Review by Braben

Reviewed: 03/29/05

Nippon Ichi, kiss me!

But, what is this!, an old school Japanese strategy rpg in Europe?, are we all crazy?, what is this world coming to?!. But it is true, with the incredible (damn well deserved) success of this masterpiece in Japan and America Koei thought that an European release would be a good idea. That is mighty stupid, but well, it is a relief for me and the two or three morons on the whole Europe who are going to buy this, and maybe (maybe, I am not completely sure) the sales were not as bad as expected because Koei has announced that it will publish Phantom Brave and La Pucelle Tactics someday.

Story 10/10:
To put it simply, Disgaea is downright hilarious.

Despite the fact that the gameplay is a bit limited in order to develop a good story, the funny dialogue, outstanding characters and overall originality make Disgaea one of the most interesting games for the PlayStation 2. I must say though, that the endings (all of them, and there are eight endings) are a bit disappointing, too short and simple, but even with that, the plot is fabulous to say the least.

The whole game is a laugh-out-loud spoof, and while the humor is both silly and witty, the silly parts are never stupid and the witty ones witty as hell. Whatever, the important thing here is that I can`t remember having laughed out loud so much in a very long time.

And, of course, we have Captain Gordon, he is, without a doubt, one of the most brilliant and hilarious characters even conceived in the video game history, and by far the coolest character of the new game consoles era. In short, the greatest moron of the XXI century!. Every single word that comes out of his mouth is hysterically funny, the way he shouts ``oh my God`` or ``Defender of Earth`` must be heard to be believed. Even if you dislike the game, he alone is great enough to consider this game as a total success.

Graphics 7/10:
Hard to rate, despite being mostly in 2D, which is the way it should be, their quality is extremely low for a PlayStation 2 title, no doubt about that. Anyway, the style is great and the characters designs legendary. So we have fantastic art but mediocre graphics.

The cast of characters is one of the absolute best I can remember, fantastic (if a bit skinny) designs that are pure charisma, even the most pitiful enemy has a wonderful and interesting design. The same can be said about the backgrounds during the cut-scenes, they are brilliant among the brilliant, they look like incredibly beautiful hand draw pictures.

When it comes to 3D everything is a lot worse, the 3D battle backgrounds are extremely simple, deserted landscapes with a rock here or a tree there if we are in a forest or a couple of columns and a picture on the wall, but that is all.

The magic spells and techniques are a mix between 2D and 3D, some of them look good, specially due to their originality, but overall they are pixilated and a bit cheap.

Music 8,5/10:
A bit hysterical at times, sometimes too short, and usually repetitive in those parts where we have to listen to the same song uninterruptedly for hours (the Item World stages for example), but don`t get me wrong, overall, the music is excellent.

A special mention deserves the song called The Invasion From Within, performed by Tsunami Bomb (I do not know if it s a band or what), let`s see, the song is cheap and overall terrible, but it is also as cool as terrible. In short, the song totally rocks!, and despite being some kind of a hard-rock theme, it is so wacky (intentionally or not) that fits the game perfectly. Too bad you will hear the song only once during the game.

Something unforgivable is that, as usual, Disgaea`s English version features a ``watered down`` soundtrack, with endings without lyrics and things like that. Great isn`t it?, two times great considering that the ending songs are superb. Simply a sacrilege, specially for those who, like me, think the soundtrack is one of the key elements of a video game.

The voice acting is excellent for two reasons: the first one is that you can see the actors are doing their best to make the characters sound cool; and the second one is that the voices fit the characters perfectly, or at least most of them, but overall I am sure the original Japanese dub is not as good as this one. Not to mention Captain Gordon`s voice alone is enough to consider this game a voice acting masterpiece.

Gameplay 9/10:
There is only one reason why this is not one of the most perfect games ever made and by far the most perfect strategy rpg in existence, Disgaea`s gameplay is comparable in many ways to Tactics Ogre and the Final Fantasy Tactics series, I mean, both are very good series of strategy rpgs, but Disgaea has the same fatal flaw of these two game series have. Now, Disgaea`s gameplay maybe is not flawless, but it is, by far, the most fun I have experienced in a strategy rpg to date.

In our castle we can go around and visit our shops, listen to our so-called vassals, explore, etc, but the rest of the areas are still images, it is a downright fatal flaw and the only big flaw in the game, with a more classical rpg development in the vein of Bahamut Lagoon or the Shinning Force saga this could have been by far the greatest game in years and undoubtedly one of the best video games ever to grace the face of the earth.

Another flaw is the above mentioned simplicity of the scenarios. There is quite a lot of variety, no complaints about that, but after seeing how incredible they look in 2D during the cut scenes, the battle arenas are a huge letdown.

Anyway, even though that is real drawback, this is probably the most perfect tactical rpg I have ever played, Disgaea is superior tactical rpg and I guess Square has a lot to learn from Nippon Ichi after games like Final Fantasy Tactics Advance.

In brief: there are no irritating and totally unfair hit rates (see Super Robot Wars or any Fire Emblem); the special abilities are lame but perfectly made and extremely useful; the character customization is perfect; the battle system is perfectly made with combos, bonus points, weapons with special abilities that can be leveled up as much as you want and much more; we can hire almost every single monster we defeat during the game with their abilities and everything; vote proposals to obtain new inventory, secret areas, etc in the Dark Assembly; secret characters and more powerful items and weapons in the Item World... and a lot more.

About The Dark Assembly well, this place is EVIL, gaining access to the secret areas is the most difficult task in the game, too hard in my opinion. I am still trying to gain access to the last secret stages, but I guess it is simply impossible. Anyway, here we have to bribe senators to obtain bonus features such as new inventory and most importantly, access to the secret areas.

The Item World is not THAT difficult, but it is a very tiring place, here we can level up every single item, weapon, accessory, or whatever as much as want, even healing items. We can also obtain secret characters and special equipment.

The only complain I have is that the offensive magic is offensively limited, we only have ice, fire and thunder spells, that is all when it comes to black magic, and what`s more, a mage can have only cast one spell, blue mages cast ice spells, red mages fire spells and so on (save for the Star Mages, that is another story). Really sad.

Replay Value:
The story mode is about 40 hours long, but including all the time we are going to spend leveling up, fighting in the Item World and The Dark Assembly as well as clearing all the secret areas, multiple endings, hidden enemies and special units there are about 200 hours of gameplay, without including the New Game + option, because Disgaea is one of those games you can play over and over again just to gain more experience or raise you stats.

Finally, excluding a couple secret areas that are nearly impossible to beat, the story mode has a pretty decent challenge. As you can see, Disgaea is worth every single penny you pay for it, you bet about that.

Overall:
Without a doubt, Nippon Ichi has crafted one of the coolest games in a very long time, Disgaea is wonderful, addictive, fresh, original, fun as hell and totally hilarious. Definitely, this is a game not to be missed by any means, and quite possibly the best PlayStation 2 title to date.

Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

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