By Sparky_Buzzsaw 33 Comments
Heya folks, and welcome to a special edition of Sparky's Update! I'm guts deep in the middle of a brand new Disgaea game (the so-far-spectacular Disgaea D2), but I thought atter this week's positive feeedback to the idea of a new Disgaea blog series, I'd take some time to introduce some of you to what Disgaea is and how you can dip your toes into its universe.
What follows here isn't necessarily specific to Disgaea D2, but some of the intimate details might not apply to all the Disgaea games. That said, we're just going to be talking about its very basic mechanics in order to acclimate you slowly into the world, so the guide should serve as a basic primer for all Disgaea games.
What is Disgaea?
At its very core, Disgaea is a strategy role playing game, not entirely dissimilar to something like Final Fantasy Tactics or Tactics Ogre/Ogre Battle. It has a very anime-esque atmosphere, with a definite Japanese sense of humor and aesthetic.
Story battles take place on a predetermined grid. Enemies are placed in specific locations, as is your "base," or the square where your characters come out from. In each battle, you can have ten characters on the field at any time. If one dies, then that character cap goes down by one.
The combat is relatively straightforward. Your characters can attack, use special skills, defend, or use items. They can move before or after an attack (but not both). By positioning characters next to each other, you get a chance to perform combo attacks, which deal significantly more damage and generally look cooler.
Levels are listed out in a very basic form - there's no overworld or area to explore outside of your castle or main hub area. Your team of characters is two-fold - those central to the plot, and those you create. The list of characters you can create might seem a bit intimidating at first, but most of the humanoid classes parallel normal fantasy/RPG tropes, such as a mage, healer, monk, warrior, and the like. Since it's really easy to obtain the necessary in-game currencies, create as many characters as you like without worry of screwing something up because you'll always have opportunities later to create more characters or try new things.
Your First Playthrough - What You Should Know
I think what scares most people away from Disgaea is talk of the post-game content, which is incredibly deep. But for your first playthrough in any Disgaea game, what you should know is this - the game, at its core, is very, very simple, and you never have to stray very far from a basic formula to get yourself through your first playthrough.
Here's the biggest not-so-secret secret every new player should know - every level in Disgaea's story missions can be beat with a little grinding. Even better, in your first playthrough, this grind isn't at all taxing. Essentially, for your first playthrough, what I'd recommend doing is getting through the tutorial missions, and then work your way through every level twice with your favorite team of characters. That's it - that's all you need to do to enjoy Disgaea at its most basic level.
The game will introduce some fairly intimidating elements to you early on, particularly the Item World and the Dark Assembly. Let's examine those and I'll show you why they're far less intimidating than you think.
The Dark Assembly
Disgaea has a lot of options you can tinker with through the Dark Assembly. This is essentially the tool you use in-game to create characters, make the game easier or more difficult, and add more items to the weapon/armor/item shops in the game.
For your first playthrough, I'd really only recommend playing around with the options you're comfortable with. As mentioned, creating characters is a breeze, so play with that all you want to. You'll obtain plenty of Mana (the currency used for the Dark Assembly) through battles. Also fairly easy and useful? The Dark Assembly also features a bill that can make more expensive items appear in the shops, which allows you to buy better equipment than what the shops have originally.
When trying to pass bills through the Assembly, you'll have to sit through a "yay" or "nay" session in front of the Assembly itself. Seems complex, I know, but thankfully, it's fairly straightforward. Each bill comes with a certain likelihood of it passing or failing. Now, most simple bills like creating characters don't even need to go through the Assembly, so there's not much to think about there - just create the character, and you're good to go. But when you pass, say, that "more expensive items" bill, you'll have to push it through the Assembly. That process is really easy to understand, if a bit frustrating in its actual practice.
The Assembly is comprised of parties of creatures that either want the bill to pass or fail - think Democrats and Republicans, but with dragons, zombies, and prinnies instead. The most basic bills like "more expensive items" will usually have a favorable likelhiood of passing, so you won't need to do any work. I wouldn't recommend trying to pass any more complicated bills than that on your first playthrough - we'll get into the nitty gritty of the Dark Assembly and how you can pass more complex bills in a future blog. But for your first playthrough, limit yourself to just the essentials - creating characters and making more items appear in your shops.
The Item World
Any item, be it a sword, a piece of equipment, a healing item, or whatever you'd like, can be leveled up in Disgaea. This is done through the Item World, easily the most fascinating and fun part of the Disgaea games once you understand what you're doing.
The Item World is essentially a string of randomized battles wherein your goal on each map is to eliminate all the enemies or get to a certain portal to go to the next level. There's one catch - you can only leave the Item World through the use of an item called an Mr. Gency Exit, or by making it ten levels down. Your item will level up depending on how many levels you've beat, so if you've cleared the first three levels of enemies, your item will level three times.
There's a lot of random stuff that can happen in the Item World and not all of it is pleasant. If you're going to explore the Item World, try to keep an Mr. Gency Exit item on you at all times, and be prepared with a decently powerful team. The cheaper the item was, the easier the Item World will be.
For your first playthrough, it's really up to you how much you use the Item World, but I would only recommend using it when the game leads you there. At least, at first - like I say, it's a riot in the post-game, but we're not concerning ourselves with that right now. Keep in mind to ALWAYS save before you go into the Item World, as you won't have an opportunity to do so until you've left it again.
I'd also recommend during your first playthrough of limiting your Item World trips to equipment and weapons. While you can level up a piece of gum if you want (no, really, you can), there's just very little point to it.
Assorted Basic Tips and Tricks
Treat yourself to new equipment and weapons liberally, but keep a focus on the characters you use the most. I like having a very basic ten man team comprised of a few story characters, two mages, two healers, an archer, and a monk. Every now and again, when created characters reach a certain level, they can choose to reincarnate into the next tier of that class. This will reset their level to one, but it will give them a sprinkling of bonus stat points and some new, more powerful skills. It's entirely up to you to choose whether to reincarnate or not - it will mean a bit more grinding, as you'll want to get those characters back up to speed level-wise, but the bonus stat points do come in handy and the more powerful skills are always a positive thing. It's all dependent on how much grinding you really want to do, but I would at least recommend keeping your mages and healers up to their highest possible class tier.
You can heal yourself in between battles in a shop (it's called a hospital, but it's really just one character standing there) - that should always be your first purchase outside of battle. Always save right atterwards.
Don't bother with building monsters unless you're playing Disgaea D2. Outside of a few story characters, they're by and large completely useless.
Each character class specializes in certain weapons but anyone can use any type of weapon. Try to stick with your character class's specialization, as they'll do more damage with them. This can be viewed from your character's status screen.
I can't really emphasize this enough - if you're having trouble, just grind. Everything in the game can be beat with better characters, weapons, and equipment. There are some ways to cheat the system a bit (in every game to date, there's been a way to abuse level 5-4 in order to power level your characters), so if you find yourself really frustrated with a particular level, look those up on GameFAQs or a similar site. Otherwise, feel free to hit me up and I can help you out.
And that's Disgaea in a nutshell. So far, Disgaea D2 feels like the most accessible of the Disgaea games to date, but you really can't go wrong with any of them. Their stories are fairly disconnected (save for D2 from the original Disgaea, but even Disgaea D2's story is set apart from that one, so you won't need to know the first game in order to enjoy this one). I know they seem intimidating, but if you stick to the basics at first, I guarantee you, they're just as accessible as something like Final Fantasy Tactics. Unless you're like @arbitrarywater and hate the thought of anime-inspired games (and this is VERY anime-inspired, so bear that in mind), give the series a go. If you get as hooked as me, you won't need another gaming drug for a very long time.
In the next blog, I'll discuss slightly more advanced combat mechanics such as the Geo Panels and Geo Blocks. We'll also talk a bit more about the Dark Assembly and how you can pass more complex bills. See ya then.