Review by lbabinz

Reviewed: 09/23/03

Thank you Atlus!

I will start this review off with a few nice, simple statements. If you enjoy tactical RPGs even just a little bit, you will love this game. If you enjoy wacky Japanese humor, you will love this game. If you are a big fan of old school art direction, you will love this game. In case you haven't guessed, I love this game. Not since Final Fantasy Tactics have I played a tactical RPG that drew me in to the degree that Disgaea did. I managed to get the last copy available at my local Electronics Boutique and boy am I grateful. Disgaea does so many things right that it quite frankly blows me away. Rarely do highly hyped, big name titles come across this well polished, let alone obscure titles published by Atlus! I suppose you could quite easily skip the rest of this review and just go out and buy this right now, but hey, I am going to keep writing for those that are interested.

First off, this is a tactical RPG and a tactical RPG that follows many established standards at that. At first glance you might be tempted to arrive at the conclusion that Disgaea is nothing more than a cookie cutter game. You would be quite wrong.

The battle system is actually quite similar to most tactical RPGs, but sports some new and improved functionality. Battles take place on a standard grid like environment (in some very cool locales) and are handled in a standard way. You perform attacks and based on your location in contrast to the enemy, you can hit harder, weaker, be counter-attacked, etc. Thankfully Disgaea ups the ante by providing some very new and intriguing features. First up is the team attack. If you bring more than one of your characters beside each other before they attack, they have a chance of performing a team attack. Team attacks provide free hits against the enemy and allow weaker characters to join in on the experience points garnered from destroying an enemy. The level of strategical depth this one feature adds alone is amazing.

The next big change to the gameplay comes from the ''Geo-panels''. Basically, scattered throughout most battlegrounds are colored panel that can be affected by color-coded crystals. By putting these crystals onto the colored panels, you affect what happens to those who are placed on these panels. Effects include a wide variety of pros/cons including invincibility, cloning, hp decrease, enemy boost, etc, etc. The crystals add an amazing amount of depth to the gameplay. You will find yourself working your brain to figure out how best to use these panels to your advantage or how best to survive with them in play.

Besides these two innovative features, Disgaea also offers the ability to pick up and throw pretty much any character on the playing field, enemy or otherwise. This once again pulls up an amazing amount of strategy. You can throw your characters past enemies, or throw the enemies right out of your way. You can build massive towers of your allies to allow huge combinations of throwing for maximum distance. Heck, you can even pick up your demonic penguin buddies and toss them suicide style onto other enemies causing them to explode in their faces. Bizarre!

Even such RPG basics as levelling up equipment and opening secrets/allowing new classes are handled in strange and wonderful new ways. Disgaea introduces the item world and dark assembly features. In the item world you fight through your own items (yes, you heard correctly) in order to beef up your equipment. Every 10 floors of random dungeon goodness, you are given the opportunity to warp out and level up your item, or continue on to new dangers while levelling your item even further. The sheer amount of variety involved in this process is astounding. You will spend hours simply trying to beef up your weapons and armor. The dark assembly is a wild and wacky system where by you try to convince a senate to allow you to perform certain actions. If you think that sounds weird, you are right, it is weird but yet strangely compelling. The dark assembly is an important aspect to Disgaea and you will want to give it a try.

Plot wise, Disgaea truly shines. Thanks to a very impressive localization job, and amazing voice acting, you will love every bit of Disgaea's hilariously weird story. Great character interaction combined with wonderful dialogue equals one incredible story. The story itself is kind of clichéd, but you won't mind one bit as the interaction provided more than makes up for it. Do yourself a favor, turn up the volume and enjoy every bit of it.

I am not going to lie; graphically Disgaea could have been done on the PS1. Does that matter in the slightest? Not in my opinion! Who plays tactical RPGs for the graphics anyway? The graphics are all colorfully rendered and contain some very nice character designs. Spell effects are flashy but not too overbearing. Each character has their own unique model, and though some of them are ambiguously genderless, they look great in true anime style. Those who are put off by slightly dated graphics, go somewhere else, you do not deserve this game.

The music in Disgaea is.... fitting. It feels kind of light-hearted and spooky at the same time. It is certainly not the greatest soundtrack I have ever heard, but it certainly has its high points. The tracks seem to range from excellent to somewhat bland. Considering the amount of time you spend in combat, the music never really got boring, or annoying. The addition of a track by punk band Tsunami Bomb is simply icing on the cake. I found myself cranking the volume during that track, and the lyrics rather fit the particular part in the plot they are meant to represent. Overall a decent soundtrack to compliment an excellent game.

I quite frankly cannot say enough about Disgaea. It has been a long time since a tactical RPG addicted me to this level. I have 40 plus hours invested in it so far, have finished it (one of the multiple endings), and yet I find myself going back to simply level up or start over again. Packing a level cap of 9999 (!), multiple endings, and tons of secrets, Disgaea is one game you will certainly get your money’s worth with. Young, old, RPG fan, Anime fan, you will all enjoy this game, please go out and buy this game right now.

Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

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