Well it’s been a little while but today we have another VITA game for review; this time it’s the remake of Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice which is coming out tomorrow. I’ve personally been looking forward to this game as the VITA has a distinct lack of JRPGs at the moment and it’s a genre I’ve always felt transitions well to a portable platform. I’ve been curious to see how this particular type of JRPG (the strategy RPG) would fare on the VITA as the mixed button/touch screen control scheme of the device seems especially suited to this type of game. So does my theory and this game for that matter, hold up? Why don’t we find out together.
So we might as well start off with that question of “how are the controls”? Well thankfully my theory was bang on…for the most part. Controls are done mainly through the standard controls with the touch screen acting as essentially extra shoulder buttons which is a fair solution though some fuller touch control options would have been nice. There’s also the option to use the back touch screen in addition to the front for those extra touch controls but I ended up disabling it right away as I found it a little too easy to hit those back controls accidentally. Aside from those little gripes though the game controls great and thanks to a special overhead camera angle you can activate, with a combo of the touchscreen and face buttons, I felt in control of the battlefield on every map.
Moving onto the actual gameplay, things are incredibly fun and surprisingly addictive. The basic combat here is very simply built but it refines and makes great use of those rudimentary elements. The actions you can perform are fairly limited in scope and there isn’t a ton of special conditions you have to worry about. Simply keeping your group fairly close together and acting in ways you think are fun will on their own open up a lot of opportunity to use the game’s more advanced systems like combos and team attacks. Essentially if you’re aware a system exists in the game, it’s very easy apply to it quickly and without a devoting a ton of focus to making it happen; it provides a welcome amount of versatility which is something I don’t often feel in this genre. It’s the quintessential “easy to learn but hard to master” system and while it’s more or less identical to the other Disgaea games, it works well so it bears mentioning. Another thing of note is that this hits a good balance with its ancillary systems. The Disgaea games have always been fond of extraneous bullshit outside of combat like mock elections, because who doesn’t want to spend an hour screwing around with due process to get any actual battle benefits. While this game still has a lot of that, it’s much better at making those systems actually fun and more importantly letting you ignore them for the most part if you want.
Moving onto the story, things are surprisingly good for something that looks this stereotypically anime. The basic plot is that your main character Mao is a demon honor student of the Netherworld Academy who is looking to defeat its principal/his father who is also the Overlord of the Netherworld and like bazillion feet tall; he is pretty much the ultimate in “my dad can beat up your dad“. Mao plans to defeat him with the power of a “hero” because the hero always beats villain according to pop culture. Their entire world works on opposites though with the best honor students never actually attending class and generally being dicks, whereas the students considered delinquents are doing good deeds for people and maintaining perfect attendance, making an honor student the antithesis of a normal hero. All the fun of the story comes from Mao double-crossing the gullible hero Almaz and trading titles with him so that Mao becomes the hero and Almaz becomes his demon slave. This switch doesn’t just stay one of titles though as they start changing and subtly adopting the traits of their new titles. It’s this creative take on bureaucratic good and evil role reversal that makes their relationship interesting and kept me wanting to see the story. Combine that with a fun and kooky cast of characters and the series trademark lampooning of JRPG story and character tropes, and you get a light but engaging experience.
The last thing I wanted to talk about is the presentation, which I found surprisingly good despite the fact I’m generally not a fan of anime stuff. The visuals have the same goth parody look as the other Disgaea games but look particularly sharp on the VITA’s OLED screen. The sprites are a little jaggy but they’re not too bad and the sharpness of the portraits and bombast of the action make up for it. The music is something that really stuck out to me though; you normally expect either horrid screechy intelligible J-Pop or generic light metal that somehow makes guitar shredding bland from games like this but instead it gives you something more interesting. The music is an odd mix of a slower, off-kilter, Enka style stuff mixed with ballad-esque bad ’80s anime style intro music. It’s unique compared to any other game but it suits Disgaea perfectly and really helps set it apart and actually made me want to play with the volume on.
Put simply this is a great purchase for all you VITA owners out there looking for a good RPG that works well on the go. At $40 it may seem a little pricey but it comes with all the content of the original, plus all the DLC that came out for it, and a few minor additions special to the VITA. This is a great way to play what I consider to be one of the best entries in the Disgaea series, and honestly it’s the exact kind of title the VITA needs right now. It’s something substantial that you’ll be able to sink your teeth into and what with the small amount of games actually coming out for the VITA after its launch, I’m willing to bet all you VITA owners are looking for something new to play by now. As such I’m happy to give Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice (VITA Edition) a 5 out of 5 stars. Were there more competition in the RPG field on this system, it might be a different story, but as it stands this game is king of the VITA’s current role-playing hill and a totally worthwhile buy for VITA owners who don’t mind some silly in their fun.