Disgaea 1 Complete (Switch) Review

The Hour of Darkness Returns, Dood!

It’s hard to think of Japanese developer Nippon Ichi Software without associating it with Disgaea. The strategy RPG series put the company on the map, and its iconic penguin-like Prinnies have become synonymous with their brand. Disgaea 1 Complete, an HD remaster of the original PlayStation 2 title Disgaea: Hour of Darkness, is a return to the franchise’s roots. This rerelease hasn’t aged as well as its sequels, but it remains a solid unconventional take on the genre.

Here’s my Video Review for your viewing pleasure!

Disgaea’s most notable aspects are its lighthearted story and absurd characters. Throwing typical RPG tropes out the window, the game stars Laharl, a devious demon who wishes to be the Overlord of the Netherworld. It’s a refreshing change of pace to play as a protagonist who shudders at kindheartedness and has a maniacal laugh. Joining Laharl are his equally conniving vassal Etna and the angelic assassin Flonne, who strives to awaken the demon’s good side. The trio’s antagonistic dynamic is played for laughs, and their interactions with other characters are just as humorous. From Laharl renaming the first major enemy “Mid-Boss” to Etna shooting at off-brand Power Rangers who are too busy posing, the game is full of laugh out loud moments. The only low point was when the narrative shifted focus to a trio of space heroes, but I appreciated when all the plot pieces came together in heartfelt ways.

Disgaea 1 Complete Prinnies.jpg
Prinnies are the best, dood!

The HD visual overhaul represents the biggest change from the original. The character sprites look crisper and more detailed. Additionally, the text and user interface are cleaner. The soundtrack is an eclectic mix of wacky Halloween tunes and circus music, a surprisingly potent combo that elevates the lighthearted tone. The English voice actors’ cheesy performances are hit or miss, and higher-pitched characters sound particularly annoying, but thankfully there is a Japanese language option.

Disgaea 1 Complete Comparison
Simpler times back then.

Otherwise, this package features the same tactical gameplay as the original. You move up to ten characters on grid-based maps and take turns with an opposing team, unleashing attacks and abilities. Location matters as while one character is attacking, nearby members will join the onslaught. By completely focusing your attacks on a single enemy within a turn, you’ll rack up combo point damage, which increases end-of-battle bonuses. The flashy, explosive special moves, which are all fun to watch, also require specific positioning.

Disgaea gains its own identity through its wilder gameplay deviations. One such example is stacking characters to form towers, then throwing each one across the battlefield to gain ground. It’s even possible to throw enemies into prime position for large area attacks. It looks ridiculous in practice, but it’s a clever way to inject the game’s wacky personality into actual strategy.

Disgaea 1 Complete Battle.jpg
1 vs. 100

Progression is also bonkers. While there are standard level-up and equipment systems, other actions like improving shop inventory and activating upgrades requires the approval of a Dark Assembly; in other words, bizarre Netherworld politics. You must either persuade monstrous senators by force or bribe them with desirable items to approve your requested upgrades. Sometimes, it’s luck-dependent, which is frustrating, but some features are worth fighting for, including creating stronger characters from a set of available classes. Although the created units are generic, they play into a fascinating mentor/pupil system, in which characters learn abilities from each other, further increasing the potential for formulating perfect parties.

My favorite mechanic was the Geo Symbols, pyramidal objects that significantly alter the battlefield, granting buffs, debuffs, and other game-changing effects when placed on specially colored tiles. They transform simple grids into survival trials where you must avoid power-boosted enemies, or into puzzles where you must strategize how to win when every unit is invincible. These geographical challenges get difficult, but they also lead to some of the most stimulating stage design I’ve seen in the genre.

Disgaea 1 Complete Geo Symbols.jpg
Geo Symbols turn each map into literal mental gymnastics.

Speaking of difficulty, the game isn’t tough, and there is no permanent death. However, success relies heavily on grinding. Throughout 30 hours of playtime, about half of it was spent leveling up my characters whenever I hit a wall. It’s an unfortunate slog that ruins the campaign’s pacing, and you end up replaying levels repeatedly or entering the Item World, which consists of randomly generated dungeons based on your own items (strangely enough). Although there are benefits like increasing item potency, it quickly becomes tedious. For those who don’t mind the grind, Disgaea is known for ludicrously high damage amounts and a level cap that’s over 9000. Alongside a handful of harder postgame areas, the devoted can experience many hours of play, feeling super empowered by the end.

Disgaea 1 Complete Massive Damage.jpg
Disgaea, where everything’s made up and the points don’t matter.

Disgaea 1 Complete includes all content from its previous versions, such as a special mode starring Etna and some unlockable characters. It adds a little meat, but there’s a missed opportunity for brand new bonus content. The package of extras also feels lacking compared to Disgaea 5 Complete, which had plenty of unlockables, gifts, and a “Cheat Shop” that let you break the game. Disgaea 1 understandably doesn’t feature all the bells and whistles from later entries such as the insane tower skills. As such, it’s an easier entry point for newcomers. That said, there’s little excuse to leave out some needed quality-of-life upgrades. If characters are targeting an enemy who died, they end up wasting their turn, and healers don’t receive experience for restoring health. Even the isometric camera angle is frustrating, and foreground elements often block portions of the map from view.

Disgaea 1 Complete Switch Game.jpg
And thus, Fortnite was born.

Conclusion

Overall, Disgaea 1 Complete is a fine HD remaster, and the Switch’s portability is a good fit, despite lack of touch screen support. Unique mechanics like tower stacking and Geo Symbols, as well as a comical storyline give the game its own identity. Though, I’d sooner recommend its more complex and feature-filled sequels as the limited bonus content and antiquated systems don’t necessarily justify its high retail price. Yes, it’s lengthy, but much of that time is spent grinding. All things considered, if you enjoy tactical games and can nab Disgaea 1 Complete at a worthwhile price, it’s a fun look at a true cult classic, dood.

Score: 7/10

Note: A review copy was used for this article.

What do you think of Disgaea 1 Complete? Are you a fan of the series, and if so, what’s your favorite Disgaea game? What are your favorite tactical strategy RPGs? Please share your thoughts and questions in the comments section below! Thank you so much for reading and watching!

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19 thoughts on “Disgaea 1 Complete (Switch) Review

  1. Loved your review dood! I haven’t played the Disgaea series before, but I do enjoy strategy RPGs like Fire Emblem, and I’ve seen Disgaea 5 Complete in action. Definitely love the anime look! It would be interesting to play an updated version of the original, but I’m surprised they didn’t include some basic quality of life improvements that all the subsequent games have. The characters look refreshing as well, especially the penguins (dood). I like atypical protagonists–and this style of humor. The characters and lines seem so funny. I’d like to check out the series as a whole someday. Great job dood! Awesome level is over 9000! ;)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words and support! Your encouragement always means the world to me! I think that you’d have fun with Disgaea 1 Complete, especially coming from Fire Emblem. It’s a very wacky game, and you’d appreciate the anime looks, silly references and penguin Prinnies, dood! Maybe start with Disgaea 5 Complete, since the games are mostly standalone. Plus, the stoic lead in D5 is more down to earth than Laharl. Also, the cheat shop! Ohhh the cheat shop will help so much with leveling. I like all the bonuses too. Both D1 and D5 Complete, but the quality-of-life and mechanics are much improved in the latter! Either way, I hope you enjoy dood, or rather, doodette!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words! I always appreciate your wonderful support and encouragement! 😀 The Dark Assembly is unlike anything I’ve seen in a game. I think it’s hilarious how corrupt it is, and that you can just bribe the senators to approve your requested upgrades. I like trying to persuade them by force, even though my character usually ends up getting defeated by the high-level senators haha!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve bought and almost bought this game several times over the years. Each version either has some or lacks something I want (Prinny mode, graphics, etc.), and so I either passed or sold it without playing! (Plus I was really mad at Nippon Ichi after their handling of Rhapsody DS.) But this is going to be the last version of Disgaea 1 I’m going to buy, and I’m finally going to play it!
    I also didn’t realize it was coming out tomorrow. With it being so close to the holiday shopping season, I’ll wait and see if it goes on sale.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is definitely the most complete version of Disgaea, which is coming from someone who thought Disgaea DS was just an okay port. By the way, I actually also have Rhapsody DS, and it was disappointing. It’s not at all faithful to the original. Where are the songs in this “musical adventure?!” Ahem. I hope you finally enjoy Disgaea with this version! I think it has the chance to go on sale, though Disgaea 5 Complete has the likelier chance of going on sale soon. It’s already much cheaper than when I bought that one.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hahaha yeah, I’m with you there on the shivering! There’s so much grinding and I wasn’t even trying to get to level 9,999. Disgaea 5 Complete has a Cheat Shop that makes the grind more tolerable, but this one, you just have to tough it out.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I like that the characters in this game wear capes and jackets, but not shirts. The Halloween/circus vibe is cool too, as is the tossing mechanic. All in all good, but falls short of epic.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As I’m sure you know, epic is reserved for certain games hahaha! Seriously though, Disgaea 1 Complete is fun, and even though I’ve played other similar strategy RPGs (some from the same publisher), there’s nothing that matches Disgaea’s madness. Insane level caps, ridiculous humor, tower stacking, and even the Halloween circus vibe. It’s a unique style that makes Disgaea stand out in the tactics genre. Of course, the characters’ nonsensical fashion sense is also a standout hahaha! Thank you for your great comments and for your support! 😀

      Like

  4. I definitely look forward to playing this one at some point! I have the first 2 games in the series but I know they’re super long so I’ve been putting them off. Also, i only just got my game backlog down to under 100 for the first time ever (96 now) so I don’t want it to ever cross that milestone again. Maybe once I’ve taken out a few more short games then I’ll dive into these. At least I’ll be getting a nice marathon after doing so

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Awesome!! I hope you enjoy them! I think every Disgaea ends up being super long if you level everyone up and tackle all the postgame content hahaha. I’ve always wanted to play the 2nd one to see how this story continues, but I’m so with you on having ridiculous backlogs and holding off on long games. Congratulations on getting under 100 games on your backlog! The last time I had less than 100 was a few years ago and now I’m at least 130 or so hahaha… ahh, but oh well, at least I have the option to dig into a long game when I can. A Disgaea marathon would be insane, though. I can’t imagine how crazy I’d go if I played all of them in a row hahaha!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think once I start these Disgaea titles I’ll probably be playing them for months! =) I’ll definitely try to level everyone up quite a lot, I’ve always enjoyed that part. Yeah, 130+ definitely sounds like quite a lot. How do you typically decide which game to play next? I usually do one long game, one short, etc and then when a brand new game comes out that jumps to the top of the list unless it’s super long then it’s a 50/50 shot

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Ooh yeah it’ll take you months and more to get through 2 Disgaea games! I usually just go with what I’m in the mood for, like a platformer or RPG. Like I’m actually in Hawaii for vacation now so I’ve been playing Pokémon Ultra Sun to get it off my list plus to get me in the Alohan (Alolan) mood. Otherwise, it’s pretty much whatever I’m reviewing next haha!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Hm, I don’t mind some grinding, but half a game’s worth? I’m not sure. It would be nice to play the original Disgaea, but if the later ones are better paragons of the series, I might just stick with that. I played the demo for D5 and I really enjoyed that 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, grinding is prominent in Disgaea 1. To be fair, it’s also very much there in Disgaea 5, buuuuut that game has a cheat shop that makes it so much easier to do so. You can achieve levels in the hundreds midway through that game if you wanted. Plus there’s so much more to do even before postgame, so more options for grinding. Even better that you liked the demo! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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