By Anthony L. Cuaycong
Video Game Review
Disgaea R Complete+
Personal Computer via Steam
WRC 9 FIA World Rally Championship
Sony PlayStation 4
“How do I succeed? Let me count the ways.” As crude as the paraphrase to the first line of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s arguably most famous sonnet may be, it provides a succinct view of how Sony Interactive Entertainment’s regional executives must be absorbing the runup to its Philippine launch of the PlayStation 5 on Dec. 11. To know the mechanics for pre-orders in the Pearl of the Orient Sea, gamers counted exactly seven days after the latest-generation console’s Nov. 12 release everywhere else in the world. And, once informed, they counted on their luck to see them through; they realized they needed to have a lot, seeing as how everything would be done online.
Indeed, local distributors – including gaming shops DataBlitz, Game One, iTech, GameXtreme, and Gameline and such hardware outfits as Avid, Abenson, and Memoxpress — were being counted on to provide remote storefront operations that would absorb the inevitable deluge for preorder slots. What’s more, said slots were to be made available to the teeming hopefuls within a five-minute window. Talk about pressure. And so it came to pass that between 2:00 and 2:05 p.m. of Nov. 20, internet traffic in the Philippines — invariably on the high side in view of the citizens’ predilections to be wired 24/7 — reached fever pitch. Gamers in the five figures counted down the minutes, and then the seconds, and, when the opportunities came and went, counted themselves out of the running for the elusive PS5.
Sony Interactive Entertainment (SIE) honchos foresaw the positive reception, knowing they could count the PS5 among their smash hits given gamers’ intense loyalty for the platform. Even as local distributors were forewarned of the online onslaught, however, they failed to anticipate it overwhelming their backend operations. DataBlitz, for instance, went to the trouble of issuing pre-registrants with a unique link that would go live at precisely 2 p.m. on Nov. 20, but the result was still the same: a few triumphant souls against the wrath of most. Such was the backlash that it was forced to make a subsequent announcement explaining its predicament. With a finite number of preorder slots, it had no choice but to serve only what it could, and then close the window. No one needed to count to five minutes; the slots were literally gone in 60 seconds.
Other online options were likewise inundated with connection requests they could not fulfill. Game One’s site slowed to a crawl before 2 p.m. and well into the next hour; those fortunate enough to get a preorder in their carts could not check out, with handshakes to payment gateways staying uncompleted. Sister company iTech suffered a worse fate; its site crashed, so much so that it was forced to schedule another round the next day, promising to be armed with a much bigger bandwidth. Well, guess what? The site crashed again. Meanwhile, Gameline’s site suffered another kind of glitch; traffic was smooth, but, as things turned out, too smooth for comfort — allowing more preorders than available slots and compelling subsequent cancellations and refunds.
To contend that most failed in their quest to claim gaming’s latest grail would be an understatement. BusinessWorld counts itself in the group of the heartbroken. Nothing worked. Not multiple devices online and countless stabs at the F5 key to refresh sites. Not the raffle Toy Kingdom set up. Not the mobile numbers Toys R Us gave for branches to receive pre-order requests, also at 2 p.m. on Nov. 20. Most gamers familiar with the law of supply and demand, and especially how it always applies to console releases, chalked everything up to experience and moved on. They knew well the pitfalls of going against a madding crowd, and of hanging their fate on lottery-type odds.
There were, of course, small factions that cried foul, that found cause to identify vulnerabilities in the system, and that saw fit to vent their anger in social media. For this small aggrupation of gamers, it didn’t help that resellers joined the fray, no doubt snagging preorder slots through the use of bots. The enterprising, if unscrupulous, lot didn’t even wait for the actual units to be released on Dec. 11. Ads were posted in the usual marketplace haunts as soon as the preorder slots were secured, with significant markups to reflect demand. In one instance, an influencer had a posting for confirmed preorders for both the PS5 Standard and Digital Editions, in direct contravention of rules limiting the number of slots to one per person. And the irony? Another influencer working in the same industry lamented how he was not able to get a slot for his son.
There was no blood shed on Nov. 20. It wasn’t Saint Crispin’s Day, either. But, as with Henry V and his band of brothers in William Shakespeare’s outstanding play, the happy few who will be getting their PS5s on Dec. 11 cannot be blamed for feeling as if they survived the Battle of Agincourt. Such is the power of the PlayStation brand. It may be 26 years old and seemingly under threat from a paradigm shift to streaming, but it continues to live long and prosper.
POSTSCRIPT: Those familiar with Nippon Ichi’s legacy should already know what the name Disgaea entails. High stat caps, cute sprites, ridiculous stories, and an overall charming aesthetic design are par for the course for any Disgaea game, and Disgaea 4 is no different. Initially released on the Sony PlayStation 3, Disgaea 4 was later offered for the PS Vita in 2014, and on the PS4 and Nintendo Switch in 2019. Now almost nine years since its original appearance, it finds a home with its other sister titles on Steam. The question is, how well does it stack up against its predecessors?
Disgaea 4 follows the exploits of vampire Valvatorez, a proud tyrant-turned-teacher who has sworn to keep every promise he makes. When his pledge brings him at odds with the current government of the Netherworld, he finds himself gathering allies and rising up to the challenge, all while uncovering a sinister plot that threatens to undermine the fragile balance between the human and demon worlds. While initially seeming a bit too simple for a Disgaea game, the plot starts to ramp up in intensity pretty quickly. The cast of characters is ridiculous but fun, made up of lovable dorks with quirky flaws that go through a narrative taking a more serious turn in the end. And regardless of the situation, the tongue-in-cheek humor never fails to entertain.
That’s pretty much how Disgaea 4 can be described in a nutshell. It might seem tame in its earlier stages, looking like any other turn-based role-playing game, but make no mistake: It runs true to its roots, reveling in its unique combination of tactical depth with interesting map gimmicks. In the latter parts of the story, its lineage becomes abundantly clear in its combat sequences, letting players loose with a multitude of combos and special skills. At the same time, oodles upon oodles of content are on offer via multiple character endings, New Game+, and even an ever-changing random map generator in Item World.
Everything is tied together by what is essentially the definitive edition of Disgaea 4. Disgaea 4 Complete+ on the personal computer brings with it all the content its original release had plus all subsequently released downloadable content at no additional cost. With visuals updated to look better on high-definition monitors, this essentially wraps the title in a neat little package that any lover of the turn-based RPG genre will enjoy. As far as ports go, it ranks right at the top. It definitely delivers in content and functionality.
True, Disgaea 4 Complete+ is by no means perfect. As with other titles in the franchise, it requires a lot of grinding. While its user interface and quality-of-life features do help in reducing much of the frustration one can encounter, its forced gameplay loop can prove tedious to the uninitiated. The humor can also be a little off-putting, not because of the quality of its jokes or writing, but because of its overall tone. It is light-hearted to excess, and isn’t afraid to throw in a punchline or two even during more serious story segments. It often hits its mark, but can induce irritation on occasion, especially when characters feel archetypal and tropey.
Overall, Disgaea 4 Complete+ comes highly recommended. Gameplay-wise, the series will peak in Disgaea 5, but it sets gamers up well for the next installment. Once again, Nippon Ichi Software delivers a title that’s sure to entertain for hours on end.
• Superb port for the personal computer, with myriad quality-of-life features present
• Outstanding core gameplay loop
• The Disgaea series near its peak, combining an immersive narrative with unique gameplay
• Tons of content to go through with all the previously optional downloadable content packed in
• Micromanagement of characters and equipment can get a little clunky, as is typical of turn-based RPGs
• Humor can feel out of place during more serious story segments
• Requires constant grinding
THE LAST WORD: There’s something about Kylotonn’s WRC 9 FIA World Rally Championship that appeals even to casual fans of racing video games. Whether it’s the constant hum of the engines or the smoothness of the controls, there’s a comfortable assurance in how WRC 9 presents itself. It looks and feels inviting, even for those with little experience in the genre.
In simple terms, WRC 9 pits players against the road. Pick a car of choice and a track to speed through, and then race all the way to the finish line. With 14 different locations, WRC 9 offers hours upon hours of adrenaline rushes, in between eliciting the need to adapt, drive, and conquer its various tracks, and end in the fastest time possible. Pretty modest goals? Perhaps, but what it seems to lack in extravagant fanfare and complicated narratives, it more than makes up for it in plenty of other ways.
For instance, WRC 9 oozes beauty every which way. With its touched-up graphics on the PS4 Pro, it becomes remarkably lifelike, taking gamers through vastly different photorealistic environments. Its lush sceneries, rendered so beautifully, peek through the windshield and turn into distant landmarks that elicit regret from moist eyes. If only there were time to savor the experience of driving through Kenya’s dirt roads or speeding through the quiet countryside of Japan. Meanwhile, the call and calling of competition is highlighted amid the instructions of the navigator and the squeal of the tires. The drive is made even more immersive by the temptations all around.
Outside of just plain racing, WRC 9 also has a pretty solid Career Mode. Gamers are asked to manage and shift team members around, participate in rallies, and attend events to earn cash prizes, with the end-goal of becoming the next WRC champion. The better the finish in each race, the more money earned, and the higher the rep. In turn, the developments allow the hiring of more experienced team members to help out during races, and, with good fortune, even lead to endorsement contracts. With a slew of different events to participate in, and various weather and driving conditions to endure, it’s pretty much a racer’s wildest dream turned to life. Whether driving full-speed in a snowstorm or blazing a trail through a dimly lit night, WRC 9 has the scenario covered in spades.
To be sure, WRC 9 wouldn’t be half as entertaining as it looks and sounds if the cars didn’t handle well. And they do. Outside of some initial clunkiness, WRC9’s driving mechanics are top-notch. Whether series veterans or newcomers, gamers are afforded a large degree of freedom in how they take control of the wheel. Pretty much anyone, even seemingly uninterested quarters, can speed through tracks and drift around corners to their heart’s desire. This isn’t to say that the game is needlessly easy; to the contrary, cars feel weighty and heavy, and with unique handling quirks. That said, at no point will cars ever feel floaty. Driving in WRC 9 feels, well, just right.
All in all, WRC 9 comes exactly as advertised. It’s a racing title to the bone, one that sets out to be immersive and engaging. It meets its objectives well. And with the high amount of customization options available, it has pretty much something for everybody. Recommended.
• Immersive racing experience, both in how it looks and how it plays
• A lot of variety in race tracks, weather conditions, and environments to speed through
• Inviting and not overly difficult
• Large degree of customization options available
• Content is mostly similar to WRC 8’s offering
• Fairly simple gameplay loop that’s mostly about racing and little else
• Can be a bit frustrating to play at the start