While the world of Disgaea has grown to include three sequels to this point, there is one thing that it has yet to do and that is to conquer the visual novel platform. While I was completely unaware that this was a burning need for any manufacturer, apparently it was needed. Does this title manage to POSSESS the right qualities or will it go BOOM like every other Prinny in existence?
Story Introduction and Premise
The storyline is pretty basic and simple, you are a no named Prinny who is abused and befuddled by Prince Laharl, Etna and Flonne as you try to scratch out your meager existence as the exploding demonic bird. As the story progresses, you find out that a very rare pudding has managed to make its way into the castle and Laharl wants it. What he does find not only makes him assassinated (if you play the game, you will understand how awkward and hilarious that statement is when you get to it) but it cuts the Prinnies pay to nothing! Fear not though as you have found TickTock, a magical pocketwatch that can reverse time, allow you to possess people and influence their thoughts.
After reading the above paragraph, it makes it sound easy, doesn't it? You would be surprised at the depth of the game for how little you actually interact. Instead of doing the investigating of Phoenix Weight, you have the ability to Possess certain during the game. As you watch the scenes (Hours by game standard, you only have so many of them to play with) play out, you can choose to stay with the current possessed person or move onto the next victim to see if there are any new clues. While this allows for interesting scenarios to unfold, it can get a little disheartening when you get to the same ending for the sixth straight time and have to start over from the last recovery point.
The next wrinkle in the gameplay is Mind Control, which allows you to make a quick decision based on the inability of your victim to make up his mind. While these moments can be rare, it is important that you pay attention to the moments when they crop up. Not only can you miss the Quick Time Event happening but you can also miss the chance all together if you have possessed the wrong person at the wrong time.
The better feature of this game is the auto skip and the scene skip. If you know that you are going to be heading to a restart, instead of constantly mashing the X button to make it through the scenes, you can bring up the menu and auto skip. The same can be said for skipping some of the moments that you have seen in the hour you are in over and over, allowing you to move onto the next hour available. These options are great for visual novels like these as they are handy to have when you get tired of failing over and over again.
Finally there is the "Manufactured" depth of 14 different endings. While it is great that the game wants to carry on like its SRPG counterparts, I think the novel idea has limitations that Nippon Ichi thought of. Seeing the same scenes over and over again to try and reach the slightly different ending is tedious at best for even the hardest of the hardcore fan. However, if you are willing to gut that out, you might be able to find some amusement from each ending.
Graphics and Sound--Production Values
The production values are low on the overall scale but decent enough for the PSP. Most of the action takes place with the standard cel shaded figures that you have seen in Disgaea: Hour of Darkness (and really, if you haven't played THAT game, you should do so soon) with the sprites playing out some of the stranger moments in the game. It is a strange mix that actually works well for what they are trying to accomplish, though it takes some time getting used to seeing the lifeless eyes blink. The backgrounds where the characters stand are in 3D, making it a little more awkward to the eyes as well, but still the detail is nice to see.
Sound is standard for the Disgaea series, voice acting is deep as it is annoying at times and the script is well written. The voices are starting to wear a little though as each iteration (and different voice actor) from the original PS2 version up to the present has added a bit of their own imperfection to each voice. While this might not be a big deal to some, as a registered fanboy of this series I have to say I am saddened by this state. The music is the same that you would find in Disgaea as well, playing over and over again in the same tones and pitches as the original version. There has been no change there and really, I would have been slightly offended if they didn't.
Staying Power/Adding to the Series
I have to say that this doesn't add much substance to the series itself. We all knew that being a Prinny sucked and having to play another game as a Prinny with a third one on the way seems a little excessive. I just hope that one day we can get back into actually playing a real PS3 version of the game, not a PS2 sprite induced one or another visual novel. It was quaint but nowhere near the quality needed to sustain the game itself. Either you will like it because you know the series or you will outright hate it.
Really, this game could have not been made. It is a good attempt at trying to cash in on the visual novel faze that seems to be growing somewhere but it really isn't even worth the $20 for either copy. If they dropped it to $10 on the PSN, it would be at a decent enough price to try it out but as it is, if you have a REAL PSP (Not a PSPGo), you would do yourself a favor to rent this first to see if you can even stand it. I am sure there will be many people who will hate this game on principle alone!
What did you think of this review?