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Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice
Score: 88%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: NIS America
Developer: Nippon Ichi Software
Media: Blu-ray/1
Players: 1
Genre: RPG/ Strategy/ Turn-Based Strategy

Graphics & Sound:
Holy crap, Disgaea 3 is here! There goes the weekend, the week, probably even the next month. Hours upon hours of strategy goodness await players in the latest entry into the Nippon Ichi stable of games. It has been a few years since a proper game was introduced into the Disgaea universe, but it was worth the wait for fans of strategy RPG's .

One of the things that makes the Disgaea series so recognizable is its unique visual style. Hand drawn cut scenes tell most of the story, while all of the gaming bits are presented with pixilated sprites with a surprisingly impressive amount of detail. Disgaea 3 affords smooth framerates since sprites aren't very trying on the PS3 Cell Processor and all of the visual flare for special and magical attacks are well done. Although many of the fans of the series aren't playing Disgaea 3 because of how it looks, it would have been nice to see some clean and polished character models instead of blurry sprites. To that end, it is a little disappointing to still be playing a PlayStation 2 game on your PS3.

Matching a soundtrack to any game's visual appeal is tricky, but the Disgaea games have always managed to achieve a soundtrack that gets stuck in your head for days on end. A good way to describe the score is a mix of strange, yet endearing tunes with just a hint of gypsy inspiration. If you have heard music from the Disgaea anime or played other Nippon Ichi games like Phantom Brave or Makai Kingdom, then you have a pretty good idea of the musical styling of Disgaea 3. As a side note, the music is such a memorable part of the experience that GameStop is offering the game's soundtrack to preorders.

The story for Disgaea 3 is about as weird as they come. Mao, a young demon at the Netherworld High School, is looked on as the role model for the whole class. In the Netherworld, being good means being bad because Mao has never been to any of his classes and is seen as the class valedictorian. His childhood friend, Raspberyl, is called one of the delinquents but she is one of the few that attended her classes and volunteers in her spare time. One morning, Mao is playing one of his games and spent "a million billion hours" playing it when his dad, the Overlord of the Netherworld, accidentally broke his console. Mao declares war on his father and vows to kill him and become the new Overlord. On his journey, he meets all sorts of heroes, demons, and wayward teachers that become part of his adventure.

Disgaea 3 is a very stat heavy RPG. Numbers and formulas are used frequently and effectively to create a very fun and accessible game. The beauty of the system is that it can be as complicated or simple as you want. Disgaea 3 has included a slew of new features and ideas that improve the playing experience to make it an addictive game.

The Item World is a recurring feature in all of the Disgaea series, but in Disgaea 3, they have introduced the Class World. Essentially the same as the Item World, but the difference is that it affects the individual characters and not their equipment. Basically, it is a list of randomly generated maps that the players clear in order to earn skills and level up the attributes of the character of choice. It is a much more flexible system that lets you customize your party more freely. In the same vein as the Class World, another new feature is what they call "Evilities." Practically, they are "evil abilities" and they are simply new abilities that are learned by their respective characters and cannot be unlearned. For example, once a thief learns an ability for his class, he could then learn another ability from a class that he hasn't even trained in yet. It is a very flexible system like the Class World and makes for some enormously deep gameplay.

On the field of battle in Disgaea 3, you can stack members of your party on top of one another and then throw them around the map for quicker maneuvering. Now, on top of the stack ability, they have introduced Tower Attacks and Dual Throwing. Tower Attacks are a group of members joining together in a stacked tower to inflict damage in a very over-the-top way. Dual Throwing is a more strategic addition because it allows for a tower of characters to pick a specific character to initiate the next throw. This means that places that were out of reach vertically can now be much easier to access. The list of new additions to Disgaea 3 is so long, that most of the strategy guide is geared to how to better understand the new systems. For fans of RPG's, there is plenty for your money. For strategy fans, there is even more. Disgaea 3 packs more than enough content for its fifty dollar price tag.

Disgaea 3 can be the hardest game available on the PS3 when it wants to be. The main story isn't that hard since all of the previously cleared levels are available for your level grinding needs and smart strategy goes hand in hand with proper preparation. The most challenging part of the game is the end game. The extra challenges that await inside the item world and the always ridiculously hard Baal are there for the ultimate risk versus reward scenario. Die hard fans want everything that Disgaea 3 has to offer and facing these trials are key to claiming absolute victory.

The hardest part for some people is going to be to know when to put it down. Since there isn't a level cap and a near infinite amount of levels to play through, finding the time and energy to put into this game almost feels like work. Not to say that the game is boring because it isn't. It just becomes too overwhelming at one point and may be a turn-off for some people.

Game Mechanics:
Disgaea 3 plays similar to other turn-based strategy RPG's. You navigate Mao around the Overworld with the directional buttons and rotate the camera with the shoulder buttons: (L1) and (R1). (L2) changes the distance in which the camera is positioned. (Triangle) pulls up the Menu screen and (X) confirms any choices in the Menus. The (O) button makes Mao jump. Jumping is useful for reaching new areas and collecting rare treasures.

Once in battle, the map is on a grid and the button layouts change a bit. Menu selection and camera controls stay the same, but (O) becomes the cancel or undo button and you will be using it a lot. Mastering and abusing the battle controls are not only encouraged, it is essential to success. (Square) brings up the movement grid and (R2) cycles between available targets. There are strategies available for the solo type players and strategies available for players that like to group up and deal massive amounts of damage in a single turn. Finding new ideas is part of the fun of Disgaea 3 and the fact there is always more to discover will make this game dangerously addictive.

Disgaea 3 is a fantastic purchase for strategy enthusiasts and RPG fans. If you haven't played any of these types of games before, then it may be hard to jump in, but if you are looking for a deep and rewarding game with over a hundred hours to spend, then you don't have to look farther than Disgaea 3. The only things that hold it back from true greatness is that it still feels like a last-gen game.

-HanChi, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Hanchey

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