Disgaea: Hour of Darkness
Platform: Playstation 2
Developer/Publisher: Nippon Ichi/Atlus
Type: Tactical RPG
Overall Score: 82%
Short Synopsis: A quirky and upbeat tactical RPG, possibly the best to hit the market so far.
Graphics - 8
Considering it's a sprite-based, tactical RPG, the graphics are excellent. Wide ranges of colour for everything, fluid animation for explosions. Many attacks take place from an orbital or bird's eye view, but the entire field still stays in view, right down to the tiny characters down below.
Sound - 8
Most of the music tends to be fairly background in nature, the one exception being the promotional soundtrack from Tsunami Bomb that can be heard during a few big battles. On the other hand, the voice acting, both in-battle and outside, is beautifully done. And considering the wide range of situations covered, this is no small feat.
Gameplay - 10
Second to none.
The battle system, while initially similar to other tactical RPG's, has been tweeked to allow you to execute commands to all your characters (up to 10) in one shot, before the enemy even has a chance to move, allowing for massive swarming and combination attacks. Rounding all this off is a well-developed 'undo' ability which lets the player fine-tune each turn before committing. The finishing touches to the battle system include a variety of weapons and special moves, coloured squares called geopanels which can serve as both help and hinderance (or can be set off like landmines), and the ability to throw both enemies and allies around the screen. As an added bonus, this whole system is surprisingly simple and intuitive to use. Whoever designed this battle system, I hope they got a BIG raise.
Outside of battle, things stay good. The hospital gives prizes for frequent healing. To get a lot of things done, you'll have to spend time in the Dark Assembly and try to get your proposals passed. Fortunately, even though Hell is a democracy, bribery is highly encouraged. If that doesn't work, you then have the option of trying to kill everyone who didn't vote in your favour. And if your weapons and armour aren't good enough, you can use the Item World to go inside the weapon and kill things inside until it starts performing better.
In the end, unless you happen to be a big fan of simple, normal, and repetitive, the gameplay is probably going to leave you jaded when playing any other tactical RPG around.
Plot - 7
Barebones, the plot is actually a little trite, being redeemed mainly by the characters themselves (see Sound and Characters). It shouldn't take long to identify the villain(s), or make a general guess at how the game will turn out, but it's still a fun ride to get there.
Characters - 10
Basically a combination of kick-ass translation, coupled with top-notch voice acting, topped off with a wide variety of character expressions. While many of the characters are stereotypical in design, the script writers clearly knew it, and frequently mock their own characters in the process of advancing the story. You can expect lots of sarcasm and mockery throughout the script, to say nothing of heroic posing contests and an attempted sex ed session. As an added bonus, between each chapter/episode of the game, you get to see the characters act out "episode previews" (warning: actual episode content may vary). In short, definitely a high point for the game.
Replay Value - 6
Only so-so. The game has a New Game+ option which lets you start the game over with all your levels and created allies, but the usefulness is somewhat limited. The design of the game lets you replay earlier levels, while the non-required bonus levels will literally have you level-whoring for days on end. There are several endings to be had, which are generally worth seeing for the amusement/novelty factor, but are rather shallow compared to the regular ending.
Disgaea: Hour of Darkness Reviews
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