Life is hard for Mao. In addition to being the most extreme honor student at the Maritsu Evil Academy, he's the son of the Overlord. Then again, maybe it isn't too bad: the Netherworld public education system is a great deal like Bizarro World. Mao earns his honor student credentials by skipping class to watch anime and play video games. Raspberyl, his archrival, is a delinquent among demons: she hands in her homework on time, values community service, and opposes Mao at every turn. Other characters important to the plot are a martial arts demon-chef, an incompetent hero fanboy, and hordes of prinnies -- the exploding zombie penguins who serve as the Disgaea series' moogles.
"That is to say, this is not a game that takes its plot very seriously. That shoe falls upon the tactical RPG's battle system."
That is to say, this is not a game that takes its plot very seriously. That shoe falls upon the tactical RPG's battle system. In addition to standard combo attacks based on character placement, the combat system introduces Skill Merges and Magichange attacks. Skill Merges combine two character or monster skills during the crucible of combat to result in a completely new attack. The Magichange system allows certain characters (including prinnies) to turn into weapons mid-battle to grant their allies new attack options.
Character customization has been amped up from the prior Disgaea games introducing new character classes, a mana-based weapon skill system, and tower skills. Tower skills modify the quintessential Disgaea act of stacking the entire party on top of one another and turn it into an explosive totem pole of pain. Further character personalization is accomplished by sending them off to class.
The classroom is Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice's answer to the Dark Senate from the previous games. Party members who sit next to each other in class have a higher chance of performing combo attacks in battle. The classroom is also used to assign party members to specific clubs. Club membership unlocks a variety of positive effects, including increased statistics and enhanced shopping options.
Other refinements deal with new ways to interact with the battlefield. Characters may now throw each other from one person to another if forming a tower isn't possible. If it is, the bottom character of a tower can now choose to toss only the person on top. Furthermore, certain non-character objects, such as Geo Blocks, can be picked up and thrown. These colored cubes can be picked up and thrown into like-colored blocks to trigger a Puyo Puyo-esque cascade of destruction.
The Disgaea series' dark carnival style remains evident in the series' most recent offering. Tenpei Sato, composer behind the previous Disgaea games as well as Phantom Brave and Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure, returns with a quirky blend of music. Fans of zombie-hobo swing and stirring, over-the-top sentai heroics will not be disappointed by Sato's most recent work.
Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice's artistic flair also builds on the previous works in the series. Visuals are unabashedly mainstream anime, but with enough spooky riffs to give it a feel of its own. Although initial impressions caused many fans to question whether the graphics were more suited to a PlayStation 2 game, especially the character sprites, NIS America remains firm on the lusciousness of the finished product. Among the improvements on Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories are flashier battle effects, more vibrant backgrounds, and increasingly complex character sprites.
Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice will be released in the United States on August 26, 2008. Distribution will be handled by Atlus USA. The game is rated T for Teen for alcohol references, mild fantasy violence, mild language, and mild suggestive themes.