Review by trancejeremy
One of the best (and weirdest) tactical RPGs ever...
Disgaea: Hour of Darkness is a strategy role-playing game for the Playstation 2. It's really a ''tactical'' game, not strategy, as most of the game is on tactical battles, and of course, many people get upset calling things like this ''role-playing'' games, as there is little to no role-playing in them. But that's what they're called.
It does, like most console RPGs, have a very good story. It gets a bit weird, though.
You play Laharl, son of the Overlord of the Netherworld. You are suddenly awakened by your vassal, Etna, and told that you're father is dead, and you've been asleep for 2 years. Not surprisingly, you want to succeed him as Overlord. So you go about doing that.
The game is made up of episodes, like anime. It's very much aimed at Anime fans, because at the end of each episode, the characters (mostly Etna) do a preview of the next episode (which is common in the anime I've seen). Usually it's very very funny.
Each episode consists of 4-6 maps or battles you have to win.
The battle system is generally fairly standard for a tactical rpg. The maps are fairly big, you get 10 members on the battle field. There is height, but it seems to have no effect on ranged weapons, it just affects movement.
Probably the biggest change from the typical game is the ''geo'' system. It's a bit confusing at first, but each square on the map can have a different color - there are about 7 different ones. There can also be crystals that have a range of effects. When a crystal is on a colored square, its effects apply to all squares of that color.
Crystals can be destroyed, and in most cases, when they are destroyed, they the square into a different color. This can change things greatly. There is also a no color, or ''null'' crystal, which will turn that color square into no color at all when destroyed.
Another aspect that makes it unusual is the idea of ''combination'' or combo attacks. If you have a character attack and enemy, and have friendly characters adjacent to the attacker, there is a chance they will join in. Up to 3 others can attack.
This is good for two reasons - for one, it does more damage than a regular attack, and two, it fills up your bonus gauge better. The bonus gauge is a meter that determines the reward you get for winning the map.
Also, if you attack someone consectuatively, for each successive attack, the targets defense goes down a little. Some opponents have such high defenses, that this is how you have to kill them.
It's very much a game for those who like to level up characters. The basic system it uses is sort of the D&D model, characters have a class and level. There's a variety of stats, all related to combat. Attack, Defense, Intelligence, Hit, hit points, spell points. Attack is good for melee, Hit good for missile weapons, defense determines how much damage you take when you are hit.
There's a fairly wide variety of classes. Class determines how much and which stats increase when you go up a level, and the effects of various items.
Each item has a value for each stat. Each class has a percentage for each stat. When an item is equipped, the effects are determined by that percentage.
For instance, the Scout has a hit of 110%. That means if a gun has a rating of 200 hit, when a scout equips it, the actual effect will be 220.
As mentioned, it has a great storyline. It gets very weird in the middle, but it's basically about the interactions of the Netherworld, Celestia (aka Heaven) and the human world.
The dialogue is very funny. Very very funny. Most of the lines are actually spoken (though there is really no animation or CGI, just cardboard cutouts, so it's kinda like South Park in that respect). The voice actress of Etna is especially good - she really steals the show.
Also very funny are the Prinnies. Apparently everything we know about the afterlife is wrong. When you die, you go to either heaven or hell and become a penguin. Not quite a penguin, they also tend to be blue instead of black, and have a pair of wings on their backs (besides their normal penguin flipper wings). You also apparently start saying ''Dood!'' a lot. There's also this amusing Prinny dance, which is hard to describe but vaguely looks russian.
It's a game that you can play as much as you want, really. The first time through, it took me 105 hours. The second time through, using the ''2nd Cycle'' option which let me keep my old characters, it took me 9 hours (only doing storyline maps, though I did go to Prinny Land).
There is a lot of voice/cut scenes in the game. I skipped most of them the second time through, but the ones I couldn't skip probably were a couple hours total.
But beyond the main storyline, there are several extra things you can do.
The most engrossing thing is ''Item World''. It seems that every item (like a sword or piece of armor or even expendables like pills or muffins) has a dungeon inside. Depending on the rarity of the item, the dungeon is 30, 50, or a 100 floors.
Each floor is a random battle and map. The toughness of the opponents depends on the price of the item, and increases as you descend floors. Every so often (10 floors) there is a ''boss'' battle.
You can only leave the item world after every 10 floors, unless you have a special exit item. This item is rare (you only win them by beating the boss on the 10th floor). So it's something of an endurance test.
So why would you want to do this? Well, it's actually quite fun. I like tactical rpgs because I like tactical combat. And it's in the item world that the geo system really shines. It's almost like a puzzle game on many levels - you have to figure out how to align the geo crystals just right so that when you destroy one, it sets off a chain and turns the entire battlefield to null. While you get a huge bonus for this on the bonus gauge (which gives you prizes), it's also cool to watch, like watching dominoes fall out.
And for each floor you clear (either by killing all the opponents or just escaping by reaching the exit), you increase the power of the item.
As as mentioned, in addition to the story line areas, there are special areas you can gain access to by petitioning the Dark Assembly, which is basically the Netherworld Senate. It's a pain getting them to pass your bills though.
So while it's probably not for everyone, if you happen to like tactical RPGs, then this is one of the best ever.
Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
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