Nippon Ichi Software's debut entry in their niche yet accessible SRPG series is now available in a swanky new edition. However, are the hell chronicles worth reliving? Gather a gang of misfits and let's find out, dood!
I remember picking up a copy of Disgaea: Hour of Darkness for PlayStation 2 back in the day. Not knowing what to expect, I was delighted upon playing it to see the fantastic antihero sense of humour, open-ended party customization, and simple yet satisfying turn-based battles. Thankfully, all of that is back and more in Disgaea 1 Complete. It's been 15 years but the easy to learn SRPG gameplay holds up beautifully. Aside from the basics that you'd expect from the genre, there are a few complexities such as Geo Symbols that add effects to certain coloured squares and the ability to lift and throw allies and foes. One of the best aspects of Disgaea is the fact that you can fully create and customize your party. You're granted a ton of freedom to create, equip, level up, and reincarnate characters. As a result, using your party to decimate enemy forces is super-satisfying because you made them yourself.
Disgaea 1 Complete may feature the same silly humour but its graphics have improved a lot. The most noticeable enhancement is that it's now in widescreen whereas the original was full screen. Also, the character sprites have been recreated to be much more detailed and vibrant so they pop off the battle maps more than ever. I'm not 100% sure if the audio was redone but it sounds fantastic. The whimsical orchestral score offers a layer of fun to the battles while the effects are very gratifying and the voice cast fleshes out the cast of characters beautifully. I must admit, I wasn't expecting a remake of a 15 year old classic to look and sound this good.
As with the original Disgaea: Hour of Darkness, Disgaea 1 Complete includes an incredible amount of content. The main story will likely take about 50 hours to complete and after you're done with that, you can spend well over 100 hours beating all of the post-game content. Heck, many players have played for hundreds of hours and still haven't experienced everything that Disgaea 1 has to offer. This remake also includes Etna Mode which was originally featured in the PSP remake Afternoon of Darkness. In this mode, you play as the quirky Etna to work your way through 4 episodes that compose a unique side-story to Laharl's campaign. So, if the main campaign isn't enough for you (which would be ridiculous) then Etna Mode will add even more replay value to the overall experience. Oh, and I didn't even mention the Item World where you can upgrade items by fighting battles within them. Wait, what?
Although I absolutely love Disgaea 1 Complete, it does have a few downsides. For starters, the gameplay is pretty simple and after playing for dozens of hours, I started to feel like it could have used more complexities and mechanics. It's still enjoyable but it just ends up being a little hollow after playing for long enough. On a similar note, a ton of grinding is frequently required in order to progress. This is true when it comes to both difficulty spikes and after creating new characters seeing as you have to level them up. Finally, I found the camera to be problematic for various reasons. For example, you can't tilt it up and down so some squares can be difficult to distinguish. Also, enemies can easily hide behind corners and you may not even realise that they're there thus resulting in a surprise attack.
If you're an existing fan or want to get into the series then Disgaea 1 Complete is a must-buy remake. Its gameplay, humour, and vast amount of content hold up impressively well 15 years after its debut and it looks better than ever, too.
- + Incredible turn-based strategy gameplay with rewarding party customization
- + Much-improved visuals and great audio
- + Contains hundreds of hours of content
- - Gameplay is fairly basic and could use additional complexities and mechanics
- - Too much grinding is required
- - Camera can be troublesome