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Blast From the Past: Disgaea

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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).

“who the hell is this guy?!”

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.

There are green and red Geo Panels in this picture for instance

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.

I was not kidding about that damage by the way

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.

THE GRIND.

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.

Characters

  • 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 Vyers Mid 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

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