Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance, Bluffer’s Guide

If you are in any way fond of large numbers, you won’t find a more reliable source than Nippon Ichi’s Disgaea franchise. It’s a turn-based strategy RPG where you shove your underlings around a grid looking to smack any opposition into submission, but its stats put all of its rivals to shame the maximum character level is a whopping 9,999, stats easily grow into the millions, and damage values grow so large that numbers have to be abbreviated.


As impressive as this is, though, it’s the creativity of the team that makes the games shine. Each new entry layers on all kinds of crazy new mechanics. Reincarnation to improve stats; tile puzzles that can modify battles with various buffs and debuffs; dungeons within items, where you can kidnap stat boosts for use elsewhere; and a full court system, where you can lobby to change the game’s rules before a council of demons are just the start. It’s as daft as it seems, and the writing reflects this, too Nippon Ichi’s localisation team is one of the best, ensuring that the Disgaea games are always entertaining and frequently laugh-out-loud funny.

THE STORY SO FAR
There’s not really an overarching story to the Disgaea series. It’s more that each game follows similar themes with a new set of characters, kind of like how Square handled Final Fantasy back before Lightning was in everything. The usual setup, then, is that you take on the role of an Overlord, a ruling demon in the Netherworld. Threats change from game to game, but it’s usually another, more powerful Overlord with their burning eyes on a coupor an assassination in order to nick your stuff it’s quite literally a cut-throat heirarchy down there and there’s always a more powerful demon out there to try and overthrow you.

In many ways, the story doesn’t even matter it’s an amusing way to learn the ropes and have a load of nonsense shouted at you while you laugh along, but the real game doesn’t begin until the post-game. Completing the entire story without mucking around with modifiers or power-levelling will typically only get you to around level 100, meaning that you’re going to want to pick up those other 9,899 levels in the extras, which are plentiful and great. You can probably power through the storyline in a few evenings or even a weekend, but you’ll be rocking challenge maps, side quests and bonus dungeons for many months after.

WHERE TO START
The first game is by far the simplest in terms of mechanics, meaning it’s actually quite hard to go back to after playing more recent versions if you plan on playing more than one of them, Hour Of Darkness (or Afternoon Of Darkness, should you plump for the great PSP port) is where to go. If you’re somewhat familiar with the series, Disgaea 4 is so loaded with content that you probably won’t have time to play any other game ever again.

ANYTHING BESIDES GAMES?
Sure. a middling animated series ran for just 12 episodes but managed to recap (well, sort of) the events of the first game in that time while adding a bunch of new stuff and fiddling with the timeline a little. There have also been a selection of light novels and manga adaptations that did much the same, the latter also toying with the visual style to present familiar characters in a new light. It’s all about the merch here, though Nippon Ichi’s online store offers amazing special edition goodies and all manner of branded wonders. In fact, there may or may not be several Prinny plushies in view as we write this (full disclosure: there absolutely are, and they’re awesome).

ANY SPIN-OFFS?
A fair few , actually. Disgaea Infinite is a PSP visual novel where you play as a Prinny trying to solve Laharl’s murder by possessing other demons; Prinny: Can I Really Be The Hero? is a hardcore platformer with a limited amount of lives (well, Prinnies) with which to clear the whole thing; its sequel, Dawn Of Operation Panties, Dood! is basically the same thing but harder still; Makai Kingdom for PS2 brought together Disgaea and Phantom Brave characters under the rule of a demon who had turned himself into a book;  Disgaea: Netherworld Unbound was a free Android game in the spirit of the core series but with perhaps one or two in-app purchase options too many (read: more than zero). Prinny lovers need never go wanting, basically.

WHO ARE THESE GUYS?

LAHARL
The hero of the original Disgaea may not know how to wear shirts, but that hasn’t stopped him from becoming a fan favourite. He’s  arrogant, but he gets away with it on account of being the son of the Netherworld’s former king. He’s appeared in every main series game and not always as you see him here he’s been spotted in Prinny form in other games, while he gets turned female in Disgaea D2.

ETNA
Another demon with a questionable wardrobe, Etna is, again, from the first game, where she was one of Laharl’s few vassals when he woke from his elongated slumber. She leads the Prinny Squad and does so ruthlessly, but that mean streak isn’t limited to the little guys she’s not what you call trustworthy, at least not to begin with. Like Laharl, she’s appeared in all the main games to date.

AXEL
The Dark Hero himself first appeared in Disgaea 2, a former superstar whose popularity seemed to be on the decline, things only got worse from there on for Axel. In Disgaea 3, he is still seen to be hopelessly clinging to his showbiz past, while in Disgaea 4 he just comes across as downright deluded, as nobody in the Netherworld even seems to know who he is.

PRINNIES
The unofficial mascots of the franchise, and pretty much the best things ever. Those who die having led worthless lives or with mortal sin come back in the Netherworld as Prinnies, where they must serve for aeons to earn enough money to be resurrected. They say ‘dood’ a lot and explode when thrown. Subservient and loyal to the bitter, explosive end, you can always count on a Prinny.

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