Disgaea 1 Complete (Switch) Review – Complete Success?
Platforms: PS4, Nintendo Switch (reviewed)
Developer: Nippon Ichi Software
Publisher: NIS America
Release: 12th October 2018
After the completely new IP Labyrinth of Refrain Coven and Dusk as well as last year´s port of Disgaea 5, the Switch sees yet another new game of NIS America´s beloved series: Disgaea 1 Complete. A visual complete overhaul of the whole game as well as every DLC and widescreen support. Though can this 15 years old game stand up to modern times, especially for 50 bucks?
We´re playing as the young demon prince Laharl who´s woken up by his vassal Etna after only … a few years of sleep. Having overslept both the fall of his father´s kingdom and the following evil schemes. Naturally, now that he´s awake he has to reclaim his former power and throne with the help of his vassals and loyal Prinnies!
As one would expect: Disgaea isn´t heavy on the story side of things, telling a lighthearted tale of “revenge” with some twists that everyone would´ve seen coming. The main reason why following the plot for so many hours is the writing which can create such a perfect balance between absolutely dumb dialogues and halfway serious ones, mixed with a little bit of evil. In contrast to Labyrinth of Refrain Coven and Dusk, it actually nails this one way better, since there weren´t really any parts where I feltlike it became dull or “too much”. It´s an incredibly entertainingly written game, profiting from its huge cast of crazy characters and designs. I mean, it has the Prinnies again, who wouldn´t be enchanted by them! Honestly, it´s just fun if you don´t expect a huge, tension-filled story.
The most time will be spent in combat. Disgaea is known for its big, complex, strategic, turn-based combat played out in classic isometric view on 2D maps. Naturally, the foundation is built with pretty standard stuff: Every character can move a certain amount of tiles each round and also attack/defend once, everyone has their own set of special skills and weapon. On top of all that comes more advanced stuff like combos, activated when characters stand in a line, making positioning a greater focus if you really plan to advance.
However, only through the “lift” and “throw” mechanic in combination with the terrain does Disgaea 1 create the depth and complexity it´s known for. Each character can pick up another one, either to protect them from damage (while they lose some each round themselves) or throw them to safety or on higher terrain, inaccessible otherwise. As a result, it´s a game heavily centred on positioning and choosing the right moves at the right time. Especially since many special skills need a certain amount of free or used tiles. On top of all that comes things like environment factors like monoliths influencing certain tiles to give you or the enemies buffers if you step on them. If you destroy them though, all tiles will take damage, effectively destroying the other monoliths and triggering a chain reaction if used recklessly.
In exchange for this still very complex system, Disgaea 1 Complete asks a huge amount of time investment. Not only is the game pretty long but also full of possibilities to grind, which will become necessary every few chapters. From the Item World where you can literally upgrade any item in the whole game, to the many side battles and huge amount of character creation. Every little thing, from items to characters can be upgraded, improved and created and need grinding, later on, to become useful. While it´s not unbearable if you just want to complete it quickly, it´s clearly targeted towards people eager to see numbers rise and rise without end with every little optimisation.
Speaking about time investments, there was obviously a lot of it invested into remastering Disgaea 1 and its PS2 sprites. Because on the Switch´s screen, Disgaea 1 Complete looks absolutely amazing for such an old game. The textures are sharp but without suffering from the blurriness some of Square Enix´s older games do and super fast loading times. Given, the menus could´ve needed some overhaul as well, since the blank lists everything consists of with numbers everywhere can become quite confusing at first glance but except that, it´s a really well-done product, coming with an even greater soundtrack.
All in all, Disgaea 1 Complete is certainly a really well-made remaster of a still pretty good game, if you´re into the series already or always tried to find an entry point. Surely it requires grinding, investment and a certain love for complex systems but offers some surprisingly great gameplay, able to entertain even today. If only the whole thing wouldn´t cost 50 bucks for only visual overhauls and no really new content.
[A Review Code was provided by NIS America]