What has quickly become one of my favorite SRPGs, the Disgaea series stood out with its quirky attitude and laugh out loud humor. My debut into the series started off with Disgaea 4, following the Vita relaunch dubbed A Promise Revisited. Since then, I’ve experienced more games of the series but always wanted a chance to see where it all began. Fortune smiled on me in the form of Disgaea 1 Complete, a remastered port brought to current gen systems.
Exactly which game was given the remastered treatment? Why the very first entry of course (if that wasn’t obvious). Disgaea: Hour of Darkness released back in 2003, 15 years ago and for the game’s 15th anniversary, NIS and Nippon Ichi Software came up with D1 Complete. Featuring remastered visuals, I thoroughly enjoyed watching everything this title had to offer; whether it was explosive chain combos or progressing the story. In addition to updated graphics, players can also play through Etna’s story, which was only playable with the PSP exclusive Disgaea: Afternoon of Darkness.
Where It All Began
As far as I’m concerned, Nippon Ichi Software remastered Hour of Darkness the correct way. D1 Complete looks much better than its former self from the PS2, thanks to being updated with visuals one would see from the series’ later installments. Quality remastered projects like this proves remasters have a place in the future.
Hour of Darkness tells the tale of Laharl, son to the current Overlord of the Netherworld. After waking from his nap of two years, Laharl discovers the Netherworld in disarray and sets out to be what he was always meant to be: The next Overlord.
Disgaea’s wacky humor is what attracted me to the series when A Promise Revisited came out, so it’s no surprise that the humor is present here as well. Laugh out loud moments help to alleviate those frustrating ones courtesy of the complex combat.
A quick refresher of Disgaea’s gameplay for those new to the series. Players start out in Laharl’s castle, surrounded by his questionably capable vassals. Laharl’s castle functions as the home base, allowing players to build their roster or to go out in battle.
Battles take place on a grid board. Each step is registered as a square block and characters navigate the field moving on these blocks. Some characters can cover more distance then others, whereas others can throw farther than some. Yes, throwing plays a crucial part when it comes to traversing the field; especially when some field boards are floating mid-air. Players will also want to learn as much about the HUD as possible since important information can easily get lost on screen. Taking all this knowledge in and processing it contributes to how well one understands the forces at work.
As with any Disgaea title, D1 Complete boasts hundreds of hours of gameplay. This may sound frightening to those who just want to experience the story and cross another game off the backlog list. Luckily, players will have no problem doing just that if they choose so. The hundreds of hours comment really pertains to the hardcore SRPG lovers who will want to explore every facet. Though I highly, HIGHLY, recommend exploring most of the content available here. Otherwise, there’s an extremely high chance D1 Complete will stay on the backlog unfinished.
Focusing on the extra stuff should be on everyone’s priority list because this game has a steep learning curve. I’ve never played Hour of Darkness, so I can only assume the difficulty level remains the same here. The first major boss battle sent me packing to the game over screen, where the credits began to roll on a alternate ending scene, rubbing salt further into an already open wound. Unless I’m beyond rusty from my time with D5, I have a feeling the original Disgaea was just plain brutal. At least with the titles I’ve played, it felt as though the game allowed one or two chapters to go by before turning up the heat.
In total, D1 Complete has 13 chapters to finish. Taking an estimated guess, I’d say it would take players 25-30 hours to run through the story. Tack on additional hours for first timers getting acclimated and/or level grinding. Imagine how many hours it takes to get one character to level 9999?
Devil In The Details
Seeing how Hour of Darkness was the first in Disgaea history, I figured a few downgrades were in store for me. Surprisingly though, only one feature wasn’t as productive as later entries made them. Smaller issues crop up but these can easily be remedied by adjusting settings. Player/enemy turns can no longer be skipped but an option in settings does skip animations, effectively fast-forwarding turns. The main issue for me revolves around how additional characters are created.
Creating characters in, let’s say, D5 was done with the use of HIL; what passes as in-game currency for the series. With D1 Complete, Mana is required to build a loyal army. Only problem with mana however? It’s harder to come by than HIL, especially when Mana is used for all sorts of other functions. So when I want to create a new class but must use the “Good-For-Nothing” or “ Incompetent” specs, doesn’t feel like I’m getting the proper use out of my spent Mana. I’m sure this is how it worked back in 2003 but I prefer how later entries handled recruitment.
Other memorable features like the Item World, Dark Assembly, etc., make their rightful appearances. Dark Assembly is the place where players use Mana to properly build their roster. The Netherworld may be controlled by demons but the worst kind of demons reside in these halls: Politicians. That’s right, players must stand before all sorts of demonic senators and bring their “bill” to a vote. Bills run the gambit for numerous items such as increasing store inventories or allowing a character to counterattack more frequently. Senators are allowed (and do so often) to decline a bill put forward. This ties into my issue with exclusively using Mana for improvements because if a bill is declined, that Mana used won’t be reimbursed.
As if the game didn’t have enough for players, the Item World adds a huge chunk of content to explore. I won’t get into specifics here since ten paragraphs alone could be written about the particular topic. The long and short of it? The Item World is a randomly processed area used to strengthen weapons, armor and some items. Basically, players enter the chosen weapon/armor/item and defeats the enemies within. Defeating special creatures called “specialists” also boosts the potential of whatever is being strengthened. Using the Item World is mandatory since the game probably can’t be beaten without stronger equipment. I bet there’s some mad genius who’s done so but trust me, Item World is a lovely friend.
D5 was the last game in the series I played and, as far as I’m concerned, is the pinnacle of Disgaea games thus far. For one thing, D5 had a much better OST; something this game is in sore need of. However, thanks to Disgaea‘s formidable but fair approach, I found myself open to experiencing more of what the series would come to offer. That said, having the original Disgaea readily available on current gen means a lot to me, as I’m sure it does to many others as well. Not sure if D1 Complete functions as the best go to for newcomers, as it’s more heavy handed in dealing out punishment with the steep learning curve and shows limitations at times. Nevertheless, I believe Disgaea fans will jump at the opportunity to dig back in.