A new Disgaea game always brought with it a wealth of new features and mechanics, but it’s clear where developer Nippon Ichi Software put much of its focus in Disgaea 5: collecting a wealth of useful characters. The new “squad” functions really reward you for having a deep bench, meaning a unit won’t drop off your radar the moment they get knocked out of your adventuring party.
“Squads” actually are a collection of mechanics related to making units useful out of battle. Many of them can be found at the Squad Shop, where an increasingly larger number of options are available to you. And these things are just so varied. Some groups increase stats in combat or share experience and mana. Others grant special abilities like capturing enemy units. Still more are in charge of making curry or giving you cooler-looking jump animations in your base.
My favorite squad isn’t particularly helpful to those out of battle, but it’s intriguing nonetheless: it gives its members three turns as stat-boosted Giants at the beginning of each map. Disgaea veterans know that most skirmishes don’t take more than three or four turns anyway, so this can be quite powerful, and the downsides (like limiting access to special techniques) are more than worth it.
Whatever you do end up doing to assign fighters to squads, remember that each can only join one, and that all squads — regardless of function — can perform squad attacks in the battles themselves. Whichever unit is assigned as leader gains a new ability that lets them attack a nearby foe with the might of the full team. This can be devastating with some of the larger groups, but it’s even okay to find a use here and there for smaller group leaderships and weaker characters without anything better to use.
Of course, if all these sideline characters are left as weaklings, that won’t help very much. That’s where Research Squads come in, then! You can send teams of up to ten units to explore various Netherworlds in the game, bringing back items and fighting foes. Areas have varying strengths, so your units will fall if they’re not good enough, but if they survive through their multi-mission trip, they’ll net experience and treasure.
It’s not enough to catch up low-level characters, really; you’ll still need to bring those into a battle. But it’s good enough to keep your reserves caught up and useful. And, you know, all that other stuff! Exploring and using all the unlockable classes seems a good deal less wasteful as a result of these squad schemes.
Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance releases October 6. We’ll have a review with full thoughts on the title soon!