Review: Disgaea 1 Complete

It’s always inte­res­ting to revi­sit older ent­ries in a long run­ning series. You get to see just how much has chan­ged over the years, for bet­ter or wor­se. We’ve had many oppor­tu­nities to re-expe­ri­ence Dis­gaea 1, having been released on a mul­ti­tu­de of sys­tems, and the announ­ce­ment  of Dis­gaea 1 Com­ple­te on PS4 (review­ed) and Switch has us won­de­ring what would be chan­ged this time. Each pre­vious release has seen the now 15 year old SRPG recei­ve new con­tent and cha­rac­ters, so it see­med safe to assu­me that the­re would be more to come in this so cal­led ‘Com­ple­te’ release. Well… we were wrong.

After all the­se years, it was cer­tain­ly inte­res­ting to go back to the game that star­ted it all. The ori­gi­nal Dis­gaea: Hour of Darkness was a uni­que ent­ry in the SRPG gen­re, having easy to learn basics but offe­ring many in-depth sys­tems for hard­core RPG fans. The sto­ry was also rather enjoy­a­ble, tel­ling the sto­ry of prince Laharl and his jour­ney to rec­laim the thro­ne to the Nether­world, a world inha­bi­ted by demons. We’re hap­py to say that the main sto­ry is still fan­tastic, the dyna­mic bet­ween Laharl and his devious vas­sal Etna being espe­ci­al­ly fun­ny. There’s also a sepa­ra­te Etna sto­ry mode that can be unlo­cked, adding some extra cha­rac­ter deve­lop­ment to the sup­por­ting cast.

For tho­se that have ended up avoi­ding the Dis­gaea series, batt­les take place on grid based maps, with you and the ene­my taking turns moving cha­rac­ters and attacking. Unli­ke other game of this style like Final Fan­ta­sy Tac­tics, the way units inter­act is far more inte­res­ting. Cha­rac­ters can trig­ger com­bo moves by being clo­se to each other, and attacking the same ene­my in sequence boosts how much dama­ge you do. Many skills also requi­re cer­tain spaces around the user or tar­get to be free, making cha­rac­ter posi­tio­ning and ter­rain height important if you want to fight effec­tively.

Ano­t­her crea­ti­ve mecha­nic is the abi­li­ty to lift and throw units around the map. This can be used to over­co­me lar­ge gaps or keep low health units out of the reach of enemies. This mecha­nic tru­ly shi­nes when pai­red with the geo panel sys­tem. Spaces on the map can have various colours which are known as geo panels, and the­se panels are given various effec­ts based on what geo sym­bols are pla­ced on them. The­se sym­bols have their own colours too, and can be thrown or kil­led like regu­lar units lea­ding to some inte­res­ting map lay­outs.

Batt­les may be pret­ty uni­que, but it’s cha­rac­ter crea­ti­on whe­re things real­ly get cra­zy. The­re are a varied amount of clas­ses and mons­ter types that can be used, each with their own favou­red wea­pon types and unlock­able skills. When crea­ting new cha­rac­ters a mas­ter must be cho­sen from your exis­ting ros­ter, which deter­mi­nes what extra skills they can learn. Cha­rac­ters can also be rein­car­na­ted, reset­ting them to level 1 but giving a sub­stan­ti­al stat boost based on the level they were befo­re­hand.

It’s also pos­si­ble to level up not just your cha­rac­ters but their equip­ment too. The item world is used to crea­te dun­ge­ons using gear and other items. By clea­ring each floor in the item world, the item’s para­me­ters will be increa­sed. Fur­ther­mo­re Inno­cents, mons­ters that can be found in the item world, have bonu­ses to tied to them and once sub­dued can be moved bet­ween equip­ment. Bet­ween rein­car­na­ti­on and the item world the­re are many ways to power up your team, some­thing that is requi­red to make your way through the sub­stan­ti­al post-game con­tent Dis­gaea 1 has.

This may all sound gre­at, but as this is the first game in the series the­re are many are­as that have been impro­ved upon in later ent­ries, such not being able to level up healing clas­ses by actual­ly healing and the item world some­ti­mes gene­ra­ting impos­si­ble to com­ple­te floors. There’s also the fact that you can­not speed up cha­rac­ter move­ment during batt­les, making grin­ding take lon­ger than necessa­ry. It just goes to show how much the series has chan­ged over the years, and Dis­gaea 1 Com­ple­te real­ly should have brought over some of the impro­ve­ments seen in later ent­ries.

Even with the various issu­es that Dis­gaea 1 has, it’s still an enjoy­a­ble expe­ri­ence over­all. But this isn’t the first time we’ve play­ed the game. This is the 5th ver­si­on of Dis­gaea that has been released, mea­ning that most peop­le that are inte­rested in the series have likely alrea­dy play­ed it. If you com­pa­re this ver­si­on to the last port the game recei­ved, Dis­gaea PC, the only dif­fe­rence bet­ween the two is the visu­als. The­se aren’t even new eit­her, sin­ce they’re all taken from Dis­gaea D2 and 5. As nice as the new cha­rac­ter spri­tes and UI are, the­se do litt­le to hide how out­da­ted the game is now. The visu­al chan­ge is also some­what slop­py, with many tex­tures left unch­an­ged and cer­tain spri­tes (such as Laharl’s non-dia­go­nal walk ani­ma­ti­ons) were remo­ved ins­tead of repla­ced with hig­her qua­li­ty ver­si­ons.

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It’s honest­ly hard to recom­mend Dis­gaea 1 Com­ple­te. Wit­hout any addi­tio­nal con­tent or fixes to the game it’s not­hing more than a pret­tier and much more expen­si­ve ver­si­on of Dis­gaea PC. Only get this if you have no way of play­ing one of the many other ports of Dis­gaea, other­wi­se the­re are many che­a­per alter­na­ti­ves.