There are two things that will hit you immediately if you are making your first foray into the Disgaea series with this entry. First the lighthearted overtones to the story and characters and second, the initially confusing mechanics. But with a little patience and some effort from yourself, you can find a very rewarding experience.
You take on the role of Lord Valvatorez a demon who has been sent to the netherworld and given the role of training the Prinnies, in exchange for a supply of sardines, which he uses as a substitute for human blood. However, one of Valvatorez’ qualities is he always keeps a promise and when the Prinnies are abducted before graduating his class (which is a scenario for a glorified tutorial) he must set off to save them and thus keeping his promise and honor in tact.
Of course the story branches off somewhat from the opening setup, but what you will find is a well written game with characters who whilst not immediately lovable, do grow on you and do make sense in the world and setting they are placed in. Interactions between characters come across as though they are between two hammy actors on the stage in the West End, which adds to the comical tones of everything.
The initial mechanics can be awkward to get used to, despite the tutorials in the opening battles. But as you progress you soon find that you are able to use the various tactics introduced to you earlier. The battles you take part in are turn based, with you and your opponent taking turns in phases.
You will start by moving your character on a grid to get them in position to either attack, lift, defend, etc. Then you will set the actions before finally executing. Now at this point you phase isn’t over, unless you choose ‘End Turn’ so you can even set up an attack with some of the characters in play, execute those moves, then even bring more into play before executing theirs. It allows you to really use some tactics to get the upper hand.
One example of this is moving a character to a certain square on the grid, then moving a second character behind them, using the second character to throw the first character to a higher point, executing that move-set, then using the first thrown character to attack the enemy that was previously unreachable. That whilst being a very simple use of the mechanics and the phases show off just how deep a battle can potentially go and is actually a lot less forgiving than something such as Demon Gaze or Persona in this respect.
There is lots more beyond just the story and the battle mechanics, as you use a hub world to buy and sell weapons, armour and more, as well as learning new skills, building your team, etc. Whilst a lot of this is just a variation on what you can expect in other RPG’s it takes a lot of time to figure it out properly here.
What you will get here is around 40+ hours of main game content alone, but if you really want to get through all the potential sub content, quests, collectibles, etc then there is easily over 100 hours on offer. Limits are pretty damn impressive too, with a level cap of 9999 and damage numbers that go to insane levels. Again this adds to the overall amusement of Disgaea 4.
This is a SRPG that isn’t for everyone and whilst it isn’t totally inaccessible for newcomers, it is clearly a game designed for fans of the genre and more specifically the series itself. But that’s no bad thing as for anyone willing to put in the time and effort there is a very rewarding experience on offer.