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by MARTY DEMAREST & r & & r & Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice & r & Rated Teen; Playstation 3 & r & 3 Stars & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & I & lt;/span & n the Evil Academy, nobody worries about perfect attendance or good grades. Nobody cares about that "love and justice crap ... Bleh...." (as one student summarizes). This is a place where people store their hearts in safety deposit boxes so that they don't feel guilty. And despite the fact that students head into tangential battles like most other videogame heroes, they name their powers "Evility" instead of something like "Chivalry." Disgaea 3 takes place in the highschool of hell.

(While we're on the subject, I believe the term "highschool" should be written as a single word. After all, your "high school years" could easily mean the school years in which you were high. Your favorite "high school teacher" could just be the one who had the Bob Marley poster taped to the back of his door. And though you may have attended a "high school," that's better kept between you and your future substance abuse counselor.)

I digress. Aside from its quirky setting, Disgaea 3 is a solid turn-based tactical role-playing game where blood and guts are spilled on small, grid-covered battlegrounds. (Though in Disgaea 3 the graphics are so spritely and pixelated that no actual blood and guts are visible. What a waste of the PS3.) But while other games would use those battlegrounds to reveal a complete fantasy landscape, in Disgaea 3 they merely serve as random, rather generic locations.

Only when players wish to better equip their characters do the side-quests become meaningful. Each sword (or suit of clothes, or pack of chewing gum) can be entered like a miniature world where the students can battle to earn unique status boosts. While this makes the characters in Disgaea 3 eminently customizable, the game is never about subtlety. Players can simply buy new powers outright, since "steady effort is tiring and annoying." Like most of Disgaea 3's style, it's either charmingly sinister or sinisterly charming.

(Sorry about all the adverbs. My highschool English teacher believed that no adverb was a good word. But after spending years writing about videogames, which are all about verbs -- leaping over this, decapitating that -- I've decided anti-adverbity is wrong. Adverbs mark the difference between merely killing something and artfully killing something. Adverbs are our chief means of modifying verbs, and they do it quite nicely.)

Again, I digress. But you probably realize those digressive sallies serve a mimetic purpose. After all, you're smart -- you play videogames. You know that a Level 1 fighter is weaker than a Level 50 fighter the same way that a private is a peon compared to the prez. You understand what it means when Disgaea 3's main character begins at Level 0001. Those three zeros reveal everything. I'm only aware of two other videogames that allow players to approach the absurdity of Level 9999, and those both have "Disgaea" in their titles. No, a 9999-level character isn't normal. It's just insane.

THE GOOD: Disgaea 3 is almost the same game as Disgaea and Disgaea 2.

THE BAD: Disgaea 3 is almost the same game as Disgaea and Disgaea 2.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Disgaea 3 offers another humongous dose of the most stylish, spastic strategy series around.

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