symphony's Disgaea: Hour of Darkness (Greatest Hits) (PlayStation 2) review

Priny Squad Go!

Once upon a time, long ago, there was a world without Disgaea. It was a time of turmoil and chaos; a time without an evil overlord, or at least his son, to take control and let us know that everything was okay. Thankfully, that was then and this is now, and we have Laharl to show us how to beat our pet penguins into submission while taking over other worlds.

Really though, Disgaea is a game that doesn't take itself seriously and that is one of the best things about it. The dialogue is great, with very little, if any lost in translation (textwise at least), and when it goes into cliche or sappy territory, it doesn't just dip its toes in; it cannonballs in and empties the pool.

On the surface, many of the characters look like they're supposed to be one-dimensional, over-the-top stereotypes -- the "pretty boy" rival; the "make love, not war" angel; and so on. But all of these characters have dimensions that develop as the game progresses and you really get attached to them. Yes, even Midboss is somehow loveable.

NIS was kind enough to give us the option of keeping the Japanese voices in, and quite frankly, that's the only way I'd have it. Sadly, it seems they overlooked the combat voices, as some are left in English are are a bit jarring (Midboss and Flonne come to mind, though Etna chuckling, "You're dead" is always fun to hear). The voices certainly add the element of emotion that would otherwise be lacking if you just read the dialogue like a book. Besides, Disgaea just wouldn't be the same without Laharl's maniacal laugh.

So dialogue is all well and good, but what about the game? Thankfully the game delivers on the same level that the dialogue does. It's a strategy RPG that's really easy to dive into if you're experienced at Final Fantasy Tactics, or any similar game. The biggest difference is the use of Geopanels. What are Geopanels? Good question! On most combat boards, you will find that large portions of the board are a certain color, such as red, yellow, cyan, etc. If you look closely, somewhere on the board will be pyramid-shaped items that alter an attribute, such as 50% more exp, enemies do 50% more damage, everyone takes 10% damage at the end of the turn, warp, and so on. When these pyramids are places on a colored square , say red for example, then all of the red squares on the board have that affect (ie. 50% more exp). So in this example, if you kill a baddie while on a red square, you get 50% more experience.

What's more is you can toss multiple pyramids onto a specific color to get even more bonuses. Or toss detrimental ones on colors the enemies are on to make killing them easier. On top of all this, you can attack a pyramid and when it is destroyed, a geo chain begins and if the color of the pyramid is not the same as the color of the panel it is on, it will change all of that panel to its own color, hurting anything on top of it (and destroying other pyramids that might be on the same color) along the way. If other pyramids are destroyed in this way, they continue the chain.

This can lead to killing a lot of enemies at once if you build up a big chain, and if you happen to chain it to make all of the colored panels disappear entirely, a huge explosion happens doing double damage to monsters (which almost guarantees all the enemies will die), along with shooting up your reward bonus. Watch out though, if you have characters on the panels being changed/destroyed, those characters will take damage, too!

Whew, that was a lot of describing, but it is as big a part of the game as you want it to be -- you can practically ignore them if you really want, but then you miss out on the big reward bonuses at the end of combat, along with the satisfaction of having solved the puzzle. On top of Geopanels, there is a place known as the Item World that lets you level up your items to ridiculous levels, all the while getting treasure (that is quite often better than the item that you're upgrading, especially in later levels of the "dungeon"). I won't even begin to go into trainers and item rarity. Suffice it to say, the item system is deep, fun, and addictive.

Did I mention you can level insanely high? I think the max is level 9999. And there are actually bosses that put up a challenge at the insanely high level. It's awesome that they actually added some crazy end-game content.

Then there's the Dark Senate, where you ask for things such as new items at the stores, or new places open, and the senators vote on them. At low levels, you'll be left to their whims, but you can try to help your cause by bribing them. If they deny your bill, you can opt to fight them to overturn the decision, but again, at low levels, you're probably going to get your ass handed to you and be slapped with a big "Game Over". Later in the game though, there will be bills where you won't have a choice but to beat them into submission, which in some twisted way, is rather gratifying. 

There is really so much that is great about Disgaea that I could ramble on for hours about it. It doesn't push any limits, the graphics are barely better than a PSX, and it's only got one "town" that consists of four rooms, but trying to find flaws in Disgaea is almost pointless. It's one of the few games that after sinking well over 200 hours into, you could go back into and sink in another 200 and feel good about doing so. If you'll excuse the bad pun -- It's just a hell of a lot of fun.
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Other reviews for Disgaea: Hour of Darkness (Greatest Hits) (PlayStation 2)

    A solid SRPG with a great sense of fun and humor. 0

    Unlike most SRPGs, this game's 'rules' and general gameplay are very loose and relaxed. You don't feel like you are on rails when developing your team, or battling out on a map. There are certain 'rules' that can be exploited, but somehow don't spoil your game experience, they rather enhance the possibilities - almost like the developers expect you to exploit the system they built. Developing your team is very free and open, because while there is A LOT of variety in possible teams (and I mean...

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    A likable cast of characters who would rather you hate them. 0

    Disgaea: Hour of Darkness is a very unique strategy rpg. The story follow a young demon boys adventures after he wakes from a 2 year slumber. He then discovers that his father died during his deep sleep, but being a demon, he doesn't care. All that Laharl cares about is becoming a Overlord and taking down anyone in his way. Laharl is joined by a large cast of characters on his road to Overlord, such as Etna, A demon girl whos memory has been taken from her, Flonne, an angel send to asssinate Lah...

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