Disagaea 7 is the next mainline entry in the long running Strategy RPG series known for its wacky demonic story and absurdly high levels of damage that can be dished out. This time things take a more "Edo period drama" feel, with the netherworlds and story in question being a riff on Samurai and classic Japanese action and drama. We follow a cast of characters who emulate Samurai, Japan Obsessed Otaku and the usual demonic forces. The game throws together a cast who embody (or lack) certain virtues associated with Bushido in order to gain seven mystical weapons that grant incredible power. Thus begins the crazy adventure of a group of thrown-together characters.
From the outset the game takes its time in introducing the core concepts, unlocking each respective aspect slowly. While the previous entry in the series gave a lot of power to the player from the outset, 7 takes a more restrained approach as if it to return to the series roots and go back to basics. This in turn gradually eases the player into each aspect of the game and ensures the player has a solid grasp of the fundamental concepts and get used to the gameplay before delving into the mechanics and systems that can bring about the truly absurd game-breaking numbers of damage. Much like the previous entries, the core of Disgaea 7 is a grid based RPG with the player controlling several characters on a board filled with enemies, chests and tiles that can be influenced by the stage parameters. The player can make several characters perform their actions before ending their turn fully and allowing the enemy to take their turn. Disgaea keeps the core concepts but adds in new mechanics to spice things up.
The cute characters and bonkers humour helps move things along
The first of the new mechanics is Hell mode, which is granted to a character equipped with one of the special weapons. Each weapon has its own gauge that - when filled- with allow it's activation, much like the limit breaks from a Final Fantasy game. Once activated the character is stronger and has access to unique attacks, adding another level of strategy and increased potential for damage. The biggest new addition, literally, Is Jumbofication which allows both player and enemy to make one of their characters grow to a massive size and lord over the stage like a Kaiju. In this form the character can do area or effect attacks hitting multiple enemies or can attack another jumbofied character head on. Much like Hell mode, Jumbofication has its own gauge that is usually filled when other characters take damage. Thus there is a risk/reward system in play, wherein it can be advantageous to allowing other characters to take damage in order to fill a gauge for this big attack.
Like the other games we have the returns of staples like the Dark Assembly, item world and cheat shop. The Dark Assembly allows the passing of bills that unlock new aspects of game play, requiring votes to pass, so bribing certain characters is necessary to get things through. The item world allows you to enter an item in order to increase its power and abilities, but now allows different routes to be explored. Some emphasise increasing the items power as much as possible while others offer better rewards in the form of money and items. The cheat shop is a necessity in Disgaea allowing the games difficulty and distribution of exp, money and skill exp to change. By reducing one you can increase another with the amount you can do this by increasing as you progress through the game.
The game also introduces two brand new character classes - the thief improves the loot you'll find throughout the game, while the Maiko is a female dancer whose dazzling displays cause additional damage to male opponents.
The Maiko and the Thief
Along with this progress through the game, several mechanics from Disgaea 6 make their return; The Juice Bar and Demonic Intelligence which are unlocked as the player progresses. The Juice Bar allows the bonus exp and mana to be given to a character by paying money. This is a quick way to level characters and grant bonus exp outside of battle. Demonic intelligence is a system that allows the player to create algorithms to be used in auto battles. This is a great way to grind and let the game play itself in order to level up fast.
Other small changes to the game can be found in the demonic hospital which introduces a gacha mechanic to gain rewards. Stages now have quests such as use only males, finish in 3 turns or less and have no one die on the stage. There are also quests areas that unlock when a world is completed allowing the player to explore a bit more and have fun in previous areas.
With regards to the whole game. Disgaea 7 feels like a back to basics approach to the formula. With a story that is a comedic riff on Classic Japanese Samurai stories and a gradual approach to the absurdity, making it a great Disgaea for newcomers. Veterans may feel like it takes a bit longer to get back into the swing of things, but the formula at its core still offers a wonderfully crazy and fun Strategy RPG.