sorry for Nippon Ichi in a way. Their career took a big upswing when they
turned the good-against-evil formula of La Pucelle upside-down and taught
the world the joys of mass demon slaughter in Disgaea.
Since then, they rather admirably decided not to so much follow up with
direct sequels, but take the basic mechanics, tweak them, concoct a new
cast and world, and basically start over new with each successive game.
Yet, as interesting as the different variations and tweaks were, pretty
much anyone talking about them will start with, "It's not as good
as Disgaea, but..." Well, they've finally buckled and made
a Disgaea 2 at this point (with plans for 3 already in the pipe), so I
think it's as good a time as any to finally make myself talk about the
last post-Disgaea title.
Kingdom takes place in the same universe as it, and basically broadens
the scale to include multiple Netherworlds, each ruled by its respective
overlord. Our star is one of the most feared Overlords of all, the flame-haired
Lord Zetta (who repeatedly describes himself as "One BAD-ASS
FRICKIN' OVERLORD.") After hearing a prophecy that his world would
be destroyed, he sets out to stop it by tracking down a sacred tome, and
inadvertantly causes the very destruction he wanted to stop. With the
world ending, his only way to survive is by binding his soul inside the
Sacred Tome. So, he's alive, but completely immobile and basically useless.
He's not even able to use the book's ability to grant wishes since he
hasn't the arms to write in himself. Enter the other Overlords, who will
help him out, though mainly for their own self-serving needs. Each one
takes turns writing wishes to bring back Zetta's world (if just one of
them were to wish an entire world back by themselves, the magic drain
would kill them outright.) The mischevious, prophetic pedobait Pram, the
ancient, slightly senile Babylon, and the boisterous moron Drake are among
the other Overlords, though my favorite of the bunch is Dark Lord Vavolga,
a chimeric sort of beast described as being the 'last boss of many worlds.'
He's made up of a zombie dragon head, the bitching head of a fallen angel,
and "Mickey," the four-armed upper body who talks with a pronounced
lithp and seems to be the only one with genuine concern for Zetta.
Hooray for the cosmic gay neighbor.
there's a girl named Trenia who basically just hangs out in deep space.
She tries to set fire to Lord Zetta for no reason and is often seen tending
a garden (Again, in the middle of space.)
change from the other games to this one is a noticeable lack of story.
You get a cutscene at the start and end of a chapter, and that's about
it. There are a lot of interesting story fragments on display,
like a near-omnipotent being being imprisoned in a book and left to the
mercies of his rivals, and his connection to Lady Salome, a human
former lover of his who went on to rule her own Netherworld, but
you're not exactly drawn into the plot as deeply as Disgaea or La Pucelle
since these blurbs of story are dispensed in 2-3 minute chunks between
every seven to ten maps. About every time a cutscene did come up, I usually
had to smack my forehead straining to remember what the name of that jackass
lion was, or exactly who that samurai was supposed to be. "OHHHH!
That guy! I don't know who he is, but I bet he's trouble!"
chapter, you pick which Overlord's help you want in creating the next
section of your new world to conquer, and your choice will influence what
sort of enemies will inhabit each board. Many times, levels start small
but have a KEY item or foe to kill, which will cause a sudden extension
of the level to spring into being. They carried over the confine system
from Phantom Brave in a way- though the characters you create from whatever
random items you find don't expire after x turns. Of note is the fact
you don't normally have control of ANY story characters, your party consists
entirely of created ones. So, on the one hand, you're given total freedom
over what your forces are going to be, but on the other, relying purely
on 'generic' troops tends to make for some pretty bland battles. To dig
up the bones of Disgaea again, sure it was annoying as fuck to hear Flonne
say "LORD! GIVE ME STRENGTH!" every time she used her specials,
but at least you're not on a map of a dozen completely identical characters
who all grunt "TAKE THIS" when they execute their orders.
no grid like many strategy games use. This gives you a bit more freedom
placing your men, which is normally a good thing except for the fact they
also added the ability to knock people "out of bounds." Normally
you can't, but on occasion, rubbing up against map corners has lost me
a character over the edge. The Out of Bounds rule adds a little to the
system, but mainly leads to some annoying accidental kills (See also:
Soul Calibur.) See, if your guy is knocked off the map, it frees up a
'population' slot (However many guys you can use at a time, the max POP
decreases as they're killed, but OOB just gets rid of the current character).
But if you knock an enemy off the map, it causes every other enemy still
on it to shoot up a few levels. Wow! Such balance. The Lift/Throw mechanic
has changed a bit too, so you don't have the ability to throw your own
men, or lift/throw anything at all without unequipping your weapon. The
whole system is just so damn awkward it took me a few accidental tosses
of my own weapons off the edge of the board before I got the hang of it.
before, the biggest problem is that practically everyone and everything
looks exactly alike. The scenery pretty much adheres to the standard video
game background terrain, and the randomized expansions tend to clash noticeably
(Let's see, I started in a steel-plated laboratory, then an aquarium,
and finally a desert). It's not hard to accidentally kill your own men
in a close quarters battle either since enemy and friendly units are again,
all of the generic types that both sides use. Again, it really would have
helped if your characters would actually look or act differently than
anyone else; as it is, you pretty much have to rely on attacking the enemies
with the most hilariously mismatched weapon in their hand (I wonder if
it's an inside joke at Nippon Ichi to make the game's AI randomly assign
wildly out of class equipment to all the enemies- we have healers with
were a promising addition, and they are fun to tool around in, but they
tend to be a bit more hassle than they're worth. You see, vehicles gain
EXP and level up as most things in turn based gaming do, but in order
to actually make good on the earned levels, you must create a mechanic
so you can sell some of your junk for Materials(MT) so you can pay your
also-freshly-created Scientist to upgrade it. Meanwhile, while your vehicle
is fighting and gaining EXP, it also happens to be depriving its driver
of it. Naturally, your now improved vehicle will now need a better driver
too to keep pushing those miscellaneous numbers and such up.
new to the game are Facilities, huge buildings that you can drop out of
the sky and store people in. Facilities are important in that you'll need
them if you ever, EVER want to take a weakened character off the map.
You can't do the old 'cancel-cancel' backstep if you summon your level
one priestess into a level inhabited by giant ogres in tanks. Which I
suppose merits a further explanation of how the summoning works- rather
than a base panel, your 'home base' is the book Zetta, and he can 'Invite'
characters, buildings, and so on into the battlefield since he's incapable
of fighting (or moving) for himself. If enemies get their mitts on/damage
Lord Zetta, you'll lose a bunch of Points and all your deployed characters
take damage. So just don't let that happen, alright? (Zetta starts the
game at about level 2000 in book form, though, so they probably can't
kill him very easily until you get to some of the secret double dog bosses
another hallmark of Nippon Ichi involves experience grinding and item
hunting to almost ridiculous extents (with characters capping in level
at about 9999, though you can generally finish the game with much, much
less.) Makai Kingdom requires you to create high level characters specifically
so you can kill them off. Specifically, so you can create new buildings.
Granted you can ressurrect a sacrificed character through transmigration,
but it's still rather annoying when you reach the point where you have
to hari-kiri a level 50 fighter so you can wish for a University facility
that will speed up the process of grinding up the rest of your forces
(possibly for more eventual horrible demises. How bleak!)
it is, though, Makai Kingdom is worthy of the collection of a strategy
fan. The vehicles and facilities add extra dimensions to the game (Or
you could just make a swordsman and a handful of support mages, just saying...),
and the non-combat characters make for an interesting change of pace.
I think I'd like to see some of the classes and elements created here
carry over into Disgaea 2 (please oh please, keep the Infantry) even if
some of the things it attempted fell flat. The biggest hits to the look
and feel come from the absence of the original composers and the lack
of proper character portraits during the dialogue scenes. Yes, just like
the RPGs of yore, you're going to watch a lot of game sprites walking
back and forth and doing little 'flavor' animations to accent the dialogue
at the bottom of the screen. There are occasional uses of nice full-screen
still art at certain junctions, including 'special events' from map expansions.
The constantly-expanding map is one of the best ideas the game has, as
is the point system which allows you to walk away victorious from a battle
after destroying a number of targets that meets the completion requirement
at the bottom of the screen. One early stage makes you bait a ridiculously
strong enemy away so you can close in on and kill a pathetic blob at the
back of the map who has just enough point value to get you out of there.
The most aggravating thing for me is that with all these wonderful new
tactical additions and strategically fighting to take out the highest
scoring targets, an overpowered guy with a sword (Or that god damned ball
and chain) is still pretty much guaranteed to win. With rare exceptions
like the above, I really miss things in the vein of the Disgaea geo panel
puzzles or even La Pucelle's Dark Energy flows that relied on positioning
and careful tossing of people and things to break up the "Walk over
there, attack that, end turn" routine.
Kingdom also gets points for shamelessly having a level that serves no
other purpose than to gain craploads of experience without touching the