Friday, September 13, 2013

Disgaea: Decade of Backlog

You know what's a good clue that indicates a Strategy RPG's been on your backlog way too long?

When you boot it up and realize that all the characters the game allows you to rename are named after people you went to school with almost a decade ago.

Aside from being a stark reminder that a 10-year reunion's coming up for one of my alma maters, seeing names I hadn't seen in a long time (making me wonder whatever happened to my friend Nedra, who had the pet ferrets), I realized that it was high time  I finally finished Disgaea:  Hour of Darkness.  This was a point further cemented by the fact that I own at least one incarnation of each game in the series to date, but have yet to actually finish one of them.

But as a I sat down to play a game nearly a decade old, I was concerned with how well it stood the test of time:  The newer entries to the series fixed quite a few of the issues with the earlier game while also innovating on the system and looking shinier.  After being exposed to so many new games, just how well did Disgaea 1 age for me?

Not as well as this guy, but close.
Back to the Grind

For the Enabler, the Disgaea series ranks as one of her favorites, while I've always been mixed on it.  We both enjoy the humor in the series, and we both enjoy strategy RPGs, but there's a stark difference:  The Enabler has the much healthier mindset of sitting down, playing a few maps, grinding out a few levels, and maybe finishing a bit at a time.  I, on the other hand, have a single-minded obsession with trying to finish everything that a game has to offer and gleaning satisfaction out of putting it in my pile of 'finished' games, as another trophy of conquest.

Yeah.  That doesn't quite work with Disgaea.  Those of you who have played the game know that there's an endless supply of things to do:  There's the endless dungeons of the Item World, a horde of characters that you can recruit, dozens of different classes, numerous weapon options, various ways to customize them. . the list goes on and on.  Not to mention that the level cap for your characters is essentially infinite.  Reach the cap?  Transmigrate your characters back to level one with their stats and continue the process anew!  Seriously, I fear for the world if Nippon Ichi, the creators of the game, decided to create an MMO.

Only level 1098?  Gimp.
You can probably see why Disgaea got shuttled to my backlog by this point:  The sheer amount of things to do along with my desire to get my money's worth by doing everything ended up being overwhelming.  I managed to play through about half of the story, grind out a few of the optional areas, and level the main character up before finally putting it aside. 

Fast forward to to the present. .

-Subheading 2-

When I finally decided to come back to the game, I decided to forego most of the extra grinding, which left me with about half of the story to complete.  I'll have to admit I was skeptical here:  The game always struck me as more about grinding that a deep, enriching story.  Thus,With so much to do in Hour of Darkness, I was worried that the story would be sorely lacking.  I mean it's great that you can sink hundreds of hours into customizing and tweaking your army, but at the core I still wanted a good story.  So how does it measure up?  I won't waste your time by giving a long, drawn out synopsis of the story, but for me, it held up surprisingly well:

She makes a point.
And then there were bits like this:

A lot of the humor still made me chuckle (and oddly, I think I appreciated it this time a lot more than the first time I played it).  The game isn't all laughs, as the first entry in the series, at least, manages to balance both the silly humor with some darker elements -- something the later games (allegedly, from what friends have told me) eased off of.  While Disgaea is a series you play more for the endless hours of grinding and customization, but it's nice to see that the first one didn't completely neglect the story.

Closing Thoughts

It's highly unlikely that I'll revisit Hour of Darkness any time soon:  I still have the second, third, and fourth games to finish, and with each game being an improvement over the last (at least, from the bits that I've played of each), as well as yet another game on the horizon, it's pretty hard to justify taking a step backwards when the new game in a series takes you so many steps forward:

..But sometimes, it's a giant leap backwards

No comments: