Review by UltimaterializerX
Reviewed: 11/29/03 | Updated: 10/29/10
The best strategy RPG since Final Fantasy Tactics.
While that tagline may sound rather off the wall, especially coming from me, I do believe it to be true. It's almost like Nippon Ichi took everything that was missing from Final Fantasy Tactics and made absolute sure that it would be in Disgaea. This game is an absolute work of art, from start to finish, and I simply could not stop playing the game once I started. It is seriously that good. What's even better is that once the game is ''completed'', the player is given a ton of things to do in what we gamers call the ''aftergame'', or the time period where the player goes out and explores all of the little extras that a game has to offer. That's the best thing about Disgaea: it fits the taste of every fan of strategy RPGs. The player can either blaze through the main plot, or take his time to explore everything that the game has. Either way, the game does not disappoint.
Right off the bat, the player will realize that the main purpose of this game is for humor. The main character wakes up from a two year sleep to find a girl pointing a ton of weapons at him. He thinks she's trying to kill him, but she quickly uses her perky voice to sweet talk her way out of the situation. This sets up a long line of humorous cutscenes, hilarious voice acting, and some of the flat-out funniest things I have ever seen in a video game. This game is chock full of Japanese humor, and the voice actors really pull it off perfectly.
As for the rest of the backstory, you are Laharl, the rightful heir to the throne of the land known as the Netherworld. The problem is that no one, not even your loyal vassals, recognize you as the Overlord, which is the title given to the ruler of the Netherworld. Laharl's quest is to become the Overlord and take as many names as he can afterwards. After all, he is a demon. He can go do whatever he wants, whenever he wants to. While this seems like a rather serious storyline, don't take it as such. The game's entire purpose is to make the player laugh through the blatant mockery of some of society's biggest flaws. Don't be surprised if our loveable little hero makes fun of the bust size of one of his vassals in the middle of a life and death situation. That's just the type of game this is.
I would go on about how funny this game is, but go and see it for yourself! I'm not writing this review for nothing.
Earlier, I mentioned that I thought this game was as good as Final Fantasy Tactics, and some of the people who know me best will look at me like I'm nuts for saying this. After all, I wasted a whole lot of my life away on that game. That being said, Disgaea falls into the same area. There are a ton of little things to do in this game, and aside from the game's overall humor value, its other big strength is the gameplay itself. Gameplay is the most important aspect of any game, and Disgaea's gameplay happens to be as close to perfect as perfect can be for a strategy RPG. Then again, take note that this comes from someone who looks at Disgaea and realizes that this game has pretty much everything that was missing from Final Fantasy Tactics.
For those who didn't play Final Fantasy Tactics however, I'll be more than happy to explain myself.
First of all, look at the thing that stands out the most: the battle system. At a first glance, the battle system within this game looks just like the one inside of Final Fantasy Tactics. It goes deeper, however. In Final Fantasy Tactics (FFT), the player could only have a maximum number of five units on the battlefield. The player chose which units would go into the next battle, and he was stuck with them. In Disgaea, however, the battle map has what is known as an ''Entry Panel''. The player is not stuck choosing which units to bring into battle before it starts. Instead, he can dispatch his units right from the entry panel, and can send as many or as few units as he wants, with a maximum of ten units. Ten units! Ten units in battle at the same time? That's both crazy and amazing. Battles can get really chaotic really quickly, especially considering that a lot of enemy parties are absolutely LOADED.
Then again, despite the seeming chaos that the battles present, they're very easy to control. The battles are turn-based, unlike in FFT. What this means is that each side of the battle, enemy and player, take turns. One side does as much or as little as they please, then merely end their turn. There is no worry about charge times, enemies moving in the middle of your attacks, everyone moving all at once, or a lack of control. The player can take their sweet old time during their turn, which allows the player to do very advanced things in battle once they get good at the game's system. The other great thing is that all battle commands are instantaneously cast upon execution. Simply enter a command, select ''Execute'', and watch the attacks go off. The player can execute as many or as few commands as he chooses, all within a very controllable system.
Overall, the battle system is very well-done, and easy to grasp, even for someone who has never played a strategy RPG before. Even the advanced features within the system, such as the Geo Panels, Capture, and Steal, are all easily used by even the most inexperienced of players, making this game easily enjoyable for anyone.
The way the story plays out is also very easy. Everything Laharl does starts off in his castle. All the player has to do to get into a battle is talk to a girl next to a dimensional gate, and the player can easily go to any battle he wants. He can either advance the story, or fight a battle on a map he has already cleared. This eliminates the need for a world map, and ''random'' encounters, which never made sense anyway. You're walking along feeling all good about yourself, and then you're magically sucked into a battle to the death in an area that usually looks totally different from the area you're inside of in the first place. None of that in Disgara. The player chooses where and when he fights.
But it doesn't stop there. Anyone can blaze through the game with Laharl with relative ease and be done with it, but there is so much more to do. There are a ton, and I do mean a TON, of extra things for the player to do. The Item World and the Dark Assembly can take up far more time from the player than the main plot ever will. There are simply that many things to do. Between Transmigration, the legendary items and weapons, unlocking all of the game's job classes, unlocking the extra maps, and all of the other things to do, the game can literally keep someone busy day in and day out for months. I'd go into great detail about all of the game's extras, but go out right now, buy the game, and see them for yourself. It's truly mind-boggling as to how much this game offers.
As a small example, the highest level that any character can attain is level 9999. Yes, 9999. Not 99, like in most RPGs, but 9999! Think about that for a second.
For a strategy RPG, the graphics are absolutely stunning. Some of the spells are absolutely mind-blowing, and I've cast many of them multiple times just to see them again. As for the other abilities, some of the things that the makers of this game did were amazing, to say the least. There are some spells where everyone involved is transported to an alternate map, and launched back to the original map in some crazy, crazy ways. You will seriously have to see some of these graphics to believe them, and the fact that it was done for a strategy RPG makes them even better.
If I was forced to pick one thing out of this game that I could not stand, it was the music. I understand that the game has a very humorous tone to it, which is fine. Within music, a subject that I am most critical of, I can't really say that I like this type of tone. Everything sounds very childish, in all honesty, and whenever the game tries to be serious with the music, it usually fails horribly. Anyone who has seen the ''Red Moon'' scene will most likely agree with me. There are some very rare exceptions, but still, they're only exceptions.
That being said, however, this game is amazing to the point where I'm willing to deal with some annoying music. It's a small price to pay.
FFT was my favorite game for years until I played Disgaea. Afterwards, I was simply blown away. I can't really come up with words to do this game justice. All I can really do is to tell whoever is reading this to get off the computer and buy the game. Now. Any fan of RPGs will love it. The storyline isn't all that involved, but it's funny. We could all use a good laugh every now and then. Furthermore, the gameplay within Disgaea is easily the best that I've ever seen, and the game never runs out of things to do. And even if you think you've done everything, you can do it all over again, as many times as you want to. Granted Disgaea and NIS have become a joke since the original game, but that doesn't stop the original from being awesome!
On the contrary, you can just as easily do the bare minimum within the game, and still get the same amount of enjoyment as anyone else. That's just a testament to how great this game is.
Anyway, what are you waiting for? You're STILL reading? Get up and buy the game. NOW.
Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Product Release: Disgaea: Hour of Darkness (US, 08/27/03)
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