This review was published on the 21st April 2021 and mobile games can be drastically changed each year (more so than console titles) so please be aware this is how it started.
This is not sponsored or review code provided content.
Disgaea: Netherworld Unbound never did make it outside of Japan and despite a port of Disgaea 1 Complete to Android and iOS, Disgaea RPG is the first title in the Disgaea series to be an entirely new mobile game free to start for everyone. Although I’m not a huge fan of random luck-of-the-draw games, I’ve experience in sinking far too much time and money into Pokémon Masters and even Arknights and there are great games out there such as the really enjoyable Fire Emblem Heroes and Hearthstone. It’s time to see if Disgaea RPG is worth tapping into your phone or if the hourly investment isn’t worth the battery.
Disgaea RPG starts out with a necessary clear breakaway from the main series because all of the strategy Disgaea is known for is cut down and repackaged as a basic RPG with gacha mechanics. Every stat, system or mechanic has a meter, there are 3 forms of currency, consumable items by the ton and some grind to everything free. Thankfully Disgaea RPG doesn’t attempt to overwhelm you too much with all the mechanics and if you’ve ever played a free-to-play game you’ll know what to expect. After the story introduction you’re given your first summon of a Disgaea protagonist and this is at random but it clearly explains you can retry the pull until you get the one you want (it took me 3 attempts to get Laharl) After this you can pick any 4 two star characters to make up a party and it’s on with the actual game.
There is a lot of content in Disgaea RPG and despite not really being an entry in the series it dutifully uses every single asset that has ever been made for it. You start off with your stronghold where your party will wander around and your primary character gets a big picture but as with all gacha games this is a clustered screen; AP details (the energy metre for this app) Beginner Missions to quickly get you up to speed, Gifts where all the free items sit until ‘redeemed’, Friends who are random players you add each battle for support who can be gifted AP, Missions to clear for more gifts, more shop items and more ‘BARGAIN’ signs. It’s another mobile game that once you get your head around what everything does and how it works, you’ll be zipping around, tapping the options and avoiding the shop items. There is a power-save mode but for the most part I’ve not needed it on my Android phone.
Sparingly the main story for Disgaea RPG is well written. You’re training a character to be the ultimate overlord and this takes you through multiple encounters with well known characters as you progress. For the most part the difficulty curve doesn’t require a large amount of grinding but you’ll find yourself gradually introduced to all of Disgaea RPG’s systems. The Dark Gates, where you can enter high AP cost battles for an EXP or HL boost are forgettable (and have limited daily uses) but a surprising option is the Netherworld History option. This section tells key story beats from the main games. There is an area for Events with timed challenges but at the moment it’s jarringly Christmas themed. Each battle in every mode has 3 difficulty settings and 3 different challenges ranging from ‘keep a monster alive’ to ‘keep 2 female party members alive’ which should encourage you to mix up your party from time to time but for the most part you’ll blitz through battles to see more story.
The combat in Disgaea RPG is what lets down the entire experience and although this is a ‘clicker’ game with minimal interaction, it’s a wasted opportunity with a series so well known for strategy. Each character takes it in turn to either attack or do a special move, each move uses SP which a character will regain per turn and you can select who the character will attack. That’s it. Team attacks occur at random and you cannot move or place characters per battle only organise your party prior. You can lift characters and then attack, this essentially gives you an option to pull characters close to death out of fire but it becomes redundant as soon as any character with an ‘all foes’ special attack gets a golden weapon. 1 hit and the wave is defeated. Everything becomes a strategy to cut down on grind and max out specific attacks with defence becoming hugely redundant. There’s a reason the cleric character represents the Netherworld hospital (where you get AP bonuses and items for taking damage) they have switched from being a must in Disgaea to becoming redundant in the combat.
Disgaea RPG is another hands-free mobile game that has an Auto feature where the Ai will do the basics to get you through an easy stage but will get you killed a lot faster in later ones and you’ll find the 2x and 4x speed options more useful. For the most part combat is a mindless affair tapping a single button until you eventually hit a boss that requires a little more thought. It’s a good thing that the presentation is so polished because if the spectacle hadn’t been up to scratch the entire experience would have been a write off. There’s strange little quirks to the experience such as the Item World not requiring any AP to play so you can go through and max out your equipment if you’re willing to grind. Using the Disgaea 1 Complete / Disgaea 4 / Disgaea 5 sprites results in a more polished look and potentially hinting at a Disgaea 2 or 3 remaster in the works.
The Dark Assembly is in Disgaea RPG but this is now used for increasing your item shop rank or accessing limited boosts and you bribe the NPCs using specific bribe items rather than junk. These bribe specific items are purchasable in the item store but you’ll also need them over in the Item World as residents now need bribing to subdue. Once you get into the gameplay loop of Disgaea RPG the disappointment of the lack of strategy starts to fade and you can see the options to dig deep into the systems without spending a penny. Picking a few characters you like and crashing through the story can be fun. There is plenty of enjoyable classic music tracks, sounds and Japanese voice lines. It all works as you’d expect a gacha game to work, right down to including Mao’s Lab which not only acts as a hub for reincarnating level 100 characters back to 1 (which requires more unique consumable items) It’s also where you go to combine spare summons and boosting stats, it’s both equal parts tacky and enjoyable.
Although almost everything is available to purchase in Disgaea RPG with real money (and there are 2 kinds of paid passes) I managed to pass the Dark Sun boss and clear the mission boards simply by using the tools at hand and not spending any money. It is disappointing that Disgaea RPG is more of an RPG-lite as it doesn’t have the level of customisation I’d expect from an RPG game. It definitely doesn’t have the level of strategy I’d want from a Disgaea title. As far as a gacha game goes it’s fine, it has the same issues most gacha games have where you’ll find at higher levels AP becomes an issue and when you get more invested, the hooks for payment options dig a little deeper. If you enjoy these sort of gacha mind-off click games and fancy something new then Disgaea RPG is perfectly fine for you. If not then you’ll find some enjoyment from the story which is worth a go but there’s a lot to get your head around to experience it.
4/10 – Gacha hooks into this guy here
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