Disgaea: Afternoon Of Darkness

disgaea

Okay! So I’m a little bit late jumping on this bandwagon, but damn it all, this series rocks! I also realize that N1 is bringing it to the market at an awful time considering that Final Fantasy Tactics has just been released for the same platform. Now, I’m all for some FFT, but where that game made this genre of strategic role-playing games popular, Disgaea makes it seem like a fine craft.

Disgaea originally launched on the Playstation 2 with a limited release, but it became rare for a bigger reason than just limited supplies. People liked it, they liked it a lot – they just didn’t know it at first. Disgaea is a game that appeals more towards anime fans than just anyone, so it is a bit of a niche design. This didn’t stop just about every copy from being snagged up as soon as a retailer had one in stock. After a while, Atlus re-released it due to popular demand. Perhaps it’s because of this that N1 thought it would be a good idea to bring the portable version stateside. I, for one, am very pleased that they did.

As the great Wolfdogg once said, “Enough of the history lesson, let’s move onto the review.” I only hope I can convey to you what makes this game so fantastic in this small amount of space I have. To start off, the game is really big – in fact, it’s MASSIVE. It’s not so much that it’s incredibly long – you can make your way through the entire story mode in about 40-50 hours, which is about average for this genre. What makes this game so big is that it doesn’t end when the storyline does. There is so much to do before and after finishing the main quest. Before I get any deeper into all of that, let me explain the game’s story and how it functions first.

The story begins with a cute little girl trying to wake up what looks like a vampire by shooting him with rocket launchers and all other sorts of pain. After she gets fed up with everything, she pulls out a handgun and points it at his head, but he wakes up. Laharl is his name and he’s your avatar for this adventure. His story is that of a demon prince who is on a quest to claim his right to the throne of the Underworld. You see, Larharl’s father was the overlord before suddenly kicking the bucket, leaving Laharl as his only heir. However, his boy fell into a deep sleep for the past two years and now all the demons of the Underworld are trying to claim the throne as their own. As Laharl, you must take your place amongst the demons by force and rule with an iron fist. This won’t be easy, as there are a lot of demons out there willing to step in your path.

As the story unfolds, you will see something sinister afoot. An angel will be sent down to kill the overlord, only to find that he’s already dead. This angel, Flonne, takes it upon herself to “save” these demons from their unloving ways and teach them that love is the only answer. Laharl finds her ways unrealistic and annoying, yet he is unable to kill her.

The plot unfolds from there like a well-scripted anime movie. Even the voice acting is on-par with some of the top shows out there. The music is creepy in that it’s utterly and ridiculously happy all the time. It really doesn’t seem like the theme music for Hell, but it works. It works very well, and sounds fantastic. The only thing you may find a tad annoying is that after 200 hours of hearing it, you may not be able to ever forget it.

That’s not to say that there isn’t a lot of variety in the music, but you will hear one or two specific tunes more than the rest of the music. In fact, all of the music is really great and compliments the rest of the game’s overall feel.

In a game that is comprised mostly of battles, the battle system needs to be good. Thankfully, Disgaea has a very deep and complex battle system. Each battle begins by giving you an overview of the battlefield then centering on your home panel. You can have up to 8 characters on field at once. If all 8 of them die, then your mission is failed. There are a whole bunch of classes you can create, including Priest, Warrior, Archer, Ninja, Samurai, Mage, Thief, Angel, Knight, Majin and Scout, among others. Each class has a distinct use: thieves are necessary if you plan on getting the best items in the game, while warriors are needed to take the brunt of the enemy’s damage.

Attacking from the side or rear will give you a better chance to hit or deal more damage. Also, when you attack or are attacked from the front, there is a higher chance for a counter attack. Speaking of counters, each class has a certain allotment of counter attacks, some having more than others. Unlike many games of this ilk, counters aren’t just a little backlash: they pretty much do the same amount of damage as full-on attacks, while still costing a turn.

The thing about Disgaea that gets so many people into it is the insane amount of options the player has to work with when tackling a certain mission. You may need to pick up a string of your characters with your strongest warrior so you can throw a beastly attack team over a ravine or just to get them closer to the boss so you can kill him more efficiently, hopefully obtaining better rewards.

A friend of mine was telling me that I should describe the game as simply repetitive. However, he hunkered down for more than 150 hours into the second game, attaining level 1000 or so – boasting a total level of 1800. The fact remains that this game has one of the deepest and richest battle systems you’ll experience in a game of this sort. The story is gripping and really makes you want to trudge through the next five or ten missions just to find out what happens in the next “episode”.

If I’ve not lost you from my ramblings, allow me to explain about what makes this game so fun to keep going on after beating the main story. For one, you’ll learn very early on of a place called the Item World. This world is a world belonging exclusively to the specific item in which you visit. By traversing through the item’s seemingly endless randomly generated levels, you will level up the item in question. Doing so makes it stronger in all aspects, both good and bad. At later levels of the game, this actually becomes a great boost to your stats so you may want to level an item you like a lot very early on.

If that weren’t enough to make your mouth water, the PSP version even has an extra “what if” story line where Etna accidentally kills Laharl and is thrust into the role of protagonist herself. This story isn’t quite as long as the original, but it is a very nice extra: it’s done exceptionally well and keeps the feeling of the original storyline intact. What’s more, you can even battle with a friend who also has the game, pitting your raw skills, tactics, and items against theirs.

The VS battles suffer from a little bit of load issues, but are really fun and offer some really cool rewards only available through these means. Another thing you might find interest in is the ability to purchase items from your friends’ lineup at half price. Doing so doesn’t take the item from the selling player, but instead duplicates it on your game. Items have a sort of serial number on them via their rarity code. Once you’ve bought an item from a friend, if you want more of the same, you’ll need to find the same item in your game or trade with someone else.

Before I finish, I should probably tell you about what the game looks like. If you couldn’t make it out for yourself from the screen shots, Disgaea couples 3D environments with hand-drawn skins and 2D character sprites. This gives a great sense of being in a living anime since all of the characters are animated very fluidly. The graphics aren’t perfect, but they work. The 3D aspect is kind of blocky in some areas, but the hand-drawn characters are absolutely fantastic.

With so much to do and accomplish, there’s no wondering as to why this game made its way to the PSP and even the US. If you fancy SRPGs or were a fan of FFT and want something with a different flavor, I highly suggest that you give this game a shot.

-Originally Posted by Bloodspoor

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