Blood, Fantasy Violence, Mild Language, Suggestive Themes
Release Date: October 9th, 2018 (Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4)
Genre: Role-Playing, Adventure, Action
Publisher: NIS America
Developer: Nippon Ichi Software
Let’s face it: being a teenager is difficult. Now, imagine these hormone-driven trial-and-error youthful years spent with a father who rules a kingdom. Sounds painstakingly difficult, yes? Now, imagine that the kingdom that your father rules is the netherworld. Difficulty level: magnified 100%. To make matters worse, let’s add some interkingdom land-claim conflict. Such is the setting for young Laharl, the main character of Disgaea 1 Complete. Laharl awakes after several years of slumber by Etna, a servant to his father, the demon king Krichevskoy. Upon waking, Laharl is informed that his father has died and the kingdom has descended into utter chaos as demons fight for a chance at the throne. With the help of Etna, Laharl must set off to bring order and claim his rightful place as king of the netherworld. With such a compelling opening, does this remake of the highly acclaimed Disgaea: Hour of Darkness do the original justice?
As a JRPG, the game focuses on various forms of strategy as you start out with five playable characters: Laharl, Etna, and three minions. This is a turn-based game where all characters are able to move a certain amount of spaces and perform one action per turn during each level. One aspect of the levels that I absolutely love is the enemy enhancers. Enemy enhancers are pyramids that take up one space, but give various advantages to enemies on a matching color tile. When destroyed, they cause damage to enemies on their respective matching tiles. In short, these enhancers play as a double-edged sword: they will either help kill you, or help you kill. Additionally, your humanoid characters are able to pick up and throw not only your other party members, but your enemies as well. This is a great tool to gain some extra distance or clear the enemy if you find yourself overwhelmed.
Another bit of interesting and useful strategy is the fact that the three starter minions can also be sacrificial. When thrown at an enemy, they explode, causing AOE (area of effect) damage. Beyond those minions, more characters can be added to strengthen your team. You can add various members and build a team to fit different play styles, with each type of character having its own styles of attack and special abilities. This leaves plenty of room for creativity: some may build an Offensive team strategy to end levels quickly; some may be loaded with clerics for the intent of keeping Laharl healed at all times. The player must then decide if adding as many teammates as possible is worth it due to every new addition means more time spent grinding away to keep the party balanced. Each character can be leveled up all the way to level 999. As character levels increase new special abilities may become unlocked, which are also leveled to increase its power.
Levelling up is not limited to just personal character abilities. All items in this game, such as weapons, armor, and healing items may be levelled up as well throughout the Item World. The Item World allows you to go into an item and invest in a series of randomized levels in order to increase the item level. The difficulty of the Item World is based on the item’s level- stronger weapons means harder levels with more difficult enemies. One major difference between Item World and Main Story levels is that the Item World does not require you to defeat all enemies in order to move on. Instead, you can rush through to get to the square that advances you to the next section. In my opinion, this is the best way to grind, since you level up characters while also leveling up items in tandem. This, however, does not mean that you are stuck with the same weapons throughout the game.
Though this setting is the kingdom of the netherworld, that does not mean that there is no order. Indeed, there is some parallel democracy afoot, which makes for some added elements of gameplay. For example, in order for the merchant to carry better weapons and armor, you must first get the senate to vote on it. The senate of Dark Assembly is needed to raise ranks and unlock certain maps amongst other goodies. You may be able to get them to simply vote yes, but they are able to be swayed via bribery. However, this does not mean that you can just dump all of your unwanted items at their feet. Each monster and demon has their own preferences that they enforce.If you come to a failed vote, then prepare for a fight- you’ll be up against all opposing senators with the aid of any that voted in favor of your proposed bill. (I personally found it beneficial to bribe some of the higher-level senators to take on the rest).
Disgaea 1 Complete is a prime example of how remakes should be done. The game takes the formerly rough visuals and makes them crisp and clean while also adding in the brand-new Etna mode to deliver additional story content to an already dense storyline. While said story may be littered with standard tropes and is relatively simple (and somewhat predictable), it still manages to keep beats fresh and intriguing. This Nintendo Switch port has excellent graphics in both handheld as well as docked mode, with the graphical style of the game having a very “anime feel.” This quality transcends the visuals into the game’s humor, as well. Disgaea 1 Complete is excellent for people who like to play for hours at a time while also being a perfect game for those who may only be able to play in shorter sessions, say 15 to 20 minutes at a time. All in all, Disgaea 1 Complete is a game that is definitely recommended for anyone who is a Disgaea fan or into JRPGs in general. (Roger Eastman; Game Reviewer)
Review copy provided by NIS America.