The perfect game for SRPG enthusiasts.
Story - 10/10
The story is very gripping, fun, and all the while entertaining. The game's plot revolves around Demon Prince Laharl, whom is hoping to seize the thrown after he learns from his vassal, Etna, that he's been sleeping for two years and in that time, his father has died and there is no true Overlord of the Netherworld. Prince Laharl then goes on a quest for power, at first just taking out competition and gathering more vassals to work for him, and eventually actually becoming the Overlord himself through an unofficial contest.
From here, some unimagineable events occur, from an angel visiting from the heavenly realm of Celestia sent to kill Laharl's father, and finding out he's already dead, she joins Laharl to hopefully see if demons aren't as evil as the angels think. Laharl also becomes wrapped up in a war between humans and the Netherworld, and eventually, Laharl goes to confront the angels in Celestia with Flonne and the others when Flonne spearheads the idea of going there, to see what's the cause of everything.
Laharl also meets the "Dark Adonis", Vyers, whom he renames Mid-Boss, and this name sticks for the remainder of the game. Mid-Boss has strong ties to Laharl, but the group never really learns the whole truth of that situation.
Among all the twists and turns is a story that sucks the player in. The game plays out much like an anime, and there's even false "Next Episode" previews narrated by Etna with the aid of various other characters. The story itself also has very anime-inspired humor and art design, and the game isn't afraid to try crossing a few boundaries such as implicitly breaking the fourth wall. The voicework is an all-star cast that's very unique and each character has a distinct personality which is only emphasized by the voice acting. The art design for the characters is great and the characters are all very memorable due to their design, personality, and voicework.
Gameplay - 9/10
The bulk of Disgaea is a long, albeit fun, level-grinding session. The max level of the game is 9999, and honestly, don't hope to reach it from just pummeling the crap out of anything you see, there's much more complication to the game than just beating your foes, going to the next map, and doing the same.
A unique feature found in Disgaea is the concept of Geo Symbols, which add various effects to the panels of the color the Geo Symbol sits on. For example, if a Geo Symbol has the effect "Attack +1" and it's sitting on a red panel, all red panels will have the effect and anything standing on it will do the action it would do twice. There's many more effects that stem from these symbols, like boosting your rewards, to upping stats, to damaging the characters that stand on it, and some levels of the game will use these Geo Effects in genius ways, especially when some levels include a Geo Effect that basically blocks off part of the stage.
You can deploy 10 units on any 1 stage, and there's a very wide array of classes and characters you can use. Between all the monsters and the many "humanoid" classes, you could end up with an army of 30, 40, or more units for different situations. However, most classes are just upgraded versions with a new coloring, but because of the bonus in power, it's still an absolute must to add these classes to your army. Any non-story character's name can be changed, and anyone can reincarnate, starting back at Lv. 1 but with bonuses depending on how they progressed before reincarnating. This allows you to feasibly end up with such strong units you could destroy enemies 20 times your level, if you play your cards right.
A lot of the fun stuff that adds to the gameplay is done via a special feature called the Dark Assembly. The Dark Assembly allows you to propose bills, create/delete characters, reincarnate, change a characters names, and so much more, most of this stuff being done by using Mana, which is simply obtained by defeating enemies (you get Mana equal to the defeated enemy's level). Most bills will help out a lot, with bills including the ability to make better items appear in the shop (essential for keeping your unit well-equipped), making enemies stronger or weaker, even adding new areas to play through. And to pass these proposals is a minigame all to its own. You have to bribe senators with the items in your bag, and make it so the higher-level senators (which have a stronger voice) will vote "yes" on your proposal and subsequently pass that bill. If things don't go right, there's an option to try and pass it by force and fight all the senators that voted down the propsal.
Another massive feature in Disgaea that's mostly optional is the "Item World". You'll be forced to go there once, but afterward it's entirely up to you to go there or not. However, using the Item World allows you to power-up your weapons well past their base strength. How it works is you pick any item in your bag (you can't pick something in the Warehouse, a storage unit that can hold 256 items but can't be accessed while in battle, only in the hubworld). You then go into that item, and you traverse a randomizing dungeon, with the option to leave every 10 floors. Items have a certain amount of floors depending on their rarity: Either normal, rare (flashing white), or legendary (flashing yellow). There's 30 floors for normal, 60 for rare, and the max 100 for legendary. Not only can you power up you item by going here, if you stick around the levels to defeat the monsters, you can level up your units as well.
The Item World's difficulty is pretty much up to you. You pick an item, and that item has a specific "Lv. +" number. That means the floor you go to will have enemies of about that level. Enemies get stronger the deeper in you go, so on the most powerful weapons of a legendary rank, you could find enemies up in the thousands for levels, definitely much much higher possible. Every 10 floors is an item "boss", General for 10, 20, 40, 50, 70, and 80, King for 30, 60, and 90, and God, only found on the 100th floor. The dungeon can be escaped at any time if in the item bag is a one-use item called "Mr. Gency Exit", which can be obtained through various means.
The core game of Disgaea is very long, but the final boss, without using "Make Stronger Enemies" bills passed, is merely 90. However that level is still very high by the time you get to that point, most likely you'll see your characters just scratching into the 60s. The game is grind-heavy, but there's various things to do and many different things to exploit you may find it doesn't feel as much of a grind as it truly is. It's truly a rare case of a strategy/RPG with a focus on exploration of the various features of the game. When all is said and done, it's not hard to walk away satisfied.
Sound - 8/10
Aside from the already-mentioned voicework, the soundtrack to Disgaea overall is great, and varied. The many different tunes that play even during normal levels can keep you fairly inclined to keep playing, and some later themes like the battle theme for the final dungeon(s) are good enough to be more than what they are: a normal battle theme.
Sound effects are one of the few downsides. While the sound effects of attacks are fine, some of the menu sound effects can get a bit annoying, and the sound effects overall end up so much louder than the music. The lack of balance between sound effects and music is a bit saddening, however this can be fixed for the most part using the Settings menu to alter the emphasis on a certain aspect.
Graphics - 6/10
Sadly, of all the strong points of Disgaea, graphics isn't really one of them. The characters and various classes are all drawn beautifully, and environments look pleasing to the eyes... however, all the sprites and most attack effects are pretty much PS1 quality. In fact if you walked in on someone playing Disgaea and you didn't see a PS2, and possibly even if you did, you might ask them if it's for the original PlayStation.
This is pretty sad when the story lacks much visual effect aside from the drawn characters making different facial expressions and the somewhat lackluster effects that are done during sequences that have sprites used. I think I saw the same level of detail in Final Fantasy Tactics, which may I add is a game for the original PlayStation. The best graphical effects you'll probably see will almost always be in the midst of battle, with many attack visuals being simply over the top for the power they possess.
Fun Factor - 10/10
Replay Value - 10/10
Disgaea might have some faults but it's a long, engaging, and fun game that provides an outlet to soak hours and hours of game time out of you. If you're willing to invest countless hours into one game, this is probably one of the best choices for you. Your army will probably not be the same with each new file you make, or anywhere close to it, and you will probably find yourself exploring the game's different destinations differently than the last time you play. The ability to play a game so different it can be a like a whole new ballgame is a strong quality for a single game to have.
Overall - 9/10
If you can excuse the terribly sub-par graphics and the lack of sound balancing, and the fact one needs to level-grind quite a bit, Disgaea delivers where it needs to be, which is be an awesome strategy/RPG that you can spend dozens or even hundreds of hours on.
Games, not even games in the same genre as it, have a hard time being as robust as Disgaea. Between all the familiar gameplay, to the strange additions that will boost the replayability of the game, Disgaea is a game worth the investment, both money and time.