Disgaea 6: Defiance of Destiny feels like an oddly topical title for Nippon Ichi Software. About two years ago, the company effectively ran out of money following a catastrophic mobile game launch, and it certainly appeared for a while that Nippon Ichi was going to go under. Somehow, the publisher managed to weather the worst of this storm, which enabled it to defy the odds and release at least one more mainline Disgaea game. This could very well be the final Disgaea release, but if it is, at least the makers can rest easy knowing that it went out with a bang. Disgaea 6 is the most streamlined and enjoyable entry yet, demonstrating a thorough mastery of the in-depth mechanics that made this turn-based tactical series such a cult hit.
Disgaea 6 features a fittingly goofy narrative with plenty of over the top ‘anime humor’, although there are some moments of genuine emotion scattered around in there. The main narrative follows a zombie boy named Zed, who’s hellbent on killing a nameless god of destruction terrorizing the Netherworld. Zed isn’t initially all that great of a fighter, and he is killed rather easily nearly every time he confronts his foe. Fortunately, Zed has the power to “Super Reincarnate” every time he dies, and he gets just a little more powerful every time he comes back to life.
It’s far from the most interesting story ever told in an RPG, but Disgaea 6 smartly opts to revel in the ridiculous and over-the-top kind of humor the series has become known for. Things like Prinnies (the series' stupid, exploding penguins that end most sentences in “dood”) or a princess who aggressively wants to marry Zed help to keep the plot from ever approaching anything remotely ‘serious’.
This silliness permeates nearly every facet of Disgaea 6. How many games have you played where a piece of equipment’s main selling point is that it protects you from potato chip grease? How many times have you fought an enemy named Flosses Regularly? It’s not often that a game commits this hard to such an intentionally lighthearted tone, and while the humor may be hit or miss, it is consistently interesting and memorable.
Gameplay in Disgaea 6 initially follows a standard SRPG format, wherein you move characters around a grid-based map and try to wipe out the enemy before they get you first. In this regard, Disgaea 6 is probably at its most conventional, although there is a considerable amount of depth to the combat as you progress. There are well over a dozen different classes to mix into your team, and supplementary things like combo and team attacks ensure that carefully planning out your strategy pays off dividends. This SRPG aspect of Disgaea 6 is impressively well-built and just as engaging as you’d expect out of a relatively high-profile release in the genre. However, it could very much be argued that the primary gameplay of Disgaea 6 is more meta than simply another turn-based tactics game.
Despite most of the gameplay ostensibly happening on the grid-based battlefields, there’s an awful lot of focus placed on effective management of the absurdly in-depth systems that surround that combat. For example, there’s a senate chamber in the main hub where monsters and demons from various fictional political parties vote on the underlying rules of the game. If you want to earn more experience or would like to unlock a new class type, you have to get a bill passed with a majority vote. Or, in another example, there’s a “Cheat Shop” where you can dial up or down specific markers of progress. So, if you would rather earn more money after each battle, you can dial down how much skill experience your characters gain on average.
The presence of features like this indicate where the real Disgaea 6 is thus experienced. Sure, you can just play through the main campaign and get a satisfying experience, but this is a game that could potentially last you hundreds of hours if you really want to go for it. The level cap is, no joke, set at 99,999,999 and you can eventually do 10,000,000,000,000,000 damage in a single attack. To hit those kinds of numbers, and to be capable of taking on the kind of content the enormous endgame has to offer, you have to be ready to ‘break’ the entire game in the way it encourages you to, and this makes for a strategic experience unlike anything else out there today. With the exception of previous games in the series, of course; Disgaea veterans will be pleased to find all the crazy numbers and systems they expect present and correct.
Fortunately, Disgaea 6 has opted to integrate plenty of quality of life features that easily make this the most accessible and streamlined entry in the series yet. Chief among these is the new “Demonic Intelligence” feature, which allows you to program each character on your team with an extremely in-depth logic system that mimics the Gambit system of Final Fantasy XII. With this, you can specify actions you want characters to perform in specific situations, which takes a ton of tedium out of having to manually navigate the menus and select actions for every character on every turn. For example, it’s a lot easier to just program a character to target and approach the nearest enemy and use a random attack skill. And with how in-depth these instruction sets can get, there’s a lot of fun to be had in tweaking their commands to make your team a perfectly well-functioning, autonomous machine that cuts through enemies with ease.
Taking this demonic intelligence system and pairing it with the new auto-battle options thus cuts down the boredom of extended grinding sessions. It may sound a little silly to be praising a game for decreasing the amount of time you have to spend actually playing it, but this goes back to the main draw of the gameplay being more about the management side of things, rather than the raw actions of manually commanding the team. The main thing these new quality of life features do is decrease the amount of repetitive work you have to do to obtain rewards. You still have to build effective teams, kit them out with the right skills and equipment, and know how to program them to fight efficiently. It’s just that now it only takes you ten minutes to accomplish the same things that in previous entries would have required at least an hour.
All of this is to say, Disgaea 6 is the very embodiment of the concept of ‘min-maxing’. It prods you to turn your attention to every little detail of your characters’ builds and to think of ways you can either maximize values or literally break the rules so you can take them beyond their maximums. There are numerous avenues you can take to do so, which can be rather intimidating to newcomers who aren’t familiar with all the nuances of a Disgaea game. Disgaea 6 does a solid job of including lots of tutorials and explanations, enough to say that this is probably the most approachable entry yet, but be prepared to do quite a bit of studying before you finally ‘get it’.
While gameplay remains consistently addictive, it must be said that Disgaea 6 really drops the ball with its presentation. The all-new 3D models properly bear the series’ signature art style and they’re animated quite well, but performance is quite poor at the time of writing. There are three display options which allow you to pick between graphics, framerate, or a middle ground, but none of them feel fully satisfying. Either everything is 60 FPS and distractingly blurry, or the resolution is sharp and the framerate tanks. It’s not immediately clear why this is the case, as Disgaea 6 doesn’t appear to be a very graphically intensive game, but these serious performance issues definitely drag down an otherwise excellent experience.
If you weren’t allured by the distinctive style and crazy in-depth gameplay of previous entries in the franchise, Disgaea 6: Defiance of Destiny certainly isn’t the game to change your mind. Like its predecessors, Disgaea 6 is still a goofy and staggeringly intricate SRPG that will take hundreds of hours to see through to completion. However, this is easily the most streamlined and enjoyable entry in the series yet, as the developers have doubled down on everything that makes these games great and made some improvements, too. It can be intimidating to get into as a newcomer, and the performance is frequently disappointing, but we would still absolutely recommend that you add Disgaea 6 to your library.