In October 2023, we’re going to head into a whole new Netherworld, meet a new Overlord, and deal with all sorts of tactical challenges again in Disgaea 7. It looks to be a much bigger game, in terms of options, than its predecessor. Siliconera got an opportunity to talk to Director Shunsuke Minowa about what we can expect from the latest entry and how past games like Disgaea 6 and fan feedback influenced what we’ll see in Disgaea 7.
Jenni Lada: When did development on Disgaea 7 begin?
Shunsuke Minowa: Development for Disgaea 7 began around June of 2021. We were taking into account the mixed reception to Disgaea 6, as well as player feedback from Disgaea 6, and decided that we wanted to quickly get a game into players’ hands that they would enjoy. Additionally, the series’ 20th anniversary felt like an appropriate time for Disgaea 7 to come out.
In the past, you worked on Disagea 4 and Disgaea 5. How did those experiences assist with the shaping of Disgaea 7
Minowa: I believe that Disgaea 5 had the highest level of refinement system-wise of all previous Disgaea [games]. In the pursuit of the deep level of customization and granularity as well as the “anything goes” approach to combat that make the series so much fun, I realized some things: deep customization and granularity should not exist just for their own sake, but rather be presented as a playground for players to find their own way of playing effectively. In order to achieve that, we made auto-battle have an associated cost, as well as improved Demonic Intelligence to make it more efficient.
Regarding the “anything goes” combat, in Disgaea 5, in terms of representative elements, you could lift and throw characters, had area-of-effect skills and Overlord Skills. But in terms of just beating the game, if you leveled these skills to a high degree, the balance would be completely broken. In other words, while still finding the perfect balance, it’s important to allow those players to train their characters to an absurd degree throughout the course of the game, rather than just at the beginning to avoid the game becoming less interesting.
What did Nippon Ichi Software, Inc do to ensure Disgaea 7 is well-balanced and approachable for newcomers, but still challenging for returning players?
Minowa: In my understanding, each feature that allows the player to deeply customize their own experience is there to give players the tools to be as creative as they would like. Disgaea 6’s auto-battle system, which could be used indiscriminately, took this creativity away from the player by removing a core aspect of the series and depriving players of the joy of raising their characters.
As previously mentioned, in Disgaea 7, the auto-battle feature now has a cost associated with it and cannot be used indiscriminately. Players will have to balance its cost with its usage, requiring them to think carefully. Additionally, we made it so that the player had to manually choose to skip playing in battles so that the player’s experience wouldn’t be lessened by just having the game automatically proceed.
We’ve also improved the scope of the tutorial and its availability so that new players won’t get lost, and added quests that gradually introduce various gameplay systems so that players are led to a natural understanding of the game’s various elements.
Disgaea has always featured large numbers – whether that be in levels or damage – why do you think this ended up being a hallmark feature for the series? How does Disgaea 7 handle big level and damage numbers?
Minowa: The series features large numbers so that players can have a concrete feeling of the work they’re putting into raising their characters. I think one of the most important elements of RPGs overall is seeing your characters grow in power. High levels and damage output are a clear visual way of representing this.
Aside from leveling, players can also make use of [Character] Reincarnation, the Item World, Item Reincarnation and other systems to strengthen their characters so that they can constantly have a feeling of their progress [throughout the game].
Disgaea 6 greatly scaled back the number of available classes, with ones like Cleric, Flora Beast, Great Wyrm, Magician, Nekomata, Slumber Cat, and Valkyrie all absent. Will Disgaea 7 include a smaller roster of possible humanoid characters and monsters or will it be more like past entries and offer a larger array? Will we see certain missing classes return?
Minowa: For Disgaea 7, there are more than double the number of classes that were available in Disgaea 6, for a total of 45.
The decreased number of classes in Disgaea 6 was something often brought up by players and something we put at forefront when developing this game. We have both male and female versions of certain classes, and made sure to bring back fan-favorite classes. We also have new classes: Maiko, Bandit, Zombie Maiden, and Big Eye. Each has their own special characteristics, so please enjoy using each of them!
In Disgaea 6, gameplay elements like Magichange, monster weapons, tower skills, and weapon skills were removed and missed by fans of the series; how did Disgaea 7 change in response to that?
Minowa: The lack of weapon skills in Disgaea 6 was a feature that we vowed to bring back once development on Disgaea 7 started. Related to this, we introduced a new feature called Item Reincarnation, which allows you to carry over weapon skills from one weapon type to another.
Due to the introduction of another new feature, Hell Mode, we were not able to reinstate Magichange. This was because changing out weapons and then increasing their skill created an overlapping turn limit with Hell Mode. However, there is a good chance we will bring back Magichange in a future installment.
In terms of tower skills, we feel that being able to move and attack when in a tower are its only uses. When conducting research in the past, there didn’t seem to be a big desire for this feature from players. However, depending on future player feedback, this is something that we could also bring back in the future.
What kind of quality testing measures are being done to ensure parity on every platform and avoid things like frame rate issues and crashes?
Minowa: We knew there were performance issues in Disgaea 6, so when developing Disgaea 7, we made sure to consistently check this. Every time we found issues, we made sure to address them so that there are no performance issues during normal gameplay. In terms of crashing, even after master submission, we continued debug and patched lingering issues so that by the time the game comes out in the West, all high frequency crash bugs should be addressed and eliminated.
Which past entry do you think most influenced Disgaea 7’s story and characters? What about its gameplay?
Minowa: With this game, our motto was “back to basics” and we aimed to make a game that retained all the elements that make Disgaea what it is. In terms of the story, I think the influence of Disgaea 1 is strong. In terms of gameplay and systems, I think Disgaea 5 had the strongest influence.
Graham Russell: The Disgaea series is built around near-infinite play time, so sequels have needed to be different and not just more. Given recent entries’ mixed-at-best reception to its new mechanical gimmicks, how is Disgaea 7 implementing new ideas that more effectively both change and integrate with gameplay?
Minowa: At the very start of this project, we went carefully over all fan feedback and came to the conclusion that we must address the following things:
- Increase the amount of character classes.
- Revive weapon skills.
- Remove or improve auto-battle.
We believe that these directly impact the most important elements of Disgaea, such as the volume of customization options and elements that allow the game to be delved into deeply. They were also what caused fans to be dissatisfied with Disgaea 6 and thus needed to be addressed.
For the character classes, we increased the number of classes to make it more in line with other titles in the series, and further enhanced that by allowing players to choose between male or female versions for all the lower tier classes.
For weapon skills, we decided that giving players the latitude to allow for sword or magic-users to be able to use weapon skills was a necessity. As an additional element, we also created Item Reincarnation whereby the player can keep certain skills, allowing them greater flexibility in how they train their characters.
I already covered auto-battle in a previous question, but to summarize, we added a cost in order to use it, and made it so that players must manually choose to skip playing in battles. This makes using the feature a more conscious choice from the player.
Item Reincarnation is a completely new element that allows players to, after leveling up an item in the Item World, reincarnate it as they would characters, allowing them to create more powerful items. Players did express that they wanted the Chara World to be revived. However, we decided to give players the option to focus on strengthening items rather than weapons. This is due to the Ranked Battles feature; we thought that as the Ranked Battle seasons and special rules changed, the player would have to go through the trouble of training new characters. We thought that allowing items to be strengthened would have broader applicability. That said, if enough players express interest in reviving the Chara World, it is definitely something we will consider in the future.
Disgaea 7 will come to the PS4, PS5, Switch, and PC on October 3, 2023 in North America, October 6, 2023 in Europe, and October 13, 2023 in Australia.