Review – Disgaea 6: Defiance of Destiny

Don’t fix what isn’t broken. Not enough games understand this, while other games confuse working for resigned players simply accepting. Disgaea is one of those franchises smack dab in the middle. From Disgaea 1 to Disgaea 5, Nippon Ichi proved from the start that they know what they want to make. And that that’s what they’re going to make, for as long as they can. Disgaea 6: Defiance of Destiny is a perfect example of that mantra. It’s the sixth entry in the long running “Final Fantasy Tactics on steroids” franchise, and outside the new 3D graphics, it’s still pretty much the same game as the first. Some would see this as a bad thing. Personally, I love that the franchise remains dedicated to what made it popular in the first place. It’s something other series could learn from.

I’ve always described Disgaea as “Final Fantasy Tactics on steroids”. And that’s the easiest and best way to describe exactly what the franchise is. On one hand, you do standard SRPG stuff. Recruit characters, equip them through a standard five slot load-out, and control their class progression. Then you battle it out on squarish tile based maps in team turn-based combat. There’s things like combo attacks, team attacks, throws, and a variety of other moves to learn. Or just a good ol fashioned punch in the face with something pointy. The best part about Disgaea has always been how it scales well with the player’s desire to engage with it’s systems. If you don’t want to use a mechanic, you don’t have too. There are ten other ones to choose from instead.

Most JRPGs have a deep and interesting main character that drives the plot forward. Disgaea 6 has Zed.

It’s with the numbers where the steroids come into play. See, most RPGs try to be reasonable. Progression is all well and good, but it needs to be carefully balanced. The number system needs to be simple and easy for everyone to understand. Start small, and work big. Disgaea took a look at all that and said “nah”. Its numbers are probably the defining feature. The level cap is 99,999,999, (up from 9,999 in previous titles). Stat, damage, and other number caps are equally ridiculous. Not just because they’re so high, but because players can actually hit them. Imagine a level 99,999,999 Pok√©mon that does a quadrillion damage with Tackle. Normal people would simply wonder why. Disgaea says “because”.

Disgaea 6: Defiance of Destiny follows this formula to the tee, mostly. There are some differences, both minor and slightly more. There’s some new classes alongside returning classics, tweaks to the weapon system, changes to Monster class characters, and a whole bunch of under the hood tuning. All minor, and standard for RPG franchise changes between games. As for more major changes and additions, there’s about four. The new Super Reincarnation system, the massive increase to number caps, new gameplay convenience mechanics, and the new 3D graphics. But honestly none of this stuff is game-changing, merely different or new. 

Don’t worry, Disgaea’s best features are all still very much in play here. No judgment.

The Super Reincarnation system is rather easy to explain. The previous reincarnation system was basically a form of vertical progression. It takes your character as is, reverts them back to Level 1, but allows them to keep some of their stats and skill progression. Super Reincarnation is basically the same thing, with a few tweaks. There’s a new currency called Karma that you unlock through various character specific activities. After you Super Reincarnate, you can use Karma to increase stats you wouldn’t have been able to otherwise. This effectively takes the Chara World from other games, and merges it with an already existing system. Personally, this is the kind of streamlining I love. Makes sense, things are simpler, and does so without decreasing progression complexity. A great change.

Now for one that’s not so much. The new number caps are fine on their own, but what’s been done to accommodate them kinda isn’t. I say kinda, because at the end of the day it’s not the biggest deal. But it could become one if it’s a problem that gets out of control. Basically, all progression and numbers have been increased to keep up with the new caps. You level up very quickly now, flying through levels. Base characters start at level 1 with ridiculous stat numbers. Even garbage equipment has high stats. It’s hard to get a handle on what’s good and what’s not at first, because everything is so big. While this does play well with Disgaea‘s idea that bigger numbers are always better, I’m a sucker for a good number curve. And Disgaea 6: Defiance of Destiny really muddles it up.

Disgaea 6: Defiance of Destiny

Numbers, numbers, numbers everywhere.

But while I’m lukewarm about the number increases, I’m definitely more sour towards the graphical changes. At first I was excited. I’m not a 2D purist, and it is 2021 after all. After playing with it though, I’m not convinced. It isn’t just about Disgaea losing it’s distinctive style, although that’s a factor. It’s mostly about how pointless 3D graphics for a tile-based strategy franchise with no environmental interaction feels. This is just 3D for the sake of it, while it could potentially be more. Or not, because that’s not the kinda game Disgaea wants to be. All this at the expense of Disgaea’s usual distinctive and beautiful 2D style. The franchise had done so much with 2D, 3D feels like a step back honestly. And that’s not even touching the very real performance issues, due to the engine’s issues with the 3D rendering.

Finally, there’s the meh changes. The game adds in two major convenience features for gameplay. There’s a new x32 speed mode for when you just want to grind without the fluff. Then there’s a new auto-battling mode. It’s a lot like classic Bioware games’ AI systems. You can customize your character’s AI’s, what skills you’d want them to use in specific situations, and then let them lose on maps. It’s a great way to grind up characters to hit those ludicrous numbers when you just can’t be bothered to. I say I probably won’t use it now, but I’ll probably end up eventually down the road. I’m sure that, for some players, it’s a godsend, while others legitimately will never touch it. It’s nice that it’s there for those who will, though.

There’s nothing done here with 3D that hasn’t been done before in 2D, except it was way better looking.

Disgaea 6: Defiance of Destiny is a Disgaea game, but with 3D graphics. That’s basically the best summary of the game that you’ll find. Those who are into the franchise will have already bought it, while I doubt those who aren’t will be swayed by some new 3D graphics. It’s one of those game’s that’s kind of exclusively there for its fanbase, which I think is great; I love games that unapologetically exist to please their fans. It’s a better game for trying to be what the franchise exists to do, and even in cases where it potentially missteps, it’s hardly a disaster. Numbers can always be changed, and performance optimized. A game rotten from the start is unfixable. And unlike the game’s zombie protagonist Zed, there’s nothing rotten about Disgaea 6.

Graphics: 7.0

I’m not sure the nice new 3D models and environments were worth the performance issues or Disgaea losing its traditional beautiful 2D style.

Gameplay: 8.0

It’s the same exact Disgaea that you either love or hate by now, merely with relatively minor tweaks.

Sound: 7.5

Voice-acting is decent, sound effects are fine, and the music is catchy, without ever getting annoying.

Fun Factor: 9.0

It’s still a Disgaea game, regardless of how many D’s it’s in. So while I find the progression grind endless fun, others are sure to disagree.

Final Verdict: 8.0

Disgaea 6: Defiance of Destiny is available June 29th on Nintendo Switch.

Reviewed on Switch.

A copy of Disgaea 6: Defiance of Destiny was provided by the publisher.