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Disgaea DS Package Art
GENRE
Strategy-RPG
DEVELOPER
Nippon Ichi
PUBLISHER
Atlus
LOCAL WIRELESS
MULTI-PLAY
Yes
Wi-Fi/GLOBAL ONLINE
MULTI-PLAY
No
MICROPHONE
No
BUY NOW AT

Disgaea DS

Nintendo loyalists have been missing out on a real treat these last five years because that is how long the PlayStation line has been hoarding a little gem known as Disgaea. While Disgaea never received the attention of bigger name strategy RPGs like Final Fantasy Tactics, it developed a strong cult following that warranted two sequels and a PSP port of the original. Looking to ensnare more gamers with their addictive product, Nippon Ichi has finally brought this super-hardcore game to the Nintendo DS.

If you are already a member of the Disgaea cult, this review will come as no surprise to you -– the Playstation 2 original was brilliant, the PSP remake was brilliant, and Disgaea DS is just as brilliant. For those of you who have yet to be initiated, please allow us to explain how your life is about to be consumed.

visuals

On the PS2 and the PSP, Disgaea really did not look that stellar; the environments were done with very simple 3D renderings, the characters where all sprites, and the cutscenes were nothing more than text and frequently repeated character images over a static background. However, on the DS, Disgaea looks par for the course. Granted, the sprite and texture quality during gameplay has been noticeably reduced, but the battle animations and cutscenes look perfectly at home on the less powerful handheld. Compared to most other DS RPGs, Disgaea DS utilizes nice-looking sprites, beautifully hand-drawn artwork, and serviceable 3D landscapes. There are better looking DS games, but none in the genre.

audio

The biggest loss in the transition from the PS2 and PSP disc formats to the DS's game card is the cutting out of much of the stellar voice acting. However, those new to the game will not notice this loss and, if anything, will be impressed by the quantity and calibur of the voice over work. Thankfully, too, the amazing music has not been touched. Players will receive the aural pleasure of a large, quirky, and thoroughly brilliant soundtrack throughout their epic quest.

gameplay

Oh Disgaea... where do we begin? First of all, Disgaea DS is a turn-based, strategy RPG like Fire Emblem or Shining Force, except for the fact that it multiplies the depth several dozen times and drops the serious drama in favor of an absolutely absurd story. The basic gameplay mechanics will be instantly familiar to fans of the genre but every aspect is taken to some ridiculous extreme.

Most RPGs set their level cap at 99 or 100; the maximum level in Disgaea DS is 9999. When it comes to stats, most RPGs keep them within the hundreds or thousands; Disgaea DS, as far as I know, has no limit and people have actually gotten their attack into the tens of millions. As for damage, well, I remember when Final Fantasy VIII broke the 9999 barrier; Disgaea laughs at such miniscule numbers and its players have achieved damage counts well into the billions. The secret to this insanity are the seemingly endless number of modifiers that make up Disgaea’s equally endless depth.

Aside from the usual factors that contribute to your stats (level, equipment, spells, etc.), there are a number of other mechanisms for the player to take advantage of. First up are the Geo Panels, colored tiles on the maps that do everything from multiply the stats of the person standing on them to randomly warping them to another part of the level. Next is the Item World, a series of levels that exist within every level of the game; as you dive deeper and deeper into an item, you can drastically increase its stat bonuses and release other perks, like experience bonuses. Finally, there is the option to reincarnate a character once they reach a certain a point. This option starts a character back at level one while granting stat bonuses based on how powerful they were beforehand.

In keeping with the ridiculous gameplay mechanics, the story offers more than its fair share of absurdities. You play as Laharl, the prince of the Netherworld, who wakes up after a two year nap to the news that his father, the Overlord, is dead and that a variety of lesser demons are now fighting for the throne. Determined to prove himself the worthy heir, Laharl sets off to defeat those that dare challenge his claim with the help of his vassal Etna, who may or may not be trying to kill him, and a squad of Prinnies, peg-legged, knife wielding, penguins who explode when thrown and constantly say “dood”. Things quickly become complicated by Flonne, a ditzy, love obsessed Angel Trainee who is sent by her boss to assassinate the already dead Overlord but is quickly distracted with a personal mission to prove that demons like Laharl can learn to love. The plot keeps going as more, possibly crazier characters are introduced and a number of twists take thing in entirely different directions. That said, a few touching moments have also been included for the more emotional gamers.

At this point you might be put off by the extreme insanity and complexity of the game, and this is understandable, but Disgaea DS is not quite as ominous as we are probably making it sound. Because Disgaea’s mechanics actually play out like most other games in the genre, a basic understanding of the battle system, some grinding, and keeping your equipment up-to-date will be enough to pull you through. The more complicated features come into play should you decide to take on the numerous extra bosses who demand dozens of hours of powering up your equipment and characters. These bosses, unlockable characters, secret endings, a "new game plus" mode, and the hilarious Prinny Commentary are you’re your rewards for beating the main story and they demand at least a second play-through. If you are completionist, however, you should expect to pour hundreds of hours into this game.

After all of this glowing praise, we feel compelled to mention one negative. While one might think the DS’s touch screen would work great with Disgaea, the execution is actually lacking; most of the icons are too small and the whole process is altogether too clunky to best the face buttons.

multiplayer

Disgaea DS’s only multiplayer offering is a local battle mode that allows you to pit your party against a friend’s. These battles could prove fun for people obsessed with creating a super powerful group of fighters, but most players probably won’t even bother.

overall

Tragically, we can’t fully summarize the Disgaea experience, as there are so many mechanics and nuances involved that including any more of them would turn this review into a jumbled, incoherent mess of esoteric phrases that only veterans of the series would be able to decipher. If anything, this proves that Disgaea’s greatest strength is also its greatest weakness; it is a love letter to the strategy-RPG gamer. Gamers without a passion for Disgaea’s hardcore mechanics might be able to enjoy the story and characters of the core game, but they will have to devote a great deal of time outside their comfort zone to squeeze every ounce of brilliance out of the game card.

Regardless of Disgaea DS’s unbridled insanity, Nippon Ichi deserves a lot of credit for squeezing such a sizeable game into such a small package. The loss of much of the voice work is tragic, but the addition of the Prinny Commentary and extra characters is an adequate exchange. Considering the sheer size of Disgaea DS, it is possibly the best value on the DS for hardcore RPG junkies and, for those with greater sanity, is at least worth checking out for the hilarious characters and story.

final score 9.3/10





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Staff Avatar Andy Hoover
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"There's SAND on my boots!"


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