I have been dreading writing this review. Every single distraction I can think of has been initiated. And yet the writing still needs to be done. Everyone likes an exuberant review because it is easy to sense the excitement. Angry or disappointed reviews are loved even more for a simple fact: Who doesn’t like someone, or something, being cut down to size for a bit? As such, as much as I enjoy the Disgaea universe, I cannot help but feel disappointed with Disgaea Infinite for the PSP.
Disgaea Infinite follows the exploits of a prinny (a demonic penguin) who stumbles upon a magic pocket watch (did I mention it talks?) that can take the user back in time. And he has a good reason to use it, too. Someone has “assassinated” Laharl, a potent overlord of the netherworld. In reality, he just blew up because he ate some dessert off his bedroom floor. And now he has docked the prinnies’ pay. So our hero needs to go back in time and prevent his master from blowing up. Or at least keep their pay from being docked.
Disgaea Infinite is just as outrageous in story as any other installment in the series. There are tons of gut-busting scenes that need to be seen and heard for the full effect. However, there are two main problems with the story. First, there is the problem of show versus tell. You’ll watch the various portraits emote while the game will tease you with action on the grid. It gives the game a comic book feel. Some will respond well to this. Others, like myself, will detest it. Second, you’ll go through the same scenes over and over again due to the nature of the game. Each time you don’t complete your main objective, the game will take you back to the beginning of the current problem.
This perfectly relates to the gameplay. All you do is read text, possess characters and change their minds at critical junctures. Oh yes, possession is a natural element of the game and is a great idea. However, it doesn’t work in practice. It is downright tedious going through the same events ad nauseum, searching for that one scene that will let you change everything for the better. You can’t do anything with it. There’s no forcing a character to go somewhere else, change their mind on a topic or force them to say something. Changing a character’s mind at predetermined moments doesn’t feel right. Besides, reliving the same day over and over again wasn’t fun on the N64, and it isn’t fun now.
Graphically, Disgaea Infinite looks nice. The ultra-high resolution of 16-bit graphics makes for a very whimsical and colorful universe. Portraits move well and emphasize their characters’ personalities. The scenes that show off the hilarity of it all are showy.
Sound design is solid. The downside is that fans of the series will quickly recognize the tunes that makes the series famous. The same is true of the awesome voice acting. If it weren’t for the cast, I probably would have shucked the disc out of my PSP after a few minutes.
Disgaea Infinite doesn’t tread new ground. Instead, it presents itself as an anti-game. There’s no leveling, exploration or customization. It’s all about telling an outrageous story. However, the repeating time element kills the gameplay for me. I hate it. Whenever I look at the box and the game, I cannot help but come up with ideas that would have made it stronger. I want to be able to explore the castle as a prinny. I want to be able to poke my head into every nook and corner for clues. I want there to be some clever platforming with the possession element used to reach critical junctions.
But Disgaea Infinite fails to do any of this. Instead, we have a videogame comic book. Instead of infinite possibilities as the title suggests, gamers have access to something that is finite. It might appeal to comic book fans or non-gamers trying to get into gaming. Long-time fans might feel its groove. Or it might turn them off. It is a rental at best, even with the $20 admission fee. Now, I’m going to spend time with other installments in the series. At least they’re a blast to play and have infinite replay value.