The original Disgaea was released on the PS2 and this handheld version is a virtual copy of that original game. The game deals with what at first might seem like a generic fantasy game story: that of a young ruler ascending to the throne and trying to best serve his kingdom. The twist is that the kingdom is actually the Netherworld and young Prince Laharl is a demon who is expected to rule with an iron fist rather than a gentle hand. Lost memories, rookie angels, pompous humans, and many RPG and anime in-jokes all come together to create this addictive turn-based strategy game. If you are already familiar with this game and want to try similar games then there is unblocked games on sonsaur an online gaming platform for you.
Disgaea DS borrows the bulk of its gameplay rather liberally from the Final Fantasy Tactics series. Individual units can gain levels and upgrade to better classes, the story centers around certain unique “hero” units and combat takes place on locations that are set up with tiles for movement. At the start of combat, the play deploys up to 10 of their units, tells them where to go and what to do, and then ends their turn.
The enemy units then move and take their actions and it goes back and forth until one side has decimated the other. There’s nothing new or revolutionary about the basics but there are some very nice added touches that enrich the experience and add depth for those who might already be familiar with this kind of game. First, there’s geo tiles, colored spots on the floor which can have certain effects, either positive or negative. These effects can be changed and the colors even changed or eliminated for bonus points. It’s slightly confusing at first but a couple of rounds of combat and it makes total sense and becomes an integral part of combat.
Another small but entertaining touch is the ability to lift both enemies and allies and throw them. This sounds a little goofy at first but used properly it can help your units reach a troublesome enemy that they can’t get to otherwise or throw a hostile unit right into the middle of a group of the player’s strongest fighters.
One of the most interesting aspects of Disgaea DS is that is also completely optional, the Dark Assembly. This is the Netherworld’s version of a senate and for certain things to happen (better weapons for sale at the shops, opening up new worlds to conquer, etc) Laharl has to get the Dark Assembly to pass the measure.
This can be accomplished either through bribery or simply by beating up those who oppose the measure into submission. The game can be heavily tweaked using the Dark Assembly since such things as the strength of enemies can be increased or decreased with various measures. This gives the player the power to actually tailor their gaming experience as they play. If they find it too easy they can make enemies stronger.
If they went a little too far in that direction they can make them weaker again. Or if gamers find the mechanic troublesome they can simply skip the Dark Assembly altogether and play the game straight. Another optional side item is the ability to level up specific items (weapons, armor, etc) through “item world” combat. Gamers really into maxing out their characters can easily spend dozens of hours on this one aspect alone.
The story being told in Disgaea DS has a sweetly wicked sense of humor. First, there’s the fact that the hero of the game isn’t actually a good guy, actually, he’s trying very hard to be as wicked as possible. This basic premise alone leads to some amusing story moments but the game also has fun with parody as well.
Characters and story developments frequently poke fun at conventions of both video games and Japanese anime (which is the art style the game uses.) Inside jokes like a recurring boss character actually being called Mid-Boss (much to his own annoyance) or Laharl having a literal weakness to a sexy woman (keep in mind this is a T rated game and the humor is geared as such) all give great laughs. However, if the gamer isn’t that into the story they can, in another nice touch of in-game customization, actually skip the story sequences and go right to the combat.
Graphics and sound of Disgaea DS are on par with most of the games in the genre (though it is an impressive touch that there are some recorded voices for certain story moments.) As mentioned the art style is in the anime vein, with more detailed character portraits appearing to show character emotions rather than just using the in-game sprites. This helps flesh out the characters a little more as the portraits can get their reactions to things across much more clearly than the static sprites and dialog alone. The combat effects are well done as well, though some of the high-level spells have animations that a tad too long since you’re going to keep seeing them over and over again. The music is fun and lively and if players start to get bored with it they can buy additional music tracks in-game.
While Disgaea’s gameplay is highly addictive in many ways it doesn’t feel like it’s getting anywhere for a good chunk of the time. The main reason for this is that every single part of the game is accessed from the Netherworld main hub. Players will take on many enemies in a wide variety of environments from ice fields to the blinged-out palaces, however, all you will ever do in these exotic locations is a fight. The Netherworld hub is the only place where the player is granted freedom of movement and a chance to explore anything. As a result, it tends to feel as if the entire game is spent there.
This might seem like a very minor quibble however the lack of any sense of exploration results in a very confined feeling to the overall experience. Any gamer who’s been playing video games for a while will have an aching feeling that they want to get to the next area but it just doesn’t exist. Just a little more exploratory freedom or even something as simple as an over-world map (just to give a sense of global geography,) could have opened the whole thing up so it wouldn’t feel so confined.
Despite this minor drawback Disgaea DS is a game that is very easy for RPG/strategy fans to get wrapped up in for quite a few hours. However fans of the series should be cautioned, this is a remake of the original, and those who have already conquered that game will find little reason to take on the DS treatment. The upper screen is used well to show the placement of units and the color tiles on the battlefield but that’s about the only noticeable difference. Any fans of turn-based strategy owe it to themselves to check this series out if they haven’t already, it’s entertaining and addictive.