Thursday 4 October 2018

Disgaea 1 Complete Review (Nintendo Switch)

It’s been a long time since the first Disgaea game graced European shores and turned a large number of the population into obsessive number crunchers with an eye for multi-coloured squares. Since Hour of Darkness we’ve had five more entries into the mains series and countless spinoffs on the handheld platforms. Now, the original Demons are back in ‘complete form’ and ready to remind us just how difficult the original was.

Disgaea complete essentially adds in all the content from the various versions of the games. So you get ‘Etna Mode’ (an alternate version of the game where Etna accidentally kills Laharl whilst trying to wake him up) and a few additional battles (We couldn’t quite work out if the DS content was in there though). It also looks very crisp and lovely in its new HD guise. It is a bit of a shame that the direct sequel D2: A brighter darkness was not included though.

Story mode is really only a small portion of the game and follows Laharl who awakens to find his father has died and his kingdom has been taken over. What follows is the demon lords quest to reclaim his crown. The bulk of the game though is found in the Item World (A dungeon world within items), with its randomly generated levels and the addiction of the seemingly never ending levelling process – you can level up anything, if it is counted as an item in the game, no matter how obscure or weak it starts off, you can level it up so that it becomes fantastically powerful and capable of trouncing all those who stand in its way. You will visit here often as even a few levels in you find characters woefully understrength.

The game does involve grinding but it really depends on how you play – if you are strategic about it then it won’t involve too to clear the main story. After that, it really is a mad loop of levelling up, gaining new skills and transmigrating characters – this is essentially a reincarnation process where they start at level 1 again but have better stats and keep some of their skills from their previous incarnations. 

Each stage allows you to deploy 10 units to conquer and berate the enemy with, the best tactic as always is to start throwing your units around the map (as well as monsters into one another – they level up as you throw them and the experience multiplies exponentially. This is also useful when attempting to persuade senators in the Dark Assembly… simply throw them into one senator whilst making sure they still agree with you). This can be awkward to line up correctly sometimes but when it pays off it really is a great feeling.

Mana is gained each time you slay an enemy on the battlefield, this can then be used to create even more powerful characters and to petition senators within the Dark Assembly to do things such as approving new classes, levelling up enemies along with the weapons and armour available to buy in the shops, extortion is even possible – although you’ll have to be quite strong in order to be able to pass that through as a law!

Along with the Lifting and throwing mechanic, combos and apprentices are the Geo Symbols.  Many of the levels have coloured squares adorning the floor. These relate to coloured triangles set somewhere around the level, each of which gives a different effect to the square. These can range from giving extra experience points to causing physical damage or even making you (or the enemy), invincible. Not good for anyone with colour blindness but it means you have to be careful what you are doing and plan ahead. The symbols sometimes move around as well which adds even more to deal with.

Destroying the geo symbols can set off a chain reaction that destroys all the squares and damages anything standing on them. If in the process, you destroy another symbol then you can get a domino effect which zooms around every colour square and ends in a huge explosion of colour. This results in a massive bonus to your end of level score (Another system in play), and can give you extra treasure.

Overall, the first Disgaea game still has a lot to offer. The sequels have added more systems to add to the complexity but the characters and story are at their finest here. It serves as a great entry for newcomers as there are less mechanics to worry about while experienced players may well have forgotten how challenging it is and want to dive back in to prove themselves. The fact you now have it on the go rally helps as well. While it’s true more could have been done here (maybe add the option to remix systems from newer titles, add the sequel D2 or other Disgaea games, smooth out the difficulty curve etc.), you are getting a serious amount of content for your money with a shiny new look and we can’t really criticise that.

Overall 8/10