Disgaea has always stood out among strategy RPGs due to the sheer spectacle of the thing. Ludicrous characters, absurd tactics, and insane damage numbers: it's a franchise that has always taken things to the next level. Disgaea 6: Complete, we're glad to say, continues that trend, and somehow even manages to ratchet things up further.
Initially released for PS4 and Nintendo Switch in Japan as Disgaea 6: Defiance of Destiny, Disgaea 6 Complete comes bundled with all subsequent DLC included, mainly consisting of item packs and missions, allowing you to unlock the protagonists of previous games in the series.
The story is never the focus in Disgaea; it instead serves more as a vehicle to get you from one combat encounter to the next. The narrative setup here is quite serviceable, though. You play as Zed, a zombie trying to take vengeance on a near-omnipotent being known as the God of Destruction for some barely remembered transgression. The God of Destruction is currently laying waste to the Netherworld, a plane of existence inhabited by demons, and Zed wants to become powerful enough to try and stop it.
"Try" is the operative word here, as Zed has died thousands, possibly millions of times in the attempt, but as a zombie, he always comes back. He is aided in this endeavour initially only by Cerberus, who is a decaying, zombified pug, rather than the three-headed hellhound you might imagine. Cerberus is constantly hilarious, acting as the straight-dog to the more outrageous characters that join you along the way, like Misedor, the ultra-wealthy king of humanity, or Melodia, a vindictive princess in love with the idea of love.
While there is a reasonably steep learning curve, Disgaea 6 does a great job of not overwhelming players. Each new twist or concept is introduced gradually, with each level slowly piling on the complexity. Similarly, in between encounters, Cerberus will often clarify things or explain new functionality in the Pocket Dimension that serves as your hub world as things come online.
As your journey unfolds, you will visit various worlds made up of a series of stages before you fight a boss at the end. Each world usually introduces a new character that will join you and tells a short story; it's nothing groundbreaking, but it's often funny and typically satisfying.
As a strategy RPG, Disgaea 6 is mostly immaculate, providing insane depth and virtually limitless replayability. If you didn't know, in the Disgaea series, the main campaign is just a warm-up for the notorious endgame and the black hole of content that is the Item World.
The Item World is a system by which you can enter any item in the game, like a potion or a sword, for example, and fight through a series of encounters to increase its overall level. This item will then level up, allowing you to tackle higher difficulty Item World levels, and so the sadistic cycle continues.
New to Disgaea 6 is the Martial Dimension, an absurd place for completionists to brag about clearing. Consisting of a series of brutally difficult combat Trials, the first has enemies who are level 3,000, and the final features foes at level 66,660,000. For comparison, we beat the main campaign at around level 8,000. The level cap was increased in Disgaea 6 to 99,999,999, in case you were wondering.
The thing about Disgaea that can be divisive is the grind. This game is all about the grind; it actively demands that you grind, and it provides you with the tools to do so. You can automate combat, speed it up, and set it so the stage repeats. In addition, you are encouraged to reincarnate your characters, resetting their level to 1 in exchange for increased base stats.
The menus leave a lot to be desired, and it requires quite a bit of micromanagement in order to keep a larger roster of characters equipped with optimal gear. Admittedly, this has been a problem since the very first game in the series, but it would have been nice if this aspect could have been automated somewhat.
That's not for everyone, admittedly, but for certain damaged individuals (like yours truly), it's an intoxicating loop that somehow doesn't get old, or at least not quickly. You can literally automate a level, leave your console on, and let the levels roll in if you like.
Disgaea 6 includes other series staples in addition to the Item World, like the Assembly, through which you can manipulate all manner of systems, and even a dedicated Cheat Shop, which you can use to break the game in all kinds of ways. In a game about demons, set in hell, cheating is actively encouraged, and it's pretty awesome.
When it comes to the mechanics of combat, again, Disgaea takes things to another level. There are dozens of jobs to unlock, with all the staples you would find in similar titles, each with its skills, strengths and weaknesses. On the battlefield, characters can lift and throw each other around to gain a positional advantage, and when attacking each other, counterattacks can become counter-counter-counter attacks, ad Infinitum. It's pretty wild stuff.
Maps will often feature Geo Panels, a mechanic that causes specific tiles on the battlefield to have an effect. This could be anything from a buff, to causing direct damage, to teleportation, and the cool part is they affect both you and your enemies. Surveying the Geo Panels ahead of time, untangling potential dangers, and maximising possible advantages is a satisfying part of every encounter.
Disgaea 6 breaks from the series' standard 2D art style, and this is something that has proven to be divisive among long-time fans. We think the new 3D style looks great, but it's different from what has come before.
Where Disgaea 6 falls in the series is mainly in the eye of the beholder; it's like Final Fantasy in that the first you played is probably your favourite. We think Disgaea 1 Complete remains the best title in the series. Still, Disgaea 6 Complete would be a close second in this humble author's opinion, thanks to its likeable cast of characters and numerous quality-of-life enhancements.
Disgaea 6 Complete is the perfect strategy RPG package for fans of the franchise and those looking to get their tactical fix. It won't convert those who have bounced off previous titles, but that was never the developer's intention in the first place. It's a little rough around the edges, but Disgaea 6 provides an immensely satisfying experience to its niche audience, who wouldn't have it any other way.