Review by power1887

Reviewed: 02/14/04

Disagaea: Hours of Gaming!

Disgaea: Hour of Darkness

The other day I went to the game store and saw a game with a poorly designed and rather ugly case in the used PS2 section. On a game I would usually brush aside in my search for ‘that one game’ that always seams to escape my mind when I look at the hundreds of games I saw something, and it spoke to me. “Atlus” was written on this eyesore. I was instantly in a flash back as if it where some easily forgettable TV movie. Remembering the fun I had with Ogre battle and the fact that this game would no doubt double in value in only a few years I decided to go for it.
The game starts off with a rather long and dry cut scene, though it was obvious they where trying to put some humor. I was quite disappointed thinking how could I fall pray to such a peace of flotsam just because a company has made a few great games. I decided to drudge through it. The Polygon characters still have their charm, but the voice worked seemed as if they where 8th graders reading a play out loud. They where trying to put emotion into their words, but they where putting it in the wrong places.
After the cut scene you start off with a tutorial level that was very simple. It was boring, and extremely confusing at the same time. When playing this part for the first time you will find your self saying for the love of God HURRY UP, wait what did they just say? This is your first encounter with not only the enemy, but also what Atlus likes to call Geo Panels. These are more or less power up (or down) spots on the board. I would get more into that, but this is a review not a walkthrough besides it would take 4 pages just to explain them.
After this you get treated to another drawn out scene featuring Prinny’s and yourself, Laharl, the Prince of the underworld. You will undoubtedly be turned on to their charm right away, but that is beside the point. You breeze through a couple more levels then you meet the first mid-boss, then you die. It’s like the game starts 7 stages into the game. This was the point that I realized I might have sold this game short.
The battle system is very simple and complex at the same time. The ‘power-up’ panels are usually stacked against you so strongly against you its like playing a game of chess with the queen and 9 pawns. You can call 10 characters out at one time, and at the beginning you need every one of them. If only to draw fire away from your queen [laharl] as he goes around and handles the killing. This game introduces combo attacks to the strategy genre. If you play your cards right your best fighters could attack up to 3 maybe even 4 times each round. The magic you have at first is more or less just a blip of fire and numbers that flash up showing the damage, but stick with it and you will find more powerful and more visually stunning effects. These effects are the only thing that can approach being called good graphics, but they are rather short which keeps the flow going unlike the summons in Final Fantasy games that put a halt to game play for a very long time.
At some point of the game you actually start to get into the story. It then hits you that the voice work is shall we say different because that’s what Atlus wanted. It just fits the story from an angel sent down to hell to kill the king of the under-world who decides “Maybe I should be...what do they call it on earth? Oh yeah a ninja. I want to be a ninja. Nin-Nin” or the prince of the underworld who’s only weaknesses are “words of hope and Sexy Bodies. Combine them and he becomes almost powerless.” These are only a couple of the odd things you run into in this game. You also run into an overly dramatic defender of earth and the greedy wart hog demon. These things may seem odd to those who haven’t played it. If you have played this game I’m sure you would have had a chuckle at the last few examples I just gave you.
Disgaea probably would have gotten old by the time you beat it if it only had a few gimmicks and a humorous story. The game also has many things that make this game deep very deep. The max level in most games is 99 right? Only a select few make it to 999 correct? Well you won’t max out your characters in Disagaea till you reach level 9,999! Now simply making the story that long would defiantly ruin it for most players so The Lord of the Games, Atlus, decided to add something called the item world. This is just what the name would have you think. It’s a world inside each and every item in the game. These worlds consist of 10 randomonly generated levels of 10 random maps each. Each world contains a boss that only shows up when you reach the 100th level. Though I have beat the game I haven’t reached any of the item bosses...yet.
That’s what this game is about replay, there is an assembly of higher demons that you can up the enemies levels, create new characters, take exams, raise military funds, get higher level items in your store, and even open up new worlds to go into. Every time you visit them you must get whatever you want approved you can either bribe them or convince them buy using force.
There are also different endings that you can attain by doing different things during your entire stint as Laharl. The weird thing is somewhere along the line I found that I actually cared about the story, and even the oddball characters. Their little polygonal faces looked so sad when I reached the end. I’m not sure what ending I got, but it left me speechless. There was such a huge swing in emotion, I was happy that I had defeated the evil doer, but the ending I got was so sad it actually made me think of the Final Fantasy games that I have loved so much for so long. Needless to say I’m starting up again with another feature Atlus has happily thrown in. You start anew with all your characters at the level they where when you beat the game with all the equipment they had.
Get this game if you can find it. I would say that if you see it on E-Bay for less than $70 it’s a steal. I’m now looking for Final Fantasy Tactics to see the greatness I missed in my immaturity.

Final Score 9/10...as close to perfect as polygonal characters can get on the PS2.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

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