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Disgaea 1 COMPLETE (Switch) Review

PhantomZ2 falls into Disgaea 1 COMPLETE, in order to become the greatest Overlord of all time! Great thanks to NIS America for sending us a review code!

As a big fan of Nippon Ichi Software’s Disgaea franchise, you would think that I’d have played absolutely all of the titles. Although I have played all of the main games, I actually never played the game that started it all – Disgaea: Hour of Darkness. However, thanks to NIS America sending us a review code, I’ll finally be able to see where this franchise came from in the 15th Anniversary HD Remaster: Disgaea 1 COMPLETE for the Nintendo Switch

Disgaea 1 follows the story of Prince Laharl, a blue-haired headstrong demon that is woken up by Etna, a sneaky red-headed demon, after a nap spanning across several years. With Laharl’s father, the Overlord: King Krichevskoy, passing away two years ago and with almost everyone forgetting about him in his sleep – the title for Overlord of the Netherworld is now up for grabs and it is Laharl’s goal to prove that he is the rightful owner of his old man’s title.

Disgaea 1 is very comical and dark in terms of humor and it plays it straight, which is why I love the series so much. Most jokes hit very well, especially thanks to character interactions between normal dialogue and mostly during the ending chapter cutscenes.

Of course, there is definitely more to stay about the story, but as this is a pretty long JRPG I wouldn’t want to spoil what the game has in store for you. However, I will state there are a multitude of different endings and a special mode that is activated with a secret code on the title screen that allows you to play as Etna in a story where she accidentally kills Laharl while trying to wake him up.

After playing all of the games that were after this title, finally experiencing what the original was like felt like a bad case of whiplash. The gameplay is formatted in a turn-based isometric staged RPG. The player will be pit against a set of enemies as they play through each level on the chapter’s stage. You can each unit a set amount of spaces, throw your other units, attack your enemies with basic attacks and specials (you can also do it to your own units), and use items. However, as this is a strategic game, be careful with your choices. Once you’ve moved and done any action, besides defending yourself, that unit will no longer be able to act for that turn.

Of course, that’s just the base mechanics. From your hub world, you’ll be able to access the Weapon Shop, Armor Shop, Hospital, Item World, and Dark Assembly. The Weapon and Armor Shop lets you purchase Weapons, Armor, Health Items, and Thieving Items. With the Hospital, you can heal your units’ HP and SP and you’re actually rewarded with equipment and items for getting beat up so much.

The Dark Assembly is where you can change up the way the game plays. Aside from being able to create new characters and reincarnate your characters, you can pass laws that will allow you to get higher quality weapons and some other very interesting additions, that I won’t spoil. The Item World allows you to enter the world of an item! Each stage you go through will be randomly generated and with every stage completed, your item will also level up.

While the game is very easy to grasp and learn, there are some things that are very strange – especially as someone who is playing the first game for the first time. There aren’t very clear-cut introductions into some of the mechanics, such as the Item World. In future games, they changed this by not allowing the player to access the Item World until they understood a bit of the game. However, the Item World is open up from the start and is actually pretty difficult because of the lack of an escape. As you progress, in the early chapters, you’ll be required to go to the Item World in order to progress and you’ll be given a Mr. Gency Exit – which allows you to escape the Item World in between stages. The thing is, since its open before you ever get that, you could actually try to progress in the Item World and lose, thus causing you to lose all of your progress from playing.

Disgaea 1 COMPLETE’s presentation is pretty lacking sadly, especially when it is supposed to be a Remaster. Some character art was updated, the User Interface was updated, textures were updated, and character sprites were updated – even borrowing some of the new classes and their designs from the more recent games. The issue is that some of what was updated feels so inconsistent and how much it’s lacking in comparison to the previous games.

For as long as I’ve been a part of the series, players have had the chance to pick between English and Japanese – now its English and French. Although character icons’ art was updated and as I’ve stated within the Labyrinth of Refrain Review, I absolutely love Takehito Harada’s art, but the character busts between dialogue are almost, if not the exact, same from the original game. I’ve only noticed this issue with Laharl, but the voice clips sound very crunchy.

The one major gripe that affects the entire game as well, is the pacing. Not in terms of the story, but in terms of the game itself. Your cursor movement is pretty slow, whereas Disgaea 5 allowed you to make it extremely fast. You have the option to let battle and special animations play out or they’re skipped, but you can’t skip them with the press of the button even if you wanted to watch some animations and not all. The pacing of other animations, such as the Bonus Gauge is also very slow and you can’t act as it fills up – so if you destroyed some Geo Panels and caused a lot of damage, expect to also be waiting a few more seconds to get back into the gameplay. Worst of all is the lack of impact and pacing that the Special Attacks have. Some specials, such as Triple Strike and Blade Rush, are still within the recent games and have had new animations. Although I’m aware that the tone of Disgaea 1 doesn’t call for extremely over the top and fast paced animations, it still would be better to either use the newer animations as they not only look better but get back into letting the player play the game faster.

As much as I love the Disgaea franchise and have for many years, I didn’t think that the origin of it would leave a very mixed impression. If you’ve played Disgaea 1 in the past and enjoy the way that the game is, I would say definitely pick it up. The fact that you can take it on the go with the Switch is a definite step up from having to wait to get back home and play it. If you’re interested in where the series started, I would also say to pick this up or to pick up Disgaea PC – which is cheaper, but again you’ll have to only play at home. However, if you’re looking for a fun and engaging JRPG to play in general – I would have to say pick up a different Disgaea game such as Disgaea 5 COMPLETE on the Switch. Disgaea 1 COMPLETE gets 3 out of 5 stars from me.