and using a few new nifty debilitating effects from the shaman keeps the battle short and sweet.

After the fight, the party has rounded up the aliens. Apparently, there is nothing they can do to stop the moon's fall, so Fenrich demands they kneel and pray to Mega-Maid... errr... the robot Flonzor X (even the game acknowledges how dumb that name is). Artina and Flonne chide him for that, stating that they can't draw much awe energy from people forced to pray. In a last act of desperation, Desco, Fuka, and Emizel begin to pray, though some with a fair bit of grumbling. That adds a bit of energy to Flonzor X, but not nearly enough... until it receives a big boost from somewhere unseen. A video screen pops up - the boost has come from Axel, Hugo (the former President of the Netherworld), and the masses of the Netherworld itself. Flonzor receives yet another boost of energy, this time coming from the human world, who have received videos of Val and his crew fighting on the moon for them.

But all that energy still isn't enough. In one last fit of desperation, Fenrich begins to pray - not to God, not to Flonzor, but to his faith in Valvatorez. Did I mention these NIS games have a tendency to become cloyingly saccharine at times? Ugh. Anyways, this last boost of energy does it, and Flonzor X is able to push the moon back into its proper orbit. Judge Nemo arrives in a fit of rage, but is incoherent and quickly disappears, seemingly in pain. A cold, dark energy descends upon the Earth and the party. Val describes it as being "dark and confusing," claiming that evil wasn't a good enough word for the feeling. The episode ends as Artina realizes that something she recognizes has been unleashed.

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Top Books I Read in 2011

I didn't include non-game related stuff in my Awards Extravaganza, so I thought I'd include my other favorite hobby here. I didn't read a great many releases from 2011, but I did go through a great many quality books this year and I feel they should be mentioned. Just like with my games, there is a clear-cut winner for my Book of the Year, but by no means should that be taken that the others were somehow inferior or shouldn't be read. I think all of these books are excellent.

The Wise Man's Fear - Patrick Rothfuss

Without question, this was my favorite book of 2011 and the finest modern fantasy novel since Tad Williams's Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn. The second in the Kingkiller series, this book takes the great groundwork laid out by its predecessor and improves upon it in every way. As Kvothe's alternately sad and sweet tale continues to unfold, I am more and more hooked. It is the story of a very clever, crafty student who stumbles through relationships as easily as he masterfully takes charge of his own fate as a magician, musician, and a warrior, and it is powerfully enchanting stuff.

The First Law trilogy - Joe Abercrombie

It took me a while to get into The First Law novels. At first, I was frustrated with Abercrombie's abrupt, straightforward storytelling. He trims a lot of descriptions down to their very barest essentials, leaving a world that I want to know more about but am left with only the barest of details. However, what the reader is left with is a tight, grim account of anti-heroes trying their best to save the world. The trilogy really pays off in its last novel, spinning on its head everything I thought I knew and understood about who these characters were and where they were heading. The last half of the third novel is perhaps the single most grim triumph of the so-called "good guys" I've ever seen. If you're like me and you hesitate to finish this series based on the first half of the first novel, trust in Abercrombie and stick with it. It turns into a pretty neat read.

The Handsome Man's Guide to Being Handsome - Kevin Shively

This was a Christmas gift from my awesomely awesome brother. I literally read it in two sittings - it's that damn funny and engaging. It's precisely what it sounds like - a comedic look at being handsome, from the fella that runs the comedy blog KevinSaysThings.com. If you're looking for something straight-up funny to read, this is highly recommended. There's a chapter devoted to the description and identification of crazy women that is classic and had me about in tears.

The Way of Kings - Brandon Sanderson

This year saw me catch up on a lot of Brandon Sanderson's novels, namely the Mistborn trilogy and this one. I wasn't a fan of the Mistborn trilogy, but The Way of Kings is a markedly better book than those. It is sprawling in the vein of the very best in fantasy novels, has a few great characters, and best of all, he doesn't become overly engrossed or detailed in the inane specifics of his magic system. He has a lovingly crafted world here, and I really look forward to seeing what he does with it in the future.

Red Seas Under Red Skies - Scott Lynch

I freakin' love Scott Lynch's novels. Red Seas does an admirable job of carrying the torch from The Lies of Locke Lamora, and while it never is quite as good as that remarkable novel, it is still fantastically good. I said in a review on Goodreads that there's this deception of swashbuckling and a feel-good vibe throughout the first two-thirds of the novel that is slowly, horrifically cast off by the time the novel is finished. Lynch is a master of that sinking void, wherein I try as a reader to claw at the remains of that feel-good nature as he slowly, deliberately pulls me into that pit of sadness by its end. It is full of the same wit and banter that permeated the first novel, with an added feel that the two protagonists have now grown up, insofar as these two gentlemen bastards can grow up. I cannot wait for the third novel.

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Sparky's Update - Disgaea 4, Episode 8

Since I needed to kill some time and had writer's block, I decided to get another one of these out to you all. Hopefully, I'll be able to finish up the last two episodes remaining sometime soon. Like... errr... before 2013? Hopefully? Bear with me on this one. A lot of plot points are addressed rapidly in the game, so I'm going to try to make it as readable as possible.

Judge Nemo, Ahoy!

This episode picks up right after the last one ends. The gang is still in President (now ex-President) Hugo's office, stunned by the news that the Netherworld has been secretly run by a human, the apparent secret leader of the entire human race. Their clamoring disbelief is brought to a halt by a voice in several of their heads. Frightened, Desco claims that the voice sounds evil, but Fuka says it just sounds like an old pervert. The invisible man makes his grand entrance, during which Val concurs with Fuka that anyone invisible and spying on them deserves to be called a pervert (a strange little joke that makes sporadic weak appearances). The man is the human who has been pulling President Hugo's strings. He claims that he has long since cast off his name and identity, as he despises the humans and demons alike. He decides that the party can call him Judge Nemo.

So there you have it - the grand evil boss of Disgaea 4 is a dude named Nemo. Moving on... Nemo declares himself beyond humanity, that he is, in fact, a Judge of their very existence. What this means isn't quite clear yet, but it's obvious he's insane.

Val and his merry crew decide that they're going to show Nemo and the humans a thing or two. First, though, there's a bit of housekeeping and character development to do. Fuka and Emizel argue about how the next President should be chosen. Annoyed, Val declares that the job of President is "first come, first serve." With that, our old buddy Warden Axel swoops in from nowhere and claims the title for his own. He explains that this entire time, his intentions have been to remake the Netherworld into "his colors," as he puts it, claiming that he only sucked up to the Corrupterment in order to strike at them when the time was right... but that his acting skills had been so convincing that he'd even managed to convince himself that he was a suck-up and an evil, cowardly tool of the Corrupterment. Nonchalantly, Valvatorez grants him the title of the 62nd Netherworld president, just like that.

Fuka vows that she'll become the leader of the human world. Fenrich mockingly asks Emizel if he wouldn't rather hide out with his daddy, which causes Emizel to flash back on a conversation he had with his father shortly after their confrontation. Hugo apologized to Emizel for being nothing more than a puppet, claiming that his only intent in Emizel's troubles were to get him out of the way so he didn't suffer for Hugo's mistakes. Emizel forgave his father and vowed to continue on to confront Hugo and take revenge for his actions against Hugo.

The party makes the jump to the Human World, teleporting to an area controlled by Judge Nemo. Several robot-like creatures confront the party. Both Desco and Fuka recognize the creatures as works of their father. Shocked, Fuka believes that Desco must have been the creature that attacked and killed her in her father's lab. Desco refuses, but throughout most of the rest of the episode, Fuka has little to say to Desco, doubting that the creature is telling the truth.

After defeating the bio-suit robots, Judge Nemo then introduces the creatures he's been working on - perfected clones of demons, even more powerful than their Netherworld versions. He has taken the demons given to him by Hugo and cloned their DNA. The team rips through them pretty easily (not many of the fights from this point on until the very last battle are too difficult), and they try to talk down Judge Nemo. Val questions why Nemo has so much hate for the humans. to which Nemo responds vehemently. He also accuses of the demons of neglecting their duties, that some sort of event in his past would have been much different if demons had done their part. Volcanus tries to talk to Nemo, but he ignores her completely, as though he doesn't even hear her. Shocked after this confrontation, Volcanus explains that he couldn't hear her because he had lost his faith. Something horrific must have happened to him in his past, but the party pushes on and doesn't dwell on this quite yet.

Meanwhile, Desco has continually tried to convince Fuka that she wasn't evil or to blame for Fuka's misfortunes. Fuka silently tries to pity Desco, but can't quite believe her. At least, not until they run into... Fuka's father and Desco's creator. It turns out he's been in cahoots with Judge Nemo, who has been funding the seemingly mad scientist's work and helping him with demon specimens. Her father recognizes Fuka, but only seems mildly surprised to see her, wondering why she wasn't in Hell. Steaming pissed, Fuka demands to know why her father would assume she'd been in Hell, to which her father has the best line in the game, "Well, you're not really that sort of person!"

Judge Nemo asks if "it" is ready. Apparently, "it" is, so Judge Nemo bids the group farewell and wishes them luck against the true final boss. Fuka's father gleefully introduces the party to Des X, the ultimate final weapon. Fuka realizes that Desco hadn't been the one to kill her, that it had been this monster instead. Des X appears to be just a color swap of Desco, a fact actually mentioned by the party (this is one reason I love NIS games). Des X attacks the party and defeated. Des X shouts at Fuka, claiming that Fuka's father was HER father, hers alone. Fuming, Fuka snaps and goes berserk on Des X, leading Des X to grow larger. A second fight with Des X ensues, and she is defeated again.

Afterwards, Fuka angrily confronts her father, demanding to know why he'd spend his time creating demon clones and monsters like Desco and Des X. Bewildered, he and Desco claim that it's simply what his wife wanted - for Fuka's father to grant Fuka's wish. And what wish was that, dear reader? Why, Fuka at age five or so wanted a little sister. Fuka and Desco realize that they were meant to be half sisters all along and that Des X just had some magnficent daddy issues. Whew. Glad that's resolved.

Oh, wait, no, it's not. Fuka snaps again at her father, wanting to know why he'd create something like Desco instead of something normal. Bewildered again, he responds that it too had been part of Fuka's wish - that she had wished for her sister to be a perfect specimen to aid her in ruling the world! Fuka nervously laughs this off, but no one in the party is fooled. Guess good old Fuka wasn't quite the kind and gentle soul after all, eh?

After all these shenanigans, Judge Nemo shows up and throws a hissy fit. He claims that though his clones had been defeated, the war wasn't over yet. In fact, he had used the time to plant charges all over the place. To what end? Why, Judge Nemo's ultimate master plan is to blow up... the moon!

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Sparky's Update - Disgaea 4, Episode 7

Just in time for Christmas, here's another episode from Disgaea 4, brought to you from the guy who looks like he ate Santa Claus. Hope you all have a very merry Christmas and a great New Year.

The Tyrant of Sardines vs. El Presidente

This can be a rough series of battles if you haven't leveled up a diverse team. I found that out the hard way during my first playthrough, as I had concentrated on pretty much only leveling up Valvatorez, Fenrich, and Fuka at that time. Thankfully, each level that you've beat can be replayed as often as you'd like, so hitting up 5-2 a few times with some mages and a couple of warriors helped tremendously, as did the addition of Volcanus's healing and gun skills. Since all character data transfers over through each playthrough, the second go-around was much, much easier, and for a bit of a challenge, I decided not to use Val, who is currently hovering right under level 300 while most of the rest of my team is between level 50-100.

The episode starts with Fenrich and Val declaring that this will be the final push, that they are finally about to face off against President Hugo. We are given a brief reminder of each main character's motivation in battling or meeting with the President. Here's a quick recap:

Valvatorez - Wants answers for the orders of the prinny executions and kidnappings, as well as finding out why the Netherworld has become so neglected.

Fenrich - Keeps his true motivations close to his chest, but claims total obedience for Val, and only wants to see him regain his true power.

Fuka - Wants to become the President in order to stop injustices against prinnies (which she technically should be, if it wasn't for the shortage of prinny outfits)

Desco - Wants to defeat the President on her way to becoming a Final Boss.

Volcanus - Is looking to collect the money leaked to the Netherworld and owed to the heavens.

Emizel - Wants to confront his father to show him he's no longer weak.

Get all that? Good.

Fenrich wishes to assassinate the President quietly, sneaking in under cover without facing down the massive armies of the Corruptorment. Val has none of that nonsense, stating that there would be no honor in that, and the Netherworld would never recognize or follow a new leader if they committed such vile acts. Val and his band of followers are met by the thundering approach of 600,000 demons guarding the President and the Corruptorment. When Fuka and Desco express their fear, Val tells them to buck up, claiming each of them would only have to take 100,000 apiece. The companions are strangely comforted by this and put on brave faces. At the last moment, Val's prinnies show up and inform him and Fenrich that they have amassed an army of their own from each area Val has conquered. Well, that's a relief, eh kids?

Val and his crew plow through a few minions of the Netherworld, coming face to face with the Three Brutes of the Netherworld, led by the Thunder Emperor Psylos. Emizel, ever the slightly cowardly and awed, claims that their power is unrivalled in the Netherworld. So, of course, the team makes short work of them and their bodyguard cronies. Fenrich and Val muse on the meaning of the weakness of the Brutes and the demons in general, coming to no clear conclusion other than something is amiss.

In a quiet moment out of the blue, Desco asks Fuka if she'd ever like to see her father again. Fuka responds flippantly that her father neglected her in favor of his research, and she wanted nothing to do with him. Disgaea isn't exactly subtle in its foreshadowing, but then again, the game is meant to lightly mock most anime and RPG tropes, so take that with a grain of salt.

The gang encounters more bizarrely named groups of high-level bosses, including the Four Devas and the Seven Yakshas. Emizel's growing amazement and proclamations of their insane powers (the Seven Yakshas are supposedly able to send the universe into nothingness in seven days) are met with complete indifference by most of the others, as the demons seem to have lost a ton of their original power. With the last group (the Yakshas) defeated, the group finally makes it to the office of the President.

Hugo and Val greet each other as old enemies, having fought a battle previously that lasted days on end with no clear victor. Hugo shows Valv a grudging amount of respect, but can't believe that he has become a lowly Prinny Instructor. He asks each member of the team what their reasons for fighting are, and laughs in disbelief at the inconsistency of the group. Val claims that his newfound power comes from camraderie, to which Hugo becomes even more incredulous. He transforms into a demon, and the supposed "last battle" is on!

This battle was pretty damn difficult at first, and even on my second playthrough with my B-list characters doing the fighting, it was still fairly tough. I had upped the enemy difficulty a hair or two to match my party's level (thereabouts - it's not an exact science in this game, especially when you can have levels up to 9999). Hugo is aided by magic users and samurai, all of whom can deal hefty amounts of damage quickly. I send out my two primary magic users first, to soften up the forward-most enemies for my warriors to polish off. I also send out a support crew to throw back the magic-users, as they're too valuable to lose right away (which they would have, as they had low amounts of HP). The samurai fall pretty easily, though I do end up losing a fighter in the initial round. After that, things got much rougher. I made the mistake of huddling my troops together to get healed by Volcanus and another healing mage. Another warrior was killed quickly by the enemy magic users, and Hugo advanced slowly upon my party.

Eschewing my planned strategy, I threw my warriors straight at the magic users, bringing them down quickly but inefficiently. My magic users advanced back up a short ways, out of range of Hugo, but also unable to do much. My healers went back into the base panel, and I brought out more big damage dealers, this time in the form of fist-equipped fighters. Hugo killed my initial warriors pretty fast after that, but not before they'd managed to chip his health down to about two-thirds. The other fighters advanced, one on each side, as did the magic users. After that, it was elementary - a couple of Giga Stars, some flashy punch skills, and boom - Hugo was down.

After the battle, Val is disappointed in Hugo, thinking that the battle would have been much more drawn out. He warns the others that Hugo must be about to begin the first of three inevitable final boss transformations, and the team prepares themselves. But Hugo tells Val that this was it, that he had no more power left. The humans had stopped feeding the Netherworld what he calls "fear energy." Due to scientific advancements, demons can't scare humans the way they used to, and so the fear energy that the Netherworld thrives upon was cut off. In order to save the Netherworld, Hugo had struck a deal with a human leader, giving him mastery over the Netherworld as well as test subjects for experimentation in exchange for a bare amount of fear energy. Val and his crew realize that their fight isn't quite over.

8 Comments

Sparky's Awards Extravaganza!

Here at Sparky Industries, we've decided that merely producing a GOTY list would be just too normal. After reviewing all the games on my Games I've Played in 2011 List, I've decided to give each of them an award, possibly with runner-ups, possibly not. This list will be chock full of games from other years as well, as it's not just limited to 2011 games, but all the games I've played this year. Let's jump in, shall we? We shall.

Obligatory GOTY Award

Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Skrim is stunning. It's exactly what I wanted out of a sequel to Oblivion, one of my most beloved games. It takes the open-world RPG formula, injects a good amount of steroids, and unleashes Skyrim on the world like some Hulkified monstrosity. There's so much to see and do in this game that it's staggering. Like I've said before, for every bug and rough patch, there are a thousand amazing things to easily make up for it. This is a grand adventure, one I'll likely revisit time and time again.

Runner-Ups:

Dead Island, Portal 2

Best Adventure Game I Played This Year

Heavy Rain

Heavy Rain on paper doesn't seem to be very appealing as a game. It's mostly an interactive movie of sorts, set in various chapters with a small cast of interesting characters. But as a longtime adventure gamer, I thought I'd give it a shot and see what I thought. I was really glad I did, as Heavy Rain deserves to be a contender as one of the top adventure games ever. The story, while full of some very game-like holes and strange moments, is startling and intriguing, bringing a maturity to its approach that took me by surprise. And you can keep your LA Noire faces - this game has some of the best fully-featured actors and actresses I've seen. It's a gorgeous, fun game.

Runner-up:

Back to the Future

Funniest Game of the Year

Portal 2

With sharp, clever writing and voice talent to match, Portal 2 is the easy clear choice in this category. Be it Cave Johnson ranting, GLADOS's quiet vitriol, or Wheatley's dumbassery, everyone is hilarious.

Runner-Ups:

Back to the Future, Bulletstorm

Best Operation Babe Hunt!

Persona 3 Portable

It's true! Best Babe Hunt of the year goes to this gem! Never before have we seen such amazing Babe Hunt technology, brought to the palm of your hands! Wait. That came out wrong. Wait - THAT came out wrong. Ah, damn it.

Runner-Up:

A bar on Valentine's Day?

Best PC Game of the Year

Back to the Future

Remember, this is just for games that I played, and unfortunately, those were relatively sparse. I adored this game from start to finish. Hearing both Christopher Lloyd and Michael J. Fox make returns to the movies that I love so much in video game format just tickled every pleasure center in my brain. Doesn't hurt that the gameplay was pretty solid for an adventure game, too.

Runner-Ups:

Hector: Badge of Carnage, World of Goo

Best Weapons AND Use of Disco Balls as a Weapon

Ratchet and Clank Future: A Crack in Time

I still love the Ratchet and Clank formula, and this game was no different. Insomniac throws everything but the kitchen sink into this game, and it really works well. Not all the weapons are super useful, but all of them look great and have that sort of classic goofy feel.

Runner-Up (for Best Weapons, anyways):

Resistance 3 (no surprise, as it's Insomniac),Bulletstorm

Best FPS

Bulletstorm

Look, I get that people didn't like the over-the-top juvenile dialogue of Bulletstorm, but I absolutely loved this game. I thought it was a riot, and a hell of a lot of fun to play. The skill kill system adds a lot of replayability, and the guns feel appropriately badass. I really hope there's a sequel for this in the works. Note that the runner-up in this category, Resistance 3, is also really fantastic, but I think the addictive gameplay of Bulletstorm edges out in the end.

Runner-Up:

Resistance 3

Best Open World Game that Really Shouldn't Have Been an Open-World Game

Mafia II

Surprised? I was too. Mafia 2 is a surprisingly good game, with a solid (if cliched) story, solid characters, a great look, and really great gunplay. However, like the glaringly obvious runner-up LA Noire, the open-world elements just really should have been dropped or have more interaction and distractions (credit for that term goes to dankempster and his recent blog on GTA V). However, especially for the discount price, Mafia 2 should not be missed.

Runner-Up:

LA Noire

Best Team Brawler and the Biggest Asshat Move by a Publisher (aka The Sparky Raspberry Award):

Marvel vs. Capcom 3

I really enjoyed this fighting game, even if Mortal Kombat would eclipse it later in the year. However, I do not support Capcom's decision to add what amounts to DLC on a disc for stupid amounts of money. It's ridiculous, stupid, and incredibly asshole-ish. Thus, you, Capcom, get the Sparky Raspberry Award for the year. Piss off, you stupid jerks.

Best RTS

Starcraft 2

As much as I enjoy the Command and Conquer universe, Starcraft 2 has such an insane amount of polish and fun to it that this one wasn't even close. The campaign is brilliant and a whole lot of fun.

Runner-Up:

Command and Conquer 4

Biggest Disappointment

LA Noire

I've played far worse games this year (hang on for that one), but no game quite disappointed me as much as LA Noire. As a huge fan of Police Quest, I had a veritable nerd boner thinking that this would be a modern take on that classic gameplay. And it was... and you know what? It kinda sucked. I liked the investigations and the atmosphere. But the gameplay beyond the investigations was repetitive and boring. The open-world was something of a joke, but thankfully it could be skipped... which is perhaps the most damning part of this description. I shouldn't have wanted to skip a moment of this game, but I did.

Runner-Up:

None, really. This is perhaps the most surprising statement in this entire list.

Best Diamond in the Rough

inFamous 2

I'm not gonna sit here and tell you that inFamous 2 was perfect. The wave based enemies were annoying and, at times, frustratingly buggy. Traversing the world didn't feel nearly as smooth as the first game. Cole was "dumbed down" to be more family friendly and appeal to a wider audience. But even with all these negatives, inFamous 2 was a hell of a lot of fun. It didn't hurt that there was a great innovation in the user-made content and quests, which added a lot of fun ideas and really varied up the quests.

Runner-Ups:

Bulletstorm, Trails in the Sky, Yakuza 4

Best 3rd Person Open-World Game

Just Cause 2

This game, man! This game! I don't think I've revisited a game so often this year, There's a ton of stuff to do, great weapons to play with, incredibly fun stunt gameplay, and a truly beautiful world. This also deserves huge props for being such an amazing step forward in the series. It fixes the mini-map issues of Just Cause and completely blows away the first in nearly every regard while still staying true to its goofy roots.

Runner-Up:

Mafia 2

Most Forgettable Decent Game

Crysis 2

Crysis 2 isn't awful, but it's a game that never really knows what it is. In its quest to appeal to a wider audience and be released on consoles, it loses the intriguing open-world elements of Crysis, loses the insane graphics, and manages to muck up a decent story written by none other than Richard Morgan. There are some great gunfights, there are some neat upgrade elements, and the latter half of the game definitely picks up. But overall, it's just forgettable, neither really good or really bad.

Runner-Up:

LA Noire

Coolest Indie Game

Terraria

Terraria's sort of an odd little gem. It's not a particularly great game, but it is fun and bizarrely addictive. Seeing the work fellow Giant Bombers have done on the servers has been an amazing experience, even if I haven't been able to contribute anything beyond random signs with random quotes.

Runner-Ups:

Hector, World of Goo, Zombie Driver

Most Surprisingly Great Game

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West

Up until the release of Skyrim, there was only one game that really hooked me enough to stay up until an absolutely stupid time of the night (morning?) to finish it. That game was Enslaved. I love this game. The story is excellent, the characters have a sharp, believable, and natural rapport, and the gameplay is so damned fun.

Runner-Up:

Mafia 2

Best Game I Should Be Ashamed of Playing

Lego Harry Potter Years 1-4

I liked the first few Harry Potter books, and I've liked each of the Lego games I've played. That's all I'm gonna say.

Runner-Up:

None

Best Game I Just Couldn't Get Into

Batman Arkham Asylum

Unlike its sequel, which will make an appearance later, this game didn't resonate with me. Part of that is my indifference towards most of the DC Comics universe, which I've never much cared about outside of Christopher Nolan's films. The gameplay was fine, and I thought it was a solid game. It just never quite clicked with me.

Runner-Up:

Crysis 2

Worst Game Ever

Record of Agarest War

I've played some shitty games, and I never thought anything could be worse than Metal Dungeon or Gods and Generals. But this game, besides being awful and absolutely no fun at all, is horribly, stupidly offensive. I might be a man, but even I was cringing at how goddamn sexist this game was. If there's a game that makes me embarassed to be a gamer, this is it. Avoid this one at all costs.

Best JRPG

Disgaea 4

If you haven't kept on my blogs recently, I've been doing a series of blogs on this game and its story. I adore NIS games. They're goofy, incredibly strange, childish, and the deepest damned RPG's you'll ever play. Disgaea 4 is far and away the best entry in the series, both in terms of plot and gameplay. Its upgrades seem small, but overall, if you want to get into a Disgaea game, you cannot go wrong with this one.

Runner-Ups:

ZHP, Trails in the Sky

Most Internally Divisive Game

Yakuza 4

There are a lot of aspects of Yakuza 4 I can't stand, like its attitude towards women as subservient dress-up dolls, but there are a ton of aspects that I absolutely love. It's such a cool idea - an "open world" game within a relatively small section of a city, complete with a great amount of stuff to do. Two of the charactes are really solid too, and I wouldn't mind playing future games.

Runner-Up:

LA Noire

Best Use of Nolan North in an Otherwise Shitty Game

Alpha Protocol

Nolan North is one of the few great things about this otherwise crappy game. Remember kids, great ideas do not necessarily make a great game.

Runner-Up:

None

Best Arcade Racer

Burnout Paradise

I'm not sure how much I can say about this game that hasn't been said, but I'll say this - this is the first time I've gotten into this game, and I'm really liking it. It's aged well.

Runner-Up:

None

Best 2D Platformer

Donkey Kong Country Returns

Oh man, this game is one giant ball of awesomeness. It brings a welcome degree of familiarity, as it's only a light upgrade to the classic gameplay of its predecessors, while bringing in some damned gorgeous visuals, clever level design, and some real difficulty while allowing for options to make it easier on the player if they so choose. It's a jewel of a Nintendo game. I haven't played Rayman Origins, but it looks really great too.

Game I Loved Playing the Most in 15-Minute Spurts

Monster Hunter Tri

This game is really a hoot in small doses. I love popping it in for a few minutes at a time, doing a quest or two, and then calling it a day. There's not much of a story, and there are control elements that drive me crazy, but honestly, it's a distinctly Japanese game that I actually get. It's really well done.

Runner-Ups:

Donkey Kong Country Returns, Forza 4

Best Racing Game

Forza 4

I love the Forza series for being incredibly accessible and forgiving, not to mention being fun and loaded with all the stuff I love about cars. The ability to rewind makes my eyesight problems moot, the cars are a great blend of classic and modern, and the career has become even better about keeping things varied and interesting.

Runner-Up:

Burnout Paradise

Best Use of Mark Hamill

Arkham City

Jokes aside, this game surprised me. I'm still not huge on DC comic characters, but the core storylines in this game are surprisingly good and actually drew me in. Hamill's performance as the Joker really is ramped up a notch, but so is everything else about this game.

Runner-Up:

Errr.... nothing?

Best Atmosphere

Resistance 3

Resistance 3 is a great sci-fi shooter, but what really blew me away was the inherent bleakness of the world. Save for your protagonist, the people aren't bulked up warriors or heroes. They're survivors giving out a few grim gasps of life as they try their hardest just to cling together. Hope isn't dead - it's non-existent. No one is safe, anyone can die, and even once the game is finished, there's no guarantee that mankind's survival is assured. This is an amazing experience.

Runner-Ups:

LA Noir, Mafia 2, Heavy Rain

Most Unique Story

ZHP

Not only is this a great rogue-type game with some new, awesome elements to its gameplay (dying actually can be a positive), but the story is hilariously ridiculous and so goddamned Japanese that it's hard not to like. You play a guy who literally cannot die, fighting against a seemingly unbeatable boss who kills you time after time after... well, you get the idea. The real game, though, is in between these sessions, where you're essentially training to fight the boss again. This is NIS, so go in expecting all the great weirdness of their particular games. Oh, and it's insanely addictive too.

Runner-Up:

Disgaea 4

Most Room for Improvement in a Sequel I'll Inevitably Buy

Trails in the Sky

Trails in the Sky has a lot of good elements, namely in its combat and magic systems. Its traditional turn-based combat, with a lot of abilities to learn and destroy your enemies with. There's a godsend of an option that will "dumb" down difficult battles if you die repeatedly. There's an absolutely huge world with the potential to be great. But there's still a ton of room to improve things. While there are a handful of side quests, the game never takes advantage of blatant opportunities for some distractions or side-games/quests. A few more optional dungeons and areas would go a long ways towards increasing replayability, and for a game about airships, there is a distanct lack of them as your characters actually make a point of walking all over the place. It's a frustrating game, but it's also surprisingly decent at times.

Best Surprise of the Year

Dead Island

I absolutely love Dead Island. The combat feels great, I like the weapons and the upgrade systems, and the loot-based quest gameplay makes me wish I was playing it right now. If it weren't for Skyrim, this would easily be my game of the year. It matched and far, far surpassed what I hoped for out of it.

Runner-Ups:

ZHP, Bulletstorm

Best Overall Fighting Game

Mortal Kombat

This is a return to form for one of my old favorites. The storyline felt right, the character choices were (up until the DLC) smart, and the combat system felt right. There was no 3D nonsense, no trying to beat the newest kid on the block, no introduction of stupid characters. This is classic Mortal Kombat in a shiny new package, and I love it for that. Plus? Stryker!

Runner-Up:

MvC3

Best Combat Racer

Wipeout HD

This was a good year for PSN sales after the hacking debacle. Sony is still in full damage control mode, but this was a game that came up early as a "thank you" for users sticking with PSN. It doesn't come close to assuaging my doubts about Sony's security or, more importantly, their attitude towards their customers, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel a little bit grateful that I finally got to check this game out - and for free, too. It's not a game I'd have paid for otherwise, but as it stands, I really did enjoy it. There's an old-school simplicity in every aspect, from the tough-as-nails racing to the ship and level designs. It's got a great score, some great gameplay variants, and a nice sense of style.

Runner-Up:

None

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Sparky's Update - Disgaea 4, Episode 6

Today's update will be brief, as Episode 6 really has very little plot but some very creative ideas.

A-Virus Walks Into a Bar One Day...

Episode 6 starts off with Vulcanus revived and in good health. Emizel, Fuka, and Desco explain that they never really wished any harm on Vulcanus, that it was all Fenrich's doing (which it was). When discussion turns to Axel and his mysterious return to health, Fuka begins to talk strangely, almost as though she were possessed by something - or someone. Artina/Vulcanus decides to join the party for her own motives, which also lie with the President.

Fenrich decides that the party should next head for the snow-covered upper boss area, the training ground for demons seeking the presidency. All are agreed it's a solid plan. The party runs into a group of monsters (of course), but there's something unusual about these demons. One of them sounds exactly like Axel.

After defeating the monsters, Val and the crew discover a horrible truth when they encounter an enemy that looks just like Axel. There's a virus (called appropriately the A-Virus) that has infected the entire Underworld. Said virus transforms people into clones of Axel... and unfortunately, the party isn't immune. In quick succession, Fuka, Desco, and Emizel fall victim, starting to develop a habit of talking back to Val as well as taking on certain hairy aspects of Axel's form. Even Fenrich starts to develop symptoms.

We discover that the corruptorment is behind the infection, though the motives aren't clear to the party at the moment. A cutscene between the President and his lackey, Thunder-something-or-rather, shows that though they were responsible for unleashing the virus, an unseen person was responsible for pushing them to do so. The President seems despondent and awestruck at the power and genius of this unseen individual.

The party soldiers on, taking on more and more clones of Axel. They finally encounter the real Axel, who claims he avoided death at Desco's hands by playing dead (by using a "Death Kabuki" move). After fighting through seas of Axel clones (more on that in a second), Val and his crew defeat the real Axel, who claims he has no knowledge of a potential cure. Defeating him does not cure the symptoms either. Val vows to find a cure for his friends, even should they turn into Axel. Slowly, the party succumbs to the virus, and Emizel, Fuka, Desco, and Fenrich are transformed into Axel. Artina at last reveals a solution. She must break the laws of the heavens by wounding herself (the game never acknowledges that she probably could have had someone else do this) and letting the infected drink her blood, which has incredible healing properties. The party is changed back, but not before Artina jokingly threatens to charge them all a ridiculous fee. Since they can't pay it, she says she'll just have to stick with the party until she feels the debt is paid. Val, still mindful of his promises to Artina, refuses to drink her blood. Recognizing the vows and promises of the vampire she once knew, she finally lets slip that she may indeed know Val and be the individual he once knew.

This area, though really light on any story-advancing plot points, is the highlight of the game for me in terms of plot. It's genuinely funny in parts, especially the horror and disgust of the party as they realize they're changing into Axel, whom they have grown to loathe (save for Val, who still treats him with a fair amount of awe and friendliness). I particularly liked the moments when Emizel discovers his newfound chest and leg hair. At first, he's disgusted, but quickly becomes enamored of himself, in the same vain style of Axel. The levels themselves are great too. I like the idea of fighting hordes of cloned individuals, and though the fights can be difficult, there's nothing here that's going to frustrate anyone with a few decently leveled characters. There's one level in particular where I felt nearly overwhelmed as several enemy base panels keep pumping out Axel clones of a relatively high level. It's difficult, but never feels impossible.

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Sparky's Update - Disgaea 4, Episode 5

Sorry it's taken me so long to get a new one of these posted, but between Dead Island and Forza 4, I've been a zombie-killin', Nova SS drivin' fool. Anyways, let's jump in. Today we're talking about the fifth episode of Disgaea 4, as well as the wonders and joys of level 5-2.

Wherein Women and Children Are Shit Upon By a Grumpy Werewolf

Let's get something clear right off the bat. I don't like sexism in games, unless it's done in either a tongue-in-cheek fashion or that it's sublimely ridiculous. Disgaea 4 is definitely in the latter category. The women of the game, namely Desco and Fuka (up to this point, anyways), are love-obsessed girly girls who just happen to want to either rule the Underworld (Fuka) or destroy do-gooders (Desco). It's a dichotomy that is all at once a cliche of anime and sort of bizarrely lovable. I'm not going to suddenly claim I enjoy the stories of any of the Disgaea games or very many of the characters, but when Fenrich starts laying on the verbal abuse and threats to Fuka, Desco, and to a lesser extent, Emizel, this game becomes a great deal funnier. And why the sudden ferocity in his verbal jabs?

Love, of course.

Not from Fenfen (the nickname given to him by Fuka, much to his horror), of course, but in their anticipation of the great love story between Val and Artina/Volcanus, the Angel of Avarice. Episode 5 is relatively short, and none of the levels pose much of a challenge even in the first playthrough. It's also a good area to gleefully take advantage of a "glitch" the developers have intentionally left in the game. More on that in a while.

Episode 5 has Val and his crew attacking a mid-level boss training area. This training area, though, strangely resembles an abandoned amusement park. Val bemoans the fall and laziness of demons, exemplified in how the former area has now become a joke of its former self. They easily mop the floor with some generic mid-level baddies. Val feels slightly uncomfortable about this, realizing that something isn't quite right. The enemies are far too weak, but this mystery is shuffled aside for later.

Along their path, Fuka and Desco pry (without too much effort) the story of how Val met Artina when he was terrorizing Earth, as a good demon should. Back in those days, Val was still drinking blood, and was enormously powerful (apparently - we never really get to see this, but it's mentioned by Fenrich on several occasions). During a vampire hunt, in the midst of a human war, Artina and Val met. After learning he's a vampire, Artina gently asks him if he needs her blood to survive, and offers it up willingly, as she's a human pure of heart and full of kindness. She talks Val into agreeing that he would not take any other human's blood until he's drank hers. Val is taken aback by her sweet nature and purity, and proclaims that he could not suck her blood until he had well and truly frightened her. This promise becomes incredibly painful for him days later.

Artina, finding an enemy soldier wounded on the battlefield, does the good thing and takes care of him. She is mortally wounded by people from her own side, and as she lay dying, Val visits her. Her only regret is that Val couldn't drink her blood, keeping him from being released from his oaths to her. She dies in his arms.

The group stumbles across Volcanus on a couple of occasions in the area. Her resemblance to Artina is spot-on, despite her apparent newfound love of thievery in the Netherworld. We find out she's out to collect on debts owed to Heaven from the demons, and has been stealing on her own accord. Fenrich, recognizing the angel as a threat and an impediment to Val's rise in power, tricks Val into promising that he'll take down Volcanus if she becomes a threat. Upon their next meeting, Fenrich tells Volcanus that the party has a bounty on their heads worth 10,000,000 HL. She doesn't hesitate and attacks the group, dollar signs flashing in her eyes (so to speak).

As boss fights go, this one was a cakewalk. She's surrounded by Prinnies, which can be lobbed at her or each other to quickly wipe the map clean. A good ranged unit or magician can whittle her HP down to nothing in no time. When Volcanus is defeated, she pulls Val aside for a brief conversation. He lets slip that he once promised someone he would never drink blood again, and she finally recognizes him for who he is, as she is indeed Artina come back to life as an angel. Suddenly, she springs forward, shielding Val and taking a projectile for him. The shooter? Why, it's none other than Warden Axel, that nefarious ne'er-do-well!

And so ends episode V.

Level 5-2

Big thanks first and foremost to Drac for pointing out that this glitch is still intact from Disgaea 3.

In Disgaea 3 (and possibly other Disgaea games, though I'm not certain), it was possible to exploit one hell of a leveling glitch. If you pass eight or so "Higher Enemy Level" bills and fought on level 5-2, the enemies would be at level 99, but give experience as though they were much, much higher leveled (which they technically should have been - that's the glitch). A character with a powerful, widespread ranged attack could mop the floor with every creature in minutes, letting you power level up through level 300 with ease. It sound cheap, and it was, but considering that's just the tip of the iceberg in terms of how far you can level in the Disgaea games (level 9999), it merely served as a good start if you planned on doing the post-game stuff.

As it turns out, the developers have left that glitch in Disgaea 4 on purpose, and it happens in the exact same fashion. Pass eight or so "Higher level enemy" bills, save, and jump into 5-2. If all the enemies are at level 99, congrats, and get to killing. If not, just adjust the bill until it's at that level. When the enemies don't give you as many quick levels, you can combine them together and continue power-leveling. It's magically delicious.

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Sparky's Update - Week 4 of Disgaea 4

This week, Val and his friends take on... the newspaper? Only in Disgaea, folks.

A Boy and His Death's Head Mantle

Episode 4 is pretty much all Emizel, all the time. This is probably the weakest part of the story to this point, which really says something, considering that the story in Disgaea games (and NIS games in general) are godawful. However, as your humble Disgaea guide, I am here to commit the story to that shiny Internet thing so many people nowadays are obsessed with.

The gang very quickly convinces Emizel that the best way to help himself (and them) out would be to use his high security clearance to get them through the apparently good security of the newspaper. We're never actually told what the security is, save for a bunch of ninja-like office workers who serve as the area's cannon fodder. Upon reading the newspaper, Val has discovered a grievous typo - they've misspelled prinny as "primy," and Val isn't happy! And as the crew makes their way towards the newspaper tower, Desco stops for a breather and encounters a suspicious Prinny who sounds awfully familiar. This Prinny makes some quick conversation with Desco and sneaks away, while Desco rejoins the party.

Upon confronting some of the office workers, Emizel tries to explain to them that he isn't dead, insisting over and over that he really is the President's son and he's quite alive. The office workers deny his claims simply based on the fact that the newspaper printed word of his death, so therefore, it absolutely must be true. D'oh.

We also get a little bit of character development from Desco and Fuka. Fuka discourages Desco from calling her Big Sis at first, until Val chides her by stating that if any of them are to succeed, they all must work together. Fuka reluctantly agrees that Desco may call her Big Sis while in her dream, but Desco must agree 100% with whatever Fuka says. Fuka, deeply lost in her hero worship of her Big Sis, quickly agrees that "if Big Sis says crows are white, Desco will paint them white!" Oh, that Desco. Some history between the two is also vaguely hinted at, as well as the first mention of when Val and Fenrich first met up in the Netherworld.

Anyways, more office ninjas are fought. The levels here are kind of interesting, in that there are some definite spatial hurdles as well as an occasional Geo Block puzzle or two. Emizel's continued insistence that he is the President's son and that he really is alive starts to piss off just about everyone in the party, as he starts using his father's title as a crutch. Val asks the boy if he wants to always be known as just the President's son, or if he wants to stand on his own two legs to show the world he's really alive. Emizel thinks about that throughout the rest of the episode. The party contemplates too whether or not Emizel's father has abandoned him. Fuka reveals that her own father had been out of her life for years, despite the fact that he worked close to her school and had no reason to be a shiftless dad (in her opinion). Val sees the common theme of fatherly abandonment for Fuka, Desco (whose father had created her to be a Final Boss on Earth and then cast her into Hades), and Emizel, and believes it ties them together in an even stronger bond.

We see some small plot developments and evil-doings of the President and his nameless benefactor as they prepare to unleash something that will quell the entire Netherworld all at once. What could it possibly be?

The levels aren't too much of a problem here, so we quickly arrive at the last level of this episode, where the Head Chief tells Emizel that the corrupterment was the one to issue the order to print Emizel's obituary. Fenrich also tells Emizel that he's long since notified the President that his son is alive, with an attached note to stay the hell out of their way. Therefore, Emizel's father knew all along that Emizel was alive, and could have rescinded the obituary at any time. After Val and his crew defeat the Chief, Emizel tentatively promises to Val that he will become a great demon on his own merits, and that he will join Val and stand up to his father to learn what exactly is going on. As this wraps up, the mysterious Prinny from earlier makes herself known and informs the Head Chief that she owes her over a million Hell (the game's currency, marked as HL) to go to the heavens as a sort of combination fine and back tax. She reveals herself as the angel Volcanus, but Val gasps and asks aloud how she can be alive. He calls her "Artina." And that's the end of Episode 4, y'all.

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Sparky's Update - Week 3 of Disgaea 4

Heya gang! I know I'm a week off on this thing, so expect another update sometime over the weekend. Let's dig in.

Week 3 - Foreshadowing, Ahoy!

This episode is all about long-term payoffs. Right off the bat, Val and his motley crew square off with a bunch of snarling monster ruffians, straight out of Hades' prison. Axel cheers them on, promising a grand reward if the prisoners can defeat Val. That reward, you ask? Pardons! Except... well, Val questions the validity of Warden Axel being able to promise such things, since he is only a lowly warden and not the president. So to reinforce the idea that the prisoners will be granted pardons, Axel unveils his partner-in-crime, the nefarious... Death Emizel! That kid pops up everywhere, doesn't he?

Needless to say, groups of monster prisoners are soundly thrashed. Axel and Emizel confer over whether or not they really should be promising the pardons, but Axel convinces Emizel that E's father, the President, will happily do so once Emizel brings him back word of the uprising's demise. It doesn't take long to convince Emizel, and the two escape from Val and his crew, only to unleash more and more monsters.

Along the way, Fenrich intentionally lets it be known that Val is known other than a former Tyrant of great reknown and incredible power. This information leaves several of the monsters quakin' in their boots, as well as Emizel, who once saw Tyrant Valvatorez as a childhood hero. Axel had no idea who Val had been before he hired him, stating that he hadn't included that on his resume for the prinny instructor position.

We're also given a little foreshadowing for a handful of future characters important to the plot. The President is shown meeting with one of his top men regarding news about the uprising and his missing son. When the top man leaves, the President sighs with what seems to be exhaustion and a hint of despair. An unknown, nasally-voiced stranger appears, asking the President if he's got something ready. The President does indeed. Dum dum DUM!

We also see, for the second time, an angel, who appears only briefly to state that she's ready to do what it takes to stop... him. The implied "him" seems to be the President. Is it, though? Is it really?

In any case, foreshadowing aside, after numerous defeats, Axel and Emizel decide to enter into a forbidden chamber and unleash a Final Weapon against Val's party. The former prisoners, who have by this point all but joined up with Val and his crew, explain that the Final Weapon has the potential to destroy half the Underworld. Sounds pretty scary! Val and Co. make their way to the Forbidden Chamber (after a brief interlude that has the player introduced to the Item World, if they haven't been already), where they encounter Emizel and Axel unlocking the chamber. Desco, the Final Boss wannabe and the Final Weapon, escapes from the chamber, crushing Emizel and Axel in one blow apiece.

Of course, Val battles Desco. This battle itself is pretty interesting, in that Desco hides behind a timed No Entry barrier, but has a long enough special attack that she can still do plenty of damage if you're underpowered. Once that barrier comes down and she can be surrounded, though, the battle's a cakewalk and she's quickly defeated (even faster, since this is my second playthrough and my Val is somewhere near level 450). Once the battle ends, Desco breaks down and we realize she's little but a castaway child, a Final Weapon designed by humans and cast down to the Netherworld. She wants to become a Final Boss, but realizes she's too weak to defeat a hero. Val, taking pity on the childlike monster, consoles her and convinces Desco to join their party.

Let me say this now - Desco becomes a freakin' killing machine if you take the time to develop her. Her special attacks have some strange ranges, which can be a bit annoying, but her later attacks become awesome and she can Magichange with any character to become even more useful.

Anyways, back to it. Desco develops an immediate attachment to Fuka, whom she calls "Big Sis," much to Fuka's irritation. Emizel comes to, and is told by Fenrich in no uncertain terms he'll be accompanying them too. The chapter ends with Fenrich holding up a newspaper, which states that Emizel has been killed, an egregious error which becomes the focal point for the next chapter - along with a typo.

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