As a fresh college grad with an ample amount of free time and disposable income, my game purchases were sporadically guided by impulse. Although this practice often habitually resulted in an gentle case of buyer’s remorse, in one instance I stumbled upon a diversion that paid huge dividends. Disgaea: Hour of Darkness became an obsession during the late summer months of 2003, coaxing me into its recesses with a plethora of items to procure and subsequently, power-up. Further forays into the netherworld (courtesy of Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories, Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice, and even platformer Prinny: Can I Really Be the Hero?) proved gratifying ,but having the beloved preliminary cast reduced to extended cameos was slightly disheartening.
Therefore, it was with mixed feelings I approached the latest offering from Nippon Ichi- Disgaea Infinite. While the title offers a multi-faceted narrative based around beloved characters of the first and third game, it also forgoes the fascinating strategic combat which the series is known for. Likely, this will mean that enthusiasts of Disgaea‘s sardonic, morally-inverted characters will revel in Infinite’s humorous dialog, but leave turn-based tacticians yearning for some grid-based conflict resolution.
Series aficionados will recognize the tension that fuels Infinite’s story line, with friction erupting between a tyrannical Overlord and a devoted Prinny vassal. As the story opens, the loyal servant is toiling in the Netherworld, earning an inequitable wage, in an effort to atone for his past transgressions. He soon draws the ire of his master Laharl, who throws the hapless Prinny out the window, where the servant lands unconscious outside the castle walls. Upon regaining his senses, the proletariat Prinny witnesses a blast intended to take the life of the Overlord. Assuming the explosion was an act of rebellion, Laharl suspends payroll, forcing the penguin-like protagonist to go back in time in an effort to avert the assassination attempt.
Unlike most JRPGs which follow a simple linear storytelling path, Infinite‘s narrative can viewed through multiple perspectives. As specific points within the game, players are given the ability to possess characters, shifting the focus of the plotline accordingly. While players are usually passive observers, sporadically they may influence a decision, instigating a ripple in the game’s continuum of events. In the end, over a dozen conclusions await players, prompting multiple playthroughs to see all the title’s minutiae. To assist players navigation through the title’s twisting narrative players are given two tools: a chart showing conversational relationships as well as the ability to speed through previously encountered dialog. Both utilities are indispensable when revisiting Infinite‘s intricate yarn.
Disgaea Infinite is a divisive piece of fan service- one that will be eagerly consumed by franchise devotees, while met with quizzical responses from casual fans. Whereas the original Disgaea offered a cornucopia of interactive diversions for players to lose themselves, Infinite is closer in spirit to a branching manga. While the title can’t compare to a full game (let’s hope those Disgaea 4 rumors are true), the diversion proves that even a short, scintillating gaze into the Netherworld contains enough satisfying strife to keep Prinnyphiles sustained for a week.