Review by Katon

Reviewed: 08/29/03

Buy. This. Game. Now.

It's absolutely incredible that Disgaea has even made it to our shores. Japanese gamers are blessed with some great games every year which do not stand a chance of making it to the United States. This lack of confidence in innovating in the American market has led many gamers like myself into importing those Japanese gems and struggling with the language barrier in order to get a fulfilling experience out of the game. Thankfully, a few companies are willing to take the risk, including Working Designs and Atlus. However, even with the great success of Final Fantasy Tactics, I doubted Disgaea had much of a shot of making it over here. I wasn't too impressed with the last round of strategy RPGs on the Playstation (Saiyuki, Hoshigami), so imagine my surprise when I discovered that Disgaea was being localized for American release by Atlus. Imagine my supreme joy when I actually received the game and discovered it is a more engrossing experience than any other game in the genre, including the venerable FF Tactics.

Gameplay

The gameplay in Disgaea will become immediately familiar to fans of this genre. As per most strategy RPGs, you fight battles with a decently large force on a 3D map. Many factors come into play during battles, including terrain obstacles/advantages. All of this requires some scheming by the player, hence the name of the genre. This game, though, has some new twists which make the experience refreshing once again. One nice gameplay twist is the use of Geo Panels. To use one of these, you must use a Geo Symbol on a panel, which will then cause a status change for the characters on those panels on the grid. For example, if you use a Geo Symbol which increases a character's attack on a yellow panel, then all characters standing on yellow panels will have their attack stat increased. Battles, of course, are based around the traditional grid system in which you maneuver around your characters in order to give them the advantage in attacking. Another nice feature is team attacks. If you have at least two characters next to each other and you are within close range of an enemy, there is a chance you can pull off a team attack which deals additional damage. You may combine with up to three other team members.

The Dark Assembly is also a great feature. This feature allows you to deal with senators in order to create new characters and acquire other items. Your rank affects your relationship with the senators, and you should ignore them only at your own risk. Of course, if they are not agreeable, there is always the ''Persuade by Force'' option! Another innovation is the item world. In this mode, you are able to enter your items and fight the creatures which dwell within; if you are able to defeat the enemies, your item will level up. You are only able to exit the item after ten levels, so preparation is a must. Disgaea offers some great new innovations for SRPG vets and enough fun gameplay to draw new fans to the game.

Score: 10/10

Story

In Disgaea, you take on the role of Laharl, the prince of the Netherworld. Laharl has slumbered for two years and has awakened to find his father dead and the Netherworld in disarray. So, he embarks on a quest to make the Netherworld his own plaything. The story is often quite humorous and is extremely well-crafted. In fact, I would say that it bests anything the Final Fantasy series has produced lately. If the gameplay doesn't hook you, then the great story will.

Score: 10/10

Graphics

It seems that I have heard the graphics are one of the few negatives about Disgaea. I would have to heartily disagree. The 2D sprites in Disgaea are wonderful and are a refreshing break from the 3D overload which one is in danger of experiencing from other games. I think most people who would complain about the graphics here are those who were raised in the Playstation era. The maps are also well-designed and nice to look at. The anime style prevalent in the game is also a huge bonus and makes everything much better.

Score: 10/10

Sound

It's nice to see that companies are starting to see that there is a market out there for gamers who want the original Japanese voice acting left in their games. Thankfully, Disgaea contains a language option which allows you to listen either in Japanese or English. I believe in keeping the experience as close to the original as possible, but I will say that the English voice acting is also quite good, which is something I have rarely heard. The music is great and fits every situation perfectly.

Score: 10/10

Overall impressions

This game is absolutely a must buy. It's great for fans of this genre and is also a good way to get those who have never experienced an SRPG into the fold. Of course, since this is an Atlus game, you would be well advised to pick up a copy of this one as soon as you can. It is highly likely Disgaea will become hard to find in the near future. I would suggest a rent here to check it out if you're really not sure, but this is not the type of game you're going to beat on a rental because of its length. Every area of this game is high in quality, and there's not many more games where you will get this kind of value for your gaming dollar.

Overall score: 10/10

Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

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