The story of the various Disgaea games have always managed to capture my attention. Even after a decade I still return to an old save from the first incarnation of the series and just blast through the story for fun. Despite each iteration having a unique setting, each netherworld is part of an expanding universe that Nippon Ichi Software could never hope to fill. Powerful demons are able to jump into other worlds, allowing characters from past games to show up unexpectedly. These are games that reward a player that is able to put time into them.
The series is developed by Nippon Ichi Software (or NIS for short), a company that was known for little outside japan before the release of Disgaea. In fact, the only title that a western gamer might recognise would be Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure on the PlayStation. Their early titles were published outside of Japan by Atlus, Koei and Mastiff Inc. These releases helped bring the company to the attention of western gamers. Shortly after the release of Disgaea, NIS America, Inc. was established to handle the localisation, marketing and publishing of all future Nippon Ichi titles.
Disgaea was the first Nippon Ichi game published in the west for the PlayStation 2. The game that the company had previously developed, La Pucelle: Tactics, took longer to make the journey over as the publisher felt that the game required a fair amount of alterations for its release. This may have been a bonus for Nippon Ichi. Both titles are tactical RPGs with similar ideas, but the systems had been refined for Disgaea. The game was an instant hit with the people who bought it, though it was overlooked somewhat. Not enough was done to explain just how different Disgaea was from other games in the same genre.
Comedy is found everywhere in Disgaea. Each character has their own goal and are willing to do whatever to achieve it, with varying degrees of success. Item and equipment descriptions are usually humorous. The game does not even take itself seriously as characters are aware that they have titles and levels. Many of the series long running gags first appeared in this game, such as the Prism Rangers, the ability of the protagonist to force people to join his party, and the requirement that Prinnies use the word ‘dood’ in every sentence.
While Disgaea had a fun and engaging story to follow, it was also possible to spend time away from it making characters as powerful as possible. Delving into the item world not only improved gear the player owned, it also served as place to grind level in the early game. Later missions would be ideal places to level extremely quickly, as well as providing an abundance of mana that could be spent on unlocking extra classes and optional missions, or reincarnating a character at level one with improved base stats. this cycle of reincarnation and grinding allowed a player to create god-like characters that were necessary to complete to post game maps and unlock special characters, including faces from other Nippon Ichi games.
After Disgaea, Nippon Ichi created Phantom Brave and then Makai Kingdom: Chronicles of the Sacred Tome. Both game dropped the grid based maps of Disgaea in favour of a free movement system that gave players more control over how a character was positioned. Although Phantom Brave was not directly connected to the Disgaea universe, familiar faces popped up to cause problems for the protagonists of both games.
For the next three Disgaea games Nippon Ichi returned to a grid based system. Very few mechanics were changed for the second game in the franchise, but this game expanded the amount of additional content available. Pirates began invading the item world to offer extra challenge and rewards. ‘Dark’ versions of each map could be unlocked that had to be completed within a turn limit. Each new entry in the series would add more content and extra ways to power up characters and items. After the move onto the PlayStation 3, achievements were handed out to players whose precious characters could inflict ridiculous amounts of damage with a single hit.
Nippon Ichi will soon release Disgaea Dimension 2 in the west, a direct sequel to the original Disgaea. Offering a new story and many of the improvements found in later games, this game will be one to watch for fans of the franchise, the company, or tactical RPGs in general. Only time will tell if it still contains the magic that made the original so successful.
Are you a fan of the Disgaea series? If so, what is your favourite moment from any of the games? If are not, why not? Let me know in the comments!