Review by pngaou

Reviewed: 10/07/03

Lovers of FFT will love this too? Not exactly my experience.

Don't get me wrong when I say that I don't love Disgaea: Hour Of Darkness, because it is not at all a bad game. It has many new ideas and concepts, but it does lack a couple things to make it a truly great game.

Story 7/10 - Disgaea is NOT your average SRPG, and that becomes apparent within your first few minutes of gameplay. Despite being called the ''Hour Of Darkness'', Disgaea is an extremely light-hearted and humorous game. For the most part, the story and characters in the game are not to be taken seriously. Certain parts of the game made me crack up while others made me feel that this was too cheesy. You start off as Laharl, son to the Overlord of the Netherworld, King Krichevskoy. You immediately learn that you’ve been “napping” for two years and your father has passed away, thus making it your task to claim the throne and become Overlord. So yes, you’re the bad guy off to mess with and punk other bad guys.
Disgaea contains a lot of wacky characters and cracks jokes at every opportunity available, which makes it a fun and interesting game to play, but it still lacks a good story. I have to say that I might be a bit biased since I haven’t finished the game yet (I’m almost done), but the story gets too cheesy for me in the latter parts of the game. The odd thing is that the story actually begins get somewhat serious. I was tempted to give the story a 6 out of 10, but the humor of Disgaea appeals to me, so it boosts the grade a bit.

Gameplay 9/10 - Gameplay is probably the most important part of a strategy/role playing game, and luckily Disgaea delivers. The fighting system is much like other SRPGs out there with a turn-based fighting style. Those who've played Final Fantasy Tactics will automatically recognize this, except that you take turns as a team rather than character-by-character based on speed. You can also perform combo attacks with other characters on your team for added damage and switch characters in and out of battle. Something else similar to FFT is the class system. There are dozens of them to choose from and build up to.
As I mentioned before, Disgaea has many new things unseen in other games, but I won't go in depth with them since many other reviews already have. I'll just say that it's a great thing that Nippon Ichi decided to be innovative rather than just take already existing ideas from other games out there.
Leveling up is also similar to other RPGs, except that instead of leveling up to 99, you can go to an insanely high 9999 levels per character. This is where I found myself not enjoying the game so much. At first, leveling up was fun to do because there's so much to explore and discover, but after playing the game for a while, I found myself getting bored of it. If getting to level 9999 wasn't enough for a person already, you can also rebuild your characters by ''transmigrating'' them back to level one with boosted stats. This gives you the option of creating an infinitely powerful party, which may whet some gamer's appetites. This, again, was something I enjoyed at first, but grew to be bored of later on. Being more powerful than your opponent puts you in the situation of overpowering the enemy and therefore making battles extremely easy and even tedious to go through because of it's simple repetitiveness the lack of a challenge (Disgaea also answers that problem by allowing you to increase your enemy's strength, but I found that somewhat pointless besides making it easier for you to level up). But the enjoyment of leveling up in Disgaea is definitely subjective. If you like the idea of spending hours creating the ultimate powerhouse party, then Disgaea is the game for you, because that's what you'll be spending the majority of your time doing.
So as much as I started to dislike leveling up, I still give gameplay a 9 out of 10 because it's gives you so many truly new things to do.

Graphics 7.5/10 – Some people love Disgaea’s anime-style graphics and some people hate it. It all depends on your taste, but I’d still have to say they’re a bit mediocre either way. I don’t mind that the characters are somewhat sprite like because it fits in with the overall feel of the game, but they could have done them better. The same goes for the fighting fields. The graphics feel like they’re only up to par with a PSX game rather than other PS2 games, minus some great anime artwork. This doesn’t retract from the game’s overall enjoyability though.

Sound/Music 7.5/10 – I also found the music and sound effects in Disgaea to be mediocre. The songs are much different from other SRPGs with some being whimsical and others sounding like they came from a musical. Overall, I like the songs. Most are orchestrated and match well with the game’s light-hearted atmosphere, but there were a few times when I found the songs to be a bit off with the mood of certain scenes. The game gives you an option of the original Japanese voice acting or English voice acting, which I thought was pretty nice. The voices are kind of cheesy, but again, it fits with the game.

Play Time/Replayability 9/10 – Disgaea is probably the only game that gives you an infinite amount of replayability. The only problem is that you may not want to play it forever. Actual play time will vary drastically depending on how much you choose to level up. As I mentioned before, you can rebuild your characters over and over as many times as you’d like. Hell, you can even build up the power of your items and equipment. This gives you massive amount of playtime and replayability if you choose to partake in these options. Once you beat the game, it gives you a New Game + option, giving you all your items and characters with the same levels/stats you ended with. There are also multiple endings to the game, giving it even more replay value.

Final Score 8/10 – Ultimately, it just comes down to whether you enjoy leveling up or not, because if you don’t, you’ll probably find Disgaea to be the same, if not a bit duller than other SRPGs out there. If you’re not a leveling up person, that also kills all replay value since you may not find the story to be very enthralling. It all goes to your tastes and likings. Many people will say this is the best SRPG out there. I personally enjoy FFT much more than Disgaea (and find the want to replay FFT much more), but each to his own.
As for whether this is a rent or buy, I’d say buy because you’ll most likely not be able to find this for rent anyway. Disgaea is a great game to add to your collection if you’re into SPRGs and the like, but it might not be so if you’re new to the genre. Either way, it’s worth a try.
Overall the game receives an 8 out of 10 because of its gameplay, story and replayability. Sound and graphics don’t bother me too much and therefore don’t really affect the overall score. Disgaea lacks in a few small areas but shines in many others, but just remember not to get caught up in the hype of the game.

Rating:   4.0 - Great

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