Tired of constantly being the hero and saving the day all the time? Looking for an RPG character with a bit of an attitude? Disgaea DS is the game for you. This Nippon Ichi developed tactical roleplaying game, which was also previously also released on the PlayStation 2 and the Sony PSP, puts you in the role of a cranky, selfish and immature Netherworld prince named Laharl. Laharl’s sole purpose for battling is merely to reclaim the throne that has been vacated by his deceased father. During the course of the game, players will encounter a motley crew of wacky companions, including exploding penguins, cheeseball heroes fresh out of a low budget 1960s sci-fi flick, and a mid-boss whose name is “Mid-Boss.” Yes, it’s every bit as bizarre as it sounds.
Story (4 out of 5)
The game kicks off as Laharl wakes up following a two-year slumber and first learns of his father’s passing. He also finds out that other powerful underworld denizens are in competition, trying to claim the throne for themselves. So Laharl does what any self-respecting Netherworld royal would do – he sets out to crush all of the pretenders to the throne and claim is place on top as the Overlord. Of course, whether he likes it or not, Laharl’s not alone on his quest. Joining the would-be king is his snarky and anything-but-loyal vassal Etna, her squadron of Prinnies (those exploding penguins mentioned above), and ditsy angel-trainee Flonne, among others. Basically, the plot involves one chaotic, comical misadventure after another, and while going into too much detail would spoil things, rest assure that gamers are in for one wild ride.
Gameplay (5 out of 5)
Disgaea DS is a veritable gold mine for fans of the strategy RPG genre. As in most games like this, Disgaea involves three major elements – a main base, in this case Laharl’s castle, where players will heal, purchase new equipment, and take care of other business; non-interactive animated story sequences with advance the plot; and the battlefield, which is where most of the real action occurs in the form of turn-based battles across a sizable map. Disgaea veterans know, however, that this game has several tricks up its sleeves.
For one thing, based on their formation, up to four allies can work together to attack a single enemy, thus putting a greater emphasis on troop placement. Also, there are Geo Panels, in which certain items can cause various stat bonuses or other effects in colored squares. Next, you’ve got the lift and throw system, which can be used strategically to move an ally closer to an enemy or even to combine two foes into one single, higher-level opponent. Then there is Item World, in which players can explore randomly generated dungeons inside their own equipment in order to make it more powerful. Finally, there is the Dark Assembly, a sort of Netherworld Congress which the player must consult to create new characters, increase the difficulty of opponents on old maps, get new and improved equipment in the shops, and even unlock new worlds to explore. Combine all of that with the ability to level up characters into the thousands and you have what is easily one of the deepest video games ever made.
Graphics & Sound (3 out of 5)
Unfortunately, Disgaea DS is a game you have to love for its personality, because it sure doesn’t have it in the looks department. The graphics aren’t all that good, but then again, the original PlayStation 2 version didn’t look so hot either. In truth, the graphics on the Nintendo DS actually hold up better against other games available on the system than the PS2’s visuals did. Both previous versions of Disgaea featured copious amounts of voice acting, but sadly most of it wound up on the cutting room floor due to the hardware limitations of the Nintendo DS. At least the music is good, though, and the loss of some graphical quality and voiceovers are concessions that most roleplaying fans will be willing to make, considering the circumstances.
If the unorthodox story and the ultra-deep gameplay aren’t enough to hook you, consider that the game also features multiple endings (more than a dozen, in fact) and allows players to save upon completion of the game and start over with their current levels. Also, the DS version of the game features optional touch-screen controls, a battlefield map that displays on the top screen during skirmishes, and the ability to buy and sell equipment and battle other players via local wireless play. Disgaea DS isn’t the best version of this unique tactical roleplaying game available, but it is quite good, and it is well worth the $29.99 purchase price for a new copy. After all, this is one of the most delightfully twisted RPG stories to date, and for the hardcore gamer, this game could potentially offer hundreds of hours of enjoyment.