What were you doing in 2003? Back then, I was either finishing my first year of college (studying AS Accounts, IT, Maths and Business Studies) or starting my second (where I dropped both IT and Maths, and picked up Sociology, my favourite of the -logies). I was 17, I already knew I was a flagrant homosexual and was keen to explore more aspects of my self and my being. Apparently, 2003 was the year I discovered I like SRPGs, and this game was the catalyst.
What Even Is A Disgaea Anyway?
Nobody really knows for sure as the makers have never specified, at least not to my knowledge. Most common speculation is that dis means bad or not and the gaea part means earth or world, giving you Not Earth or Bad World. Makes sense as the game is set in the Netherworld, the evil counterpart to the good-aligned Celestia and the, I guess, neutral Earth. The Disgaea games are a series of SRPGs developed by Nippon Ichi, set in Netherworlds populated by demons and prinnies (the souls of the sinful dead, reincarnated into the form of explosive penguins and made to work off their crimes) with the thinnest of thin sheets separating them and the fourth wall. Characters know they’re in a game and will comment on various mechanics and tropes and even try and exploit them (the main character of Disgaea 3, Mao, stole another character’s title of hero from their in-game status screen for instance, and Laharl from the first game, when seeing the bonus boss, exclaims in horror “LEVEL 4000?!” as that was the highest level boss in the game).
Battles are played in typical SRPG fashion; the battlefield is a grid, characters can move x amount of tiles and perform attacks that affect y number of tiles. You move and take action, then you end your turn and the enemy takes their action. The usual stuff. Disgaea has a few other mechanics up its sleeve though; humanoid characters can lift and throw other units (monsters cannot, but they still have a throw range, because if you throw a unit at them, they bounce off in the direction the monster unit is facing!) to add another element of strategy, and in later games monster units can be used as mounts, fuse together to make giant monsters, or turn into weapons and equip to a humanoid unit for a limited amount of time. There are also Geo Panels, tiles that are specially coloured, and the prescence of a Geo Block in a coloured tile gives a special effect to ALL tiles of that colour, be it extra XP, invincibility, bonus stats, etc.
Also your level can go up to 9999, your stats can hit the hundreds of millions, and damage can reach BILLIONS if you grind hard enough. Yes, this game has a lot of grinding, and honestly? It’s one of the things I love most about it. The game is absolutely unashamed of its grindy nature, and even leans into it, giving you the occasional stage that has the PERFECT setup for level/money/mana/etc grinding.
Then you need to consider that every item you can use and every item you can equip has an item world inside it, and the further you go into the item world of an item, the more it levels up and the stronger it (and the character that equips it) becomes! They say World of Warcraft is a game that really begins at max level (debatable but there you go) but this is a game where you hit max level, reincarnate to reset your level to 1, then RELEVEL TO 9999 with increased stats and weapon masteries, gaining bonus stats for how many levels you’ve gained on that character, up to a maximum of 186000 levels.
But What’s The Story?
Demon Prince Laharl awakens from a 2 year slumber (an extreme length of time, yes, but it’s later discovered it was due to NEFARIOUS REASONS) to discover his father, Overlord King Krichevskoy, has tragically died. Laharl therefore sets out to become the undisputed overlord of the Netherworld and along the way learns the meaning of love.
I mean, kind of. He IS an evil demon. Though I think it’s important to stress that the vast majority of demons are evil in a sort of nominal way. There’s no eating babies or rampant murder, but…
Like, silly evil. The overarching message of the game is that there is good in everything and everyone. Except Vulcanus. Fuck that guy.
- Laharl, wannabe overlord, voiced by Rita Repulsa.
- Etna, vassal of the wannabe overlord, voiced by Crimson Viper.
- Flonne, love freak, voiced by Sailor Chibi Moon.
- CAPTAIN GORDON, DEFENDER OF EARTH!, voiced by Deathwing.
- Jennifer, sidekick of CAPTAIN GORDON, DEFENDER OF EARTH!, voiced by Jihl Nabaat.
- Thursday, robot sidekick of CAPTAIN GORDON, DEFENDER OF EARTH!, voiced by Zhang Fei.
- Kurtis, mad scientist cyborg dude with a Tragic Past, voiced by Baine Bloodhoof.
Dark Adonis VyersMid Boss, likes peppering French into his speech, voiced by Kilik.
- Seraph Lamington, a seraph but not a lamington, voiced by JARAXXUS, EREDAR LORD OF THE BURNING LEGION.
- Archangel Vulcanus, an asshole who just LOOKS evil, voiced by General Nazgrim.
Why I Does Love It
I do love a good grind, but there’s more than just that. The story is hilarious, but also capable of ripping your heart out and crushing it (watch out for the Red Moon chapter, and the scene before the final boss, they will break even the hardest of hearts). The characters are wonderfully thought out and develop as the story goes on. The gameplay has a lot of tactical nuance to it, unless you deliberately overlevel and stomp everything, which is entirely your choice! The game encourages you to take the path you want.
I’m a sucker for a class-based combat system and my GOD are there classes here. 37 unique classes, each with 6 progressively stronger tiers, with unique stat growths, favoured weapon types, appearances and abilities. Spoilt. For. Choice.
I think I’ll close this post with my top 3 attacks from the Disgaea series as a whole, because there are some delightfully OTT ones and you know me, I live for OTT.
3) Asagi: Dead Hurdles
2) Zetta: One-Inch Zetta Beam
1) Gig: Murder Play
So a character concept I am utterly in love with, just in general, is that of the “impossible thief.” Basically, a thief that can steal more than just items off a shelf or from a museum.. Like, more. I suppose it’s easier to show via examples, so here’s an excuse for me to post a TOP X THINGS blog post, because let’s be honest I’ve not done that for a while.
You know, every time I start a new character on Skyrim, I think “this time, things will be different! I’ll use swords and shields, or maybe magic!” and then I loot a bow and some arrows, and oops I’ve become a sneaky archer thief yet again.
So I go around and steal a load of stuff, join the Thieves’ Guild, level up sneak and pickpocketing slowly but surely, and those two skills are where the REAL impossible thievery comes into play. With the right amount of those two skills and the correct perks (Perfect Touch as a minimum, probably 5 ranks of Light Fingers and Stealth too) you can literally steal the clothes off someone’s back and the weapons from their hands from in front of them in broad daylight, and somehow not only do they not notice, they don’t even react! As if they were feeling a draught already so this is nothing out the ordinary.
This, however, is nothing compared to what you can do to a particular type of enemy. Over in The Reach, the city of Markarth has a problem with the Forsworn, rebels who are trying to reclaim the area from Nord and Imperial control. One type of Forsworn enemy you can encounter is a Forsworn Briarheart, powerful high ranking men who usually act as the leaders of the various groups you encounter in The Reach. The story goes, they performed a ritual, offering their human heart to Hargravens, and in exchange receiving power and a new heart, the Briar Heart. Well yes, if you’re sufficiently sneaky and pickpockety, you can creep up behind them, steal the heart from their chest, and watch them drop dead instantly!
Final Fantasy Tactics: The Thief Class
A staple class in a lot of Final Fantasy games, even those without an explicit job system (example: Rikku in X, Zidane in IX, Vaan in XII), the Final Fantasy thief is one character I always try to include. I mean, free shit, right? Just gotta pry it from their hands!
Thieves in Tactics go a little further though. Not content with stealing weapons, shields, armour and accessories, the Tactics thief can also steal the enemy’s heart (not in the Skyrim Briarheart way), charming them into fighting for you. They also go a bit metaphysical, being able to steal the experience right out of someone’s head! Yes, with Steal EXP they can prevent an enemy levelling up by just filching the experience points from them! They can’t take them below 0 though, and thus cannot level someone down, which is a crying shame. They can, however, steal an enemy’s money without using Steal Gil! One ability gives them gil equal to damage they’ve taken! Literally picking the pockets of someone swinging a sword at them, amazing/.
The thieves from Final Fantasy Tactics Advance can steal whole abilities from an enemy! That black mage got a spell you haven’t? Go right over to them and steal it outta their mind, and become an instant master of magic!
Disgaea: The Thief Class
Statistically rather weak, and with rather bad weapon aptitudes (though they eventually get okay ones with Gun and Bow), the thief is best used as, well, a thief! Boasting double the success rate for stealing items compared to other classes in the game, and with the best items coming off of really strong enemies, you’re going to need an even stronger thief to relieve them of those precious things! Much like the previous thieves, they are capable of tearing the clothes off your back and the sword outta your hands, but Disgaea’s thieves also have another trick up their sleeves: they steal STATISTICS.
While it picks a stat at random, Snag Heart actually permanently raises the stat of the thief at the cost of the same amount from your target. It’ll never be enough to cripple an enemy’s statistics (you’re better off stealing their armour and weapons for that, plus have you SEEN the crazy numbers they can reach in that series?!), but the fact remains you’re stealing something highly intangible! In Disgaea 2 they can also inflict status ailments through stealing; Steal Memory causes the Amnesia status, making the target unable to use abilities, whereas Steal Health inflicts the Poison status.
Final Fantasy X-2: Thief Class AGAIN
Popping back briefly to Final Fantasy, in the much maligned (but secretly very very good) X-2, thieves had access to Flimflam abilities, and these had a couple of interesting effects!
There’s the typical stealing of money or items, but Borrowed Time literally stole your enemy’s time, inflicting the nasty Stop status! Similarly, using Soul Swipe they could inflict Berserk, making the enemy unable to use anything other than physical attacks (with the trade-off of making those attacks hurt a LOT more), and with Steal Will they could literally steal the enemy’s enthusiasm to fight, making them flee the battle!
I just made them all Dark Knights though. They looked cooler.
THE ORIGINAL, THE BEST: CARMEN FUCKIN’ SANDIEGO
I mean let’s just recap some (not even all, SOME) of the things this genius has stolen over the years:
- The shine of the Hope Diamond. Not the diamond itself! The shininess of it!
- Portuguese. Yes, the language.
- The alphabet.
- The Spanish letter ñ.
- A TV channel.
- The internet.
- The Mona Lisa’s smile.
- All the goulash for some reason.
- K2. An entire fuckin’ MOUNTAIN.
- Gandhi’s glasses.
- A beach.
- All the salsa. ALL.
- Saturn’s rings.
- Montezuma’s headdress.
- George Washington’s face from every $1 bill that ever existed and, somehow, ever will exist
- The International Date Line, which is imaginary but she stole it anyway.
- The steps to the tango.
Look, when it comes to impossible thievery, Carmen Sandiego just cannot be beaten.
She’s my fucking HERO.