Disgaea 1 Complete
Developed By: NIS America
Published By: NIS America
Category: Role-Playing, Strategy
Release Date: 10.9.18
The Switch quickly became the go-to place for ports upon its release, but that’s understandable what with it being the newest major console to hit the market. NIS America is taking it a little far, going all the way back to the first game in the Disgaea series from the PS2. Luckily, it’s a near-total remaster with slick new graphics and remastered audio. Disgaea 1 Complete for the Nintendo Switch keeps everything you loved about the original and puts a shiny new coat of paint on top. If you never played it for the PS2, that doesn’t matter; it’s still a rock-solid strategy JRPG with countless hours of replayability.
Hour (and Hours and Hours) Of Darkness
King Krichevskoy, lord of the Netherworld, has died. Two years ago. But it’s news to his son, Laharl, who has just woken up from a two-year nap. In the interim, Krichevskoy’s vassals have abandoned his castle and begun to lay their own claim to the throne. In their defense, Laharl had slept so long that most people kind of forgot he existed. Awake and refreshed, Laharl must overcome the “loyalty” of his vassal Etna and polite angelic assassination attempts to lay claim to the throne that is rightfully his.
The writing and characters in this game are as sharp and lively as I remember them being the first time around. From Laharl’s blunt obliviousness to Etna’s plotting and scheming and even to Flonne’s airy, chipper demeanor in the face of unrelenting horror, the jokes still land and the interplay between the characters is natural and nasty and incredible as it needs to be. Etna’s episode previews after every chapter ends are as hilarious as I remember and the game is worth playing just to watch them. While the game can get really grindy at times, taking a break from the grind to enjoy the next chapter in the story will always rekindle your interest in the game.
Strategy… of Darkness
The battle system is pretty similar to any grid-based strategy JRPGs you may have played before. You have your army, the enemy has theirs, and you maneuver around the battleground on your respective turns. Characters can attack or use special abilities unlocked throughout the game via advancing levels or new equipment. You can also have your human characters pick up and throw your allies around the map, which comes in handy for crossing gaps or just closing in on an enemy quicker. You can even pick up enemies and chuck them at each other to cause damage, but be careful with this; sometimes they just merge and become even more powerful. It’s a neat mechanic, but I never found myself using it much. Finally, allied units standing next to an attacking unit have a chance to activate a team attack, increasing the attack chain and adding more points to the bonus gauge (more on that in a minute).
Geo Panels… of Darkness!
One of the more unique aspects of combat are colored tiles called Geo Panels. On many levels, certain tiles will glow a different color than their surroundings. These colors confer different bonuses or penalties to whomever stands on them. On these levels, there will be items called Geo Cubes scattered around the level. The Geo Cubes are where the Geo Panels draw their power from, so destroying them will cause the panels to lose their abilities. Additionally, some Geo Cubes have the ability to change the color of Geo Panels on the map when they are destroyed. If you have a red cube on a green panel, and it has the change ability, then when you destroy the cube all the green panels on the map turn red. Any unit standing on a panel when it changes color is damaged. Any cubes destroyed by this process that have the morph ability will also activate, causing a cascade of color changes and building the combo gauge. You can pick up and throw Geo Cubes like you can any unit, as well. Figuring out these Geo Puzzles, as they’re called, can be a great way to defeat a mob of tough enemies without actually having to fight them. It can also suck when all the tiles do is buff out your enemies and screw you over, and the cubes are all on the other side of the map.
Finally, after all the enemies on the map are cleared, the battle ends. During the battle, every action you take adds points to the bonus gauge. The bonus level for each stage goes from 0 to 9. Attacking and defeating enemies adds points, and team attacks add more than solo attacks. But by far the best way to build the bonus gauge is by using Geo Puzzles. When the battle is over, you receive a number of prizes based on the level of the bonus gauge. The higher you build the level, the better the prizes you get. You can get some very powerful weapons pretty early on this way, but it’s not required.
Battle Preparation… of Darkness!
Between battles, you return to Laharl’s castle. You can do all the usual JRPG stuff like buy items, weapons, and armor for your characters. You also don’t heal after battles, so you have to go to the medic and buy healing (nothing’s free in Hell, man). The good news is the game tracks your healing stats, and you unlock prizes for using the healing facilities at different intervals. Free stuff is always cool, right? There is a music gallery to buy the music you’ve encountered and play it, as well as an encyclopedia person who tracks the items and monsters you’ve encountered, and various NPCs who offer commentary on Laharl’s adventures. There are also two pretty useful features that deserve their own subheading.
Dark Assembly… of Darkness?
The Dark Assembly is a pretty neat mechanic by which Laharl petitions a council of demons to ask for various rewards. Defeating enemies causes a character to gain mana, which can be spent in the Assembly menu for various rewards. Characters can use mana to create new units, and you don’t need permission from the council for this. You can also challenge to raise your demon rank, and when you do that the character making the challenge engages in a solo battle to win a new rank. Raising your rank opens new petitions to bring to the council’s attention, including expanding a store’s inventory or raising money.
Addressing the council itself is an interesting affair. A number of senators show up, and highlighting them will show where they stand on your proposition. You can bribe them with items in your inventory to change their minds, or at least their attitude towards you, and this opinion carries over into future sessions. When you’ve bribed everyone sufficiently, you can call for a vote. If the measure passes, you get the benefits you were hoping for. If it doesn’t, you get nothing… in fact you get less than nothing, as you lose the mana it cost to bring up the vote and all the items you may have used as bribes. So make sure you’re going to win before calling a vote. But, hey… that’s just politics, right?
Item World… of Dark? Ness!
Every item in Disgaea contains its own world, complete with monsters. From Laharl’s castle, you can enter the world of your items and make them stronger. For every stage you clear in an item’s world, that item gains a level, making it stronger. But be careful; you can only exit an item world every ten levels. If you get wiped out in the item world, it’s game over, and any experience, money, item levels, and items you may have found in the item world are gone. There is an item you can get later in the game that allows you to exit an item world early, but they’re not exactly common in the early going so you’re going to want to be careful with it early on. Bring lots of healing items.
HD Graphics… of Dark – Well, Actually, They’re Quite Bright
Almost everything about Disgaea 1 Complete’s graphics has been remastered in glorious, sharp HD. Character models are slick and sharply animated, and even the lowliest of mob enemies has loads of personality. Backgrounds are a little less sharp, but they still look light years ahead of where the original game was. The only hint of the game’s PS2 era comes in Etna’s episode previews, which still use screens from the PS2 version of the game. I thought it was a nice touch to keep that in there somewhere, and the fact that they’re used in Etna’s crazy alternate interpretations of reality is really fitting.
The music is alternately frantic, poppy, or intense as the situation calls for. The tracks are smooth and always fit the scene, even if there isn’t one that truly sticks out in my head as a memorable song. The story cutscenes are fully voice-acted as well, using a (what I assume is) remastered voice track from the original game. My PS2 isn’t readily available for me to check, but it sounds right. The voices, like the game, as are fun as I remember and, well… dang I just love this game from beginning to end.
Playability… of DARKNESSSSSSSSSSSSS
Disgaea 1 Complete doesn’t add any touch or motion controls, so you can play it docked or undocked as you prefer. Personally, I preferred playing it docked to further relive the experience of playing it on my PS2. I found myself playing it undocked the most, though, since it’s just so convenient to pick up and play at a moment’s notice. I guess what I’m saying, in too many words, is that you should just play this game. Play it!
TL;DR: Excellent remaster of an excellent game makes for another excellent game. Weird.