The geo blocks introduced in Disgaea 3 return here; these cubes convey special properties onto specific tiles across the battlefield, often making your struggles much more challenging. They might create clones of an enemy with each passing turn, for instance, or make enemies on certain tiles invincible. These force you to consider whether to focus each character's efforts on fighting the enemy monsters or on eliminating the troublesome blocks.
Very little has changed since Disgaea 3. The ability to temporarily fuse your monsters together into larger monsters gives you a new option on the battlefield, but this is mostly the same well-worn battle system the series has employed since day one. Disgaea fans may find that it feels a bit too familiar, and the shoddy, superficial tutorials mean that newcomers will have a difficult time familiarizing themselves with its complexities. But the variety of strategic concerns that you're presented with at each turn keep it absorbing, and the hours can fly by as you claw your way from one victory to the next.
6334970NoneTake that, treasure chest!
Speaking of hours, Disgaea 4 eats them up by the dozens. In addition to fighting battles as you advance through the story, you can enter the randomly generated dungeons of the Item World at any time. Here, you select an item from your inventory and venture to the world inside of it. Advancing through these stages not only makes your characters more powerful and better able to face the challenges of the campaign; it also levels up whatever item you have selected. It can be a time-consuming process; the more time you sink into it, the more your characters and your equipment grow. It's rewarding to reap the benefits of your party members' increased capabilities when you return to the campaign, or to use a weapon that's now much more powerful thanks to your adventures in the Item World.
When you're not battling, you can venture to the Cam-pain HQ, which serves many of the same basic functions that the homeroom did in Disgaea 3. As you advance through the campaign, you open up territories on a large map. By placing evil symbols on this map and then dispatching your party members as evil deputies into adjacent territories, you bestow certain advantages on those characters. Placing characters next to a training ground, for instance, grants each of them 10 percent of the amount of experience earned by any other character who is adjacent to the same facility. You can also submit bills that benefit you to the senate and then bribe unsupportive senators into seeing the merits of your legislation. And eventually, you can appoint party members to your cabinet. Your foreign minister might appear in other players' senates and bring back items with which he or she has been bribed, and your defense minister can make use of a red phone to call on other players' characters in battle, to name just a few of the positions you can fill. These systems give you strategic considerations off of the battlefield, and it's fun to tinker with these options and try to maximize your characters' growth.
There are also a few systems more peripheral to the core game that some fans will enjoy spending time with. At a certain point in the campaign, you unlock the map editor, which lets you design your own battlefields and upload them for other players to experience. Building a map is easy, so if you're inclined to put time into it, you can construct any Disgaea map your imagination might conjure. And you can build a pirate ship, assign your team various roles such as attack and support, and upload them to the network, at which point they may invade other players' Item Worlds. It's interesting to view the records of your uploaded pirates and see what they've been up to, but the lack of direct control over these uploaded characters keeps this process from being all that involving.
Way to win them over, Valvatorez.
Thankfully, as familiar as they may be, the battles you fight in Disgaea 4 are involving, and the charming characters who populate this humorous tale are a pleasure to spend time with. If previous Disgaea games didn't light your fire, nothing here will bring you into the fold, but if you enjoyed the evil exploits of earlier series heroes, Valvatorez's crusade to overthrow the corrupt forces of the netherworld is sure to entertain you. And to teach you a few things about sardines, too.