Harkening back to the old SRPG’s of the 8, 16 and 32-bit era, Hour of Darkness was an odd release for a period in gaming that was mostly focused on graphical capabilities and UNNNNLIIMMMIITTTEEEDDD POOWWWAAAAAHHHH!!! (Shh prequel trilogy haters!)
The 15-year history of this much loved franchise easily warrants a remaster of its first outing, especially when done to a high standard. Disgaea 1 Complete features fully remastered textures and effects which all in all runs smooth as… well… Hell!
This reviewer would also like to take this moment to thank his readers for his persistence in fitting in Dad Jokes wherever possible. I know not everyone is happy about them, but 6 of the 7 Dwarves weren’t Happy end of the day!
A big bug bare for fans of Hour of Darkness was the titles frame rate, which was poor considering the tech it was running on at the time. Disgaea 1 Complete runs smoother than a Barry White lyric thanks to its optimisation on the Nintendo Switch. Frame rates are no longer an issue as previously mentioned, textures and special effects have been re touched and replaced for the most part. Another improvement would be the camera angles whilst performing special moves, no longer does scenery get in the way of the action thankfully.
Another touch of fan service enters the fray of additional modes with ‘Etna Mode’. Originally featured in ‘Disgaea: Afternoon of Darkness’, Etna Mode returns for additional countless hours of gameplay based on an alternative storyline based on Disgaea 1 Completes main story.
The main game itself contains a narrative that on first impressions may seem like a well-stocked but obvious cheese board complimented with a side of predictable crackers. Like those pre-packed ones one buys as a secret Santa present because their field of f***s is laid barren. But as die-hard Disgaea fans will know, it quickly evolves into an intertwining and complex narrative.
The Dark Assembly mode allows players to create new characters to add to their teams. This is populated by facing the demons in battle first, with a few basic types provided in the first instance. From Brawlers to Healers, there is a phenomenal amount of variety here. A set amount of Magica is needed to essentially buy a new team member, this is clearly outlined from the outset.
This reviewer learnt early on that picking the right existing character to enter the Dark Assembly with is key due to Disgaea 1 completes Pupil / Mentor mechanic. As one character grows, so does the other via a link which is created as soon as the character creation process is complete. This mechanic leads to dual attacks on the battlefield and other nice benefits ‘d00ds’.
Damn Class System
Each Character under the protagonists control has their own set of basic attributes and abilities, all of which sit under their main class. This is where Disgaeas strategy meta comes into full view. For example; Each weapon has its own buffs and debuffs as is tradition. However, accompanying these factors are a group of sub classes / abilities which boosts effects positively for the right wielder. An axe with the sub-class of ‘management’ would best fit Etna for instance.
Dark Assembly also provides a couple of branching narrative paths that lead to various plot points. An example would be overthrowing the protagonists own demon council for exploitation and infamy. Players might even choose to simply bribe officials to get the financial sign offs they need, which is where the item world comes in handy.
The Item World allows players to enter the battlegrounds held within items in their own inventory in order to level them up. This process obviously increases the power of said item but also increases its rarity, which can then be used to tempt those spineless politicians one mentioned earlier. Although this provides an entertaining pseudo crafting mechanic, getting to grips with the games combat (And Medic Area for that matter) is necessary.
Pain For Pleasure
The Medic Area is also a great way to earn random gifts and bonuses funnily enough. The Nurse literally encourages players to be beaten to within an inch of their lives by rewarding them with rare items once a certain healing target is met. A great mechanic to motivate players who are failing hard (Such as this reviewer…)
The S-RPG gameplay in Hour of Darkness was, for its time, a new level of Isometric Strategy RPG gameplay which has stood the test of time so far through the formulas various iterations. The majority of battles are familiar to the genre: Take a turn, move characters, select their actions, execute said actions, apply any bonuses then rinse and repeat. It was the battleground variants that provided the twists and turns of battles such as healing pools, hazards and most importantly, Geo Symbols.
Geo Symbols can provide buffs, debuffs, rewards and forfeits for players from extra XP on kills to double damage for enemies. Whilst players have the option to destroy Geo Symbols, it’s best practice to study the effect they will have on the teams move pool and abilities. That being said, this reviewers playthrough was plagued with nasty Geo Symbols that one forgot about. “naughty Geo Symbols!” **Slaps Geo Symbol**
Flank The Rear!
As is tradition in RPGs, character move sets are based on their class and effectiveness on base stats. As Reggie Reviews readers are all too aware, healer classes are terrible at close or long range offence. Meanwhile Mage and Ranger types should be kept in the flanks and rear of the team to benefit from long range attacks, with brawlers and warriors serving best on the front lines up close and personal.
This is where the aforementioned Pupil / Mentor link come into play with great effect with double attacks and the like. Being an honest reviewer, this is all part and parcel of the fun in Disgaea and its respective genre. Players can also take advantage of height and distance variables by taking reduced damage when having the high ground but being able to deal damage in the same turn. Nice.
Another technique is lifting and throwing. For example: If a players’ attack power is dwarfed by an enemies’ defence who is sat happily in a healing pool, players can opt to lift the enemy and throw them to a fairer area of the battleground. This however sacrifices the players turn. If I was said enemy, I’d just move back and troll. But I’m not, so readers can rest easy and enjoy the strategy.
The soundtrack is brilliant, packed full of charm, quirky highs and dramatic lows. It’s almost a satire of itself, which is a clever move in this reviewers’ book. The soundtrack and sound effects in Disgaea 1 Complete cements the title as a quirky S-RPG that doesn’t need to take itself seriously to deliver an amazing battle system and compelling gameplay to boot. Furthermore, the voice acting was incredibly well done for its time and stands up by today’s standards. The cast portray character emotion and motives beautifully along with Disgaeas lust for insanity.
In terms of graphical prowess and overall performance, this remaster needed to happen. Brilliant character design was hindered by the resolution of the original title. To see Laharl and Co. with high resolution character sprites and engagingly smooth gameplay is truly a lovely sight. This is the right kind of remaster, unlike some of this generations glorified re-releases.
Graphics and Presentation: 4.5 / 5
Gameplay 4.9 / 5.0
Overall Score: 4.6/5.0
Disgaea 1: Complete is a brilliant remaster packed with some extra content that will keep the play time rolling well over 200 hours for the hard-core kids. Although a brilliant game, this won’t be a casual gamers cup of tea due it’s wealth of systems. However, this isn’t a bad thing and is not a negative reflection of the series by any means. Disgaea 1: Complete brings its original charm along with some necessary improvements and a complimentary wax polish in arguably one of the best remasters of the year.
Formats: Nintendo Switch (Reviewed) and PlayStation 4
Price: £49.99 (RRP)
Publisher: NIS America
Developer: NIS America
Release Date: 12/10/2018
Age Rating: PEGI 12+
Review copy provided by publisher