Disgaea might well have been the first video game that ever made me laugh out loud on a regular basis. It was smart, funny, featured a wonderful artistic style and took every strategy RPG mechanic in the book up to eleven. A few irritating wrinkles here and there, but it was a new and genuinely enjoyable IP. Along came Disgaea 2, which made numerous gameplay improvements - more classes, a more even balance between skills, the ability to level up your healers through healing rather than attacking - but wasn't even remotely as funny as its predecessor. Instead of Laharl, we control a cocky, woman-hating jackass with an absurd necktie. We're even made to suffer that most asinine and overplayed of "jokes," the French Jerk. At least the level-grinding this time around was more fun, even if the story and characters were sorely lacking. And now Disgaea 3, which seems to fall squarely in the middle in every way. It's not as original or as funny as the first game, but it stands head and shoulders above the second in this regard. The gameplay is more of the same, essentially - a few new features here and there, geo blocks instead of geo panels, stackable boxes, the ability to convert monsters into weapons and assign secondary bonuses to characters, the homeroom system. I shouldn't say anything about the graphics, as they're not particularly important, but it really does come across as lazy when half the game is in high definition. It makes the whole thing feel rushed, but in the end, you're probably not playing any strategy RPG for the graphics. No, the real problem here is very specific, and it's a bigger issue than it may seem: the maps are cluttered. It's as though NIS got caught up in the fact that they could put more 3D scenery into the game and simply didn't know when to stop. As a result, you have crystal formations, towers, boxes and anything else you might care to think of piled up in such a haphazard fashion I find myself angling the camera every other turn just to find my characters. It's not quite game-breaking, but it is severely annoying. In summary, Disgaea 3 is far from perfect. It plays better than Disgaea and it's a great deal funnier than Disgaea 2. It could have been worse.
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