Disgaea 7 Fuji Leads The Battle Charge
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Disgaea 7: Vows of the Virtueless review – Wicked cool

Disgaea's newest iteration is kind of a big deal.

Disgaea 7: Vows of the Virtueless is the most recent installment in a series of strategy RPG games that dates back to the PlayStation 2. Each new entry introduces new mechanics and folds them neatly into the pile of features that came before, while telling an original story that hits a lot of familiar plot beats. That’s the case yet again, which leads to one of the franchise’s most enjoyable entries to date. Just don’t expect it to reinvent the wheel, because it really didn’t need to.

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As Disgaea 7 begins, players meet Pirilika and Fuji. The former is an optimistic young woman who travels the Hinomoto Netherworld in her airborne ship. She gushes over the noble concept of bushido, which seems like it would be entirely out of place in a world populated by demons. Fuji is a more traditional anti-hero. He agrees to work as Pirilika’s bodyguard in exchange for a huge pile of HL (pronounced ‘hell’). Over the course of the adventure, the party of two grows as the plot introduces new comrades with shadowy pasts. Once everyone has been properly introduced, which takes a while, players discover an unexpected side of each leading character before, finally, the poo hits the fan.

Disgaea 7 Fuji Delivering A Stompfest
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Not the same old story

Disgaea games have always offered intriguing stories that veer slightly from the mainstream path. They explore traditional themes such as love, family, honor, and friendship, but their focus on foul demons and humor makes even time-worn tropes feel fresh and exciting. Disgaea 7 carries on the grand tradition, but the execution may feel rote to players who have enjoyed the series since its memorable beginning. The opening scene starts things off strong. From there, the plot moseys about for some time with no sense of urgency. A number of events seem like random filler. The writers do an admirable job of tying everything together in the end, with some surprises and a few good laughs before the credits roll, but the sharp edge that once made the series feel so remarkable is somewhat dulled.

Fortunately, Disgaea games have always offered more than just their unconventionally charming plot. Character customization and combat have always been the real stars of the show, and Disgaea 7 builds on the same strong foundation that allowed previous entries to shine.

Disgaea 7 Item World Selecting Route
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Into the depths

If you’ve played any previous Disgaea games, you already know how easily this review might devolve into tedious technical discussion. There have always been a lot of gears grinding away behind the scenes, and they never come across as exciting in written summary as they do when you are playing the games. Characters are capable of leveling up to 9999, which the central plot and mandatory missions don’t remotely require. Your chosen warriors can dive into an Item World that exists within each piece of gear they find or buy, often facing relentless foes in randomly generated dungeon levels. You can reincarnate your favorite characters, granting them access to additional classes and weapon proficiencies to complement everything they’ve learned up to that point. After the first few hours of play, which introduce key mechanics at a drip so newer players have time to get acclimated, the game provides incentives to experiment for dozens of hours at a time, all without thinking about the plot ever again. Of course, you’ll want to see the credits roll, if only so you gain access to more challenging optional missions and additional characters. That’s just how Disgaea games work.

As always, the developers have introduced a variety of new elements to ensure there’s something new to see, even if you’ve spent hundreds of hours with past entries. The biggest change is the addition of Jumbification. As your characters battle, they fill up rage meters that allow them to ‘Jumbify.’ They can then warp to one of the four sides of the field of play, where they appear as giants. Their increased size allows them to smash 3×3 grids, taking out numerous targets at once. They get an HP and SP refill in the process, which keeps them relevant in fights they might otherwise lose. Various status boosts also affect ally characters on the field. For instance, everyone’s attack strength might increase. Unfortunately, enemies sometimes take advantage of this same capability. They don’t return to their normal size after three rounds, either.

Disgaea 7 Jumbification In Episode 2
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Supersize me

The Jumbification feature had the potential to turn things on its head. Sometimes it even does. Although it doesn’t see regular use in the main campaign, it definitely impacts Item World exploration. You’ll have to give more thought to which targets to eliminate first, and make difficult choices about when to Jumbify. Otherwise, even a simple level has the potential to turn into a proper nightmare, especially when you’re pushing through one border or another. The new mechanic is impossible to miss, and much more than just a simple gimmick.

Another addition, Hell Mode, fares less admirably. Characters fill a different meter to activate their darker side once they have been sufficiently provoked. In doing so, they gain access to unique new abilities that hit harder and produce additional EXP. However, the effect doesn’t stick around for long. Its impact on combat is minimal, compared to the more enticing Jumbification option. It’s a bit of a waste.

Once a series has become as complex as Disgaea, the abundance of existing features can make it easy to overlook newer stuff just because there are already so many ways to develop a roster of characters or to improve gear. Even so, it’s worth exploring some of the other new additions. This time around, for instance, even your items can be reincarnated. They can gain multiple attributes as their stats continue to climb. If you’ve ever wanted to have an edible sword, now you can. Much more useful, you might add increased movement by combining slippers with a sword. And you can increase that further by adding boosts with a visit to the Item World. I didn’t play around with this a lot, however; it felt unnecessary on top of everything else I could already do.

Disgaea 7 Maiko Character Recruit
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Classy additions

The addition of four new character classes is more difficult to overlook. The addition brings the total number of standard classes to an impressive 45. The new options are the status-impacting Big Eye, the thieving Bandit, a seductive Maiko dancer, and a Zombie Maiden that returns to life after her life meter is drained for the first time. Like warriors in the dozens of returning classes, the newcomers possess a variety of beautifully animated moves. These animations ensure Disgaea 7 is a joy to watch in action, even if you start skipping through them once you’ve seen them a few times.

Finally, the developers have even introduced a competitive element for those players who wish to explore it. You don’t have to try out Ranked Battles at all if you don’t want to, but one of the characters in your hub area will be happy to let you face off against parties assembled by human rivals. You’ll wage war against another player using a group of your favorite characters. Teams can include as many as 10 combatants, which you might imagine would lead to some fairly extended matches. However, you’re not required to input commands manually. Instead, you get to participate in automated battles that transpire pretty quickly. Rankings reset every week, and there are some pretty big prizes available.

Disgaea 7 Ranked Battle Lobby
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Technically proficient

As one might expect of a game that isn’t a technical beast, Disgaea 7 runs beautifully on a decent PC. You can use a mouse and keyboard if you wish, though I used an Xbox controller and liked that better. Visually, the vibrant artwork is once again the star, from the lively battlefields and the combat animations to the character portraits that accompany dialogue in the story sequences. Even a fairly middling PC shouldn’t run into much trouble. My only real gripe is that there’s no true full-screen mode. Play starts in a windowed mode, but even expanding it to fit the full screen in the Settings menu doesn’t eliminate the taskbar. I got used to it, but I can’t say I loved it.

Whether it’s your first proper Disgaea game or your eighth (we mustn’t forget the PS3-exclusive Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness), Disgaea 7: Vows of the Virtueless is a satisfying new entry in a series that has been around for 20 years. It builds on nearly everything its predecessors accomplished, trimming some fat while adding new content and modes that feel fresh enough to prevent the experience from going stale. With enough nods to past triumphs to please returning veterans, plus a streamlined approach that makes the complex systems more manageable for newcomers, Disgaea 7 is as good as the series has been in over a decade. It might even become your favorite entry, if you let it.

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Disgaea 7: Vows of the Virtueless
Disgaea 7: Vows of the Virtueless mostly feels like business as usual, which is good news for long-time fans and newcomers alike. Some rough edges have been smoothed, though, and the polish works alongside a few smart new features to produce one of the finest entries in the series to date.

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Jason Venter
Jason Venter is a contributing writer for PC Invasion since 2022 who can trace his love for video games back to the Apple IIe port of Mario Bros. in the late 80s. He remains a diehard Nintendo fan to this day and loves JRPGs, adventure games, and platformers in particular, but he still plays games in most genres and on most hardware. After founding indie gaming site HonestGamers in 1998, he served as an editor at Hardcore Gamer Magazine during its entire print run. He has since freelanced for a variety of leading sites including IGN, GameSpot, and Polygon. These days, he spends most of his time writing game guides and entertaining readers with his fantasy novels.