532nd played so far

Disgaea_Hour_of_Darkness

Genre: Role Playing/Strategy
Platform: Playstation 2
Year of Release: 2003
Developer: Nippon Ichi Software
Publisher: Atlus/Koei

I’m struggling to remember whether we’ve played a tactical RPG yet. I’ve played some before – Pokemon Conquest was an addiction in the house for a while – but aside from games in the region like Baldur’s Gate, the good list ones such as Fire Emblem or Final Fantasy Tactics haven’t come up yet.

Disagea: Hour of Darkness is the first of two games in the series that are on the list. It’s, as said, a tactical RPG involving demons, involving you taking back rulership of the (dark) world.

Our Thoughts

One of the downsides, for me, of tactical RPGs is that they miss out on some parts of the RPG experience that I tend to enjoy – the storylines and characters – and that individual character development can feel a bit limited. While characters gain levels, usually this just changes the numbers without adding much in the way of abilities or choices – equipment being most of that. Disgaea adds some more development, but it’s designed for breadth, with loads of characters, rather than getting deep into its development. Most story is in cutscenes outside the battles.

And those battles are pretty decent. I’ve not found a cap on how many people I can bring in yet, which means there’s some grinding potential for difficult battles (although that might change later), although it can feel like a bit of a slog for bigger battles. Sometimes the animations can really feel like they slow things down. On the other hand, there are plenty of options in the game, the friends attack system being implemented nicely in particular – if you attack with other characters next to them, they’ll join in the attack.

Land effects – or geo panels – pay a role as well, with removing them being a part of the reward system, but also helping or hindering you. By being on the right square, you can increase your attack power, get weaker or gain bonuses. Interacting with specific jewels on the battlefield changes or removes them, damaging everyone on the tiles, which can create some powerful chains, but also giving you the downside of losing that effect. It added an extra layer to the game, nicely improving the strategic background.

Although it takes time to begin unlocking, the options outside combat are interesting as well. As you go up in power, you can increase your ranks in the Dark Assembly, where you can hold votes to improve your shops, unlock maps and gain other aid. It’s an interesting mechanism that makes it feel like there are more politics at play, which ties into the plot. Even if it’s just a numbers game, it feels like you have to actually become a ruler.

Final Thoughts

I don’t think I invested quite enough time in this game to really come to grip with the mechanics – although that would take more time than I would have anyway. The game was already a lot of fun to play, even if the last level we played was quite frustrating. I’m keen on going back to experiment further.