By Spencer . August 26, 2011 . 6:15pm
If there’s one trait that defines Valvatorez, the vampire protagonist in Disgaea 4: A Promise Unforgotten, is he sticks to his word. The game opens in Hades where Valvatorez and his werewolf steward Fenrich work as Prinny instructors. He whips souls sewn to peg-legged penguins in shape by teaching them to end every sentence with "dood." Valvatorez is about to graduate a class of Prinnies and reward each of them with a single sardine. Suddenly, his students are sucked into a vortex and Valvatorez vows to find them – just so he can feed them sardines.
You actually get sardines, one of the many HP restoring items, in your inventory when Disgaea 4 begins. The first few fights are tutorials that cover strategy RPG staples like how to move and attack. While Valvatorez sinks his fangs into basic battle tactics, the story introduces Disgaea 2 dark hero Axel. He has orders from the corrupternment to exterminate the Prinnies as a way of solving the problem of Prinny overpopulation.
Battles slowly pick up at the end of the first chapter where Valvatorez has to meets Emizel, the Netherworld president’s only son. He tends to rap and is said to be an assassin, but is he really a mach for Valvatorez? Armed with a sword, Valvatorez can learn Blade Rush and hit three enemies with one attack if you spend mana at the Evility shop, a returning feature from Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice. By using mana you can learn weapon skills, spells (if you have a skull or mage), and passive abilities like "Fire body" that boosts a character’s resistance to fire. A useful purchase for Valvatorez who is naturally weak against the element.
Valvatorez also starts off with Impaler Prince, an attack than can hit a 1×3 or 3×1 area with giant fangs, and restore a bit of life. Fenrich reminded me of Adell and not just because he uses his fists. His Howling Moon attack punches enemies to squares away just like the Crimson Flame attack. My starting group also had a red skull, a warrior who says "it’s time to bust some balls" each time he leaves the base panel, healer, two prinnies, and a sabercat named Sardine Thief. It’s a basic party that I quickly supplemented with a gun carrying thief and blue mage.
Because I like to conserve mana, I usually replay chapters or go to the item world and capture units. You can’t do this right away in Disgaea 4. You have to get a discipline room by saving 200 mana and winning a petition to congress. Wandering senators may appear during votes and I saw Jenni’s Red Skull charm nearby congressdemons so I could win the vote. Once you have a
tort I mean discipline room you can capture enemies by throwing them in your base panel. They don’t turn to allies right away, though. You have to convince them Criminal Girls style by slapping them with wads of bills, making them say "all is for Lord" (a line praising Valvatorez) or spanking. For each unit, you have a set number of persuasion moves to convince them to either become a member, give up their treasure or HL (that’s Netherworld money).
Remember the classroom from Disgaea 3? You can arrange units in Disgaea 4 too in a similar way using the Pleinair takes you to the Cam-pain headquarters where you can line up units to optimize team attacks. You can also place evil symbols here. These take up spots for units, but boost the active characters. Take the Aura Pyramid as an example. Plant that and the four characters around it get a mana boost. The Training Ground adds extra experience points (perfect for leveling up weak characters faster) and the Heart Cannon gives fighters extra support attacks.
Chapter two, "Prinny Wars", introduces Fuka who is a foe at first. You still have to go through some tutorials in Chapter 2, which explain how geo blocks work. These blocks can affect colored floor panels with rules like "enemy boost" or "no ranged attacks." Destroying them is one way to build up the bonus meter plus damage any enemies standing on colored squares. You can also toss blocks like "ally boost" and "XP boost" to give your characters an advantage. Playing with geo blocks is a puzzle-like elements that makes Disgaea games different from strategy RPGs. Since these missions were still a piece of cake, I decided to have fun with my giant square Prinny. You can combine two monsters to create one giant. The advantage is you can deal more damage, but your giant monster is a huge target taking up nine squares (3 x 3). While this technique wasn’t always effective, it was amusing. Magichange, where a monster morphs into a weapon, is in Disgaea 4 too and the transformation only lasts three rounds.
One neat option in Disgaea 4 is you can switch between new sprites and classic sprites on the fly. There are fuzzy sprites for Valvatorez and other new characters. I played a bit of Disgaea 4 with the old graphics just to compare and the new graphics make the game much more vibrant. Disgaea 4 finally gets in the groove in chapter three where Desco is introduced…