Disgaea for Nintendo DS is a title that I am torn about liking. On one hand it has all the stuff about the game I enjoy, strategic action, likable characters, and a solid story. But in the transition to the smaller storage media that the DS offers it lost a lot of the little things that helped make it the heart-warming tale of demons that everyone fell in love with on the PS2 back in 2003. Plus I already have the game on two other consoles! Disgaea DS still manages
to hold up quite well to some of the other strategy RPG titles on the system despite being a title from the halcyon days of the PS2. A couple of titles that immediately come to mind as inferior are Final Fantasy Tactics A2 and Front Mission, both of which feel slow and clunky in contrast to Disgaea's speedy style of gameplay.
This game is five years old going on ten in terms of graphics, which feel appropriate for the small screens of the DS. The characters are slightly more pixelated than the PSP and PS2 offerings but the game still looks quite good for its age. The inclusion of a second screen allows the game to display all the action on one screen while all the stats and number porn is displayed at the top of the screen, along with a map that displays all the information regarding geo-panels. The top screen is also useful when you're not in battle as it allows you to see what you've passed from the Dark Assembly, like Prinny Day and Triple Experience for your next battles, which is quite useful to have in case you decided to save and quit the game before heading back in to battle at a later time. Sadly the audio takes quite a hit being on the DS, Tenpei Sato's compositions suffer quite a bit of compression and midi breakdown. The vocal track is also English only on the DS, and while it is solid, it is also greatly paired down due to space on the tiny DS cart as there have been a number of scenes were voice acting was simply removed.
Disgaea tells the story of the young demon Laharl. His father who is the overlord of the netherworld has recently passed away during one of Laharl's exceptionally long siestas. Now that his father has kicked the bucket he figures it is high time to assert his rightful place as the overlord. With the help of his less than trusted vassal Etna he's off to conquer the netherworld to make everyone his minion, and even humans from Earth will feel his childish wrath. Or maybe Etna's depending on the choices you make over the course of the adventure.
Being a strategy RPG you're going to do a lot of micro-management which has always been a draw for the Disgaea series. Allowing characters to be reincarnated back at level one with boosted stats is just one of the many things you'll spend hours upon hours working on. Then there is the Disgaea requisite,
the Item World, a massive randomly generated dungeon that allows you to power up your weapons and armor and will definitely be a major time sink. One option that is curiously absent is the lack of a quick-save feature. You can only save your game in between battles, so if you're running low on juice it's better to just close the DS and find a power source fast, lest you lose your precious progress.
One of the big things about being on DS is touch screen capabilities. Disgaea for the most part is very successful, with a few minor flaws that are at times puzzling. For example, depending on your perspective you can only move your characters in one of three direction as opposed to four. You cannot point to the direction behind your character without rotating the camera. This is like I said a minor issue but at times it is annoying to not be able to do what should be immediately accessible. Touch screen menus are responsive and functional and aside from using the shoulder buttons to rotate the camera you can play the entire game with the stylus.
Playing Disgaea on DS is still a solid adventure and it works great in a portable medium, but again the limited DS cart size has caused the game to lose some of its audio and graphical fidelity in exchange for touch sensitive controls which are for the most part serviceable. If you've already got Disgaea on the PSP then you really don't have a reason to pick this one up. But if you played this on the PS2 and always wanted to get Disgaea on the go then this title is right up your alley despite missing out on some aesthetics that some people can't game without. The lack of a quick-save feature for mid-battle saves is not a deal breaker but more of a missed opportunity, and shouldn't be a major decision on whether or not this game is for you. For a game that is now over five years old this title still holds up well and would make an excellent addition to any DS library, and if you were previously anti-Sony, now is your chance to see what your friends were raving about over the past few years.