Fans of tactics games have been keeping busy these last few years, with cracking games constantly releasing full of grid based goodness. Since the PS2 though Disgaea has been happily pumping out some of the most entertaining and outlandish tactics games imaginable, and for my money doesn’t get enough love for it. Disgaea 6, however, was a bit of a bump in the road when it released, with some serious technical issues on the Switch and a distinct lack of classes compared to previous titles. Well the Disgaea train is back on track now, thanks to Disgaea 7: Vows of the Virtueless.
In a series that’s all about different Netherworlds and the demons that inhabit them, there’s a danger of the games getting more ridiculous with each entry. Disgaea 7 deals with that by being set on one specific Netherworld with a samurai setting. There are two main characters this time around – the honourless wandering samurai Fuji and the Bushido obsessed fangirl Piririka. Sensing that Piririka has plenty of cash to help him pay off his debts, Fuji decides to aid her on her quest to find the seven legendary weapons and this unlikely duo set upon wandering the Netherworld and fighting anyone who stands in their way. The characters are just as zany as ever, and the wacky antics the cast get up to are pure unfiltered Disgaea.
If you’ve never played a game in the series before, at its core it’s a pretty standard tactics game. You have a team of various warriors, mages, and demons to control on your turn, and the aim of most stages is to defeat all the enemies before they defeat you. As your characters level up they’ll learn new skills that will help in battle, from ranged AoE blasts to mass heals for the party. The variety of different types of character and ability to make every battle interesting, and that’s before we get into the fancy stuff.
An important aspect is the lifting and throwing, and Vows of the Virtueless is no exception. Pretty much any character can pick up and throw every other character to move them around, which has huge implications in battle. At the start of a stage you might want to get your most powerful unit deep into enemy territory by passing them along a line of units, or maybe you want to get an enemy away from its healing allies by throwing it across the map. New are monster throws, which monster type units launch automatically when something is thrown on top of them. It’s another layer of complexity which lends itself to the thoughtful combat encounters that series fans love so much.
No element of Disgaea requires more thought than the Geo Panels, though, which also make their expected return here. Geo Crystals placed on Geo Panels will apply their effect to all panels of the same colour, which might be something helpful like boosting the defence of all allies, or might make enemies invincible and ruin your day. Thankfully you can lift, throw, or even destroy Geo Crystals to get rid of their effects or change them to be in your favour. The puzzle game elements that these panels apply to the game are still really interesting over two decades later, and destroying multiple crystals to unleash a chain reaction that destroys a whole screen of enemies simply does not get old.
It’s not all the same old stuff in Disgaea 7, though. The star of the show in terms of new mechanics is Jumbify, an ability that allows one of your characters to grow bigger than an entire stage and generally cause a lot of havoc doing so. It’s not something that’s particularly easy to activate (which is only fair considering the damage it can cause), but every time I made one of my characters massive it made me smile. The opposite is possible too though, and dealing with giant enemies isn’t exactly easy.
One aspect of Disgaea 7: Vows of the Virtueless I really appreciate is how many returning features have been tweaked to make them a little better. Whether it’s the cool thematic change of the Dark Assembly being portrayed by a Sumo wrestling match, or Demonic Intelligence being made a little bit less overpowered when it just plays the game for you, every aspect of the game that felt a bit off last time has been improved significantly.
That goes double for the technical issues, which on Switch this time around are so much less egregious. The framerate still isn’t ideal, and certain special moves cause it to tank significantly, but it was never bad enough to put me off the battles. It meant I got to really appreciate that new 3D art style too, which has definitely grown on me after the shock of Disgaea 6.
With over 40 classes this time around, Disgaea 7 feels like such a landmark fleshed out game in the series. All your favourites return from prior games, and new additions like the Bandit (my personal favourite), and the Big Eye make a hell of a first impression. With a huge range of characters and abilities to experiment with, there’s never been a Disgaea game with so much to dive into.
Disgaea 7 is probably my new favourite game in the series, but that’s not to say it doesn’t have a few issues. The difficulty has been amped up significantly in this entry, and because of that you’ll probably have to grind a decent amount in the early game. The game in general is pretty punishing for new players, with amped up costs for healing between battles and a whole lot of mechanics to learn. The technical issues, while better, are still not ideal either, and the visuals are slightly blurry to compensate for it.
Disgaea 7: Vows of the Virtueless is a return to form for the tactics series, with tons of classes, thoughtful tactics gameplay, and that trademark wackiness that fans know and love. It’s a little harder than some of the recent games in the series, but once you get deep into the game you’ll never want to stop playing.
A return to form for the series
Loads of classes to pick from
Thoughtful tactics gameplay is as fun as ever
Full of wacky charm
Still has some technical issues on Switch
A little too tough, especially early on
Not ideal for newcomers