PS Vita Review – Disgaea 3: Absence of Detention

The PS Vita gets its first tactical JRPG. Disgaea 3 has been brought over from the PS3, with all the DLC included plus a few new additions. Did it make a smooth transition, or is should the prinnies be left alone?

Read our review to find out dood.


The Disgaea series is a turn-based tactical Japanese role playing game. Nippon Ichi Software has always been known for anime style art, with entertaining story lines and interesting characters. Disgaea 3: Absence of Detention fits the mold perfectly.

The game opens with the story’s main character, Mao, reading manga. He’s researching ways he might be able to defeat his overbearing, and troublesome father. It seems that his father, who just so happens to be the Overlord of the Netherworld, was messing around with Mao’s video games and deleted his game saves. If that’s not reason enough to want to defeat him, what is?

During his manga research, Mao finds that it takes a hero to defeat the ultimate bad guy. He must then find a hero, and find out what he needs to do to become a hero, without actually being good, or doing anything good. He doesn’t want to be a hero, just kind of get the power….. or something…. whatever….. he just wants to defeat his dad and that’s what he’s got to do.

The story’s central location, from which all other areas are visited, is set in the Netherworld High School. This being the Netherworld, things are backwards from what you might think. Honor Students are the kids that cut the most classes, and the delinquents are the kids that never miss a class. The traditional values of high school are flipped on their head.

Mao is accompanied in his travels by his faithful, and knowledgeable, butler Geoffrey. He also has a small band of slaves, and early on, he meets up with a very weak hero named Almaz. While at the Netherworld HS, you can head into your Classroom and work on your crew. Here you can rename or create new characters. The selection to choose from is vast, but since strategy is key, you may want to think about who you add. You can choose from healers, fighters and magicians, all with their own pros and cons. Striking a good balance takes practice, but makes battles easier. You can name these characters anything you wish, so descriptive names might make it easier to remember what each one does.

Game-play is split into two different areas. The Netherworld High School is for planning and prepping, with places like the nurse’s station for healing, the Netherworld Shop for purchasing new items and the Evilty Scholar who can teach you new skills or evilities, or make the ones you already know even better.

Nurse's Office

The second area of game-play is the battle-map. In Disgaea, characters have a limit to their movement and attack ranges based on level and weapons equipped. Game-play is turn based, with the player being able to dispatch a certain number of their minions. The game board is set-up in a grid pattern using squares for each place on the map. Characters can be stacked and, if using the right combination of characters, become stronger and more effective. You can also throw characters when stacked, and this makes areas that seem unreachable, reachable.

Stacking can be very useful

There are a couple items that can help you on the 3D battle-map:

  • Geo Blocks – These cube-shaped terrain-altering objects allow players to manipulate a stage’s rules and approach enemies that would normally be out of reach.
  • Geo Panels – These colored panels will appear on the game map and bestow various effects depending on which Geo  Blocks are placed on them. Drop a Geo Block on one panel, and every panel of the same color will share that Block’s effect, which can range from EXP bonuses to unit damage, or even invincibility.

Game-play isn’t fast paced, but is well designed. If you are new to the series, the tutorials do a great job of walking you through the system. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll find that you are picking up speed and the game starts to move pretty quick. If you aren’t new to the series, you’ll be able to jump right in and start battling. If you take the time to learn as much as possible, the strategies become quite complex, and battles are a breeze, albeit a little longer. You can just muscle your way through, which is quicker, but then your characters won’t rank up as fast, and later battles might seem unbeatable.

The graphics for the game are well polished. This is a smooth running game that can be viewed in one of three zoom views. You can zoom all the way in for a close look at the characters. There’s a mid-zoom that is great for navigating in a non-battle environment. There’s also a zoomed out view that gives you a great view of a battle map while battling your enemies. You can rotate the view using the shoulder buttons, and when dealing with a 3D battle map, this becomes very useful. The zoom function is utilized by touching either the screen or the rear panel. You can turn off the rear panel functionality, and for those with big hands, this might prevent some frustration.

The music for the game fits it perfectly. It has a nice mix of upbeat tunes that can make the game’s longer battles seem less so. Each character has their own little sound bytes that are entertaining and just might make you like them all the more. The voice acting for the cut scenes, and for those sound bytes, is top notch. All of the audio sounds crisp and clear.

If you played Disgaea 3 on the PS3 and enjoyed it, playing it on the Vita will be just as enjoyable. With several new maps, all of the DLC from the PS3 version, and a few characters from Disgaea 4 dropping by, Disgaea 3: Absence of Detention is worth another purchase for the awesome little handheld.