The Netherworld welcomes you into a world of crazy Strategy-RPG madness!
The story focuses on Laharl, a demon Prince of the Netherworld who has just woken up from a long nap to find that his father, the Overlord of the Netherworld, has passed away during his nap! He, with the help of his vassal Etna, then proceeds to show the Netherworld that he is the new Overlord. The plot is simple but it works, not to mention it's pretty funny and it has it's memorable moments. It also gives us one of the best mascots ever, the Prinnies!
The gameplay is the main focus in Disgaea, and it's a nice way to advance the SRPG genre. You progress through the main story via a menu and are returned to the Prince's castle, which acts as a base of operations, after each stage. Battles are fought on a grid and are won by killing all of the enemies and are lost when all ten of your deployed units die. Battles mostly play like Final Fantasy Tactics, meaning you move a unit within the unit's attack range and attack from that unit's menu. Disgaea takes things a bit farther though by allowing up to four units to team up for a Team Attack.
Team Attacks are performed by moving other units next to the attacking unit, when you go to choose a target for your attack, you will see a list of the units around the attacker along with a percentage which indicates your chances of a Team Attack. You can use skills to fight as well. Skills are obtained either by leveling up or using weapons. All character-types have aptitudes with certain weapons and their abilities range from S to E, S being the best and E being the worst.
As your characters attack with each weapon, their weapon abilities level up, level up enough and your character will learn a skill for the weapon type. It's an interesting system, but it sort of discourages changing a character's weapon type late in the game. Geo panels are another complex system, colored panels and triangle objects will sometimes litter the battlefield and they offer bonuses to characters standing on them, enemies included. These panels can often make the difference between life and death, it can be crazy trying to take on a squad of enemies pumped up 50%!
Disgaea also introduces lifting and throwing. Your characters can lift and throw other characters and throw them across the battlefield for quick movement, though the lifter's turn is over after though. All these game systems are explained through in-game tutorials but it's still a challenging game. One of the factors of difficulty is the fact that your characters only gain EXP for killing enemies and Healers don't level up from healing, which can make it hard to level them up.
Outside of combat you can talk to the Prince's vassals in the castle, shop or go to the Dark Assembly. The Dark Assembly is where you use mana, a form of currency exclusive to each character that is gained from killing enemies, to create new characters, open extra levels, upgrade the shop's inventory, etc. It's all explained through tutorials as well. All this complex gameplay, challenging battles, over 20 different character classes each with 6 different tiers, multiple endings, extra levels and the ability to level each character to level 9999 equals a very unique and lengthy experience.
The voice work is entertaining and occasionally over-done but it makes it that much more humorous. The music is pretty cool as well. It's excellent on the ears and with the ability to choose from either English or Japanese voices, it should please almost everyone. There is one weird thing about the Japanese voice track though, even though it is set to Japanese the battle voices are still English, which is odd.
Disgaea's graphical style is stuck in the past and, oddly enough, it's all the better for ir. The characters are pixelated sprites while the environments are basic 3D. The dialogue scenes are accompanied by nice portraits of the characters as well. It's nothing special, though it has a lot of charm.
Disgaea is perfect for people who loved Final Fantasy Tactics, even if you dislike anime since the story sequences can be skipped if they really bother you. It's challenging, lengthy and incredibly charming. Dominate the Netherworld with your loyal band of Prinnies!