Disgaea was a cult JRPG in the era where you could talk about a game being on the Playstation without having to specify a number, and launches now into its PC port after decades of the demands of its fans. Why they didn’t think to begin with the latest and exceptionally well received entry isn’t clear, but probably has something to do with the fact that it’d be much harder to sell Disgaea 1 in competition with its own superior sequel, so I’m expecting that at some point in the distant future.
Hell, you could almost say anticipating.
The series, for those unfamiliar, primarily achieves its fame for its reputation as a feckless insubordinate, at least where the rules and conventions of RPGs are concerned. This isn’t unearned; Disgaea rejects rules and convention with the enthusiasm of a 16-year-old who’s found the key to the liquor cabinet, and with equally messy results. As a result, the game is extremely, almost suspiciously easy to break, turning the missions themselves into a cakewalk unless you choose to challenge yourself to only use your weakest characters as your strongest, (veterans of a hundred crusades through the souls of chocolate bars and swords) will saunter through the plot missions with ease.
The problem with Disgaea’s incredibly open system is mainly that it’s impossible to talk about without sounding like you’ve spent years in a cave, existing entirely on chemical samples and some of the more tightly regulated flora. “Fight the gladiator inside your chocolate bar to re-home him in your sword,” and “Ruthlessly bribe the congress of hell to let the shop sell shoes,” are both things that you’ll not only do, but that are basically necessities if you want to properly take advantage of Disgaea’s myriad systems.
And make no mistake, the overwrought story of deamon princes, penguins and dood’s takes such a backseat to the importance of the systems that it’s found itself in caravan behind, slamming shots of whatever it can find in the medicine cabinet. In some ways it’s refreshing to have a story that gives so few shits about being coherent. Sure, it’s written with more enthusiasm than skill, but it’s not pretending to any real level of seriousness either. I’m actually surprised more games don’t do this; after all, most game writing notoriously is shit and I’ll take badly written weirdness over badly written blandness any day of the week.
All it is, really, is a collection of excuses to push you along the road of manic perfectionism, and that’s the game Disgaea PC really is. Most RPGs have a fairly short road to stat maximization; get the right gear, put the points in the right places and hit max level and you’re as good as you’re getting. Disgaea takes this self-inflicted end goal and builds a game out of it, giving incrementally small but potentially infinite rewards for more at more time, effort and strategy. Max level fighter? The game taunts you after god knows how many hours it took you to reach lv9999. “If you reincarnate, you could come back as a pugilist and get even stronger,” never-mind that you’ve been strong enough to beat the game entirely for hours or that reincarnation will mean you start again at level one, you’ll never be as strong as you could be until you take that plunge.
The thing that makes this forgivable is that you’re never forced to do any of it. As one character in the hub world so kindly informs you, “You can complete the game with a minimal understanding,” but doing so feels like a bit of a waste. Sure, you’ll never need to level your AOE attacks until they do nine trillion damage, but that fact that it’s possible will be all the encouragement some people need.
People immune to this siren call will probably finish with Disgaea in a few hours and never think of it again, a strange little RPG with a batshit storyline. But for those poor sailors without their ears full of wax it’ll become something more like an obsession, the eternal pushing of characters and stats and abilities to more and more ludicrous heights for the promise that someday you’ll have the perfect team.
Disgaea, of course, is smarter that to let you off that easily. Disgaea knows you could get better damage if you combined another gladiator into the soul of your boxing gloves. I’ll only take a couple more hours.
Score: 7/9 Hammers
Disgaea PC | Developer: Nippon Ichi Software | Released: Feb 24th, 2016 | Website: Official