Game: Disgaea 7: Vows of the Virtueless
Genre: Strategy, RPG
System: Nintendo Switch (also on Steam (Windows) PS4&5)
Developer|Publisher: Nippon Ichi Software | NIS America
Age Rating: EU 12+ | US teen
Price: US $59.99 | UK £53.99 | EU € 59,99
Release Date: October 3rd, 2023
Review code provided with many thanks to NIS America.
The Disgaea series returns with its seventh entry, Vows of the Virtueless. A strategy RPG (SRPG) series that is known to suck you in with its highly addictive gameplay, that will keep you busy for hundreds of hours or at least until the next entry in the series arrives. Now, I’ll admit I am no veteran Disgaea player. In fact, my first time playing this series was with Disgaea 6, an entry I actually really liked but would later discover that according to two other people and a few websites, this was supposedly the bad entry in the series.
So maybe it makes sense that when I went from 6 to 7, I noticed an immense improvement in the overall formula of the game, though I still liked 6. While I can’t speak much to long-term fans of the series, I feel safe saying this is a darn good SRPG if you’re dipping into the series for the very first time and like your humour on the weird side.
New Area of the Netherworld
The story once again takes place in the most beautiful netherworld in gaming. Specifically, the Hinomoto region, which samurai-era Japan inspires, is a first for the series. The plot follows the characters Fuji, a lazy warrior demon with a huge debt problem, and Pirilika, a spoiled rich demon who has come to Hinotomoto to take in its rich culture only to learn a tyrannical regime has taken it over. The two have polarizing personalities. Pirilika is kind-hearted but also a bit naive, whilst Fuji is arrogant and out for himself but does hide a softer side. Just don’t thank him, or he’ll get a nosebleed.
What starts as a quest for Fuji to clear his debt problem soon turns into something much bigger, wherein the two team up to seek out some special weapons in order to take on the tyrannical regime and return Hinomoto to more peaceful times. At least as peaceful as a place can be in the netherworld. Much like the rest of the series, the voice acting in this game is absolutely top-notch.
Story Loaded with Cut Scenes
The story is loaded with several cutscenes of various characters bantering with each other, often with hit-and-miss attempts at humour. This silliness is something the series has always been known for. If you’re new, you’ll either love it or be confused by it. I quickly warmed to Fuji as a character, but Pirilika took some time to come across as much more annoying than endearing.
The dialogue didn’t always land for me, but one can’t deny the impressive English voice cast, which delivered a stellar performance. Should cutscenes between missions start to give you a headache, you can just skip them. For me, the highlight of the game was the gameplay itself. You don’t need any prior knowledge of the previous titles to enjoy this, but if you do, it will likely enhance your experience.
Make Your Move
If you’re new to the series, I’ll attempt to provide a brief rundown of the gameplay. Each game episode contains multiple levels where the goal is generally to dispatch all of the enemies or a boss character on a grid-based level. Each side takes turns moving their characters about the map and planning their attack route. You start out with a decent selection of characters, with potentially many more as the game progresses. Each character specializes in specific weapons or magic and has its own strengths and weaknesses, all of which can be checked in menus.
But it’s not just the stats you need to watch. You can play around with the terrain, throwing boxes to routes to higher ground or even fellow players themselves. Throwing a Prinny is always great fun; the penguin-looking demon as it explodes on impact. Many levels also feature these geo platforms, which alter unit stats, some of which may favour the enemy. These can be removed by breaking the correct crystal. If you’re new to the game, a steady stream of tutorials is drip-fed to you to get you used to each mechanic, as well as explaining the purposes of various vendors in the hub world between missions. If you have a brain like a sieve, which I do, you’ll be pleased to know you can revert back to any of the explanations later.
Controls are easy to pick up, with reminder prompts for each button dotted all over the screen. It can be a little overwhelming to look at initially, but something that quickly warmed to me about the main story is its quite easygoing to begin with, providing plenty of wiggle room to make errors as you learn the ropes. If you are looking for more of a challenge, each individual level has a list of challenges to complete, such as completing a level with limited characters or using a special move. Completing this will net you extra rewards. You’re never short of things to do with massive vendors to interact with in the hub world between missions, tinkering with your party or taking on many side quests.
A lot of the joy of the series and certainly this entry is building up your party and finding what works for you. So, if you like a good grindy game, then you’re in the right place. Not too long into Disgaea 7: Vows of the Virtueless, you can recruit new characters from a roster of 40 classes. I quickly entered what seemed like a bottomless rabbit hole, customizing my party with various items. Then, I would venture forth into battle to discover my build was totally not suited to the conditions of the level. But I sure had fun trying. With this point in mind, this is a game that favours the player who is willing to sink time into it. While you can get by jumping into battles for a few hours, you’ll find things become a bit trickier as the difficulty builds.
As for new features, the most notable one is the ability to turn your characters gigantic. If your team takes sufficient damage, you can turn one of your team jumbo. They can’t even fit on the level board. The benefit of this form is you can attack any enemy on the board. Each character also has a passive ability which affects your own team, such as health regeneration. This only works for a few turns, so you need to trigger it at the right point. You also need to remember that the enemy can use it too, making your life just as difficult. As well as the ability to go jumbo, you can equip a special weapon to activate Hell mode for the wielder. This essentially buffs their stats individually for a few turns but is very useful.
There’s a small niggle I have with the gameplay that carries over from Disgaea 6. Positioning the cursor can still feel quite irritating, especially when you are trying to hover over different terrain. The only other niggle that comes to mind is some levels can feel a bit tedious when dealing with enemies on high platforms. I spent multiple moves picking up players or boxes, trying to fling them in the right place while the rest of my party and the enemy appeared to sit twiddling their thumbs with boredom at the spectacle. As a point for newbies, the game can become quite overwhelming at times with all the options available and customisation. If you have the time to spare, you’ll ease into it. But if you’re a gamer short of time, it can feel like a slow burn until the mechanics click.
Nether Looked so Good
The netherworld never looked so good. Disgaea 7 once again makes use of the new 3D engine, which feels like a nice step up from the usual 2D sprites used in older games. Characters are well-animated, with their wacky personalities shining through as they perform special moves during battle. The new Hinomoto realm of the netherworld feels fresh and different whilst still maintaining the series’ staple colourful charm with an upbeat soundtrack added for good measure.
The performance seemed fine to me on both TV and handheld. The only time it showed some slowdown was when a character went jumbo. But I was too distracted by the madness on screen to be bothered. You can go into the options like the previous game to favour graphics or performance. Since this is an SRPG, I was content with the graphical mode rather than the more fuzzy performance look, which I usually prefer in action games. I enjoyed the game mostly in handheld mode, fitting small bursts of gameplay in when I could. The game saves regularly and makes it easy to jump in and out, especially when you’re trying to stop a small child ripping your kitchen apart. But maybe I’m a rare type of gamer.
Conclusion: Spare a Few Hundred Hours
Disgaea 7: Vows of the Virtueless is another solid entry in the long-running SRPG series. Fans of the series most likely have already bought this game and will hopefully be satisfied. If you’re new though this is a really good entry to start off your venture into the series. The game does a good job introducing each of its mechanics and features whilst you grind away at creating the ultimate party.
As with other entries of the series, this is a game that can potentially keep you busy for hundreds of hours. And if you have the time to spare, you’ll find plenty to like here. I had the most fun just doing a few battles after a long, busy day at work. The story is hit-and-miss. But it has deep and engaging gameplay, with a nearly bottomless pit of customization for your party. It will keep you glued to the most colourful netherworld in gaming.
Final Verdict: I Like it a Lot