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    E4's Disgaea: Hour of Darkness (PS2)

    [January 15, 2008 07:35:10 AM]
    Gameplay (second entry):

    After the initial glory of the game started wearing off, the combat system did start to feel a bit repetitive after a while, after figuring out generally effective tactics for each character in my party. The storyline held up well, keeping me interested and wanting to play through to the end, but I eventually stopped for a while to further explore the depth of gameplay available. The storyline actually forces you at one point to experience the item world system by requiring an upgraded item to be held to unlock the next stage.

    At that point, I was a bit discouraged, as the last time I'd jumped into the item world, I'd been slaughtered in seconds. However, upon re-analysis, I figured out there was a small bar at the bottom that showed you the level of monsters you would encounter in each item (yes, you battle monsters 'in' the item to upgrade it) so I picked a low-level item for my second attempt at upgrading, with better results. After a successful run through 10 stages to upgrade my weapon, the unique weapon upgrading system had me hooked. The ability to unlock upgrades on low-level weapons and carry them over to higher-level items made my efforts seem much more worth it -- a refreshing change from constantly upgrading every new piece of equipment.

    Furthermore, the battle stages for upgrading presented new challenges as many of them had absolutely wacky terrain filled with Geo (modifier) panels with everything from powerups to damage to random teleporting, making battle much more interesting. On top of that, there seemed to be a limitless supply of different stages in the item world system. Suddenly, Disgaea had somehow invented "fun" grinding with seemingly limitless replay value. Of course, chances are high that each and every stage was specifically designed so I can't say limitless, but it sure felt like I'd stumbled upon a diamond in the sand... I could probably keep rambling on about other features that make Disgaea a unique tactical RPG, but that starts treading on design territory.


    Disgaea brings quite a few innovative elements to the tactical RPG genre. Firstly, party characters come out of a portal on the ground, so there's no set battle formation to begin with, allowing the player much greater flexibility, both in bringing party members out when needed, but also enabling the player to send party members back into the portal, keeping dying party members out of harm's way. Among other key unique features is the lift & toss ability. This enables humanoid characters to pick up and toss both friends and foes and throw them around the battlefield. This can be done to prevent annoying foes from attacking, or to keep weak allies out of danger, or to give party members a boost in getting across the battlefield either into or out of the fray. I incidentally discovered that by throwing enemies into other enemies, you could get them to fuse together and level-up considerably, although I haven't really figured out what use this would be...

    Also unique on the battlefield are the Geo panels / blocks (or whatever you want to call them). Many of the maps have at least a few of these panels if not completely covered in them. Working in conjunction with the colored panels are colored blocks that modify panels of the same color as the panel it rests on with a certain effect. These effects range from stat increases/decreases, extra attacks per round, damage infliction each round (much like poison or burn status effects), other status-effect-like states such as silence(inability to use skills), extra EXP or money from kills, or even random teleportation at the end of the round. As is, it makes the game more challenging... but Disgaea takes it a few steps further, in conjunction with the lift & toss ability; Geo blocks can be thrown on to other panels, changing where the effects take effect. Or, they can be destroyed simply by attacking them or picking them up and throwing them at enemies. Simple enough, right? But Disgaea makes it even more crazy/fun--destroyed blocks change the color the panel they land on (and all panels of the same color) to it's own color upon destruction, unleashing a chain reaction that damages everyone standing on those panels affected. Furthermore, if the player manages to get all of the panels to be the same color and then destroys a "null" color block on the panels, thereby removing the Geo panels from play, the player recieves a considerable bonus upon beating the stage, adding a whole new depth to combat by integrating these puzzles into the battlefield itself. The integration of the Geo panels and blocks into the levels takes the level design to a whole new level (pun not intended).

    I previously briefly described the weapon upgrade system, and how it entails battling foes "inside items," winning the upgrades by defeating the skill guardians on the randomly selected stages. These 'item worlds' seem to be heavily riddled with Geo panels and their puzzles, providing rich rewards on top of upgrades if you can figure them out. As previously described, the equipment upgrade system enables virtually limitless upgrading to items by transferring conquered upgrades to your new/current items rather than leaving them stuck on your old items. This sense of unlimited growth also pertains to character growth. Disgaea features a mentor-pupil system that allows a party member to sign on new custom characters as pupils (students). The mentor-pupil relationship enables higher percentage chance of team attacks, but more importantly, enables the mentor to use the magic skills of the pupil when standing adjacent, and permanently learn them if used enough. On top of this, as custom characters level up, new classes are unlocked, and characters can change classes while retaining a certain amount of their current skills, allowing for extensive character growth. Although I haven't played enough to see how many different class lineages are possible, it should be possible to create a heroic character with an absurd arsenal of skills at their disposal. Alongside the equipment upgrading, this ability to create an awesome aresenal on the same save game gives Disgaea a ton of replay value (for those interested, at least).

    Another notably unique design element in Disgaea is the castle council (or senate). Since you play the leader of the castle, you can take various "topics" such as shop item unlockables or character upgrades to the council for "debate". However, since everyone these is a nefarious demon, the "demoncratic" voting system consists of trying to garner votes by bribing council members with items or forcefully keeping them in line by defeating them in combat.

    The variety of different challenges Disgaea has to offer has kept me continuing to play much longer than I should have, as there is so much, maybe too much to explore and play with. While complete character development is an unrealistic feat, and not everyone can be bothered to try and clear every Geo panel puzzle that comes along, these design elements are integrated in such a way that everyone can dabble in them a bit as they add to the depth and style of the game making the game unique without requiring the player to develop a deep understanding for and complete every puzzle that comes their way. Thus, I think Disgaea is a great game overall because it caters to a wide audience, allowing pretty much anyone to pick it up and enjoy playing through, while additionally offering tons of continued play for enthusiasts who love getting every last skill and powerup.
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    [January 14, 2008 12:38:42 PM]

    In Disgaea: Hour of Darkness, the player commands a party of characters through a series of localized battles (stages) in a turn-based combat system on isometric grid battlefields. The player must strategically plan out each turn, moving their characters across the field to do battle, taking advantage of terrain, character skills, team attacks, combos, lifting & throwing (player characters or enemies), and Geo effects (modifier panels and blocks) to defeat opponents to win each stage. Beating a stage unlocks another stage, allowing the player to progress in the main general objective of advancing through and storyline through to the end. What primarily sets Disgaea apart from other Tactical RPGs is it's unique theme, storyline, and characters; the 'protagonist' is a young demon prince in a quest for supremacy over the Netherworld after his father (the previous Overlord) died by chocking on a pretzel... not your typical RPG.


    It took me less than a minute to get a kick out of Disgaea, with the dialog filled with dark, wacky humor. However, I was quickly disappointed with the English voices and translations, but was pleased to find Japanese voices available for the cut scenes. The English translations and voice actors did not really stay true to the original dialog and character personalities at all, which are very strong anime stereotypes; not what most American audiences would quite get, but I found that to be the charm of the game that makes it so captivating and amusing. Although I haven't gotten very far through the storyline yet, it's very comical and charming -- a fresh and different flavor from the all too common overly-serious 'save the world' concept that seems to permeate many (classic) RPGs.

    Since Disgaea is a single-player tactical RPG, it holds little opportunity for social interaction unless you've got some friends that want to think out tactics and strategies out loud along with you -- not something I'd personally do. The game feels a bit laid back for hectic commentary, but not too complex to merit deep discussion -- complex enough to provide challenging gameplay, but simple enough to have a nice learning curve. For a yet unknown reason, I've found Disgaea to be very smooth and relaxing to play, even though I'm not a huge fan of tactical RPGs... The controls, speed/timing, and collision detection seems to be very well refined, making it a breeze to pick up and learn. Oh, and you can spin the map around in battle (albeit 90 degrees per clip, but still)... I still can't seem to get over how cool it is to do that.

    The difficulty curve is so far a bit unchallenging, but started off with an excellent, easy to follow animated tutorial for beginners, so I'm hoping that the difficulty picks up as the story unfolds more.
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    E4's Disgaea: Hour of Darkness (PS2)

    Current Status: Played occasionally

    GameLog started on: Sunday 13 January, 2008

    E4's opinion and rating for this game

    No comment, yet.

    Rating (out of 5):starstarstarstarstar

    Related Links

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    More GameLogs
    other GameLogs for this Game
    1 : Disgaea: Hour of Darkness (PS2) by jp (rating: 4)
    2 : Disgaea: Hour of Darkness (PS2) by Slee35 (rating: 5)
    3 : Disgaea: Hour of Darkness (PS2) by Txh0881 (rating: 5)


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