Review by darkknight109
Kinda like chess with guns, demons and exploding penguins
I dont really remember where I heard about Disgaea to begin with. All I remember is hearing that it was good. But, I had some money to spend, so I went ahead and picked it up.
I dont think anything could have prepared me for what I got myself into. The game is quirky, fun, addicting as crack and long enough to swallow up literally several hundred hours of your life.
Produce by ATLAS, who is renowned for releasing awesome games that take a hell of a long time to beat, Disgaea is a strategy RPG set in a cutesy, anime-version of hell. The previous king of the netherworld, King Krechevskoy, has kicked the bucket and you, playing as Laharl, the crown-prince of hell, must reclaim the throne.
OK, so the graphics in Disgaea are far from the best thing the PS2 has ever pushed out. At times, the game looks like it could be played on a PS1. The in-game graphics consist entirely of small, fairly un-detailed sprites duking it out on cel-shaded environments which are also fairly bland. During story sequences, you get to see a few anime-style drawings of the major characters, although they arent animated... Overall the graphics of Disgaea are actually rather disappointing, but then again, its a strategy RPG, a genre not exactly known for its graphical advances.
One major graphical flaw that does get on my nerves is the camera; it can only be rotated to one of four different positions. Unfortunately, many of the maps in the game are randomly generated and, if you get unlucky, it can be very difficult to move your camera into a position where you can see your character and/or what you want him/her to attack.
The music in Disgaea is, for the most part, excellent. A few pieces of music in particular are quite catchy. The musical style can be generally defined as whimsy and only rarely takes itself seriously. That said, it matches the tone of the game perfectly. There are some beautiful pieces in the soundtrack and, while some tracks are a little on the mediocre side, the music is overall great.
The game has roughly 50% of its lines voice-acted and the VA work is quite well done. Theres the occasional awkward squeak, but for the most part the voices are extremely well done.
The bread and butter of any strategy RPG, Disgaea does not disappoint in any area. To start out with, you control the prince of the netherworld Laharl, his vassal Etna and her servants, the Prinny Squad (a trio of bumbling, exploding penguins with surfer accents). However, your party grows rapidly from that point onwards. Every time a character kills an enemy, you gain mana equivalent to that enemys level. You can spend this mana at a place called the Dark Assembly to purchase additional characters, improve the stores wares, unlock new levels or improve character stats.
Any new character purchased can have their stats and weaponry customized to your liking. Furthermore, there are a slew of unlockable classes in the game that add to your potential arsenal. Each character type has an inherent strength that savvy players will capitalize on. Mages, for example, deal huge damage but have weak defence. Brawlers are good with fist-type weapons, but have a limited ability to wield other weapons. The ability to customize your party with almost total impunity is one of Disgaeas greatest assets. Want a party full of mages? Go for it! A bunch of super-strong tanks? Nothings going to stop you. The possibilities go as far as your imagination.
And if thats not enough customization for you, you can even level up and modify weapons and armour purchased for your characters. Any item in the game can be levelled up by going through the Item World, and basically transporting inside the item and doing battle with its denizens. Certain creatures called specialists, if killed in the item world, improve the stats of your weapon and can be transferred from weapon to weapon. These specialists do anything from improving your strength or toughness to improving your resistance to status effects. The whole thing sounds rather complex, but it is fairly straightforward once you actually start playing the game.
In true SRPG form, each weapon given to a character gives them different strength and weaknesses. Rather than use the usual rock-paper-scissors method, Disgaea instead gives each weapon a tactical strength by giving them certain trends in their special moves. For example, special attacks done by fist-type weapons tend to move enemies around on the map, knocking them back a space or two. Axe-type special attacks tend to do a lot of damage to a single target. Spears, in addition to allowing the wielder to attack from two spaces away instead of just one, move the spear-wielder around during special attacks. Learning to master the use of each weapon can be tricky, but also highly beneficial.
Disgaea can be an exceptionally complex game at times, but the game has a fairly benign learning curve and does a respectable job of introducing you to each one of its features. There is a ton of stuff to do in the game and this review only scratches the surface. You can level up all your characters equipment (you can have up to 100 characters, each with four pieces of equipment that can be levelled up to level 30-100, so Ill let you do the math on that one), level up your characters themselves (max level is 9999 and believe it or not, there are some levels that it really helps to have a level somewhere in that vicinity), find some of the games rare items, complete the stories, try and find all the endings... This game chews up a ton of time very quickly and the cool part is its so addicting, none of it feels repetitive or monotonous. The game takes several hundred hours to complete totally, making it one of the longest non-online games Ive ever seen.
Ive already given you the intro to the story, so Ill just continue on from there. Laharls adventures in hell are quirky and funny and even somewhat dramatic at times. The story isnt something that would win a Pulitzer, but its still quite good. All the story characters, from the self-centered and egotistic Laharl to the cheery and slightly oblivious Flonne to the random and totally off-the-wall Prinnies are beautifully well-developed. The story is actually quite funny at times and had me chuckling on more than one occasion. Each character really stands as a caricature for a popular stereotype, particularly with some characters introduced later in the game. Disgaeas story is not overly dramatic or complicated, but still serves its purpose quite well. Its only flaw is that, thanks to the large gap in levels between story chapters, the story is developed rather slowly.
Disgaea is a thoroughly enjoyable game and anyone who even remotely enjoys SRPGs will have a blast with it. There are few modern games out there that can boast a completion time in the hundred-hour-range, making Disgaea well worth your money. Track down a copy and pick it up if you can.
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Product Release: Disgaea: Hour of Darkness (US, 08/27/03)
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