Review by megaman2005

Reviewed: 07/09/08

One of the best Strategy RPGs ever made, and YOU haven't played it!

Man, everytime I turn this game on, I'm always amazed at how much this game has to offer. After putting in nearly one hundred hours into the game, beating it once, getting only one of the games multiple endings, and playing through many of the games bonus levels, I'm still no where near collecting everything, and in a way, I feel bad for RPG completists, because you could put a life time into this game and still might not see everything.

The game begins with the young demon prince, Laharl, awakening from a long sleep, and discovering his father, the Overlord of the Underworld, has passed away, and now the underworld is in an uproar, as a new succesor to the the old king has yet to be crowned. Laharl takes it upon himself to become the new king, not to honor his father, but more to spite him, and start a new reign of terror, where as his father was a more kind ruler. With the help of his vassal, Etna, and a small band of Prinnys (Demon penguins who explode when thrown) he sets out to defeat any challengers, and to prove that he is the only choice for the title of Overlord.

At it's core, Disgaea is a very wacky take on the strategy RPG genre. Where as games like Final Fantasy Tactics go about sewing together a very thick plot of twists and betrayls, Disgaea takes a much different approach, opting to try to make the game as funny as possible. Every cut scene in the game is filled with witty banter that never gets old, and characters that you'll actually end up caring for during the rare moments when things need to get serious in order to make the plot progress. When it was first released, it was a very refreshing change of pace compared to the RPG's that most were used to, and it still holds up well today, and ended up spawning a very loyal fan base, who ended up not just following the Disgaea series, but Nippon Ichi, the company responsible for making it as well, and for good reason, Nippon Ichi knows how to make good strategy RPG's, which I'll try to review later (La Pucelle Tactics, Phantom Brave, Makai Kingdom just to name a few.).

The game is like most other SRPGS, the characters move around a square grid, taking turns attacking, casting magic, and moving. However, there are a lot of cool additions to this classic formula that make Disgaea stand out from the pack. First, there are items on the maps called geos, these small pyramid looking things sit on colored panels, and have their own status effect attached to them. If the geo sits on a colored panel, all panels of that color with gain that effect, thus anyone standing on that panel with gain the boost, or de-buff. For example, one geo might contain an Attack +50% bonus, where as another geo, may contain an Enemy stats +100% bonus. This makes character positioning ever more critical, as placing a character on the wrong panel may result in a quick death.

There are ways to counter this to turn the tide in your favor. First, you can pick up and throw the geo to any panel within the characters throwing range, (stronger characters have a longer throwing range.) also, you can destroy the geo so no one gets the bonus, which may cause a great deal of damage to the enemy. Every geo has it's own color, and if you end up destroying a geo that is a different color than the panel it sits on, all those colored panels will explode, causing the color of the panel to change to that of the destroyed geo, and anyone standing on said panels will receive damage. It's a great system, which emphasizes strategy more than any game in the genre.

The thing that really made me fall in love with the game is how high you can level your characters. Where as most RPGs tend to cap you off at level 99 or 100, Disgaea breaks the glass ceiling, allowing your characters to level to 9,999! You may ask yourself why this is necesary, but in actuality, the game has a ton of extra content which takes hundreds of hours to see, and there are enemies in the game that will require that high of a level, just to stand a chance against them! Completionists, all I can say is, have fun.

The sheer amount of content is amazing. There are a ton of different classes that you can create to further increase the power of your army (not to mention every character can end up learning every ability in the game, so the allure of an "ultimate character" made be irresistable to some.), and you're also given the ability to create and use every monster in the game as an ally. Not only that, you can use points earned in combat to reincarnate characters either into a different class, or into a powered up version of their original class, which allows bonus stat points, and allows the characters to level up a little faster. The only downside to this is that characters will restart at level 1, so you should be prepared to level some more.

Leveling would be more of a chore if it wasn't for the Item World. By talking to a ceratain shop keeper, you're allowed to literally dive into any item in your inventory and by defeating monsters inside your items, they become stronger with each level you go into, (some items have a 100 levels, but you are allowed to escape after every 10 levels, or use an item called a Mr. Gency Exit if you're in need of rest.). Plus there are spirits inside each weapon, where if defeated, you are able to transfer that spirit to another item, allowing the item to further increase it's power. Some spirits increase strength or intellegince, while others have special abilities like allowing more money to be dropped in battle.

At this point you migh be asking yourself, what else can there be? Well, there's more! To create your characters you must head to the dark assembly, and type of "underwolrd senate." Here you can simply create characters, or try to get bills passed by the different senators. These bills will give you advantages in combat. For example you can request that a character be allowed to move farther in combat, and should the bill pass that character will have the ability for as long as he is in your party. However, senators aren't that generous, they often require bribes to make them pass your bills, and certain senator types like some items better than others. If the bill should still happen to fail, you can try to fight the senators, and making them submit to your bill. However the senators are pretty tough, and this might not be an option until way later in the game.

There is a ton more I could comment on, but to do so would fill a novel. I could tell you about the team attacks, the magic and skills that level up with use, or how the game has over 7 different endings, but that's only further icing on the proverbial cake. Instead, I'll feel like I should cover a few of the games flaws.

The game is awesome, but there are a few minor annoyances. For one, to reincarnate characters, you have to have them pass exams in the dark assembly. This exams are nothing more than a one on one fight with some monsters, and if the character is able to win by themselves they gain a rank. You have to reach rank three in order to reincarnate, which isn't a problem most of the time, that is except for the healers. Healers don't gain experience by healing their team mates (something that is changed in the second game) and this makes healers very hard to maintain, and often times you'll just completly abandon them because it's so hard to make them level. Bringing them in close enough to attack often means they'll die before the even get a second turn, which isn't fair, it's just cheap and luckily in Disgaea 2 this feature was changed. Plus you don't have to make your characters pass exams in 2, which makes the game that much more awesome.

Also. the item worlds are randomized, and often to a fault. Sometimes the stages aren't built suitable to your level. Enemies may be located on a small island, far away from where the action is. In these cases, if your characters can't cast magic that far, or if you can't throw another character over to fight them, you're often forced to skip that floor by stepping on a gate panel. It's kind of annoying having to skip over a floor just because there is one enemy you can't defeat, and again this seems to have changed in number 2.

The humor in Disgaea is very Japanese as well, and if you aren't the type that likes anime humor, or if you want more a rich and intricate story, this game might not be for you.

For anyone else who likes SRPGs, this one is a no brainer. This might actually be the best SRPG of all time, and ironically very few have played it. The game can still be found in it's original PS2 form, or in a re-released PSP version with added material, and a DS version is also in the works as well. No matter what version it is, I highly recommend you play this game! It's one you will hate yourself for missing out on.

GRAPHICS: 8/10- Sprites are rich, detailed, and colorful, and have become a classic Nippon Ichi staple.

SOUND: 9/10- The voicework is well done and hilarious, with just enough wackiness without being too over the top. The music isn't normally what you'd consider a masterpiece, though you may find yourself humming a few of the tunes as you go throught the day.

CONTROL: 9/10- The menus are easy to navigate, and battles usually move very quickly. One nice addition would have been a top down camera, because the terrain in the item world is so random, and times you'll lose track of your characters behind walls, or in small pits.

GAMEPLAY: 9/10- Has that "just one more thing" mentality that makes the game just horribly addicting. With several HUNDRED hours on gameplay contained on this one disc, it ensures that you can pop in in months later and still have more to do.

REPLAY VALUE: High

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Product Release: Disgaea: Hour of Darkness (US, 08/27/03)

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