Review: Disgaea: Hour of Darkness

Greetings, readers, from the world of tomorrow! I am here, despite a myriad of confounding computer problems, to express my thoughts on the world of gaming. This week, I would like to discuss a game with which many of our weeaboo readers are no doubt familiar: Disgaea: Hour of Darkness. Released for the PlayStation 2 in 2003 by Nippon Ichi and Atlus, Disgaea was a sleeper hit that captivated JRPG fans and otaku with its quirky charm and its interesting gameplay. But is Disgaea truly a game worth playing? Join me, readers, and find out!

Most of the game's major characters are present.
Disgaea's U.S. Box Art gives a fairly good idea of what to expect from its character cast.

The first Disgaea is a Tactical RPG, similar to Fire Emblem or Final Fantasy Tactics, but with a few differences. Disgaea uses a turn-based battle system: the player selects the actions for all characters in battle, then once the player’s turn has ended, enemies act as well. Actions in Disgaea do not execute immediately; the player chooses when to execute commands and the actions take place in the order they were given. This allows the player to, for example, direct three attackers toward one enemy, then execute the three commands. If the enemy does not fall, the player can send a fourth. Also in Disgaea is a mechanic called “Geo Panels”, colored tiles affected by pyramidal “Geo Symbols”. These symbols can be lifted and thrown onto other colored tiles to change which panels are affected by the symbol, and the symbols can also be destroyed if the player so desires. The panel effects affect both players and enemies, with some, such as Experience +50% being desirable, and some, such as Clone or Enemy Boost x3 being effects the player will want to eliminate immediately.

Disgaea is also notable for its heavy party customization. The player may choose any ten characters for battle at a time, switching characters in or out by using a Base panel. Outside of storyline characters and three pregenerated monsters, the party makeup is left entirely up to the player. Characters can be chosen from several classes, with palette swapped classes with higher stats and entirely new classes with other abilities being unlocked by leveling existing characters. Disgaea also utilizes a Senatorial “Dark Assembly” mechanic used to unlock better items in shops, additional maps, and other miscellaneous upgrades. Rounding off the unique list of game mechanics is the ability to go into any item, weapon, or accessory and fight through randomly generated maps to improve the item’s effects. Overall, the game mechanics in Disgaea work to craft an interesting and unique experience unlike any other Tactical JRPG.

Okay, so there are only a few monsters. But ''horde'' sounds cooler, no?
Laharl, Etna, and Flonne fearlessly stare down a horde of monsters.

Disgaea is the story of Laharl, prince of the Netherworld. After an unintentional two year nap, Laharl’s vassal Etna awakens him to tell him that the king has died, plunging the Netherworld into chaos. The plot then covers Laharl’s adventures as he and his vassals travel through the Netherworld and have a plethora of demonic misadventures. The character cast of Disgaea is by far its strongest point; the game features, in this writer’s opinion, the single greatest cast in gaming history, with a hilarious and utterly excellent mixture of characters. The goofy, hammy Laharl and the snarky, conniving Etna are joined by the adorable love freak Flonne, the failed Angel Assassin and a number of other brilliantly written characters. The cheesy spaceman superhero, CAPTAIN GORDON, DEFENDER OF EARTH! and his sidekicks will undoubtedly leave the player in stitches as the game progresses. The plot of Disgaea is generally a light-hearted and comedic affair, though serious and emotional moments are frequently found as well. The actual narrative takes a few hours to become interesting, but the sharply written characters carry the storyline along on their own. The plot and writing of Disgaea are truly the game’s greatest draws; the localization and writing are among the best in video gaming.

Anyone who knows me knows that I have a weakness for the adorable, bubbly ditz characters. Flonne is no exception.
Why, yes, Flonne...yes you are.

On a technical level, Disgaea is admittedly lacking. The game uses sprite-based character designs and simple backgrounds, something truly strange for a PS2 game. Indeed, Disgaea would not look out of place on the original PlayStation. When characters are speaking between battles and at the beginning and end of each chapter, crudely animated anime-style portraits are used to show characters within a scene. That being said, while the graphics are not technically advanced, they work well for the anime-based feel of the game. Disgaea impressively manages to craft an interesting world with rather crude graphics. The music of Disgaea, while decent, is largely forgettable. The musical tracks generally fit the tone and setting, but are honestly not particularly memorable or catchy. Disgaea‘s music is easily its weakest point; it is average but not great.

So, then, is Disgaea: Hour of Darkness worth a playthrough? For fans of JRPGs or anime, the answer is most certainly yes. Disgaea is an excellent TRPG with an amazing cast of characters, and is a game tailor-made for the RPG-hungry weeaboo fandom. I personally recommend Disgaea: Afternoon of Darkness, the PSP port with several new maps and an additional storyline. The PSP version is available on Amazon for about $20 and will give anywhere from around twenty to two hundred hours of entertainment, depending on the player’s willingness to level grind and take on extra maps and endings. Disgaea is a must-play for any JRPG or anime fan, and is truly one of the greatest Tactical RPGs ever to grace the gaming world. Have you played Disgaea, readers? If so, let me know in the comments what you thought of the game. I look forward to discussing it.


  1. WEEABOO BULLISH-Oh wait, Disgaea? I liked the game, even if I hated the grinding it made me do. Even my brother enjoyed playing it, and he’s an FPS fanboy. It’s a shame I can’t find my DS and finish it.

  2. Definitely NOT Weeaboo Bullshit. First-rate SRPG action with brilliant writing.

  3. Disgaea 1 was good, and the grinding wasn’t even that bad if you knew some tricks(like abusing auto-enemy-level geo squares) and I actually liked the sprite graphics.
    D2 was much worse in the story department, and Phantom Brave beats them both.

  4. I love the Disgaea series! I even bought a stuffed Prinny, dood!

    I can’t wait for Disgaea 4. I’m trying to finish all of the current games in the series before it comes out. =)

    I didn’t mind the grinding, either. I would play while listening to an audiobook or podcast, or while having skype chats. It’s a good game to play when you want to play a game but can’t focus 100%. It’s like my Pokemon. =P

  5. @Enrei I played a few hours of Phantom Brave and hated it.

    @Lusi Disgaea is totally a weeaboo game. It’s the Hatsune Miku of SRPGs!

  6. Disgaea made me laugh at every moment. At one point, I felt like playing a game that was “like chess, except crazy” (I had forgotten about the tactical RPG thing in the years since FF Tactics) and this was everything I’d wanted and more (though not perfect). Special recommendations are due for a game where you’re from the Netherworld, so cheating and being unfair in combat and strategy are encouraged.

  7. Love this series, currently working on a sweet character in the third game. I tended to prefer the second and third games because they both have exploits to get high level characters really quickly (i have a weapon and trapezohedron set in the third game that levels me to 9999 in 2 battles)

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