Japanese developer Nippon Ichi Software was known for their niche games before Disgaea series put them in the spotlight. This is why it maintains an important role in their success and continues to get fresh new games that until now do remarkably well. To celebrate the 15th anniversary of the original Disgaea: Hour of Darkness, they have released a remake of it offering high-definition visuals and audio. It serves the purpose of being an introduction and perfect entry point to the series while offering the fans – who solely played Disgaea 5 – a chance to explore the origins with improved visuals.
Disgaea 1 Complete is primarily a remaster where a lot of work has gone in to bring the graphics up-to-date with the current generation standards. The look and feel of the game have been completely revamped beginning first with the sprites. In the original Disgaea: Hour of Darkness, the pixellated look of the sprites didn’t scale that well to a large screen. The new art style helps mitigate this issue bringing the visuals up to modern standards.
The strategy RPG elements of the game are carefully made with some complex systems in place to keep you rethinking the plan for every battle. Even if you have never played the game before, the battle system is easy to understand with a tutorial that gives an idea of the basics. Battles take place by traveling to stages through dimension travel and selecting the choice of battle from a given list, so the experience is completely linear. A main hub in the game lets you handle all the crucial tasks, like purchasing equipment, healing your party, establishing an army or voting in the dark assembly to alter the rules of the Netherworld.
There are no major new additions made to this remake, it is just a complete visual overhaul of the game without any changes made to the gameplay. Thus, it is hard to recommend it to those who have already experienced Disgaea 1. There is no incentive to replay it again because even if the visuals look pretty – underneath it all – there are no major improvements or changes made to add some value to the package. The moniker ‘Complete’ doesn’t serve any purpose here and should have been simply called as a Remake, but perhaps the developers wanted it to fit with the Disgaea 5 Complete naming convention.
In Disgaea 1 Complete, you will control Laharl, a demon who inherits his father’s kingdom after his death but wakes up after almost 2 years to find all of it is in ruins because there was no proper ruler to take over in his absence. He wakes up from his 2 years of sleep with help from Etna – one of the vassals for the king – who suggests to Laharl that he should take control of the Netherworld as the rightful heir – but this means now he has to battle the new evil forces who stand in his way to reclaim the throne.
During his journey. Laharl will meet many new characters; some of them will join his party while others end up as a foe. You will also notice how some of these ended up making a return in the sequels and even had a whole game based on their character. Prinnies are just a side-character in Disgaea, but they ended up getting at least two spin-offs that were also brutally difficult.
Despite the serious tone of the story, the game is delightful to play with its visual novel style cutscenes, full of witty dialogue and hilarious character development. The lively banter between Etna, Laharl, and Flonne never get old. The side characters like the Prinnies are as charming as they are lethal. They consider Etna as their leader and serve as a comedic relief during key story moments. They are also exploding bombs, and I mean this literally because if you lift and throw them at enemies, they will explode and damage everyone around them.
The gameplay in Disgaea is top-notch and still works well today. It is a shame that there were no quality-of-life improvements that carried over from its successors since it was an adequate time to do so. Every element of the game retains from the initial release so, in some ways, it can feel backward going from Disgaea 5 to this remake. This is essentially the PC port as made clear through the credits that list, the staff for the PC version, and it is not like this is a terrible thing. But I do feel the name is slightly misleading for fans who have already finished the game since technically there is nothing ‘complete’ in it.
Disgaea is all about grinding and the game fully embraces this grind with an item world. You can go into any item to level up and improve their stats which mean you will have to power your way through a multi-level dungeon that feels endless. Unless you obtain a specific item, you can only return back after passing 10 levels but the result is that the weapon or item will increase in potency and power, while your characters can also gain experience points making it all worth it by the end.
Don’t mistake this as an easy game, since you will hit plenty of obstacles due to the difficulty. There are some boss fights that are not only tricky, but they additionally have artificial difficulty curves that essentially requires you to go back and grind for more experience and powerful gear. Building a formidable army under the demon king Laharl is the goal and key to successfully finishing Disgaea, and this is not a trivial task. Gaining votes under your favor either by democracy or through force in the Senate is a creative way to carry out certain tasks.
You can improve the rank of your characters by defeating enemies in it. You can also vote for various actions like asking for funds or obtaining high-level weapons in the shop. This system is complex and will require a lot of time to master because to gain the required votes, you will not only need to bribe but can also fight your way with force. The game offers many options on how to approach each scenario and as a player, it will be left up to you to decide it. But if you do learn how to exploit this system, the difficulty will go down significantly.
Disgaea 1 Complete Review (Switch)
Game Reviewed on: Switch
Game description: The beloved cast of the original Disgaea returns in this remaster for a new generation, for the first time in HD!
Final Score - 8/108/10
As a remake, Disgaea 1 Complete is pretty barebones and lacks new content. It also has a slightly misleading name, but this doesn’t take back that it is a still a classic that holds up well even today and serves as a good entry point into the series.