Review by Apollocub

Reviewed: 11/29/04

A masterpiece that can become overwhelming...

Game: Disgaea-Hour of Darkness
Publisher: Atlus
Game Playtime: 100+ Hours
Difficulty: Varies

Disgaea is a strategy RPG not quite like any other SRPG created before. Some may find it typical or cliche'd, with its gameplay being a carbon copy of every other game within the genre. These people only look at the surface of the game, not seeing its true depth and infinite gameplay detail.

There are over 100 character classes, dozens of maps, hundreds of different armor and weapons, and endless possiblities for combat groups.

Disgaea's story revolves around a Demon Prince named Laharl, whose father died by choking on a black pretzel. After awaking from a 2 year sleep, Laharl is forced to fend off other demons who wish to claim his throne. If I gave any more of the story to you, it would be considered a spoiler...so I won't go there ;-).

The gameplay is vast, but quite easy to learn. If you've played Final Fantasy Tactics, Tactics Ogre, or any other SRPG, with a turn-based battle system, this game will come naturally to you. A certain amount of characters are allowed on a map (the map is a grid-based system with different levels of altitude and obstacles). You are then allowed to select all of the character's actions before actually executing your turn, which then will execute your actions in the order that you selected them in. Different weapons, classes, and characters have a huge range of different attacking distances and attack abilities.

Each character gains experience by killing a creature (or dealing the final blow to that creature). Gaining a level increases the statistics of the character, thus making them stronger.

Once a character in a certain class has reached a certain level, another character class in the same archetype becomes available. For instance, a brawler can become a pugilist after the brawler reaches a certain level. Some character classes only become available when a certain combination of class levels is apparent within your characters.

On each map there are diffferent colored squares on the grid. These colors are controlled by "Geo-Panels", which affect what status is given to a character who stands on that square. For instance, if you stand on a yellow square that enhances your defense, your defense will be enhanced as long as you stay on a yellow square.

The statuses are controlled by Pyramids of the corresponding colors scattered throughout the map. You can change the color or the geo-panel, or destroy it, or move it. This is all explained in much more detail in the manual and the in-game tutorial, but altering the geo panels is a MAJOR component of the gameplay. The geo panel system is pure genius, allowing for an infinite amount of combat strategies to completely annihilate enemies and to make your characters god-like.

Ah, yes. The combo system. For each amount of battle combos (the number of successive hits on a single enemy by multiple characters), the "Bonus Gauge" meter continues to fill. Depending on how high of a bonus you recieved, you gain more spoils, extra experience, and money at the end of the battle. Combos also deal extreme amounts of damage, which is very useful against all boss characters. This is another genius idea, unlike anything I've seen before.

The special abilities that each character gets at the start of their creation are able to "level up" like a character would, depending on how many times the ability is used. Once the ability reaches a certain level, the character gains a new ability to level-up, and so on and so forth. The abilities grow to be crucial to complete the game's compelling battles.

At the end of each battle you can go back to Laharl's palace. Within Laharl's palace you can go to the nurse's station, where you can completely heal any character or all characters for a certain amount of money.

In Laharl's palace there are endless game options to explore. You can summon the council to create a new character with a new class...You can also summon the council for a variety of different actions : To request more military funds, to increase the quality of armor and weapons in the shop, to gain a "rank", thus increasing the number of options by summoning the council... the possibilities are endless.

You can also transmigrate a character by summoning the council, which you can read up on in the game FAQs on this site. It takes far too much detail to go into in a game review. This is simply another method to make your characters stronger. If you transmigrate your character enough times, they will become unstoppable. Literally. It's fantastic.

Within the transmigration system is the option to change or upgrade that character's class. Some of the old statistics from the previous character's class carry over along with the new class.

There is a shop in the palace for items, armor, and weapons. You can sell your old weapons and armor for more money (which you obtain at the end of battles), and use that money to purchase armor for you characters. A weapon for every class is available within the shop, along with dozens of different accessories and such that aren't necessarily class or character specific, but do indeed have the ability to help a certain class more than another.

Another option presented in the palace is the choice to level up your items and armor. In doing so you go to the "item world" and are given the oppurtunity to defeat enemies on different maps. After each map is complete, you advance to the next "floor", thus gaining a level in your item, and increasing its stats. DO NOT GO INTO THE ITEM WORLD WITHOUT ITS EXIT.

Yes, there is more.

The max level a character can reach is 9,999 (opposed to the normal 99 in most RPGs).

You can go back to any map in the game and replay it as many times as you want.

The gameplay deserves a perfect 10 for having so many options that are so much fun. Granted, you can complete the game without exploring any one of these options, but then you're cheating yourself. Heavily cheating yourself. It's these extra options that totally make the game.

The graphics are nice, but nothing special. The maps are 3-D with a 90 degree angle change option. The characters are all sprites, but the sprites are nicely animated and full of color and excellent design. The graphics recieve a 6 or a 7. They're old school, but nothing impressive at all.

The dialogue is hilarious and will have you rolling with laughter at times, along with the goofy and funny voice acting. You will often find that the script mocks and satires the western nations in the different characters' natures and miss-happenings. For instance, can we think of a world leader that choked on a pretzel? The script deserves an 8 or 9.

The music is fun and jovial, with a guest appearance by Tsunami Bomb (a punk-ska band). Again, the voice acting is top-notch. The sound deserves a 9, simply for the perfect voice acting and nice music. The music isn't spectacular, but it certainly gets you in the mood and it doesn't grow old.

The only downside to the excellent game is that the gameplay options at time become overwhelming. You'll spend at least 100 hours going through the game's quests and doing only some of the secret character classes and weapon extensions. By completely filling the game through and doing EVERYTHING, you could spend 200 hours on this game. You often don't know what you should do if you aren't into the story at the time, but it isn't much of a problem, for it is just that much fun.

Ending Statistics

Laharl's Level: 2908
Etna's Level: 1888
Gameplay Time: 218 hours and 34 minutes

Gameplay: 10
Graphics: 6/7
Script: 8/9
Sound: 9
Fun Factor: 10

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

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