Thanks to NIS AMERICA for the review code
Title: Disgaea 6: Defiance of Destiny
System: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: 06/29/2021
In this new entry in the Disgaea series, you take control of a zombie named Zed, who along with his long-time friend Cerberus must go through many, many worlds on their never ending journey to defeat the God of Destruction once and for all! Continuing the crazy, zany nature these games are known for, the story here is surprisingly engaging, and while it does play off as a joke a lot, there’s still plenty of intrigue to be had uncovering the mysteries behind Zed and the God, and the resulting journey.
Typically when I review my fifth game in a franchise, I don’t like repeating myself in some aspects, and while some staples I will skip over for that reason, I’m happy to say the presentation is surprisingly not one of them! Disgaea 6 shifts the series from sprite art to 3D cell-shading, and it looks absolutely stunning. The character models are nice and colorful, and the animation and battle effects are more impressive than ever! A lot has been done to make this game look gorgeous and different while still retaining the general franchise traits, so it feels like a natural evolution.
Of course, some things are still similar as always. The cutscenes are still in their standard dialogue + character art combo, the voice acting is pretty good, but nothing too outstanding, and the environments don’t impress nearly as much. In fact, the map design here this time around feels pretty generic compared to 4 and 5, which is pretty surprising considering how a lot of the presentation got an upgrade, rather than a downgrade. At least the music is still pretty excellent, although some tracks and voice clips of certain classes are recycled from previous games.
However, here in the West, Disgaea 6 is strictly a Switch exclusive: not available on PS4 like in Japan. Thus, the Switch version has a lot to hold up to with performance, and it’s a mixed bag depending on your playstyle. As someone who primarily played in TV mode, I’m happy to say if you go that route, the game runs pretty excellently while also looking great. There are three modes to choose from, Graphics, Balanced, and Performance, and the latter is easily the way to go, though the other two at least work decently enough in TV mode, even at the cost of less frames. Once I went with performance mode and played on my TV, I had a blast going through the chapters and item worlds, just enjoying the game during the pre-review period.
In handheld mode, that’s a vastly different story, and sadly not a good one. Graphics and Balanced mode both cause the framerate to tank to abhorrent, 20FPS levels, which can make playing maps a huge chore, especially if you leave the animations on. Performance mode is a saving grace in that it makes things run pretty well, but at the expense of making nearly everything but the UI blurrier than my soap bar.
It runs good in this mode, and is perfect for portable play if you can look past that, but after how great it felt in TV mode, it was a huge disappointment seeing this game in agonizing pain on the go, and I was only able to tolerate it since I don’t care about visuals too much as long as the performance is fine, which is why I’m glad there’s an option for that here. There’s a free demo out that’ll be a perfect diagnostic for if this sacrifice will bother you more than it did me, so I recommend giving that a go to make up your own mind about handheld.
Per the usual norms, Disgaea 6 is a strategy RPG like its predecessors, with a ton of returning aspects I’ve mentioned before: Geo Panels, character creation, sidequests, obscene level caps, item worlds, they all return, though some parts have been tweaked.
For starters, the level cap has been increased here, and it’s very noticeable when I was nearing level 350 by the end of the fourth chapter, with thousands of health and attack points for all of my party members. That aspect is no longer for the post game, you’re just ready to fight with ultimate power right out of the gate. It definitely seemed cool and all, but ultimately it still felt rather typical, with the game feeling like it added extra digits onto everything rather than actually changing things up in this regard.
The character creation is also a bit weird this time around, as there are far less classes and options: heck, by default you don’t have many at all, and have to go to the returning Dark Assembly to get more with mana. But even when you get more classes, it still pales compared to previous games, which feels a bit weird to me when most of the returning classes barely feel different from prior games in terms of playstyle. I’d get this if it replaced old classes with tons of new ones like Pokemon Sword did, but here it’s just less of the same with a smidgen of newness here and there.
So, onto the main game! Luckily, here is a very typical affair, and you’ll be eased right back into the swing of things if you’re returning like I am. Combat is pretty typical, with each class having their own skills on offer, with the ability to grow and learn new ones over time with mana. Zed and other key story characters also have their own unique skills, as typical for the series, so deploying your units is just like it always has been, but with one huge game-changer: the game now has an auto mode, and it’s very good.
Basically, upon hitting the select button, the game will automatically throw a party out and play the turns for you. By default, it’s pretty fast, though with tons of grinding you can multiply it to x4 if you want more speed. Of course, if you do this against foes you aren’t prepared for, or on maps with tricky terrain that need careful placement, you’ll get destroyed, so you can’t just press it as a win button everywhere.
However, combining this with a repeat feature that’s also been added, you can effortlessly beat stages on a loop, making grinding the easiest it has ever been. And thus, if you grind, you can steamroll most of the non-boss/terrain stages, since unfortunately, the map design is pretty dull outside of the few stages utilizing terrain, making the game basically play itself if you want it. Of course it’s all completely optional, and makes for a fantastic quality of life improvement, which can be enhanced *even further* by the addition of Demonic Intelligence, allowing you to map out specific actions in a certain order for auto battle, if standard attacking everything in sight isn’t working for you. You can pretty much make a monster with this, though even that doesn’t always save you from terrain or actually tricky fights, so it’s not perfect.
Regardless, Disgaea 6 seems to have sacrificed a few things for the sake of the new visual style, for better or worse, and while the gameplay is still excellent and even better than before in some ways, it definitely does feel scaled back in others. There’s still plenty of content and sidequests to do as always, along with the returning item world and even DLC missions, but there’s also weird stuff too like in-game purchases, which feel very out of place in a game like this that already can be broken into an easy mess: hell, on some of the scripted fights against the god of destruction you’re supposed to lose, I was able to win in manual combat with him solely due to all the grinding I managed to do, despite it not leading to any funny alternate ending, unfortunately.
Speaking of the god of destruction, he’s actually a disappointing aspect outside of the main plot. While there are boss enemies in a lot of stages, they don’t really have any unique designs to them, with the god being the only one you fight for the majority of the game: compared to prior games which had lots of varied bosses at times, (Especially the spinoffs) and this feels like Xeodrifter’s boss design got made into an RPG. Yeah, from a plotpoint it makes perfect sense and the story is engaging enough for you to keep going, but even then Disgaea 6 is ultimately a big disappointment in this regard.
In conclusion, Disgaea 6 was easily my favorite Disgaea game in a lot of aspects: amazing quality of life features, a great 3D style change, good music, engaging story, lots of content, and funny characters. But in some aspects, it feels like a regression from the rest of the series, with the lack of boss battle variety, lackluster maps, and slim character classes being the biggest gripes I had.
If they manage to keep the good from this game and combine it with the best of the series, then I truly think that Disgaea is in for a fantastic future, and this particular game still is worth your time as a SRPG fan: just be very, very wary of playing it in handheld mode if you don’t know the concessions, and check the demo out first if you want to see how it runs. Despite my gripes, I had immense fun with this game, and just enjoyed seeing the strategy insanity brought to 3D in such a fun fashion, and with fun being the biggest factor, that’s what ultimately counts, right?
I give Disgaea 6: Defiance of Destiny a 9 out of 10.