Review by Kaosu Reido

Reviewed: 10/21/03

Why Are You All Not Kneeling Yet?

Disgaea: Hour of Darkness, is one of those rare RPGs that truly captures what it means to have fun. Some RPGs think that, for fun, you need a rather angsty story, teenage characters that gamers can ''relate'' to, and a battle system that is usually slow, repetitive, and limiting.

Meanwhile, Disgaea has a mix of elements that defy these standard RPG rules, and is a much better game for it. The story is witty, the gameplay is fast and strategic, and the characters can only be described as unique. Plus, there seem to be no limits on the game's battles whatsoever.

But, let's go more in-depth.

Story: Seeing as this is the meat of most RPGs, we should start here. Disgaea's story is a rather comical narrative, mixed with moments of strong emotion, or dark undertones that are easy to miss, but a joy to see.

You play as Laharl, prince of demons. His father has recently died while he were asleep. Well, sort of recently. Laharl has actually been asleep for two years, having meant to take only a ten day nap, and he wakes up with one goal: To take over and rule the netherworld as the undisputed Overlord of Demons.

With this not-so-humble beginning, Disgaea's story quickly evolves into a hilarious and involving journey for power, evil, and the netherworld way. That, and trying to stop a zombie with a horse... well, you'll see for yourself.

Graphics: Many feel this is where Disgaea falls short; and, frankly, they might be right. The graphical style of Disgaea's sprites harkens back to the old PSOne days, being very reminiscent of Final Fantasy Tactics, or the Breath of Fire games; colorful, simple, and effective. While a great deal of gamers might be turned off by these types of out-of-date, 2D graphics, they actually lend a great deal to Disgaea's atmosphere. The game doesn't take itself seriously, and neither do the graphics. They're all cute, from the lowliest peon to the greatest boss.

But the amount of emotion they manage to display is amazing. Laharl's sprite cross it arms, puff out it chest, and assume an angry look that seems so natural, you'll wonder why other games don't do these types of things. In addition, special attack graphics are impressive, and frequently completely over-the-top in their execution. The attacks just LOOK powerful; as well they should.

To top it all off, the story graphics are beautiful anime images that fit perfectly into the game. It's all good.

Sound: The game does very impressively here. While the sounds of battle are standard fare, the game's music is well done and well used. Even a special song has been added into the American version, and it used to great effect in certain points of the game.

The TRULY grand thing, however, is the voice acting. Top notch all the way, for both English and Japanese vocal tracks, the voice acting is one of the things that truely makes Disgaea what it is. The already superb story is enhanced so much by the voice acting, it's almost impossible to play the game without it. When you heat Etna's ''episode previews'', or a ''doooood!'' from the Prinnies, you'll be hooked.

Gameplay: Disgaea's strongest point by far. Disgaea is a tactical RPG, along the lines of the famous Final Fantasy Tactics, or Vandal Hearts. Your characters move a certain number of spaces, and then can use an attack. What sets Disgaea apart is how it works.

Attacks are executed quickly, and can be comboed to each other. Characters that are in the correct formations can attack at the same time, doing massive damage to a single enemy. And, if an enemy is too far away, or on an island, you can have one of your characters pick up another, and throw them closer to your victim.

Another element that adds to the gameplay is the geo-panel system. Basically, there are colored squares on the battle field, and triangle objects that can be placed on these squares to give every square of that color a certain ability. This system is really too complex to go into in a simple review; suffice to say, it can completely change the course of a battle.

Remember my mention of Disgaea's lack of limits? Your characters can reach a maximum of level 9999, with stats that would make optional bosses from other RPGs shiver. However, Disgaea's optional bosses will still make YOU shiver; unless you are greatly overleveled, they'll still have stats that make yours seem childish.

Extras: So... many... optional... things...

Ok, a quick overview. One, there's the Dark Senate. This is basically an area where you can have Senators vote on additions or changes to the game. You can bribe Senators who are against you, or, if you REALLY need the Senate to approve something, you can let it fail, and use Persuade by Force... which basically means, if they don't like it, you'll beat them into liking it.

Two, there's the Item World. You can journey through any item, ANY ITEM, to power up that item's stats. Beat certain residents in the Item World, and you can power them up even more.

And Three, there's the optional bosses and areas. Made exclusively for the power leveled player, these areas contain items that are insanely rare, and enemies that always exceed level 100, at the least. These areas are NOT easy; but the rewards you get for finishing them are more than worth it. And the optional bosses are more or less made to make you kneel.

Overview: Disgaea has elements that are rare in games, and all of these elements are executed with precision. Any gamer, whether they enjoy strategy RPGs or not, should try to play Disgaea: Hour of Darkness ASAP. If not sooner.

I give Disgaea: Hour of Darkness for the Playstation 2 a 10/10.

Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

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