Here we are baby. Disgaea 3 on PlayStation 3! This game is where it all changed. For starters DLC was added to keep the post game going for ages. This is how they could trickle in some upcoming game characters or how some extra little treats. If you don’t like DLC then grab it in the Vita, all the DLC is included there. So what else makes this game seem like a fresh start? Well it’s the Home Room. So the Dark Assembly has been replaced with Student Council meetings. Your party though, you assign seating and after school clubs.
Now for the first time you have way more control over what and how your party interacts. Sharing skills, experience, mana, and magichange are some of the basic standards or Disgaea party set ups. This is where it all starts to take shape. They upped the strategy without adding so much at once that it would overwhelm new players. Sadly it doesn’t look like it will getting many of those now. This title has not come back to newer platforms or PC. Shame because this game also goes back to the silly irreverent humor I have come to expect from Nippon Ichi Software titles. Okay so here is the deal. Disgaea is huge. Like in concept. Mainly you don’t think about it much but you use Dimensional Gateways to select stages. These aren’t one off game mechanic choices mind you. Like I said every human world has a Netherworlds to go with it. So where do young aspiring demons go to learn to break the rules? Evil Academy ofcourse.
The biggest selling point of Disgaea 3 is that it explains so much about demon culture, Netherworld travel, and the bigger aspects of the shared universe. You will be maining Mao in this game. Son of the Overlord and Dean of Evil Academy. A mad genius with one singular goal. Kill your father. Why the fratricide, you ask? Well your big oaf of a father stepped on your PSP and broke it! Then offered to just buy you a new one. That’s not good enough dad! What about the thousands of hours and all your save files?!
So obviously you need a plan. What’s the one thing that always beats evil everytime they cross paths? A relentless anime hero ofcourse! So Mao devotes himself to endlessly studying every anime and video game protagonist he can find. Analyzing their powers and abilities so he can defeat his dad in a drag out throwdown of a deathbattle. As he is getting closer to taking on his old man he ofcourse needs to find and study a true living hero. Maintain his role as the number one student of evil academy. Possibly overthrow the existing school system along the way to become the new Overlord Dean which will befall his shoulders once the task is done. Obviously things are not so simple. This quest will have you face your inner demons as Mao literally breaks into his own heart. Needing to confront his darkest secrets and figure out his real motivation for wanting to surpass his father. Also if he likes hot sauce or salt and pepper on eggs.
It’s a subtle little throw away moment that, the bit with the eggs. Just it says so much. Mao is warned about messing around in his heart. The risks involved with forcing yourself to be open. To deny yourself inorder to force a change can have so many unintentional changes. Just the fact that afterwards he doesn’t even realize how much he changed. Straight faced denying the changes before brushing it off as trivial. I mean after all it’s only eggs right?
The point to that little probably confusing egg ramble there is to not only show the series keeps it light while still tackling the bigger issues going on. Not just for the sake of pacing and tone, but to explain the ramifications of the plot without being heavy handed with it’s message. Something Disgaea does so effortlessly. Half of the humor is to endear you to the characters. The other half of them always benefits the world building and lore in atleast little ways. Without the little specific changes brought in from the school setting in this title it would largely be a retreading of Disgaea 1. Two brash sons trying to outshine their fathers while being held back with personal trauma and the need to be the best demon they can be. Shutting themselves off from all things kind or just as the live by the book evil existences. Both being constantly pushed by a love obsessed romantic interest that always seems to get their way. Getting tangled up in the affairs if the human world which helps so the bigger issue that needs to be addressed after the selfish personal agenda has been accomplished. Finding personal peace and making a better world for everyone around them while staying true to who they were all along. This, so far, is the only time the series doubled back to reuse this type of plot. Next we have a redemption story followed by a direct follow up to the first two games after that. Disgaea 3 manages to do what the prequel trilogy of Star Wars failed at. Showing an identifiable and relatable story told from a different point of view. No matter your world view might be it’s a bad idea to deny yourself for whatever ideals you are striving for. Not just from the main characters, but every one of the supporting cast has an arc of growth and change that will hit you somewhere in your heart. Rather than prolonging the game with padded missions and sidequests they let you choose the pace yourself with the Item World and extra dungeons so you take the time you need to digest the story, or just power through if that’s how you prefer your narrative structure. Then it rewards you with almost as much content in it’s post game.
As old familiar faces start to show up and you can compare them side by side with the newest batch of protagonists. Either being a little treat to longtime fans or to get you interested in the games you might have missed. Each title can stand on it’s own while building on what has come before it. Final Fantasy likes to do stand alone titles. Just without a connecting thread or theme it is less a series and more an anthology of stories. Disgaea gives you so much more than most games will in both plot and mechanics. There are definitely games that can beat it when it comes to any one aspect, but as a complete package it stands above everything else. And here is where it learned to stand on it’s own feet.