When Disgaea 6: Defiance of Destiny was initially announced, I was genuinely surprised that Nippon Ichi Software would give the series another chance. Even more so when an English localization was announced. Disgaea, as a series, spawned multiple entries that have their own unique, tongue-in-cheek stories about demons in comical worlds that aren’t ever meant to be taken too seriously. And as the franchise has continued to endure the test of time, each game builds upon the foundation of the first game in many ways. Disgaea 6: Defiance of Destiny attempts to bring something new to the formula to reinvigorate the series. While there are more than enough quality of life improvements to make this entry arguably the most accessible entry, it greatly suffers in other areas.
Disgaea 6 has an incredible combat system, largely due to the Demonic Intelligence auto-battle feature. Players can create extremely in-depth AI systems to effectively make the game play itself while you busy yourself with other things. I immediately likened it to the Gambit system in Final Fantasy XII, where I could effectively dictate how my party members would react in certain combat situations. However, that system is extremely simplified in comparison to what you can do in Disgaea 6. Players can create a wealth of paths to influence how their characters will respond to attacks in various situations, which does include movement in some capacity. I loved this feature. Players can also toggle the AI on and off with the press of a button. You can still choose to play the battles normally, of course.
And Disgaea 6 really hasn’t changed much in that regard. Combat is mostly the same, with a few new different classes added into the mix to create variety. But it still sticks to its standard, tried and true formula, keeping additions from previous games as a foundation for this new title to build on. With that being said, new classes like the Psychic feel vastly overpowered in comparison to older classes. However, I loved adding these new additions to my party purely for how they looked, as opposed to their actual utility. Disgaea has always leaned into the absurd, so having a pack of Pincer Shells (which are quite literally crabs) scuttle around the maps was just a lot of fun to watch. There is still a great deal of variety in character movement animations, but attack effects have suffered greatly from the transition into 3D.
Animations lack the “umph” they had in previous Disgaea games. Instead, they feel flat and mostly ineffective in Disgaea 6. Since I had access to DLC content while reviewing the game, I threw Adell and Rozalin from Disgaea 2 into my party, as they’re mostly always great additions–especially Adell with this new counter system. It was disappointing to see the visual downgrade to their abilities. However, this is the first Disgaea game to effectively transition into full 3D, and perhaps future installments will improve on this in some way. And unfortunately on the Nintendo Switch, Disgaea 6 suffers from some pretty severe performance issues at times. My game almost crashed on several occurrences, and having a large amount of characters on the screen will cause the game to chug.
The maps in Disgaea 6 feature new environments, which I found to be beautifully rendered and full of charm. Each of these areas are designed after a set theme, usually revolving around some kind of story element, with the exception of the Item World as those tend to be mostly random. Item Worlds still have their signature Secret Rooms, but these tend to repeat themselves a lot in Disgaea 6, which makes stumbling across them less exciting than before.
More major changes to Disgaea 6 are focused largely around the Super Reincarnation system. Players can now only Super Reincarnate as opposed to the standard Reincarnation system that was available previously. Mana and Karma points are now essential to Reincarnation, with Karma points accumulated through an in-game achievement system known as D-Merits. I’m not a huge fan of obtaining achievements, so this made grinding in Disgaea 6 a bit tiresome for me, and if the new auto-battle system wasn’t available I think I’d feel more negatively towards this change. Another issue is that you manually need to check and redeem your D-Merits after completing an individual character’s achievement. Mana is still used in its standard function, with it being primarily used to Reincarnate, whereas Karma is used to upgrade your stats. That being said, this system will allow for players to pursue more creative, and specific builds for their characters.
Players will also notice that characters will level up much faster than before. One of the major marketing points for Disgaea 6 is the new level cap. At first, I was worried grinding would suck up loads of my time, even with the auto-battle system, but leveling goes exponentially faster. While I never reached the new 99,999,999 level cap, I was still well into my thousands in the early hours of the game and in the hundred thousands by the end.
Another addition is the Juice Bar, which is found in the player hub. The Juice Bar can be used to increase a character’s level, mana, or even stats. However, this costs money and extract, and it can quickly add up. If you do have the money and the extract, it can be a great system to boost characters you want to quickly level or Super Reincarnate. This is largely the only new addition to the player hub, as the other stores have mostly remained the same and serve the same purpose. Players no longer need to heal before heading off into Item Worlds or Story segments, as this is done automatically, but the NPC to heal is still there.
Changes have been made to The Dark Assembly, mostly in the way that more proposals become available. However, it still functions similarly, with players potentially needing to bribe Senators to see changes go through. It isn’t any more or any less difficult, but offers more options to players. The most notable change, in my opinion, is with the Quest Shop. The Quest Shop allows for players to unlock other classes, which includes the new classes available in Disgaea 6. And the Cheat Shop is still available for those that simply just want to blitz through the game.
And while Disgaea 6 does offer some variety in terms of gameplay and has created an incredible auto-battle system that will assist players in grinding thousands upon thousands of levels for their characters, the story is perhaps one of the most unremarkable in the series. The narrative focuses on Zed, a zombie who is effectively invincible due to his ability to Super Reincarnate. Disgaea 6 begins with Zed attempting to defeat the God of Destruction for seemingly unknown reasons, with the story playing out in short episodes as he explains his journey to Overlord Ivar. It becomes clear that Zed was unable to defeat the God of Destruction during his first bout and continues to challenge the God of Destruction to achieve his ultimate goal.
With every defeat, the player is taken to a new world where they meet a new party member. Each of these worlds has a unique theme centered around said party member, which features something of a self-contained story. For example, Zed encounters Melodia in one of the worlds, and her desire is to effectively live a life only possible in fairy tales. Disgaea puts a more comedic spin on this and elaborates on her story in full once players eventually travel back to her world. To avoid major story spoilers I will refrain from mentioning why Zed continually challenges the God of Destruction after every subsequent defeat.
However, there is some backtracking in Disgaea 6, which means repeating levels. And it wouldn’t be so bothersome if the story was more compelling. All of the side characters that appear in the story aren’t super interesting, with some of their concepts feeling half-baked or just underdeveloped. There are moments that are genuinely funny, while some story segments I felt weren’t executed very well at all. Disgaea 6 is perhaps one of the weakest entries in the series when it comes to its narrative, which I suppose doesn’t say much unless you are someone who is super invested in the stories in the Disgaea series.
And I think this is largely reflective of what the Disgaea series is now–underdeveloped and lackluster when compared to previous entries. It feels like a lot of the production costs were cut for Disgaea 6, as the game only features voice acting during specific moments and largely isn’t present for even a bulk of the story events. Disgaea 6 isn’t a bad game, but it has definitely suffered due to the waning popularity of the series, which I think is indicative of where it stands thus far.
I walked away from Disgaea 6 feeling somewhat disappointed. It wasn’t a great game, but it wasn’t a bad one either. It’s a title I’ll revisit if I’m feeling the itch to play a strategy game in which I can just turn my brain off. And maybe that’s what Disgaea is now and where it will continue to go in the future. It isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it leaves me feeling less than positive about the future of the series.
Disgaea 6: Defiance of Destiny will release on the Nintendo Switch to Western audiences on June 29, 2021.