Valvatorez is certainly one of the more memorable characters I have encountered in recent gaming history. When I checked out Disgaea 4 in its original PS3 incarnation, I was blown away by the wonderfully cowardly, sardine-gobbling vampire and the plot full of off-kilter political satire and humour. Being given the opportunity to return to the Prinny factory in an enhanced Vita port is an enticing prospect. Have NIS thrown enough extra content onto the OLED screen to make it worth playing again?
Three years on from the last time I encountered him, Valvatorez is as excellent a protagonist as you will come across. As per the titles of the whole D4 oeuvre, our hero is utterly driven by the concept of promises, namely an unfulfilled assurance from his past which led him to abandon his vampiric tendencies, and his current situation that sees a gaggle of his Prinny students penguin-napped before he can make good on his promise to teach them how to do their job. It’s a treat seeing Valvatorez slowly awake to the corruption and injustice going on around him, all the while encouraged by the dry humour of his loyal werewolf servant, Fenrich.
Excellent plot aside, the core mechanics of Disgaea 4 do not deviate far from the original 2003 classic. It is a turn-based isometric tactical RPG, with the same mental stats, seemingly endless levelling up and crazed variety of attacks. While it does give you ample opportunity to learn via a series of gentle, tutorial style introductions, there is no getting away from the fact that there is an almost overwhelming amount of complexity at play here. Learning all of the nuances of the play grid, the stat-changing, colour-co-ordinated Geo Block system, and the way everything interacts is tantamount to spinning plates at times, but utterly rewarding all the same.
As if you didn’t have enough to comprehend, there are some new gubbins to play around with when you enter the Netherworld this time. How about the cool ability to stack your allies on top of each other, creating a statistically and offensively more effective tower formation? You can also use a new version of the Magichange ability to Demon Fuse enemies together and put them to use for your own attacking ends.
NIS have done an utterly incredible job of transporting the entire PlayStation 3 release to the handheld. The lush hand-drawn art absolutely pops, the 3D pyrotechnics when you enleash the wide variety of spells and special attacks are as spectacular as ever, and the whole thing suffers from only very infrequent framerate issues. It is nothing short of astonishing how you are effectively playing a full-blown PS3 title in the palm of your hand. Nothing has been compromised in terms of content – the huge, territorial bunfight that is the Cam-Pain map system, the well-implemented online capabilities that enable you to share your experiences with other players, the wonderful customisable pirate ship.
Amazingly the main campaign is also backed up by the DLC from the original release, but is also complemented by a brand new scenario that is exclusive to the Vita release.
This is undoubtedly the finest handheld version of the Disgaea-verse that you could possibly wish to own. It gives you a scaled-down, but not pared-back port of one of the highlights of the series, and offers a near-endless amount of tactical RPG fun. You are always learning when you take on the mantle of fulfilling Valvatorez’s honourable promises, and vicariously helping him on his crusade against corruption and wrongdoing. While things haven’t moved on tremendously over the staggering eleven years of its existence, Disgaea is a thing of real beauty and depth, that arguably works at its best on the go.
VERY GOOD. An 8/10 is only awarded to a game we consider truly worthy of your hard-earned cash. This game is only held back by a smattering of minor or middling issues and comes highly recommended.
Review code provided by publisher.