Review by bearsman6

Reviewed: 09/03/03

Step aside Orlandu, Laharl has arrived.

Let it never again be said that an RPG must follow some set formula to be successful. If this were the case, Disgaea would be a terrible game and a failure. Instead, this bizarre strategy-RPG is a mix of anime, humor, and some religion, all gone horribly wrong… And yet, Disgaea is also one of the most addictive games I have played in years.

Atypical plot? No problem!

It might just be me, but I have always wondered what it would be like to play as the bad guy of a series. Luckily, Disgaea takes this idea and runs with it. You play as Laharl, the son of the recently deceased Overlord of the Underworld. Now Laharl wants the title his dad had. The problem is that no one else wants him to have it because, guess what, demons crave power! To this end, the plot revolves around Laharl’s quest for the title he is destined for, and that isn’t for the good of all, though it sure is fun to play through.

The story is also handled episodically, like an anime, which makes it very easy to pick up and play for only a short session if you want (or if you have enough self-control). This also gives it another outlet for the bizarre humor the creators must love: between each episode is a wonderful mock-commentary about the next one. Never take them seriously, but do laugh. A lot. It’s good for you!

What really holds this game together is its phenomenal gameplay. Sure, the plot is a great diversion, but if the battles weren’t madly addictive (and somewhat original) then Disgaea would flop. Controls are simple, and if you’ve played any tactical RPG before you’ll have no issues whatsoever. The hardest parts to the battle mechanics might be Geo Panels and throwing, but both become second nature after a few tutorials… and subsequently many painful trials.

More depth than George Steinbrenner's wallet.

You thought Disgaea was only good for its quirky humor, plot, and controls? How silly of you! This game can easily be as deep as you want it to be, and this is entirely due to the Geo Panel system. In most combat maps in Disgaea, there are lots of the flashing-colored tiles that correspond to different Geo Panels. The trick is knowing how to use them, and often times abuse them. The correct use of a Combo can destroy all the enemies on a level, and several can be triggered on the first or second turn!

Geo Panels are easily ignorable to an extent, though. It isn’t necessary to utilize them, unless of course that pesky Clone ability pops up… or Invincible… or Warp. There are a few to watch out for, but generally you don’t have to mess with them if you don’t want to. This is another great feature to Disgaea. You can ignore the messy parts and speed through levels with cruelty, which basically means slaughtering everyone with Laharl.

This is actually a major downfall in Disgaea: Laharl is far too powerful for his own good. I understand that he is going to be Overlord, but good grief; there should be some limit to his broken-ness! The fact that he has immense stat growth, and can THEN learn any ability in the game through the prodigy system, makes him entirely unbalanced. All he needed was the Heal string and there was nothing anyone could do to kill him. My level 23 Laharl defeated 4 level 35+ Dark Senators! It just isn’t right… though it’s a hell of a lot of fun. It got to the point of obscenity, as the tagline might suggest. Laharl is so overpowered that even the mighty Orlandu of FFT infamy looks meek.

Luckily there are ways the game makes you forget this, or at least ways to let you exploit it mercilessly. Another possibly hidden dept to Disgaea comes from its ability to let you level up weapons, equipment, and ANY item. This is done through Item World, which is somewhat confusing at first but is actually easy to explain. You need to progress through a 10-floor dungeon within the item to build its power. Along the way you can find specialists who will further increase the power, and once you ‘tame’ these guys, you can even move them from item to item. This allows for huge customization fits, but ultimately it’s worth it. Otherwise how would you get insanely strong equipment for your level 20 characters? (Yes, it is also easily abusable.)

A lesson in parody.

There are few things that I enjoy more than a good RPG, but one of them is an insightful parody. Disgaea is full of such things, ranging from the Prism Rangers to the Mid-Boss gag. Nothing is sacred, as even penguins are now demons (or more accurately the souls of humans who are trying to buy their way into reincarnation).

Were it not for the major problems with over-leveling (it is too easy) and Laharl’s near godlike status, Disgaea is a surprisingly sound strategy-RPG. Character designs are intriguing enough that even the pallet-swapped characters aren’t too annoying. Combat is literally as deep as you want to take it. Controlling the action is a breeze, though the lack of a Pause function is annoying. Overall, I can’t wait to get back into the game and finish out my New Game +. Yep, that’s right, Disgaea even lets you wreak hell twice, or more times, if you so desire. Talk about unbalanced though…

Surprisingly addictive and loads of fun for any RPG fan, definitely do not overlook Disgaea.

Gameplay: 10/10
Graphics: 7/10
Sound: 8/10
Story: 9/10
Replay: 7/10

Overall: 8/10

Rating:   4.0 - Great

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