Strategy RPG fans are treated in quick succession to a pair of strategy RPGs this fall, Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, and Disgaea: Hour of Darkness. I’ve picked up both and must say that I am feelin’ Disgaea a hell of a lot more than Final Fantasy Tactics Advance. Disgaea just does so many things right in being a strategy RPG and dare I say that it is everything Final Fantasy Tactics Advance wishes it could be.
Let us get the story out of the way first shall we? The Overlord of the Underworld King Krichevskoy has died. The Underworld is thrown into chaos as demons are lining up at the gates to take the title of Overlord. While this has been going on, Prince Laharl, the now bastard son of Krichevskoy has been sleeping, two years have passed since the king’s death, and now that he’s awake he’s about to show the Underworld who’s boss. Along with his not so faithful vassal Etna, he’s going to take the Underworld by storm, all the while the angels living in Celestia will be watching, and will be providing some divine intervention of sorts. The story is also incredibly funny, every time I see a Prinny (think a stuffed penguin on peg legs) rip out a pair of swords and shout “DOOD!” while swinging away I can’t help but be amused. This isn’t a serious, gotta save the world type story, Laharl and his merry crew are genuinely evil and are out to take over the world, and don’t have a problem with stepping on some toes to get there, although as the story progresses there are some definite character changes along the way, but it is enthralling throughout. Add in a touch of good voice acting and you’re set.
Let’s get the most disappointing aspect out of the way first. This game looks like a high resolution PS1 title. The sprites could have used some more animation in story segments. Overall the graphics are not that good, but you know what, it is very easy to look past, they work for this kind of game. Although I must say that I am a big fan of the art style for this game, the character designs are really cool and only helps to convey how wonderfully devilish they are. Sound is a pleasant mix of chamber music to epic battle scores, other than that can’t really say much, same goes for sound effects, aside from the massive explosions that you will feel with the proper sound system this game has a qualified sound team.
Okay now it is time to get into the serious matter, the gameplay. This game is easily one of the best strategy/tactical games I have and ever will play just because it is a very simple turned based system that works like this. Once you commence a battle, you can deploy up to ten units from your base square. Of course you don’t have to unload all ten at once, and if you want to you can return used units on the next turn for some fresh ones. Or you could just use one to draw out some enemies from across the map and then deploy them all at once for a beat down of massive proportions. Also you are not limited to just telling your units what to do and then the turn ends. In fact you can individually have characters attack, and then move them as necessary, so for instance you can have Laharl walk up to an enemy and then pound then, which would then end his activities for the turn. You can then have another character walk over to him, pick him up and throw him back to the base square so you can bring out a spell caster or healer perhaps. And once you’ve set up all your characters in attack position you can have them do combo attacks that will go towards a bonus meter. Once the battle is concluded you will be awarded depending on how much you filled up said bonus meter.
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