Disgaea: Hour of Darkness - Reader Retroview  

Repetitive Yet Enjoyable
by Derek 'Roku' Cavin

30-100 Hours


Rating definitions 

   As an interesting twist, rather than playing as humans or angels and battling demons, the player takes the role of Laharl, the prince of the Netherworld and "master" of the demons in Disgaea: Hour of Darkness. The game features a lot of comedy and randomness for a tactical RPG, but it is all done very well. Multiple endings await players depending on how good or evil they wish to be.

   Disgaea's battle system has a lot of potential, but rarely lives up to being as good as it should be due to a severe lack of balance. Aside from the first few chapters, it is rare for everyone on the battlefield to be anywhere near perfectly matched and generally the strong simply destroy the weak without need for any tactics whatsoever. Optional levels are even worse as it is possible to reach level 9999 and rare to find enemies that aren't too low or too high other than within the item world. That aside, when battles are actually balanced, they are usually quite good despite poor AI. Each humanoid can gain skill with weapons, abilities, and magic while each monster can only gain skill with abilities and magic. An unbroken series of these attacks on an enemy will create a combo resulting in more power and weakened enemy defenses and make it possible to destroy even the strongest of enemies quickly. Normal attacks can be linked as well when surrounded by allies for a supported attack. Most lesser abilities and physical attacks quickly lose their usefulness as even a skill that costs 1000 can be used without fear of running out when the character has several million to spare. Some levels even have special panels that cause interesting effects such as invincibility. Sometimes these panels can be destroyed to inflict severe damage on the enemy and gain bonuses, especially in the item world. Though there is little strategy involved in most battles, it is still a fun system.

That's a lot of damage That's a lot of damage

   Though it is possible to petition the senate to increase difficulty, Disgaea is still an easy game overall. Increasing enemy difficulty is a slow process and generally only results in the player gaining more exp and money despite a very mild difficulty increase. The AI is poor and despite this often being made up for by special enemy boosting panel and other traps, it really shows. Few tactics are required to win most battles and the game is very easily won. For those that become overpowered, it is possible to be nearly one hundred times the level of the final boss. There are some powerful optional enemies, but a few 10-hit chains will generally destroy them quickly.

   While the interface is good for the most part, some parts take a while to get used to. Using execute and end turn repeatedly is a real pain, especially at first. It isn't too bad, though it does get in the way sometimes. The localization, however, is very good. Not only are there few noticeable errors, the spoken dialog itself has been translated into English. The original Japanese track has been saved as a bonus for those who enjoy listening to the original acting, though in-battle voices remain in English and don't fit well.

   Disgaea features a number of original ideas such as the item world and panel destruction bonuses. Even the story itself has an interesting and unique twist on it. It also features one of the largest class selections of any game allowing over 100 choices. While a number of these classes are essentially the same, there are some interesting ones such as the scout. The senate system is very interesting as well since the Netherworld is, well, not exactly the most moral of places. Though most of the basic gameplay concepts are borrowed, it is very original overall.

Plenty of randomness and comedy Plenty of randomness and comedy

   Disgaea's story is less than stellar, but still retains a lot of heart and a good deal of comedy. Several parts of the game don't seem to fit together exactly, especially the entire first and second halves. To add to this, there are a few chapters, such as a chapter devoted to killing zombies, that seem to be randomly thrown in for the sake of adding more battles. Despite some discontinuity, the story is lighthearted an fairly enjoyable making it quite good, all things considered.

   All of the standard story missions can be completed easily within thirty hours. It's only a matter of completing each chapter and moving on to the next one. Players who want something a little more can build their characters to level 9999, transmigrate often, build their legendary equipment to extremes, gather lesser demons from the item world to boost the stats of equipment, or challenge the many optional quests and gather hidden characters. These extra events can make the game take up to a hundred hours if not more.

   Disgaea features a large amount of good, though often repetitive, music. Each ending track, however, is given a surprising amount of effort despite the large number of them. They all vary greatly and are well done. The sounds is excellent thanks to voice acting in both English and Japanese. Some of the battle cries get old quickly, but they're good for the most part. The other sound effects get repetitive quickly too, but they don't cause any significant problems either.

   While Disgaea doesn't have the greatest visuals, it does a good job for the classic feel it seems to be trying to convey. There are a number of large and detailed character portraits at every turn and there are dozens of detailed attacks. Backgrounds look very good and convey their often gloomy atmospheres well. Overall, visuals are slightly above average.

   Disgaea features an excellent twist on an old story and adds a good deal of comedy to keep things entertaining. It's the perfect game for people that like to build their characters endlessly as it can take a very long time to create the perfect fully-leveled army. It even contains one of the few random dungeons that actually works: the item world. Though the visuals and sound aren't that great, they don't detract from the game in the least. It does have it's flaws, but I recommend this one to those that enjoy endless stat-building and tactical RPGs.

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