by Jason Parker (Ragachak)
Nippon Ichi’s games really stand out amongst the pack of ridiculous anime RPGs in one very way: Leveling. Sure, having a level cap of 99 is okay, but why stop at 99, when it can be 9999? That’s only the beginning of Disgaea though. They really add replay value with an insane, but enjoyable grind. The ability to do insane amounts of damage, and constantly challenge your party to stronger and stronger encounters is what hooked me. I seldom get to the point where I’m reincarnating 9999 level characters over and over, but I get a lot out of these games anyway. The Disgaea franchise primarily takes place in an Underworld (as each Demonic Overlord has their own Underworld) and feature humans, angels, demons, and all kinds of wild and fanservy monsters. Each game has its own main protagonist, who tends to go against the norms of the Underworld – being an evil jerk, basically.
However, Laharl starts off as wanting nothing more than to be the biggest, baddest, toughest, most evil Overlord to ever exist. After all, everyone knows his father, King Kriechvskoy. He has a legacy that might be impossible to live up to. The scrawny, shirtless badass is going to try though. Laharl learns a lot over the course of the game, and maybe his goals will change as the game progresses. I feel like at this point, Spoilers are fair game since this game first launched on the Playstation 2, but I’ll try to avoid them anyway. The Disgaea series has come a long way since the initial title, and while my favorite is the most recent one in terms of story, characters, and Guest Characters, this is where it all began. Disgaea is easily one of my favorite turn-based strategy series, and it took some real chances in how it presented the story in a world where everyone wants to be the Hero. Some of us want to be badass freakin’ Overlords, after all. But that’s a different Disgaea.
For those new to Disgaea, this is a great place to start, even if it lacks a lot of the creature comforts later games added. It’s a solid turn-based strategy game, and while you can get to 9999 on your characters, reincarnate them, and get back to 9999 again, you can beat the game anywhere from 60-90 with the greatest of ease. You have the main characters, that don’t have character/monster classes, generic characters (class/sex), and monster classes, which are unlocked as you kill monsters in the various stages. The generic classes have Final Fantasy Tactics style requirements, needing to have other classes at certain levels. Each has its own purpose, from Thieves (stealing), Priests (healing), several types of brawlers, Archers (Ranged combat), Majin (kicking everyone’s ass all of the time). You recruit these characters at the Dark Assembly. The Dark Assembly is essentially where you submit a bill to a group of Demonic Senators, and they all vote whether or not you should have what you want. Creating characters does not require approval, unless you want their Quality to be Distinguished or Genius. If you make a character that’s “Good-for-nothing” you actually have to remove points! Each costs Mana, which a character receives for killing enemies.
It’s important to note that any character you have can submit Bills, and accrue mana. Even your generics! So if you use them a lot, you might be using those characters to create new characters, to try and extort funds out of the Senate (Raise Military Funds), increase the rarity of items you can buy and more. It’s also important to note that the person that created the new character (Mentor) has a better chance of teaming up with them in battle. When you attack in a battle (melee), the allies surrounding them have a percentage chance to join in, and after that turn, provided they have not attacked themselves, you can reset their position, and move them to help someone else. This makes battles take an incredibly long time after a while, but you want even your weak casters to get exp. If only Priests gained EXP from healing. . . later Disgaea’s, maybe.
There are tons of things you can have voted on, from hidden, incredible areas, to more characters, or more EXP! But what if they don’t want to help you? They usually don’t, after all. Then you have to make them help you. You can bribe Senators with items, and if they vote against you, it’s time to fight (or give up. But who does that?). The Senators that voted yes will fight with you, everyone else is against you. Here’s where strategy comes into play. A useful thing to know, is if you throw a weak enemy into a strong enemy, that strong enemy gets stronger. If you throw a strong enemy into a weaker enemy (that isn’t on your side in this battle), they will just feed that stronger foe. So you know, don’t do that. While each chapter is a series of battles, you can (and often will) go back to them and spend lots of time grinding. There’s also the Item World to grind in, where you can power-up a weapon and go into randomly generated stages. Your hub will also have a hospital, where when your characters die, get hurt/use MP, you can bring them here, spend HL (currency) and get them back to fighting shape. You also get rewards for this, so… get hurt often! You can even kill your own allies, and there might be an ending or two that requires that. Who knows?
To Be The Master, Disgaea Master: 4/5
I’ve played every port of Disgaea 1 by now, and even the Nintendo DS version was better than the PC version (at least at first). The PC edition had weird, unreasonable lag, slowdown, graphical issues, and worse. It was confusing and was causing me physical distress trying to watch the game. Whatever the reason for it was, that doesn’t seem to be the case for the PS4 version, which is the edition I’m actually reviewing today. The PS4 release of Disgaea 1 Complete feels fantastic, the characters all look huge and colorful, and the graphics overhaul is smooth and solid. There are occasional moments where the game looks like it added older version graphics in, instead, but those have been far and few between.
This is a beautiful version of one of the games of my early adulthood, and while I don’t play it every day like I used to, it’s fun to pop in, do a little grinding, and just unwind. There’s a lot of good and bad to say about Remakes, but there are so many gamers out there that missed out on some real classics. Disgaea’s one of them. This might not leap out to people who aren’t familiar with the series, as it’s had so many remakes by now, but I still recommend it highly. You will have to grind, but that’s what you expect in this particular strategy genre. It might be a game about Demons, betrayal and death, but there’s a message of love. Though many of the characters are evil, few of them are irredeemably so. There’s a lot of depth here.