Being an evil prince of the Netherworld isn’t all it’s cut out to be. Just ask Disgaea 3: Absence of Detention’s dutifully delinquent Mao, who became obsessed with taking down his own father after the hulking Overlord accidentally stepped on his precious SlayStation(R) Portable gaming console. Hey, you’d be ticked off too if you lost 4 million hours worth of save data.
Being the mature person, er, demon that he is, Mao concocted an excellent plan to further his ambition: he decided to be a full-fledged hero. It’s important to note, though, that Mao did not decide to go the hero route out of a sense of kindness or nobility. Oh, no, no, he decided to become a hero because only heroes seem to be capable of defeating evil demon overlords according to his research material. Apparently, Mao’s butler has been regularly providing him a supply of, uh, comic books.
It’s a tough goal to say the least for the top student of Evil Academy — a devilish center of learning that rewards truancy and jerkish moves while frowning upon perfect attendance and goody-two-shoes behavior. In fact, his attempts at turning “good” ends up attracting the attention of the school’s “most responsible” student, who doesn’t like the fact that Mao is intruding on her territory as the school’s No. 1 delinquent (given that studying and regular attendance are considered delinquent behavior in Evil Academy after all). Such goofiness is simply par for the course for the Disgaea series, a strategy RPG franchise that sprinkles top-notch tactical gameplay with wacky hijinks that have no qualms with breaking the fourth wall. As with any Disgaea game, though, hidden amid that goofiness is a story with heart, which typically manifests itself the closer players get to the end.
Now technically, Absence of Detention isn’t exactly new as the game is essentially a port of the PS3 title, Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice released a few years back. To sweeten the pot, however, the portable version comes with all the DLC from the original plus added bonuses that includes new bosses, new skills and moves, and touch panel functionality. It’s certainly a welcome addition to the Vita, which still has a dearth of solid games.
Despite not being a new release, Absence of Detention sports excellent gameplay for fans of strategy RPGs (as opposed to, say, an adventure JRPG such as Tales of the Abyss for the Nintendo 3DS. Disgaea games, in particular, are known for having deep gameplay and the third entry in the series is no exception. In addition to the use of attacks and skills, the game also allows you to lift and throw characters, allowing them to move further. On top of that (pun definitely intended) you can stack characters above each other, allowing you to reach previously inaccessible areas. Use of “Evilities” also allow players to customize their characters. Further extending replay are “Item Worlds” that exist within, well, items, allowing you to level up gear to insane levels of power.
Do be warned that all the game’s features can make it quite a time sink -- which can be good or bad -- even well after you “finish” it. (The pick-and-play nature of a portable console, though, helps a bit in addressing this issue). Character sprites are also a bit dated due to pixelation.
Despite its issues, Absence of Detention’s deep gameplay more than makes up for its faults. The game’s sheer content means you won’t run out of stuff to do anytime soon. It’ll definitely make a nice addition to your PS Vita library.
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DISGAEA 3: ABSENCE OF DETENTION
- Platform: PlayStation Vita
- Cost: $40
- Final rating: 4 stars out of 5