Disgaea 7: Vows of the Virtueless is the next entry in the venerable Japanese strategy RPG franchise, and it marches on to PS5 and PS4 in October. Push Square was fortunate enough to get to talk to Disgaea 7 director Shunsuke Minowa about what fans can expect from the game, and what lessons have been learned since somewhat controversial changes were introduced in Disgaea 6: Defiance of Destiny.
Push Square: Disgaea 7: Vows of the Virtueless features a more traditionally-influenced Netherworld for the first time in the series, inspired by ancient and modern Japanese history. What led to this shift from the more hell-as-bureaucracy style setting?
Shunsuke Minowa: The central concept for the Japanese-inspired Netherworld of Disgaea 7 is the idea of “returning to our roots.” We focused on a single Netherworld as opposed to multiple different worlds like in previous games and thought through how the themes of “Bushido” (namely, redemption, honour, and finding oneself) could form the basis of the story.
As one of our main goals was to take a “back-to-basics” approach with Disgaea 7, we conceived a setting inspired by Japanese history and aesthetics, as well as a story in which the main characters have to “reclaim Bushido” in an honorless realm ruled by a tyrant.
Meeting the cast of a new Disgaea game is one of our favourite aspects. Do you have a favourite character, and why?
There is a character named Ao, a mysterious girl who claims to be Fuji’s daughter and shows up while destroying a castle. She is a terrifying child. Personally, I like situations where small characters easily defeat large characters or destroy huge buildings, so I specifically asked the scenario writer to create a character with those elements, and that's how she came to be, and that’s why I have a fondness for her.
Jumbification is a new mechanic, super-sizing characters and allowing them to attack multiple enemies simultaneously. Is this something characters can do independently of their current class?
Yes, Jumbification can be used by all characters. Not only does it give characters far-reaching attacks, but it also has a unique effect called "Jumbility" that affects the entire map. For example, if a Prinny uses Jumbification, it creates a field that damages the surrounding area when anyone is thrown. This adds an element of individuality to each character.
Disgaea 7 maintains the 3D art style introduced in Disgaea 6. How has the team found this shift from a developmental perspective, and what kind of feedback have you seen from fans?
The reception to the transition to 3D was somewhat negative for Disgaea 6, but for this game, the feedback was generally more positive. The negative feedback was mainly due to the fact that the reduction in the number of characters and the inability to use weapon skills were major sources of dissatisfaction. However, these issues were addressed in Disgaea 7.
Additionally, the overall improvement in the quality of the character models contributed to a more positive reception. The transition to 3D was also utilized in this game with the implementation of the Jumbification mechanic. In the 2D era, if a character were made too large, they would become blurry, but the transition to 3D allowed for a seamless and natural look even when characters grow to massive sizes and go beyond the map boundaries. The advantages of using 3D can be seen in the camera work and motion during skill execution, and overall, the team feels that the transition to 3D has been beneficial.
The number of classes and monsters continues to expand, with Maiko, Bandit, Zombie Maiden, and Big Eye being introduced. How do these classes differentiate themselves and complement the rest of the roster?
The Maiko is a young girl who charms her opponents with graceful dancing, and her adorableness has made her very popular even outside of the battlefield. She excels at providing support by allowing already-acted allies to act again, as well as reducing the amount of damage taken.
The Bandit is a thief who is passionate about collecting treasure. He can learn a skill to steal equipment from enemies and is also skilled at finding good items in treasure chests.
The Zombie Maiden is a demon who was revived through a magical ritual performed on a corpse, and while their intelligence is limited, they possess powerful abilities. With their high offensive capabilities, they excel as attackers. They also have abilities related to the theme of death, such as the ability to revive themselves after being defeated or to gain strength each time a teammate is defeated.
The Big Eye is highly respected among many demons in the underworld and is a high-ranking monster with large eyeballs as its charm point(?). It boasts high performance as a magic-based attacker, with the ability to warp around the battlefield and perform long-range attacks. It has numerous abilities that contain both advantages and disadvantages, which test the player's skills.
In Disgaea 6, additional options were added that allowed players to automate combat more easily, speeding up the grinding process. Does Disgaea 7 include features like Auto-Repeat, and what do you say to critics of this kind of gameplay automation?
In Disgaea 6, unlimited use of auto-battle resulted in a loss of the series' original replay value and enjoyment of raising characters. In this game, we have implemented a cost for using auto-battle and made it possible for players to save that cost by making smart choices. Additionally, players can now skip auto-battle at any time, allowing for a better user experience by cutting out parts that don't contribute to the gameplay.
Hell Mode is another new mechanic allowing players to boost their characters further. How does it work, and what are its limitations?
Hell mode is a mechanic that can only be used by specific characters and allows them to gain a massive enhancement by consuming their "Hell Gauge", which fills up under certain conditions. Hell Mode triggers powerful effects, empowers character actions, and even unlocks unique skills.
Item Reincarnation will allow players to create all kinds of powerful upgrades. How does this system differ from the Item World we have seen in previous games?
The Item World has been a staple of the Disgaea series for item enhancement, and the new Item Reincarnation feature builds upon it to further enhance item development. Item Reincarnation allows players to reincarnate an item that has been strengthened to its limit in the Item World. Each item in the Disgaea series has unique characteristics, such as increasing the counterattack rate with a fist weapon or increasing movement distance with shoes. With Item Reincarnation, players can combine these characteristics and enhance items even further by inheriting rare and random traits.
Regarding the single-player campaign, will Disgaea 7 be comparable in length to previous entries?
The main scenario can be cleared in about 40 hours, but including everything else, the total playtime is expected to be over 200 hours. These numbers have been adjusted to be equal to or greater than those of Disgaea 5.
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This interview has been lightly edited for readability purposes. We'd like to extend our thanks to Shunsuke Minowa and the team at NIS / NIS America. Special thanks to Lottie Diao and the team at Reef Entertainment for making this interview possible.