Review by SpiralSage

Reviewed: 08/31/04 | Updated: 09/05/04

A good step in the right direction.

"Disgaea:Hour of Darkness" is one of those games where you KNOW why it's overrated and you don't know why people like it. After playing this game, I understood that just because a game has cool looking attacks doesn't mean it's going to be the best game in the universe. If you saw the trailer Atlus put on their website to draw people into buying this game, you should know that the whole entire trailer is technically a good punk song and a bunch of pretty cool moves put together. Of course, I'm not saying this is a bad thing. On the contrary. That ad is probably what got Disgaea so popular before it's release. Of course, the ad fails to show the real truth. It fails to show the number of hours it takes to actually LEARN those techniques.

The whole point of Disgaea is to train massively. We're not talking about training up until level 100 and calling it quits. No, we're talking about training until you're over level 1000. Yes, and level 1000 isn't the Max either. More like 10000. Of course, you can beat the game at level 100, no problem. It's what's after the end of the game which constitutes most of your time to strenuous leveling.

The main character of Disgaea is a bratty prince who resides in the "Underworld". Having woken up later than he wanted to (WAY longer than he wanted to), he finds his Kingdom has changed. His father, the King is now dead and the Demons of the Underworld want to take over. Laharl (The Main character) of course is seriously pissed off at this so he begins to attack rival demons. Of course, Laharl isn't the only character. There's also Etna, a succubus who is Laharl's closest friend (But you'd never really hear him say that). She, of course has her own plans. And finally there is an angel who was going to kill the deceased King, but has had a change of heart, so now she resides in the Underworld trying to make Laharl feel emotions other than anger, hate, jealousy, and all the other negative emotions out there.

Sounds pretty crazy, right? Well, that's just the starting. If you're all about Story rather than Gameplay, stop reading this review and pick this game up.

If you've ever played a Strategy RPG, you should know how most battles are. Battles are in a area where your characters duke it out with enemies. You can move your characters around, but only once each turn. The next turn is your enemies, now they can retaliate to whatever you did to them. These battles usually last a lot longer than regular Role-playing-games. Of course, most of the game is usually battle. Everything else is a cutscene or you shopping for weapons and armor.

Disgaea is a bit different (of course it would need to be when it claims it can give other Strategy RPGs a run for their money) from most other Strategy RPGS. For one, there are things called "Geo-Stones" in most battles. Geo-Stones can either help you, or can really screw you up. They're technically a block which holds onto either a single or few kinds of abilities. These stones are usually on colored tiles. Once a Geo-Stone is on a colored area, it can work. A few of the Geo Stone abilities are things like double Defense, damaging 20% of your HP when you're standing on a certain colored panel, or even Invincibility, Of course, like I said: "Geo-Stones can either help you, or can really screw you up", and that's true. Enemies can use these to their advantage too. Just think if a couple of spell caster enemies were on some invincibility panels, and you could do nothing about it?

Of course, Nippon Ichi devised a way to overcome such things as Geo-Panels. I, myself have never seen this before in a Strategy RPG and I'm surprised it wasn't thought of earlier. Your characters can pick up allies, enemies and Geo-Stones. Not only that, but they can throw these things too. Throwing Geopanels and your allies is a big portion of Disgaea's "Strategy". In fact, later on in the game, it becomes almost usual to do such things. It's too bad, Nippon Ichi made a original new concept and beat it into the ground.

Speaking of beating original concepts into the ground, let me tell you another concept Nippon Ichi set up. The "Item World" is almost exactly what it sounds like. You can travel into items. Of course, switch "travel" with "go through about 10 battles 10 times to master THIS item". The Item World is almost the essence of Disgaea. Going into the Item world strengthens your characters as they battle 100 floors of enemies, but it also strengthens the item you go into. Of course, you can enter the Item World in each item you own. Every item can take you there. Of course, after a while this gets very repetitive and you lose almost all the fun out of it once you master 1 or more items.

But Nippon Ichi had a few more cards up it's sleeve

Somehow, even though Laharl is the self-proclaimed Prince of the Underworld; he has a bunch of Senators that can whoop his ass. The Dark Assembly is somewhat optional, but can play a big part in your game if you're careful. Most of the Dark Assembly are stronger than Laharl (For at least most of the game, unless you can reach level 500 by the second Chapter), and they in reality run the place. You want extra money, more powerful items, stronger monsters,and allies; you go to them. Of course, most of the time they won't be willing to help you unless you either do two things:Kill them or Bribe them. The game almost forcefully chooses this option for you. Bribing these Senators is hard, and most of them are extremely picky when it comes to gifts. But killing them is almost impossible for a novice player until he beats the game at least once. Yes, this part of the game is almost useless when it comes down to it. Sure, you may be ABLE to net some new areas to check out, or cheap weapons to stock up on, but it won't happen easy. That is, unless the character you bring up to the Dark Assembly has gone through some rigorous training. You can get the Dark Assembly to like Laharl if he goes through a few challenging exams. These exams usually consist of one of your character's fighting 3 enemy characters that are either the same level as you, or higher. Of course the battles can be easy, but I'll get to that next.

Disgaea's AI is a joke. None of your enemies have the brains to lift anything, unlike you which give you a big advantage. Not only that, but most of the enemies won't get close to you unless you get in their radius. You could easily pick off the enemies one by one if you really wanted to if your characters have some long range attacks.

Closing
I can see Nippon and Atlus tried very hard to make this game, I can see that they had many great ideas, but in the end they ended up being overused which made what was once crisp, stale. In a trailer for Disgaea, it claimed "Strategy RPG's are about to get a serious kick in the ass". From what I've played, Disgaea certainty changed Strategy RPGs, these examples of picking up people and enemies are quite genius. While I do think most of the gameplay is stale; I cannot wait for what is to come for Strategy RPGs. Think of this game as the first stepping stone towards a new and improved Strategy RPG Genre.

Rating:   3.5 - Good

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