Review: Disgaea 6 Complete

Fans were surprised when Disgaea 6: Defiance of Destiny released last year exclusively for the Nintendo Switch. Sure, the series has seen a surprising boom on the handheld platform, but this is a franchise that has deep roots on PlayStation. Fortunately, NIS America has found success porting various games to PlayStation and PC, so much so that the desire for the sixth entry in the long-running franchise is finally upon us. Including all the downloadable content that has been published over the last year, Disgaea 6 Complete looks to introduce an entirely different, but familiar demographic, to everything that was right and wrong with its initial release. Fortunately, this is on top of fixing a number of technical issues that plagued the Switch version, such as the horrendous graphical modes. Is this enough to warrant another look into our zombified protagonist or should Zed’s adventures have stayed in the grave?

The first major issue with Disgaea 6 is the plot. The story quickly gets old, using the unfortunate JRPG trait we’ve slowly become accustomed to where we beat a boss but immediately are defeated in the cutscene afterwards, over and over again. One shot the God of Destruction? Sorry but Zed and pals are exhausted and are killed purely for the story to move forward. Granted, this plays into the idea that Zed, our protagonist, is a zombie, and he is “Super Reincarnated” in every death to become stronger. Regardless, because of this, the writing feels lackadaisical to the point I started to tune out the little that was happening on screen. There’s a reason why Zed is trying to kill the God of Destruction, but his backstory takes forever to get going, and the little snippets spread throughout the first half of the game does nothing but annoy. It tries to beat around the bush far too often and doesn’t treat the player with respect as if we couldn’t put two and two together. It also lacks the comical and cartoonish dialogue we’ve come to expect from Disgaea, treading in some rather dull territory.

The cast of characters don’t help the story, either. Usually Disgaea is filled with fun and unique faces that you want in your party. In Disgaea 6, they feel generic and bland to the point of utter frustration. Each has their own small arc, but it amounts to nothing more than simply overcoming a small annoyance with the most minimal character building, such as taking down a cowardice hero who has taken over your kingdom or a sister who wants a “bad ending” for the world. I could not get invested in any of their plights due to their rushed stories and interactions. It doesn’t help that Zed has no personality whatsoever. We’ve become accustomed to a hero who has some sort of crazy trait, whether it’s being overly confidant to the point of borderline annoyance or someone who seems to have a bottomless stomach when it comes to curry, there’s nothing about Zed that makes him likable or enticing to follow. His dog companion, Cerberus, has more charm than him. Prism Ranger Piyori might be the only character that belongs in the universe, as her story fits perfectly with the comical tone the series is known for. She’s essentially a Power Ranger who lives in a world that’s a TV show about justice. It’s too bad this isn’t reflected with the rest of the cast.

One of the major draw points for Disgaea is its massive list of classes that, for the most part, play different from another. A couple of classes have been added for creation, such as Psychic and Mecha Girl. Psychic is a caster with a focus on Star attacks and abilities that have knockback and sometimes teleportation skills. Mecha Girl is more of an all-rounder with various technological abilities such as lasers and beams. Both are solid additions, but they seem to have come at a great cost. Perhaps because of the transition to 3D, quite a few classes have been removed completely. For example, the gender alternatives for long-running jobs have been taken out, presumably to remove some redundancies, such as Valkyrie, Fight Mistress, Magician and Cleric. There is a gender bending trait you can unlock, but it doesn’t seem to do anything other than being matched with another Evility. In addition, everything added over the various Disgaea games are nowhere to be found, such as Professor, Sorcerer, Dark Knight, Sage, Beastmaster, Celestial Host, Wrestler and so many more that the list could go on forever. There’s only thirteen humanoid classes and nine monster classes to be earned and recruited, which is a huge letdown.

With that said, the core combat is still fun. This is the turn-based JRPG we all fell in love with, with over the top special moves and combos. It helps that there’s a good number of well-designed combat scenarios, even though a good portion of them are straightforward. Nippon Ichi has embraced the absurd floating numbers and values, having the player quickly exceed level 500 in a couple of hours. To a certain degree this makes the game far more wild, but at the same time, it feels unbalanced. While you can somewhat expect something like this in the post-game of Disgaea, it comes right off the bat. In fact, we had no trouble exceeding level 4000 within the first three chapters, and the amount of damage you’ll be able to do goes into the category of “what’s the point?” Obviously, there’s a little more to leveling because you’ll find yourself reincarnating when you reach max rank on a class, but it feels like the developers thought they had to respect your time more than you probably want. There was always a good balance of progression, but now there’s no challenge. In fact, because of this I found myself doing dramatically more damage with a standard attack rather than a special attack.

This mostly has something to do with the newly introduced auto-battle system. On one hand, this reduces the time you need to grind levels substantially, ensuring your end game could be more pleasing. At the same time, it feels like Nippon Ichi wants you to grind through the main story due to the crazy leveling structure for main missions. Instead of balancing the game like they have in the past, you’ll just have to press one button and the game will run for you until you get to your desired level. There’s an absurd amount of attention and detail to this system, where you can completely customize your AI’s thought process. It’s not just go-all-out or act defensive (which it has defaults of), but they’re able to adapt based on what’s HP pools and enemy defenses. This breaks the game not because it’s in the game, but because it’s a huge focus in the game. Why play the game when you can simulate it? It’s like playing an EA Sports game and just simulating the season. There’s nothing satisfying about that.

This is the first time in Disgaea’s history that Nippon Ichi has created a fully 3D combat system. In the past, it has only been the environments that fell into this category, but now character models have been modeled and animated in 3D. Cutscenes still maintain character stills to convey the story, but otherwise, everything else has been reworked for a new generation of visuals. For the most part, it works well. While there’s still much love for the high resolution 2D sprites of the past, the developers have gone out of their way to beautifully craft and animate everything. While we had issues with the Switch version, namely the three different graphical modes having dramatically different issues, these aren’t at all an issue on the new powerful platforms such as PlayStation 5. We are given Performance and Graphics oriented modes, but oddly enough we didn’t see much changes between the two. This is a huge improvement from the Switch version where one mode had severe framerate issues while another looked like it had Vaseline smeared on the screen, but in turn ran much better.

Closing Comments:

While there were key elements that could be ironed out when it first was released for Nintendo Switch, there’s a bevy of underlying issues that has stayed with the core structure. Even after a year, I’m truly heartbroken over Disgaea 6: Defiance of Destiny. The story and cast of character are some of the least compelling you’ll find in the series, and while the combat has its rewarding moments, it feels unbalanced due to the overly-chaotic nature of leveling and attribute values even early on. It doesn’t help that there’s a focus on the AI playing the game for you, making it feel like a borderline free-to-play mobile game at times. The only thing complete about this is the amount of content stuffed in this small package. Complete comes with everything you may want from Disgaea 6, but what this has done to the franchise has been a huge disappointment. At least you can recruit some of the members of Hololive on your team.