Disgaea 4 Complete+ is a goldmine of content that’ll keep you busy leveling up for the next year with its highly advanced, challenging gameplay mechanics and seemingly endless well of storylines.
This review contains plot spoilers for Disgaea 4 Complete+.
Disgaea 4 Complete+ is a rare sapphire in a post-modern decaying gaming world filled with DLC consumer heists and in-game currency purchased with its real life equivalent. When Developer / Publisher NIS says Complete, they mean Complete, nothing was held back. If you’re looking for worthwhile, story based, single player content, there’s a megaton to be found here. Though the game has an Item World as in previous Disgaea titles to level up both your characters and equipment through its version of randomly generated battles… It never feels like you’re forced to go on a month worth grind in order to advance the main plot, just making the game easier on yourself.
The title applauds skillful planning to victory rather than simply power level pushing. Meaning, if you locate a weakness or exploitation of your enemies through the game’s stat changing color blocks/cubes or plethora of items, (Immortal Pill comes to mind) you can win. Even if relatively underpowered compared to your demon adversaries. It’s what makes Disgaea as a franchise so addictively entrancing, endless possibility through precise strategizing. Of course, if you’re trying to get a bill pushed through the game’s Senate and fight a level 900 Senator demon with a level 100 character, you’ll still lose. There’s only so much inherent power difference to offset through strategy and tactics alone. Things are kept realistic so the desire to power-up remains high.
Comparison to Disgaea 5 Complete :
Disgaea 4 Complete+ is just a better game overall than Disgaea 5 Complete… Valvatorez and his inextinguishable love of Sardines alone makes for a more intriguing character than Disgaea 5’s more prototypical brooding Killia. Regardless of how cool Killia looks instantly as a character art-wise, there’s just something more endearing about Valvatorez. A style that falls in line thematically with what was established back in Disgaea 1. Quite frankly Disgaea 4 is the closest the series has come to reaching the gold standard set by NIS’ pioneering original.
Take away the story/plot aspects and Disgaea 4 Complete+ is still vastly better gameplay wise for one reason, it’s way more challenging. Disgaea 5 Complete’s practically instant availability of characters like Metallia and Laharl through the bonus chapters made it exceptionally easy for a Disgaea title. Which also created somewhat of a disillusionment when an ‘extra’ bonus character become stronger than Killia pretty early on unintentionally.
There is however, one important and highly impactful disadvantage to the change. Many who are short on time will not ever take advantage of Disgaea 4 Complete+’s bonus characters available in the post-game chapters like Adell, Rozalin, Mao, Priere, Gig, the Prism Ranger, the list goes on and on. Even more noticeable is that Disgaea 5 Complete had full blown story based chapters to unlock each character. In Disgaea 4 Complete+, you’re more or less presented with the same interview intro and battle in the same lava/dungeon location. There’s comparatively less uniqueness in this regard than Disgaea 5 Complete.
If you want characters like Laharl in Disgaea 4 Complete+ you’ll need significant mana to pass legislation in the Senate, an extra step that casuals will likely never ever accomplish. Sure, you can literally cheat from on the onset of the game pretty easily but those looking to do honest work are looking at hundreds of hours of investment… At a point where the main portion of the game will be long left behind unlike Disgaea 5 Complete, so it’s a tradeoff.
Disgaea 4 Complete+ has a surreally modern plot for half the game featuring false/fake news about Death Emizel’s fabricated death being reported as fact. The weakening of human bonds to the Netherworld & Hades and Celestia (Disgaea’s versions of Hell and Heaven) by lack of belief only adds to a highly intricate, mature storyline. One that basically more than alludes to the current state of growing atheism and religious apathy among the general popular. If humanity is more scared of each other than the Demons below in Disgaea 4 Complete+, demons lose their power (fear energy) and the same for the heavens above who receive no faith (awe energy).
Former Tyrant turned Prinny Instructor Valvatorez is constantly surprised by the weak demons he, loyal vassal Fenrich and gang face throughout the journey. Until facing off with old rival President Death King Hugo, who reveals he cannot even transform anymore because of the lack of fear energy from humans. Going further in detailing humans studying demon DNA (later revealed to make their own clone demons) and controlling the Netherworld.
Meanwhile, intriguing character Fuka Kazamatsuri refuses to believe she’s died and become a Prinny (or hybrid of sorts). No matter what evidence is shoved in front of her face, she maintains everything is all just a dream. Although played on as a humorous sidestory, it’s actually a pretty fascinating concept when one thinks about it. How would anyone react to being told they’re dead? It’s most likely they wouldn’t believe anything was true, the dream angle is most plausible.
The story only begins to unravel its well written tight ship post Chapter 7 with the introduction of Judge Nemo. While the idea to destroy the moon served as entertaining foil for Fenrich as a werewolf, the change to Nemo over Hugo as lead villain relatively hurt the plot overall. Instead of a Final Fantasy 7 style opening rebellion mission, Disgaea 4 Complete+ devolves into complete cartooniness featuring the sudden introduction of alien councils to the mix (looking to eliminate humanity).
Valvatorez and the rest of the group (+the Netherworld and Earth) having to prey to making Archangel Flonne’s giant robot work to save them (and the moon) was also a rather overt direct message for any game. Albeit with an interesting metaphor that people can’t be threatened into praying like Fenrich attempts with the aliens.
Disgaea 1 original Flonne is a full fledged character in the main game, not a side story chapter character. She’s unlockable through a post-game relatively easy to approve low mana, post-game Senate bill.
Fuka’s father claiming to create Fuka the world beating little sister boss she always wanted only helped enhance the cartooniness of the plot. One that was still rather serious in tone as a metaphor prior. Then Fear the Great (personification of Judge Nemo’s hate towards humanity)… Chapter 7 would have been a good place to end the main plot on a high point, with the rest of the chapters as bonuses. Or have the origin story of Valvatorez/Fenrich main, which added a lot to the central plot.
There’s bonus chapters galore post-game by the way, including the Fuka/Desco show and time traveling antics. The inclusion of multiple endings (particularly should you lose + credit roll) is a big time detail that every game should have.
In terms of overall lead story though, Disgaea 1 is still the king.
Tactical/Strategy RPG Mechanics :
Simply put, the gameplay strategy/tactical mechanics of Disgaea 4 Complete+ are top tier. Arguably the best in the whole genre. You could write a thesis to describe how utterly complex the system actually is while being exceptionally addicting. Getting to the next power level for another character is always in grasp, not too easy but not requiring ludicrous amounts of grinding either. You could spend years customizing your squad, weaponry, Evilities, boosting and weakening skills (in order to save mana), the list goes on and on. In the higher stakes battles like Minotrose in the post game origins bonus chapter, even the simple decision of lifting and throwing an injured but all powerful Tyrant Valvatorez forward on the battle grid is make or break.
If you’re only playing for the gameplay either way, Disgaea 4 Complete+ is tactical/strategy RPG heaven. It never gets old, and the constant opportunity to unlock more characters and bonuses in general pushes the need for one more battle even further. You never really feel like you’re playing just to play with no reward waiting.
Casual Player and Hardcore Gamer Reception :
This is of course, part of what will separate casuals and hardcore gamers. Disgaea 4 Complete+ is a demanding investment of a game because of sheer vastness rather than grindyness. You’re not getting through Disgaea 4 Complete+ in one casual weekend play through. Those that arrive from previous Disgaea games will know what to do no problem. It’s hard to say how someone just jumping into the complexities of the game with no prior will react at the learning curve. There is very little hand holding despite the initial Prinny instructing chapter at the beginning of the game.
Not to mention the entertaining Sardine Japanese-language centric background Valvatorez provides in the cutscenes is most definitely not a by the numbers generic affair. The game will attract a specific niche of hardcore gamers, and unfortunately might also shut the door for some at the same time. Those who aren’t already immersed in Anime style stories or strategy/tactical RPG games are less likely to find that instant break through connection Cloud provided in FF7 to give it a try. Those that stick with getting to know Disgaea will love it.
The art style is beautiful, gorgeous level. Honestly, most people who tried any Disgaea franchise for the first time were impressed by artist Takehito Harada’s spectacular work. From general conversational scenes to just wandering around the base to battling, Disgaea 4 Complete+ looks astoundingly pretty to look at. The character and enemy design is top notch, definitively unique. 2D art on a 3D plane done right. If you were a fan of Ogre Battle 64 and Dragon Force back in the day, you’ll find plenty to love about the art here.
The detail is immense, and thus a defining characteristic that makes the title so grand in scale. No matter how many times you see Fuka unveiling the bat or Valvatorez lifting his arm in anger, revealing a vampire wing, it looks as great as the first time. The anime influence is obvious, and if you like that style, the draw is instant.
The boss theme above, played when facing Minotrose (an excellent post-game storyline) and Gig is one of the best in the Disgaea 4 Complete+. Composed by Tenpei Sato, the game’s soundtrack is generally laid back like always in the franchise and greatly enjoyable. It really adds to the whimsically relaxed yet at times dead serious nature of the Disgaea universe. Lots of recognizable tracks and sound effects from previous Disgaea titles will be noticed by returning players. The franchise has a way of making its players feel comfortable, both audio wise and visually. It has much to do with why Disgaea players stick around and get into a battling/leveling routine each night.
Additionally, on the voice acting side, Troy Baker did an especially great job as Valvatorez. Really added to the Sardine one-liners. Fenrich’s Patrick Seitz (who I recently interviewed on One Piece: Stampede) along with the rest of the cast provided worthy counterparts.
Disgaea 4 Complete+ never takes itself too seriously, constantly making fourth wall breaking game references. From why a character is a mid-boss (which started back in Disgaea 1) to cure revelations ‘confidently’ happening if a boss is defeated according to lead Valvatorez. There’s even a Super Mario Bros. style ‘Princess is in another castle’ element in the game. When you’re on the moon looking for Judge Nemo’s device set to destroy it, Nemo says there’s actually another one after you wreck it, then post second device there’s the reactor.
Most of the game’s humor is in Valvatorez constant belief that his power originates from Sardines. That he no longer requires blood as a vampire, which is a key component of a serious storyline with romantic Angel interest Vulcanus/Artina. Or even Valvatorez’ anger at the misspelling of Prinny as ‘Primy’ in the Netherworld’s newspaper. However, the best Chapter comedy wise features the A-Virus which turns the Netherworld’s demons all into Warden Axel clones.
Axel is presented as a bit of a buffoon in the same manner of Street Fighter’s Dan, one that keeps coming back and back. The A-Virus has a dark serious overtone many might miss at first glance. Axel is called an ‘idiot’ by Fenrich and the others of the group, suggesting a world of an uneducated permanent underclass of society by the Netherworld’s ruling class.
Overall Review and Score:
If you’re looking for a fresh tactical/strategy RPG to sink a mighty time investment into, you won’t find much better quality gameplay than Disgaea 4 Complete+. Disgaea 1 is still the king of the franchise but the fourth iteration is the heir to the throne.
Full Disclosure: NIS America provided LiveGameDeals.com / TheNaturalAristocrat.com a review copy of Disgaea 4 Complete+ for the PlayStation 4 console.
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Visit Disgaea.us, the official website for the title and watch game trailers.
Be sure to check out Live Game Deals’ interview with Nippon Ichi Software President Sohei Niikawa on Disgaea!