Review by Megalomania
Dollar for dollar the play time doesn't rank well
It took me three weeks to get a copy of this game. Online stores were sold out and the local EB sold out within the day of getting a shipment. Disgaea had a hell of a lot of hype to live up to. Unfortunately I’m kind of let down. The majority of the reviews are focusing on the main story levels, which is probably why it’s getting such amazing praise. However the game really comes down to what you do after the incredibly short story and that’s when all the flaws and gimmicks begin to shine.
To start off, yes just going by the main game and the story, it’s fantastic. The storyline and characters are hysterical and there’s so much going on that it’s worth watching. However you do have to find anime clichés and humor interesting or you’re going to hate it. The characters are great, from the two egomaniacal main characters, the smarmy Mid-Boss, the way over the top Defender of Earth and his bimbo sidekick and multi purpose super robot, the main character’s lazy and unsupportive vassals, and of course the always hilarious demonic penguins, the Prinny Squad. The storyline is one of those few (and great) times when you play what could be considered the bad guy, as Prince Laharl goes off to stake his claim as the new king of the Netherworld. Unfortunately there’s a subplot about an angel trying to teach demons to love that’s too clichéd and annoying to be funny. For the first half of the game I wanted to throttle whoever designed that character and her VA, but later on she gets significantly less annoying and has the makings of a decent character. You have this great story and funny characters, but the game is incredibly short. You can blaze through the 14 chapters in under a week with only 3 or 4 battles that require any real effort.
Disgaea features the New Game + option and it’s here that the wonders start to cease. Beat the game and you can start over with your stats and characters intact. However, you have to do every single battle over again, they’re now really boring because you’re so overpowered, and you can’t skip the big story sequences. After the first time through I just held down the dialogue advance button, switched the TV, and watched shows while periodically checking back to see if the story sequences were done. It was funny once but not so much the second time through, and bordering on causing my eyes to bleed the third time through. There in lies a major problem with ‘anime humor’. When humor is based on being over the top, it doesn’t have much staying power. I’ve never seen a truly funny anime, and Disgaea comes close to mimicking this but is thankfully saved by enough pop culture references to make Working Designs giggle. There are several endings but the only way to retain sanity is to get to the end with the best one, beat the game, watch the ending, and reset to back before the ending and continue the process with the other endings. To make the process more tolerable all they had to do was put in like a fast-forward or skip button during battles. Some attack or magic animations are quite long and enemies have the habit of using the same ones, so you’re going to be seeing some moves literally thousands of times.
The game has a number of gimmicks that pretty much serve to cheapen the total package: the Dark Assembly, character creation, item world, geostones and leveling. The Dark Assembly is an interesting idea but very poorly implemented. You need to pass bills (improve counter attacks, open new levels, etc) through what amounts to Parliament. You can bribe your way into getting them to love you too. Well, theoretically. The vast majority of senators are just bastards. Almost all of the high-level ones start off by loathing you and after bribing one with 30+ items his opinion of me didn’t change and he still voted Nay on all my proposals. That means 90% of your bills will be rejected, which is where the Persuade by Force option comes in. You do battle with the senators and kill all that oppose you. The problem is that it’s very tedious and you don’t get much experience, any money, or any items for doing it. It’s just one repeating tedious task. Character creation is an interesting idea where you can add to your army and choose what class and skills your people will have. However, to unlock the best classes you have to level up the worst ones, which basically amounts to wasted time. You’re powering up a character you know you’ll never use and just delete when you make the best one. Plus there’s really no need to. You can beat the main game with Laharl alone, and then the extra boards are beaten by just powering up one or two characters and having them wipe out everyone else. Inside every single item in the game is a world with demons inside. Kill them and make your stuff better, sounds great doesn’t it? These worlds are fairly randomly generated and are again just tedious battles to slog through. Add to that that the game will occasionally make boards that are impossible to beat and you have a lot of wasted time. I had one board where almost every panel was No Lifting and Invincibility (more on those later). So now there’s an enemy blocking the exit, I can’t throw him out of the way or kill him, and the geostones are both also on No Lifting and Invincibility Panels. The geostones are environmental hazards and are a really stupid idea. Aside from the previous Item World problems they cause they serve no purpose other than to extremely stack battles against you. There are fights where you lose 20% of your HP every turn or the enemy is six times stronger because of the stones, so those battles consist of rushing to destroy the stones and then go about the battle after what amounts to one or two free turns for the enemy to do damage. Most of the bad stones only affect your party and the good ones only affect enemies, so it’s not like you can use them to your advantage and employ a lot of strategy. There are only a few story boards where strategy and thankfully the geostones come into play.
My biggest gripe is that Disgaea likes the Big Numbers Make Things Cool approach to gameplay. Enemies have hundreds of thousands of hit points (in no way, shape, or form is that hyperbole). You can get up to level 9999, which sounds humorous but in reality serves to be a major pain in the ass. Enemies will literally double or more in level from one board to another. There are enemies at level 150 and one at 300 in one stage, then the next stage has enemies at 400, one at 700, and another at 1000. Another has two at 700 and one at 950, followed by the stage with two at 1500 and one at 2000. What does this translate to? Hours and hours and hours of leveling up. At one point I had done the same board over 150 times and still was not ready to face the next boss. These asinine levels and stats drag the game down and suck out all the fun. I would use all ten members of my team that are a variety of classes, but there’s no point in doing so. Instead I’m just leveling up two characters and using the same skills repeatedly. Once you break level 1000 there aren’t any decent place to gain levels quickly. Everything just takes a lot of time. The percentage of game time versus time spent leveling almost reaches back to the days of Dragon Warrior but thankfully doesn’t quite go that far.
The battle system is one gimmick that I really like and all strategy games should use. They’ve nicely brought in combos and team attacks. Every successive hit you do to an enemy lowers it defence and you do more damage. So if you get all ten characters to whack an enemy, that thing is toast. However this great feature is undone by how long it would take to get ten characters to an appropriate level, so it only comes into play during the very beginning of the game. Another feature I love is the team attacks. If you position your characters properly you can have up to four people gang up and absolutely wail on an enemy and it only counts as one person’s turn! This adds a massive amount of strategy to the battles, but sadly it’s completely unneeded. All you need are those one or two overpowered characters and the enemy is dead.
Disgaea is easily the best strategy game I’ve played. The plot, characters, and humor prevent it from being boring like any close competitors and it has a good battle system. However, most of the fun is sucked out by the amount of levelling up and the time that eats. The music is pretty good and some themes are definitely catchy (which is good considering how many times you’ll replay certain stages), however that Tsunami Bomb song is one of the worst pieces of music I’ve ever heard. It’s an instant mute whenever I played that stage. High level requirements don’t make a boss challenging or interesting, it makes it tedious. Keep everything at a respectable level and make people have to use their brains or (gasp!) strategy. Make players account for a boss’s attacks and abilities and make them formulate strategies. Disgaea is at an undeniable renter or bargain bin game (if you can actually frigging find it). If you have a Playstation you owe it to your sense of humor to rent and beat the main story. Other than that, it isn’t worth spending an extra 100 hours to get ten minutes of plot.
Final Score- 65 Adjusted for GameFAQs- 6
Rating: 3.0 - Fair
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