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Disgaea 1 Complete Review for the Nintendo Switch

Isn’t it fascinating how life has a habit of coming full circle on certain things. For instance, take my humble beginnings as a journalist. The 5th game that I ever had the privilege to review was Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness. As fate would have it, this happens to be the sequel of the very first entry in this franchise. Yes, I know what you’re thinking, isn’t Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories the follow-up. Well, it is, but so is D2; welcome to the confusing Netherworld. Today, I have the opportunity to finish what I started 5 years ago with my review of Disgaea 1 Complete. So, grab on to your Prinnies and saddle up; we’re about to take an in-depth look at this classic, dood!

Disgaea made its debut on the Playstation 2 back in 2003 – fifteen years ago – and of course, this causes a few alarms to go off. Despite having upgraded visuals to match the recent releases in the franchise, it’s still largely the same. The question now is, is it worth double dipping if you’ve already had the chance to enjoy the original. Well, the answer is mixed; if you didn’t have a chance when it was initially available, then yes, this is the optimal experience. I find that Nintendo Switch and it’s portability perfectly compliments the strategy game-play. However, if you’ve already played Disgaea to death in 2003 and are indifferent when it comes to revisiting, maybe not. Like I mentioned, the improvements are minimal and mostly visual; none of the mechanics have seen updating. In fact, if you’ve enjoyed Disgaea 5 Complete, those changes you’ve come to love won’t be here.

Upon selecting “New Game”, you’ll transition to a beautifully drawn static image of the Netherworld. Here, the story unfolds and is narrated by an older-gentleman. It seems the ruler, King Krichevskey, has seen his life come to an abrupt end. With news of his death spreading, several demons have risen with ambitions of seizing their opportunity to become king. Days turn into weeks, weeks into months, and for two long years, an age of turbulence and anarchy rages on. We are then brought to an in-game sequence where we meet Etna. She is staring at a casket, surrounded by weaponry, flames, and bullet holes. For inside is the Prince Laharl, peacefully sleeping. Much to her tired attempts at a rude awakening, he does eventually wake up, but of his own volition. We then come to learn that the not-so-sweet Prince has been asleep for quite a while. In fact, when Etna tells him about his father having passed, he’s a bit surprised. Something seems amiss her, doesn’t it?

During my time with Disgaea 1 Complete, I can confidently say I had an enjoyable time. I did, however, find that it was very overwhelming. One of the things Disgaea is well-known for is the sheer number of activites that are available to you. Because of this, you can expect a barrage of tutorials pummeling you at the start. I’ll be honest, I had a very hard time retaining all of the information that was given. To its credit though, all the instructions are easily accessible for refreshers. What I especially appreciated is that I didn’t have to go through long lists; I always found that tedious. Instead, if you find that you’re confused about something, like say customization. Simply speak to the NPC that allows you access to the option and all the appropriate  information is easily accessible.

A mechanic that has become rather synonymous with Disgaea is the absolutely absurd damage you can do. Most JRPG’s will cap it off to a maximum of 9,999 but over here in the Netherworld, we break those rules. You’ll be able to inflict damage that is well into the 7 digits in no time. To accomplish this, Disgaea gives you plenty of tools. The first is what is called “The Item World”; every piece of weaponry, armor, or healing item has one. This is essentially an alternate universe that is separated into individual floors. Each one that you clear represents how many levels an item will gain. For example, say you’ve bought a sword that grants you +10 attack. You decide to go into it’s “Item World” and knock out a few floors. When you decide to come out, you’re greeted by the same sword, only it now grants +30. Keep in mind that after every 10 floors, you are given the option to escape back to the castle hub. If you’re feeling brave though, this special plain is endless, meaning that you could literally spend hours within.

I did, I don’t regret it.

One flaw that I quickly took notice to was that sometimes, I found information was vague and unclear at times. For instance, each one of your characters can raise in rank. By simply choosing “Promotion Test”, you undergo a solo battle to see if you receive an upgrade. Once you reach the 3rd, you’re able to transmigrate a character back to level 1. In doing this, your strength diminishes while still maintaining a better strength ratio then when you first began. An extra perk that you’ll receive is that with each level gained, you’ll see a much better improvement to stats. For example, say before any of this took place, your stats increased by an average of +1. Since having reverted back, your average might have increased to +3.  The explanation for this wasn’t very clear. The way I understood it was that, by reverting back, you become weaker. This means that you’ll have to have upgraded weapons to supplement the power loss. To me, this is forcing you to have to grind. Now, I personally don’t mind that, but only when it’s because I want to which is usually the case. However, being forced to almost creates a sense of tedium. Again, perhaps I’m misunderstanding but that fuels the fire that I found instructions vague at points.

Of course, if you’re old-fashioned, the traditional method of grinding is here and this is where the insanity begins. Make no mistake, Disgaea is built so that you have every tool you need to inflict damage that’ll go well into the millions. See, as you’re improving your weapon, you’re also gaining experience to organically get stronger. If that wasn’t enough, you can also unlock monsters here that you’re able to recruit into your team. You do this through the customization mechanic but I have to say, this was pretty disappointing in comparison to other titles. For example, I reviewed Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk shortly before this and in comparison, it’s a noticeable downgrade. I’d love to have seen some of those current mechanics implemented here. As for creating the allies themselves, you need a currency called Mana. You get this by battling enemies. Because if it’s nature, I found the “item World” was the ideal world for this. After having earned enough, you’re able to assign extra points to a character. It does give you some chance for experimentation but it just seems very mediocre when it’s older brothers have done better.

To be honest, the story of Disgaea isn’t going to win any awards for break-through story-telling. I do want to say though that what is here is excellently presented. The dialogue is silly but written with such love and I was compelled to continue. As a novelist, I feel that latching on to a readers curiosity is vital; it’s a strong trait. It drives us to wanting to see something through to the end. I also quite enjoyed the voice-acting of this title. I thought that it was nicely done but there were some awkward points, especially with females. See, at times, I felt their voice went very high-pitch and quite strenuous to the ears. Not only that, but the tone and delivery felt off at times to me. Again, having played recent releases from the same team has just amplified the shortcomings here. While not catastrophic, this further shows that Disgaea could have done with some tweaks. For those of you that don’t enjoy the dub and would rather Japanese, great news, it’s available!

I’d like to take a moment to showcase one example of the humour that you’ll find. Early on, you’ll meet a character that goes by the name of Vyers. He’s the Lord of his own castle and as such, he’s egotistical and a narcissist. When Laharl and Etna comes knocking, he deems the visitation a sign. To him, he sees it as the Prince thinking that he is a dangerous threat. That is, however, quickly shown not to be the case, much to his dismay. Laharl goes on to state that it was simply a convenience to go to his castle first, not because of urgency. To further prove that, Vyers receives a name change, one that pierces his pride. What is it? Well, his name is now Mid-Boss since their usually less of a problem comparably. Our dear Prince just doesn’t see it with Vyers; what a low blow.

In conclusion, there’re issues and Disgaea 1 Complete could have used some of the tweaks introduced to later entries. It is, however, packed to the brim with things to do and that’s one of the high points here. Seriously, I probably spent 3 hours between the main story because I just got enveloped in that the Item World. It is worth noting that prolonged sessions, I found, got a bit repetitive. Disgaea’s an addicting game but it’s one that should be played in moderation. I loved the attention to detail and how weapons had unique appearances. The writing also had insightful moments amidst it’s silliness. One quote that resonated with me due to personal issues was;

“Sadness is only possible because of love”.

A lot of love went into this game 15 years ago and while the port could have been better, it’s still a great time. I can’t, however, recommend Disgaea 1 Complete to those that have played it already. If you haven’t though, you should go buy it dood!

I, however, wouldn’t say that it’s worth the full price, only because it is still the game from 15 years ago. It is still worth having in your library though but I’d probably get it when it retails for $39.99US. With its lack of tweaks, I can’t say its worth full price.

RECOMMENDED DOOD!

Liked this review? Check out our review of Think of the Children or Shikhondo.
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Reviewed by Fernando Da Costa on the Nintendo Switch. Game provided by NIS America.