Though I’ve played a decent number of RPGs over the years, one subset of the genre in which I have little experience is tactical RPGs. I was first introduced to them during a short span of time spent playing the Shining Force games on this Sega Genesis Collection I have for the XBox 360, though I didn’t really play much beyond the first half hour or so of each game. My most recent dive into the rather confusing world of tactical RPGs was the demo for Disgaea 4 Complete, the PS4 release of a 2011 PS3 game.
I might have heard of the Disgaea games before, but I had certainly never played any of them prior to trying this demo. After being treated to an anime-style opening, I was introduced to the two main characters, a vampire named Valvatorez and his werewolf servant, Fenrich. Valvatorez is obsessed with sardines and keeping his promises no matter what and is about as oblivious as he is charming, while Fenrich is clearly the smarter of the two and seems quite interested in his master regaining his former power. As far as my understanding of the story goes, it seems we must lead a rebellion to stop the corrupt government of the Netherworld.
While I grew rather fond of the game’s goofy sense of humor and was quite interested in where the story would lead, I had mixed feelings about the gameplay. The demo took me about two hours to complete, and the first half or so was spent working my way through various tutorials on the game’s combat system. Again, being new to tactical RPGs, I found it all rather confusing, though I could probably get used to it if given enough time.
In this game, you have various characters with different abilities that can move about the grid-like map. During each turn, you can move within a limited number of spaces and choose your move. Not only can you do normal and special attacks (among other things), but you can also lift and throw other characters in order to get them to higher places. There was also a tutorial on something called Geo Blocks, but that one flew right over my head. They said Geo Blocks can raise enemies’ defense if they stand on certain Geo Panels? And you can destroy the Geo Blocks to negate this? But if anyone’s standing on Geo Panels when they change color, you take damage? Um…I’m not sure if I’m remembering how Geo Blocks work correctly because even when I destroyed them, Geo Panels didn’t always go away.
After I completed the tutorial, I was really hoping the game would finally begin. I was excited to, you know, embark on some grand RPG-style quest, which would no doubt be sprinkled with these confusing tactical battles whenever I encountered an enemy. Well…unless I’m mistaken, it kind of seems that these battles are all you can do in this game. (I mean, maybe that’s not the only thing you do because there is this small hub area where you can visit shops and stuff. And something called a Cam-pain, which…I didn’t understand.) But the rest of the demo was spent selecting the next location on a menu, watching a scene play out, then battling another group of enemies as best as my sad, baffled self could manage.
I don’t have a problem with the whole tactical aspect of the game. In fact, I feel it could be quite fun once I got the hang of it. But I really don’t want the whole game to just be battle after battle. During my short span of time with the Shining Force games, there appeared to be a much larger world to explore, with battles serving as temporary diversions set amidst a greater adventure. Disgaea 4 does not seem to be what I was expecting, and as such, is not something I’d really want to play more of. It’s a shame because I liked things about the game, particularly the story and humorous tone. Now if this is your thing, maybe it would be worth the $49.99, as the game seems to be quite lengthy, with people reporting that the story alone can take roughly 38 hours to complete!
This post was originally published on Virtual Bastion on February 21, 2022.