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Disgaea: Hour of Darkness

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Disgaea: Hour of Darkness is a strategy role-playing game developed by Nippon Ichi Software and localized by Atlus.

Plot

Disgaea: Hour of Darkness is the story of Prince Laharl, son of King Krichevskoy and heir to the throne of the Netherworld. After falling asleep for two years, he learns of his father's death and sets out to seize the now-chaotic Netherworld by force, with the help of his vassal, Etna.

Besides the fact that you ostensibly play as a cold-hearted little bastard of a demon (and he is), this story may seem fairly typical. In truth, with few exceptions (the normal endings being notable exceptions), the characters and story don't take themselves very seriously. Some of the dialogue is self-referential, and some breaks the fourth wall with no discernible shame ("Level 4000?!"). Also, the story often diverges into sometimes outright weird segments (for those who have played some of the way through the story: baseball. 'nuff said).

In all cases, the dialogue, with voice-acting used much of the time (English and Japanese are available), is witty and fairly well-written and voiced.

(Along these lines, it should be noted that, if English voiceovers are selected, a particular sound track is used in one level that would not be used if Japanese voiceovers were selected: The Invasion from Within, by Tsunami Bomb. The vocals were also removed from several of the ending themes in the English sound mode, and can be heard by switching to the Japanese mode.)

Gameplay

Disgaea: Hour of Darkness has a very unique style of gameplay. One of the defining features is the ability to pick up and throw characters. Enemies can be thrown at each other to combine them into one more powerful enemy and ally characters can be thrown to cover longer distances. A huge amount of ground can be covered by stacking your characters and throwing them in a chain. Disgaea has a feature called transmigration, which allows a character to be "reborn" with higher base stats and, if you wish, a new class. Another defining feature is the emphasis on playing dirty. One of the suggestions in the tutorial is to surround and pummel the enemy. The game features the Dark Assembly, a legislative group with the power to pass bills with a variety of effects, such as increasing/decreasing the strength of enemies, adding to the shop's selection, or granting bonuses for the next battle. Unfortunately, the Dark Assembly is rarely cooperative. There are two ways to pass bills by an unfriendly assembly: bribing members with items or killing dissenters.

Game AI

Sadly, the AI is oft-considered to be less than stellar: with few exceptions, the enemy will simply wait until you're within move-attack range, then gang up on the weakest/most threatening (it seems to vary) character, with absolute disregard to who among their team may be caught in the area of effect. The challenge in defeating them comes from either destroying them with pure brute force, or by overcoming/manipulating the Geo system to your advantage.

Geo system

The Geo system is another unique part of Disgaea. Certain colored panels (Geo panels) may have a symbol placed on them. These Geo symbols will have an effect on all panels of the same color as the panel the symbol sits on. For example, if an ATK +50% symbol sits on a red panel, then all characters standing on a red symbol anywhere on the map get a 50% boost to their ATK statistic. Like characters, most Geo symbols can be lifted and thrown to a different-color panel (or to no color at all, which nullifies the effect), or they can be destroyed, leading to Color chaining.

Color chaining

Color chaining is an effect of destroying Geo symbols. Each Geo symbol has its own color (yes, along with each panel having its own color--confusing, mmhmm). If a symbol is destroyed, all of the panels of the color of the panel the symbol was sitting on will turn to the color of the symbol, causing damage to any who were standing on that panel. Furthermore, if any symbols are on a color-changed panel, those symbols are similarly destroyed, and will continue to change the colors of the panels in the sequence that they are destroyed. Finally, some symbols are Null colored; these will simply destroy any same-colored panels they sit on when destroyed, rather than changing their color. In this manner, it is possible to completely destroy every Geo panel and symbol on the map, causing massive damage to any enemies (or allies!) standing on the panels, and filling the Bonus Gauge considerably. When this happens, an explosion occurs, further damaging every surviving enemy (allies are not affected by this).

Bonus gauge

The Bonus gauge is another unique gameplay aspect to fights in Disgaea. At the beginning of the fight, a semi-random set of items, XP, or HL (short for Hell, the game's currency) are put into a list. As you fill the bonus gauge, these items can be earned by completing the battle. The bonus gauge can be filled slowly but steadily by normal attacks, killing enemies, and setting up large combo attacks (described in a bit). The bonus gauge is most quickly filled by color chaining; a chain which clears the board can easily top off the bonus gauge from empty!

Combo attacks

All consecutive attacks against a single enemy add to a combo counter, which acts as a small multiplier done to future attacks in the sequence. Also, if allies are standing next to each other when one attacks an enemy, the attack could randomly become a combo (depending partially on the characters' affinities for each other and their selected weapons). These are essentially special versions of a normal attack, which typically cause more damage than a normal attack.

Addiction

The true heart and soul of Disgaea is the near-infinite ability to strengthen characters. While the game could feasibly be beaten with a party at around level fifty, the level cap maxes at nearly ten thousand. In addition, there is the ability to transmigrate your character repeatedly to build base stats. The higher a character's base stats, the greater their level gains are. More importantly, items too can be built up to absurd proportions. A legendary item is capable of gaining one hundred levels, increasing the base stat of the item. In addition, items can be loaded with specialists that further increase an item's stats. If the proper avenues are taken and enough time devoted to the project, a character could potentially have stats of well over ten million. The game is sporting, and is capable of putting up a decent fight for some time during the leveling process. While the story mode can be beaten at relatively low levels, the game also has several optional levels and bosses rapidly increasing in strength. The final, final boss, fully strengthened through bills from the Dark Assembly, has stats in the low millions.

Memorable Quotes (please add more)

  • "BLUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUE! YELLOOOOOOOOOOOOOOW!" - The Red Prism Ranger
  • "d00d!" - Any Prinny anywhere.
  • "What!? A Horse Wiener? That IS dangerous!"- Laharl, commenting on a zombie.
  • "You can repay me with your body" Laharl to Aramis
  • "PRINCE! I didn't know you were like that......♥" Etna commenting on Laharl's creepy comment
  • "O money How I luv you" Hoggimester on Money
  • "Nice to meet you. I'm an assassin." - Flonne, during her first meeting with Laharl
  • "WELL I'M SORRY FOR BEING FLAT!" - Etna & Flonne, when Laharl called them flat-chested.
  • "...but you're just so cute!" Gordon commenting on Kurtis as a Prinny.
  • "CAPTAIN GORDON KEEPS LOOKING AT JENNIFER'S THIGHS. PERVERT PERVERT PERVERT...!" - Thursday, the multi-purpose super robot
  • "ALWAYS LISTEN TO A HOT BABE. THAT'S THE LAW. BEEP BLIP BEEP..." - Thursday
  • Etna: Flonne, you're so romantic. I just want to choke you to death.
  • Flonne: E, Etna...! You ARE choking me...! I, I, I can't breathe...
  • "They didn't bite your arms off, did they!? They didn't suck your brains out, did they!? They didn't anal probe you, did they!?" - Jennifer
  • "I have attained ultra speed by training, and training, and training, all while wearing 100-ton boxers!!"- Mid-Boss


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