In 2003, the Playstation 2 was the first platform to spawn the series of Disgaea games. With the release of Disgaea: Hour of Darkness, its eventual popularity and cult following was to produce a string of sequels and spin-offs that still continues to this day. Now, to celebrate the fifteenth anniversary since it was first released, a new updated and definitive version of the Playstation classic is being released to captivate a whole new generation of players, as well provide a form of nostalgia for seasoned vets. Entitled Disgaea 1 Complete, this enhanced edition for the Nintendo Switch, now boasts upgraded HD visuals to bring it crashing into the twenty-first century, as well as the bonus story, Etna Mode, from the Afternoon of Darkness, bringing with it a host of extra characters who weren’t available upon the original’s release.
Developed by Nippon Ichi Software and published through NIS America, this role-playing, strategy game still retains the zany humour and crazy calamities that the series is renowned for; as well as a healthy sprinkling of Prinnys and Doods. The story revolves around anti-hero, Laharl, a demon who is the crowned prince of the netherworld. After awakening from a two-year slumber, he learns of the death of his father, King Krichevoskoy. With no overlord to oversee the realms of the underworld, Laharl sets forth to venture from his castle’d confines in order to take control, by force, of the netherworld for himself. With his entrusted, yet untrustworthy, vassel, Etna, in tow, he battles the demons, vampires, robots and even, death himself in order to gain control of the other-worldly kingdom.
However, to add further cause to the problems he is creating, a series of incriminating photographs begin to surface, leading to a plot of blackmail, as well as hunters from the over-world pursuing him to put an end to his plans due to their intelligence that points to Laharl wanting to invade the realms of the living. If there’s one thing that Disgaea does, it’s to never, ever take itself too seriously. Its plots, themes and story are seriously mad-cap, in the traditional Japanese sense, which produces an insight to character associations that is truly hilarious in its execution. Although structured through a series of chapters, the amount of freedom you can afford yourself is simply staggering. Story progression is presented through a series of narrated stills and a combination of various battles. However, between stages, you are free to replay battles, partake in combat-styled activities, perform sub-quests and level up your characters and items however way you see fit.
It creates a level of upgrading that is borderline obsessive. Put your time and effort into the game and character experience levels can surpass the hundreds, even reaching the lofty heights of thousands; heck, even the hundreds of thousands. As well as character progression, individual items can also be upgraded within the Item World, a series of randomly-generated levels that contains a series of increasingly difficult battles to work through. With so much scope with how you play, there is easily in excess of a hundred hours worth of play time on offer here. However, the heart of the game lies mainly in the progression of character developments. Although you can build a party through other characters joining your cause, you can also create your own in-game personas from fighters, mages, clerics, ninjas, scouts, knights, archers and many, many more. Again, the level of scope here is astounding. As well as this, you can also migrate existing characters, morphing them into more, powerful versions of themselves that boast extra abilities.
Through the netherworld’s dark assembly, character selection and attributes are voted on by a dark senate; all of whom can be petitioned, bribed or battled to increase your chances of accruing such a character. However, don’t expect them to be a push-over; something that follows a central theme throughout the whole of the game. Although the first few battles you’ll encounter start off easily enough, offering you a tutorial-style of play, later bouts present a much more challenging stance and in order to get the most out of your party, each of the characters need to interact with each other through the use of combat combos and constant partnering in throwing characters to certain areas on the battlefield. Not only does this help to grow relationships, but it is also a useful tool for upgrading weaker characters quickly, as although they might not cause any substantial damage, or even attack, being a part of a combination attack still awards them experience points. The environments too, can play a part in turning the tides of battle, with specific objects offering buffs or penalties when a character lands upon them.
Combat is strictly a turn-based affair, which take place on an isometric landscape that is composed of a grid. In terms of mechanics, there is nothing particularly new here, but then again, this is a remaster of a fifteen year old game. However, the series’ success was mainly down to the mad-cap humour, as well as its mechanics of levelling up and battlefield abilities. You have the usual generic attack, magical power or healing property, but Disgaea encourages co-operative combination moves to provide a series of breath-taking moves that can deal insurmountable totals of damage modifiers. It creates a deep level of strategy and tactical planning; especially with the gruelling difficulty of some of the combat bouts you can come across. It’s especially unforgiving in this respect, as lose a fight and it’s game over for you dood.
The presentation of the game is absolutely top-notch, yet is also one that doesn’t quite match up to the grade A titles of premium titles; but then, it doesn’t need to, as the charm of this game lies in its deep, deep depth and charming playability. The HD re-paint to the graphics look deliciously sweet, with a smoothness of movement that is a joy to control. However, at times, it can almost feel a bit too smooth, with the speed of character movements and gliding mechanics forcing you over-shoot locations or characters, although its nothing game-breaking. The audio quality and presentation is also well-implemented, with Japanese or English voice-overs, as well as subtitles in a variety of other languages. The musical score is easy enough to listen to and enjoy and the interpreted narrative can be hilariously funny,even if it’s not intentional at times.
The one thing that makes Disgaea really stand out though, is it’s uniqueness. Despite containing a number of elements that have been done before, it’s the sheer scope in which it does everything that truly astounds, as well as its crazy humour and high levels of gameplay. It can be quite a niche game though and may be a title that doesn’t appeal to everyone, but it’s also a game that has attracted a cult following and for that alone, will be a game that shall be hugely popular to large segments of the gaming population. If you’ve never experienced a Disgaea title before, then this complete edition of the very first title is an ideal starter, but at the same time, it’s also a title that will keep seasoned vets satisfyingly amused with the familiarity of its mad-cap world.
Overall, Disgaea 1 Complete provides a nice throw-back to the game that started it all; yet is one that has been overhauled with a presentation to bring it into a world of modernity. Despite its age, it hasn’t lost any of its charm or playability. In fact, its high production values, depth of gameplay and hours of entertainment can still surpass many of today’s games. At the end of the day, this game can only be best described as, well, Disgaea really. That’s the charm of the series, there simply isn’t anything else out there like it, at least in terms of the world in which it has built for itself and it’s the reason why it has developed such a cult status within the halls of video gaming fame.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.