Back in August of 2003, NIS America released the original Disgaea: Hour of Darkness on the PS2 to very well received reception amongst critics for its humerous blend of comedy and strategic gameplay. Five years later, they tried their hand at porting the first game to the Nintendo DS (entitled Disgaea DS) which received relatively mixed reviews due to the limitations of the system vs its original PS2 and even PSP ported counterparts. Flash forward to 2017, with the emergence of the Nintendo Switch, the Disgaea series sees its very strong re-emergence on a Nintendo console in almost nine years with Disgaea 5 selling almost 200,000 copies in the west alone (as of April 2018). With the release of Disgaea 1 Complete on the Nintendo Switch,PS4, and PC however, the king (or Overlord if you will) of Tactical RPGs is back in full-swing to reclaim his throne.
Disgaea 1 Complete is a full remaster of the original Disgaea: Hour of Darkness remade for the PS4, PC, and Nintendo Switch. The plot remains the same placing the player as Laharl, son of the Netherworld’s previous overlord and rising successor to the throne. Him along with his vassal, Etna and angel “trainee” Flonne, must show the Netherworld who’s the next truest heir to the throne by decimating anyone who challenges that seat of power. Unlike the first Disgaea’s PC port (titled Disgaea PC), this one contains a complete visual and UI overhaul from its predecessor. The first thing that immensely stands out is how much more the polished up the sprite work is on display with much cleaner detail character designs looking alot sharper and realized to their character portraits. The series’ evolution over time has served as a timeline in displays of improved sprite work and even character animations. Another improvement is in its still fantastically updated dub which keeps the same voice actor roles from Disgaea D2 and beyond. Other improvements include its changes in the user interface and updated stage work which makes its motif stand out alot stronger than its PC and PS2 counterparts.
One small place that these quality of life improvements didn’t carry over into is the “preview” segments that take place between each of its episodes, which still use the same screenshots and sprite-work from the 2003 PS2 version. Its easy to call attention to, simply because the rest of this package is nicely reworked and updated.
One additional mode that’s been brought over from its DS/PSP cousins is “Etna Mode”, in which is a separate campaign in which you play through a new campaign as Laharl’s less than “loyal” vassal. The mode was a smaller albeit still a very fun side-story playthrough that details her relationship with her true master and her prinnies too which goes hand in hand with the prinnies’ own handheld title on the PSP from 2009.
For many years now, Disgaea has been leading the charge on tactical RPGs with their multitude of iterations on different consoles, and the buck continues here in its original and simplest form. You send out and command a multitude of different primary characters and custom secondary characters of various classes and weapons unto different stages, set to defeat all enemies on each of the boards.
As the game progresses and you gain level for each of your characters, your characters also accrue mana which can be used in the game’s “Dark Assembly” which is used to do things like upgrade character classes,create new characters to add to your army, and unlock different purchasable items in the game’s armor/weapon stores to name a few. The many custom characters vary rather nicely with different classes with different professions in weapons, with more character types and classes unlocking as you progress through the story.
When the need to grind up the levels for newly created characters becomes apparent, instead of replaying the same previously beaten stages over and over, you can venture into Disgaea 1’s Item World. The Item World is the game’s continuous roguelike dungeon world curated around different items in your inventory you choose to go into. Each stage differentiates in landscape and different geo-panel layouts which leaves the opportunity to increase your bonus gauge exponentially to gain extra items, currency, or even EXP bonuses. Speaking of geo-panels, they’re still present in this game which adds a layer of strategic incentive to clear each of its colored sections per stage. However the best thing about all of this is,while its present in the game, its a completely optional thing to learn as in it won’t make or break you as you progress through the game. Some of the more complex systems like the tower/stacking systems are left absent in the game, but while a slight disappointment, makes Disgaea 1 much more approachable this time around to newcomers (especially for those on Switch who’s first exposure to Disgaea was with Disgaea 5).
All in all, Disgaea 1 Complete proves to be a nearly fantastic re-visitation into the titular T-RPG franchise that came about nearly 10+ years ago. The amount of variety that exists between using different classes and characters along with a very satisfying sense of progress you make between levels leads to a very complete package that would be remiss for anyone looking to get into the Disgaea series to start with. Not to mention the characters along with the game’s writing and dub are the icing on the evil cake. A true “remasterpiece” indeed!