Mascots and video games have gone hand in hand for years and the RPG genre is one that has certainly embraced this idea. Whether it be the noble Chocobo, humble Nopon or even the devious Jack Frost these RPG mascots are all iconic and all have one thing in common. Despite their best efforts they will forever stand in the shadow of the almighty Prinny…Dood. The Prinny is a dim creature that shares a great resemblance to the penguin, said to contain the souls of humans, they’ve been in every single Disgaea game and now the original game where they had their debut will be arriving on the Switch. The question being: Has Disgaea 1 stood the test of time, Dood?
Disgaea first hit stores in 2003 and has seen numerous titles released for it over the years with Disgaea 5 Complete being released on the Switch last year. In fact it was the surprise success of Disgaea 5 on the Switch that convinced the team to have Disgaea 1 Complete release on the Switch. Best known for its TRPG pedigree design, outlandish story and totally off the wall characters Disgaea is a cult classic among gamers, but does the original game still hold up after all these years?
As someone who got into the series with Disgaea 3 I was amazed at how much of the original formula has been retained in the series as I delved deeper into Disgaea 1 Complete. Like any TRPG you will sculpt a team that compliment one another’s strengths and weaknesses, but what really sets the Disgaea series apart from any other title is its use of “Geo Panels” and its throwing mechanic. The former will influence the map to boost or debilitate any unit that stands on specific panels, on top of that destroying Geo Panels in a correct sequence will net the player a great bonus. Whilst the latter does exactly what it says on the tin. Lifting and throwing allies and opponents will become a common practice in Disgaea and mastering how to is integral to get through this game.
The actual main missions in Disgaea 1 Complete offering quite a healthy challenge. The gradual increase in difficult keeps players challenged, but never feeling overwhelmed. With that being said there are some peculiar outliers in the main campaign. Chapter 8 Mission 1 being very guilty of having a ridiculous difficulty spike. Whilst frustrating it becomes an issue of little consequence as Disgaea is a series that encourages grinding and gives the player many ways to level up. Whether that is by revisiting main missions or diving into the Item World (A world used to increase the stats of an item) there are numerous ways to level up.
Crafting a Team
Another important aspect of Disgaea is creating a team. Whilst many aspects of it may come across as generic, all aspects of the team building feel polished and work well. You have the choice to enlist unique characters like Laharl and Etna, but can also create characters from specific classes like Knights or Clerics. Finally even the monsters you come across can be recruited and once defeated you can create one for the cost of some mana. The more powerful the unit, the greater the cost.
The options that are available mean that you can create a great number of teams and no two will be the same between players. Do you recruit Prinnies, zombies and dragons? Or maybe opt for a team of more conventional units like knights, mages and other such classes.
The over arching story of Disgaea is never the selling point of these titles. 5 did opt for a story that was a little bit more serious, but the original and many of the others are wacky and totally nonsensical and they know it. After all the game begins with Laharl learning his father has died. He couldn’t really care less and instead is set on proving that he is worthy of the title of Overlord of the Netherworld. The real focus of the Disgaea story is to just sit back and enjoy the ridiculousness that unfurls in front of you. One chapter was focused totally on Laharl and the gang going for a picnic, but disaster strikes as their picnic basket is stolen. Another will have you face off with the hero of the human world who comes across as a chimera of the stereotypical “hero”.
For all the laughs that it delivers Disgaea 1 Complete does manage to deliver a few moments that pul at the heart strings. They are few and far between and are dealt with a certain excellency that doesn’t linger on these moments for too long, making them feel more impactful even though you can argue they are a bit “simple”.
There is only one true change to these remaster of the original game and that is the visuals. The entire game has been remade with the same quality visuals found in Disgaea 5 and it looks astounding. The effort is appreciated as all they had to do was release a port, but to put this kind of effort into the title is admirable. One of my favourite aspects of this series though is its excellent soundtrack. Disgaea 1 features tracks that are just as off the wall as other releases. It blends series songs to set the mood, but also works in far more unconventional tracks that stand out from a sea of generic RPG soundtracks.
For the most part al the key details of Disgaea have been discussed, but one key feature of the series is passing bills. As you defeat enemies you gain mana and the mana you gain can be used to pass bills to gain better items, upgrades to your units and even access new locations and levels like Prinny Land. Getting the mana and spending it isn’t the only hurdle though, as you must bribe the members of the assembly to get them in favour of your outcome. It is a nice system that once again encourages to sit down and grind out as the mana required for some bills is quite staggering.
The Elephant in the Room
For the most part I have great praise for Disgaea 1 Complete. However, there is one key issue with the title and that issue is that Disgaea 5 Complete does everything this games does, but with more content. Classes, side quests, missions and attacks, Disgaea 5 Complete outperforms it in every area. Is that to say that Disgaea 1 Complete feels like it is lacking content? Far from it. You can sink many hours into this game, but with the moniker of “Complete” added to this release, I feel like they should have included the direct sequel Disgaea D2 to make it feel like the true Complete experience of the D1 cast.
System reviewed on: Nintendo Switch.
Disclaimer: A review code for Disgaea 1 Complete was provided by NIS America.