Reviewed: November 17, 2008
Released: September 23, 2008
NIS graced the gaming community with one of the most in-depth strategic RPGs I have ever seen this year. Well the fun doesnít stop with the PS3 release. NIS has brought back the title that started it all over 5 years ago. Thatís right Disgaea: Hour of Darkness has been adapted to the DS with new controls and a few new additions along the way. So it back as I review Disgaea DS for the Nintendo DS.
For anyone who has played the original title, then youíre already well aware of the storyline, but for those of you new to the Disgaea scene then Iíll shed some light. The story revolves around Laharl, the demon prince of the Netherworld, and his journey to claim his rightful place as the Overlord of the Netherworld.
He awakens from a long slumber to find his father has passed away and many demons are vying for control of former Overlordís lands. Laharl sets to put them all in their place with the help of a demon named Etna and a few exploding penguins.
To say the least these last 5 years have not been without a slew of good Strategy RPGs. However the Disgaea series is without a doubt one of the most intensely fun Strategy RPGs on the market. Disgaea is a series that I have only just come to gain any real experience with as Disgaea 3 was the first title I have ever played. But my knowledge of the genre has helped considerably.
Disgaea features the same interface that Disgaea 3 offered with the notable exception of added screen icons. Players can choose to do things using two different controls schemes or both. You can use the classic controls and control everything with the DSís buttons. But using those means doesnít really use the DSís potential. The other way to play is to use the touch screen to everything which is completely possible and implemented rather well.
Disgaea is a tactical role playing game so battle gameplay takes place on a map divided into a square grid. The player controls a squad of humanoid units and monsters, which each occupy a single square of the grid and do combat with a group of enemies. Depending on the character and attack selected, the player will be able to deal damage to a specific enemy unit or a designated region of the map. Combat ends when all enemy units or all of the player's units are destroyed.
Humanoid characters may lift and throw other units across the map in order to allow allies to move further or force enemies to keep their distance. This even allows the player to capture enemies by throwing them into the base panel; these enemies then become allies, and can be used on subsequent maps. The chance of capturing an enemy in this manner depends on several factors. Failure to capture the enemy will result in the death of all characters inside the base panel, and the enemy will survive.
Things will without a doubt get a little complicated when the player has start dealing with Geo Panels and Geo Symbols. A good number of the maps in Disgaea contain Geo Panels, which are represented as squares on the floor of the map of a particular color. Colored objects on the map known as Geo Symbols may be present on either Geo Panels or regular, uncolored squares on the map. These Geo Symbols can usually be thrown onto other Geo Panels to produce favorable results and sometimes disastrous ones that could spell death for your team.
When a Geo Symbol sits on a Geo Panel, it gives the all Geo Panels of the color it sits on a property, such as making all units on them invulnerable, or decreasing the HP of friendly units on those panels by 20% at the end of each turn. When a Geo Symbol is destroyed on a Geo Panel of a different color than its own, it causes panels of that color to change to the color of the Geo Symbol and damages units on those panels.
If another Geo Symbol is on one of the panels when it changes, it too is destroyed, and the Geo Panels begin to change color and properties again, creating a chain reaction. This chain reaction can be of any length that can be supported by the number of colors of panel and symbols on the map, the amount of "chain" gained with each square increasing by one every Geo Symbol. The higher the chain, the more the bonus gauge fills.
Some Geo Symbols have the color "clear" and cause the Geo Panels to become regular map squares when destroyed. Removing all of the Geo Panels from a map will cause a blast of energy which hurts all enemies on the map and results in maximum bonuses for the player, referred to in the manual as the Panel Termination Bonus. WowÖ okay now that your brain is one explanation shy of a total meltdown I will take it a bit easy on you for the rest of the review.
Laharlís castle is the main hub for which everything in Disgaea DS is done. Here you can heal your party, buy new items, access the Item World and take part in the Dark Assembly. The Dark Assembly which was absent from the latest title on the PS3, is where things are decided to either aid or hinder Laharlís party. Things such as better items in the shops to less powerful enemies are but a few topics that are debated and voted upon. The Dark Assembly is basically the equivalent of our court system only comprised of demons. All the senators can usually be bribed but it doesnít always help. After their verdict you can either accept their decision or defeat those that oppose you and pound them into submission.
While Disgaea DS is a huge undertaking and will give players countless hours of gameplay, one thing sets this title and series apart from its competitorsÖ a sense of humor. There is a lot of quirky storytelling involved with this title, including a love interest of the weirdest kind. A large part of the reason I like this title is because of the story and NIS does an amazing job.
Graphically, Disgaea is pretty decent, especially for a port from the PS2. The details of the environments are pretty good and I can easily tell what everything is supposed to be. Disgaea DS also features a lot of hand drawn imagery such as the static cutscenes all of which are extremely impressive. I was rather disappointed in the sheer lack of usage of the top screen from something other than battle maps or a boring background with the word Disgaea embossed on it. The character sprites have lost a bit of detail (thanks to a friendís copy of the original version) but all in all the graphics get the job done so I canít complain too much.
Disgaea features the same style of zany music (sans the annoying singing) that can be found in the Disgaea series. The voice acting is pretty cool; however there is no option to play this title with a Japanese voice track like the other titles. With the limited constraints of the DS cartridges it is an understandable sacrifice. The sound effects are also pretty good and I still canít get enough of the Prinnies.
Value wise, Disgaea DS soars with flying colors. There is so much available to do in this title that it is truly mind blowing. Disgaea DS features the same 9,999 level cap that that the other titles offer, so get ready to reach god status. There are even multiple endings to be had but good luck finding them all.
Disgaea DS also features a Wireless Multi-Card Mode where two players can battle it out to see who the better demon is. There is also an option to buy and sell items via the wireless session. A player must pay with their own HL but the seller will not receive the HL as payment, which is sort of a bummer, but this is the DS we are talking about.
All in all I found Disgaea DS to be simply amazing. This being my second experience with the series had made me wonder why I have not picked up the previous titles. There is so much that this $30 dollar title offers that you would be crazy not to pick up this game at the earliest opportunity. I highly recommend this title to any fan of the series or for anyone looking for a long and challenging experience.