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Disgaea 1 Complete Review


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On 01/23/2019 at 12:00 PM by Mace Casas

Fifteen years old but still fresh for newcomers.
RECOMMENDATION:

For anyone who loves Tactical RPGs, especially if you enjoy light-hearted stories. Anyone who started with newer iterations may have a hard time going back.

As much as I love games, I dread the hours it takes to get over the hump of one that’s new and unfamiliar. When I finally get over it, I hope that I didn’t waste those hours on a game I won’t keep playing. So when I fired up Disgaea 1 Complete for the Nintendo Switch I wasn’t sure what to expect. Even though it’s been fifteen years since the game’s initial release, it was still a new and unfamiliar title for me. Thankfully, I’m glad to say that the hours spent getting over that initial hump were worth it.

Disgaea 1 Complete is an HD remaster of the original Disgaea: Hour of Darkness released on the Playstation 2 in 2003. Disgaea focuses on the arrogant prince of the Netherworld, Laharl, waking up after a long slumber to learn that his father has passed. His father’s death leads to numerous demons trying to claim the throne that is rightfully his. Along with his rebellious vassal, Etna, he begins fighting to take his place as king. This may make it sound like a serious drama but it’s much more light hearted. There's plenty of humor added to the twists and multiple endings to be had in this turn-based strategy game. The Nintendo Switch version features some additional content besides the obvious graphical upgrade.

Disgaea allows 10 characters into battle but honestly it can be tiring to handle so many at once. I found myself only using about 6 but I’d occasionally bring in the extras to get some free EXP when the level would be giving it. One thing I appreciated was how easy it was to bring characters into battle. Since you are able to select your characters after seeing the map you’re never penalized for choosing poorly beforehand. You can even return a character and swap them out with one of the hundred you’re allowed to create if you picked the wrong one accidentally.

There’s plenty of classes to take into battle, and defeating monsters in a level gives you the option to summon them as well. I found myself a bit overwhelmed with the amount of subtle differences that each class could split into. The few different paths you can go down don’t seem to change it up drastically. I personally felt these branches were unnecessary after awhile, since characters can reach levels high enough to put an average bank account to shame, but I'm sure they are very much appreciated by hardcore players. For average players like myself it can be disheartening to see the hard work you poured into a character feel wasted since a technically better but not much different version unlocked hours later. A nice thing about Disgaea though is you don’t have to leave these characters to rot.

This game is perfect for anyone who loves to see numbers go up. Those old characters can be utilized with a bit of effort. Using the games systems you can reclass, buff up, and level back up to have a stronger character. I found a few ways to make the initial grinding a lot less stressful but it could still be a bit time consuming. Some of the mechanics around this could have been explained more thoroughly. For instance, at one point I lost a few skills but I was able to figure it out fairly quickly with trial and error. At some point it’s pretty ridiculous how much effort you can pour into a character but it’s there if you want it.

Combat in Disgaea is where strategists can shine. You must have a plan since battles can vary greatly due to attack range, terrain height, and the prolific “Geo Panels”. Geo Panels are easily one of the most unique and defining features of Disgaea. They are also some of the most difficult to wrap your head around. Geo Panels can litter the grid with different colors that can each provide a buff or status effect for any character standing on it. Initially this isn't too complicated but then you hit a level that’s colored like a lit up Christmas tree. At these moments I had to really pay attention and plan carefully, because it's very easy for things to get out of hand. Unknowingly creating evil doppelgangers or trying to take down enemies that have 3+ buffs can make finishing a level nearly impossible. The game does give you some options to handle these scenarios but it can be a bit too luck dependent for my tastes. The Geo Symbols providing the Panels buffs can be located deep in enemy territory or two spaces away from you and need to be handled if you want to neutralize the effects. Thankfully, the campaign doesn’t randomize the Geo Mechanism and it doesn’t stack the deck impossibly against you. Some of the optional side content on the other hand, can be impossible if the random effects are aligned just right. I didn’t come across this myself but it is possible. At that point you just have to exit and retry.

I believe this is mostly due to the game being of a different era. The game shows its age in a few other departments as well. The voice work definitely sounds like it’s from a few generations ago but it isn’t really an issue since Disgaea doesn’t take itself very seriously. The menus could have definitely benefited from an info button. There were too many times I had to search for the meanings behind a dozen abbreviations. I was also rarely comfortable with the camera position. You can rotate it but even then it rarely ever seemed to be at a distance or angle I was satisfied with.

Despite its shortcomings I have an easy time looking past them and recommending Disgaea. This game is close to being 3 console generations old but you wouldn’t know it with the HD upgrade. The sprites were beautiful and nicely detailed then. Now they are gorgeously sharp and pop off the screen. Even the gameplay has easily held up all these years later. This sentiment may not be shared by someone who has grown with later iterations of the series, but for anyone interested for the first time it does plenty right. I had a great time and even a few laughs with Disgaea. To top it off, this version even has an alternate storyline that wasn’t in the original game. There’s a lot of game in this package. Disgaea may be 15 years old, but it still holds up as a great tactical RPG that is well worth your time.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:


All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.


These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.


This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.


Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.


Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.


A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.


 

Comments

Matt Snee Staff Writer

01/23/2019 at 10:24 PM

Great review! Always wanted to get into one of these.

Exrian Contributing Writer

01/29/2019 at 11:11 PM

Thanks, it's my first review. I was hoping it would turn out ok. Huge thanks to Julian for helping me get there. 

Matt Snee Staff Writer

01/30/2019 at 02:31 AM

You did a great job!

Julian Titus Senior Editor

01/23/2019 at 10:24 PM

I picked this up on a whim, and I certainly don’t have time to play it right now, but damn does this review remind me why I love this game.

Exrian Contributing Writer

01/29/2019 at 11:11 PM

Thanks for your help on this Julian. Couldn't have done it without you.

mothman

01/24/2019 at 07:37 PM

I bought this again on Switch. Maybe this time it will get played through. :)

Exrian Contributing Writer

01/29/2019 at 11:14 PM

I bought this on PS2 when it first released. I remember being a Babbages employee and buying it on a whim. I also bought a dozen other games between my PS2/GC/XB so I never got around to even popping it in. I'm glad I got a chance to retry it with a nice graphical update.

KnightDriver

02/18/2019 at 02:29 PM

I still have this game on PS2 but I've never played it. I've always wanted to. I'd love this on Switch. 

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