Review by Sharingan Ashton

Reviewed: 09/02/03

Demons, Angels, and ... Sexual Innuendo. Ouch!

Many RPGs are hyped beyond imagination. Don't tell me you don't remember all the jazz that Final Fantasy VIII got, or what happened when Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker was announced. Occasionally, though, a game is released that slips under the radar. A game so good that if it had been hyped enough, it would have done incredibly well. Disgaea is one of these games. Heck, I didn't even know it existed until a friend brought it up while talking to me about gaming. After seeing some screens and some movies of this game in action, I decided that I had to have it, even if I had to shell out extra dough. So, the question stands, did Disgaea really live up to my expectations? Well, yes and no. While I wasn't exactly expecting a Final Fantasy Tactics killer, some aspects of this game did somewhat disappoint me.

The story of the game starts with Laharl, a smart-ass demon who has just woken up from his long nap of ... two years. While that's a little bit underwhelming coming from a 1300 year old demon, it turns out that Laharl's father, the great Krichevskoy, has passed away, and now demons all over the Netherworld are fighting for his previous job, the Demon Overlord. Enraged at the multitude of demons trying to claim what is rightfully his, Laharl sets out on a journey to beat the living tar out of those demons and ascend to the throne. Unfortunately, fate seems to be against Laharl, as he is saddled with a collection of less-than-desirable allies. A sarcastic and unsexy demoness, a ditzy angel-in-training who wants to be a ninja assassin, and the penguin trio equivalant of The Three Stooges don't exactly strike fear into the hearts of demons around the Netherworld. Nevertheless, Laharl, being the stubborn, sexy-chick hating kid that he is, decides to press forward anyway; hilarity ensues as his wacky band of wrongdoers trounce multiple demons on their way to the top, including a character appropriately named ''Mid-Boss.''

Unfortunately, the story in Disgaea is both its strongest and weakest point. While Disgaea is full of laughs and chuckles throughout, there's nothing that really keeps the player interested throughout, except for the characters. The story definitely could've been better done, in my opinion. However, the problem in the story is not too big; most gamers willing to see through Disgaea to the end will be quite satisfied with it, actually.

Let's start with the good stuff, and what everyone cares about: The Gameplay. Disgaea has the most over-the-top, loopy battle system I've ever encountered in a Strategy RPG - and I mean that in a good way. I mean, what other game allows you to level until you've hit Level 9999? None, to my knowledge. The addition of combo attacks, where you and your allies attack at the same time if you're stand next to each other, ups the strategy a lot more. Moreover, the special attacks look extremely cool and are extremely useful, to boot; that is, if you discount the lesser spells. Lesser spells become useless as you progress through the game; that, however, is what happens in every RPG I've played. Barring the battle system, there's lots more to do in the safety of your own castle. You can upgrade your weapons by traversing the dungeons lying dormant inside, bribe officials to unlock more gameplay mechanics, create new characters... you get the idea. No other Strategy RPG gives you this kind of world-altering freedom. The flexibility that Disgaea offers is just amazing.

The graphics in the game are somewhat sub par; almost nothing on this game couldn't have been done on the original PlayStation. Fortunately, the game itself is so fun that often I didn't even notice the graphic quality (or lack thereof}. The spell effects and special attacks, as well as the characters themselves, animate wonderfully, and some of the later attacks are nothing short of visually stunning. I mean, when you do 10 hits, each dealing 1000+ damage, you can't help but say, ''Wow.''

The music in the game is actually forgettable. Save for one or two tracks, no tracks in this game really grabbed my attention. Fortunately, a good soundtrack isn't a prerequisite for a game to be good; it's just a plus. The REAL aural beauty of this game comes from its voice acting. Both the Japanese and English voice acting in this game are expertly done, and keep me chuckling between battles. Quotes like ''A horse weiner?! Now THAT'S dangerous!'' and ''WELL EXCUSE ME FOR BEING FLAT!'' will burn themselves into your brain, never to let go. Seriously, this game offers so much personality, humor, and attitude, you'd have to be dead or something not to laugh while playing.

So, does Disgaea live up to my expectations? As I said before, yes and no. However, the yes is loud and clear, while the no is quiet and somewhat muffled. This game is dripping with quality in all aspects; it's a quality product through and through. To those of you who got Disgaea: I applaude your good senses. Great game isn't it? Go play some more. To those who don't have it: Get it right now. No, not later, now. Because Disgaea is disappearing from storee shelves at an alarming rate - and when you find out you want this game, you might also find out that nobody has it anymore.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

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