RELEASE DATE: 26th May 2017

SUMMARY
Welcome to the realm of Disgaea 5, where anime angels, demons and the occasional Bunny Overlord do battle among the stars, piloting starship-shaped pocket dimensions and tossing exploding penguin comrades in the harsher moments of battle. You read all of that correctly.

“The Netherworlds have changed, dood…”

For those unfamiliar with the cult-classic franchise this might all sound utterly insane, that’s because it is. Disgaea 5 makes no apologies for its absurdities; it embraces them with a devilish and knowing grin as it reels you deeper into its madness. Playing as the self-proclaimed “Overlord of Gorgeous” Seraphina, a powerful, aristocratic demoness with a penchant for lingerie and pistols, you swiftly meet the gluttonous, aloof, painfully edgy Killia on the field of battle. To defeat maniacal Demon Emperor Void Dark, the devils become a duo, slowly forming a team to resist the Emperor’s forces.

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The names of these characters perfectly encapsulate the franchise; characters stand as over-the-top, exaggerated archetypes, right down to the signature “OHOHOHOHOHOHO” Noblewoman laugh of Seraphina, hand poised and all. Everything within Disgaea is needlessly over-the-top and all the better for it, no better seen than in the combat. Here lies the meat of the series, a tactical RPG on a grid-based map, where simple attacks sit among lifting, throwing and “Magichange”. Not only can you lift allies and chuck them across the map with brutish force, monsters in your party can transform into weapons for humanoid characters to use.
Aforementioned exploding penguins, Prinnies, morph into penguin-styled blades, whilst burning Ifrits shift into colossal Bows offering ranged attacks, each monster type offers a unique weapon adding another layer of strategy to battles. In fact, Disgaea keeps adding layers, even before more outlandish features are introduced, weapon types must be considered in how they affect power, range and defence, alongside the unique weaponry of monsters. Combat here is exceptionally deep, so much so anyone could easily drown, but features are fed slowly piece by piece, expanding your arsenal and the scope for tactical decisions. Stack allies and throw them to cover a great distance or rely on ranged attacks? Throw a weakened Prinny or morph it into a weapon? Other features soon follow such as a Revenge Meter and Overload Abilities, characters entering an empowered state when they’ve witnessed enough carnage, Overlord characters then able to access unique and powerful skills through their Overload, Seraphina’s “Balor Gaze” charming every male in the vicinity whilst the musclebound Red Magnus gains access to “Super Olympia”, tripling in size and power for a short time.

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Other key features include Evilities, bedevilled abilities that can be unique to certain characters or bought at the skill shop, whilst Innocents are creatures that live within items and bestow unique bonuses, but require taming to reach their full potential. These are only a handful of the options available when waging demonic war within Disgaea 5, much like the main story campaign, whilst many hours long, is only a segment of what is on offer here. A plethora of quests can be taken up to grab more loot for future battles, an Add-On Content shop lets you redeem the DLC of the game’s first release, which includes four extra campaigns, characters to unlock which include the series original cast, a Prinny to fit every conceivable role and a mother lode of in-game cash.

To newcomers it may initially seem overwhelming, but the sheer charm of its characters, writing and setting is enough of a hand to hold as it pulls you deep into a swirling vortex of ridiculous combos, stat changes and demon mammeries. Yet, it’s not. In fact dive in, with pre-installed DLC covering franchise favourite characters and stories, hundreds of hours of gameplay as well as a fully voiced cast and animated cut-scenes.

VERDICT
Disgaea 5 is a phantasmagoria of colour and numbers that remains as fiendishly addictive as its predecessors. With the added bonus of being portable on the Switch you can fully indulge yourself in the insanity by taking the battle wherever you go. Disgaea’s Hell is all consuming, consider yourself damned – it’s so worth it!

RATING: 9 out of 10

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