Retrograding 02.13.04: The Top 30 RPG Countdown #’s 27-25

27. SUPER HYDLIDE
Release Date: 10/05/1989
Developer: T&E Soft
Publisher: Asmik (Japan) Seismic (USA)
Systems released on: Sega Genesis

(Oddly when I posted this at #27, I thought this would throw out all my credibility, but god damn I love this game. Instead I was greeted by a ton of letters from people who loved this game, people who were rabid fans of the first Hydlide and even people who went out and tried SH from my comments and came back saying, “Wow. It is good! Whew.)

And a hushed silence filled the room. Or in this case, the Internet. Yes my beloved readers, you have read that right. The word Hydlide has been used in conjunction with the word favorite. Thankfully I’m sane enough not to let it be the first Hydlide: a game so horrible, self respecting goats would not eat it and copies of ET for the Atari 2600 would not allow it to be buried with them.

For those thankfully ignorant of the original NES game, it is considered to be one of the worst video games ever made. Worst than Custer’s Last Stand. Worse than Ringu. Worse than Final Fantasy VIII. This is a game so mind numbingly awful that people are still in therapy from playing such an abomination. You can tell a person that has actually beaten Hydlide from their glassy eyed stares, their drooling slack jawed mouths, and their constant stream of babble that sounds something like, “IA! IA! Cthulhu Fhtagn!’ If video game titles were akin to profanity by how good/bad they were, than Hydlide would surely be the word CUNT. I won’t even soil this countdown with a description of Hydlide. After all, this is supposed to be Alex’s fond memories of video games, not ones that make him want to curl into a fetal position and pray for a slow torturous death.

God only knows how the sequel got made. After such a terrible game, there is no logic that can possibly exist that can define how Super Hydlide got made. But thank whatever god you worship that it did. Because from the ashes of such a foul and terrible game, came something, beautiful. Call it chrysalis, because Super Hydlide was so ahead of its time that only today can we truly appreciate the engine. Why? Because we are just now starting to be able to do the same things in next gen games that this lowly 16 bit cart did. However back when it was released, it was panned for containing all the things in RPG’s we now love, like realism. Let’s take a look shall we?

Once upon a time in Fairyland…what? What’s that you say? Yes. The world is in fact NOT called Hydlide. No, nothing in the game at all is called Hydlide. So what does is it mean? I don’t bloody know. In all the Hydlide games, nothing is ever referred to or called Hydlide. So I am just as at a loss as you are for why the games are called that or what Hydlide even means. If anyone can figure it out, please let me know. You will have solved a mystery going on for 15 years plus.

Anyway, back to the story. Once upon a time in Fairyland a pillar of fire exploded into the air. The next day random doors began to materialize in towns and other areas of high human traffic. People, proving that common sense is in fact, not very common, began to enter the doors and were of course never seen again. The moral is, if a gateway to a strange unknown place appears in your back yard, possibly to another dimension where shoes are worn on your hands and where hamburgers eat people, DON’T ENTER IT.

After the village idiots disappeared, the apocalypse began. Real wrath of God type stuff. Fire and Brimstone coming down from the skies. Rivers and Seas boiling. 40 years of darkness, earthquakes, volcanoes! The dead rising from the grave! Human Sacrifice! Dogs and cats living together! Mass hysteria! (Thanks Don for helping me get the exact quote right)

And so the good people of fairyland did what any sane minded populace would do. They chose a random dummy and sent him out to stop the evil plaguing the world on his own. And guess who plays the poor naive sap suckered in to this task?

Now don’t get me wrong. I am NOT bashing Super Hydlide. The games plot was so over the top, I fell in love with its total cheese. Remember these are my favorites. I am no ashamed to admit I am a sucker for games that are written like B-movies.

The guide that came with Super Hydlide had priceless memory moments as well. “It is important to remember that the player and character are two different people! Try to keep the two apart.” Is it just me or did the marketing team watch Ron Jaffe’s Mazes and Monsters before setting down to write the manual text? Truly this was almost as great as getting the Chick tract Dark Dungeon’ inside a Collector’s Edition of “Pool of Radiance: Ruins of Myth Drannor” boxed set for the PC.

So we have a cheesy, ultra memorable plot. We have one of the most, uniquely written game manuals of all time. But I hear you out there, “What about the GAME makes you love it so much, Lucard?”

The realism. Everything you will hear me praise about this game is the same thing back in 1990 that gamers complained and bitched and moaned about. The same gamers that grew up and now CLAIM to be hardcore video nuts bitching about even the slightest wacky camera angle or complain how weak games are now compared to the 16 bit era. They are also the same things real RPG aficionados tend to look for in a video game RPG. Things that make the game feel realistic. You know how popular the Elder Scrolls games are? That was Super Hydlide in 1989.

Let’s start with the most complained aspect of the game: the fact that your character could only carry a limited amount of weight. Remember what I said about the game being too realistic for 1990’s gamers? In SH, you have a load capacity and an amount of weight carried to look after. Think of it like encumbrance in tabletop D&D. The closer you got to you maximum LC, the SLOWER YOUR CHARACTER BECAME. Ifhe was completely weighed down with items, he moved at a snail’s pace. Worse yet, if monsters were around, you were in store for a beatdown like Don Frye vs. Spike Dudley. And you ain’t Don Frye.

People complained about this aspect of the game, because even though it was revolutionary for video games, it was new and different and thus scary! “Wah. It’s too hard! WAH!” All a person had to do was drop a bunch of crap or not try to weigh themselves down. But no, most RPG gamers sadly want a Monty Haul campaign. Even though the game had banks and moneychangers so you could store your money or get large amounts of 1 dollar coins traded in for hundred or thousand dollars coins, they still complained! Encumbrance is something we praise in games like Morrowind and Dark Alliance. I loved having this weight load to watch and be careful towards . But then I guess even at 14, I wanted games that felt a little more realistic.

Speaking of the banks, this was the first game you could get INTEREST on your money if you stored it there. INTEREST. Name another RPG that lets you do that that isn’t part of the Megaten series.

There was also the fact time progressed in the game. It kept track of the hour and the day. Not in perfect synch with real time, but the game world had its own 24 hour clock and you had to pay attention to it. Some things only occurred at a certain time of day. And people were pissed at that! I loved it. Again, it made the game feel more realistic. Like there was an actual world inside my 16 bit cart! One of the best features of Pokemon G/S/C was the 24 hour clock. In 2000 this was considered revolutionary. In 1990, a mere ten years before, it was considered ANNOYING! The same gamers that praise the passage of time now, whined and cried like little girls because it was too tough of a concept for them back the. Yeesh.

Then there was the fact the game made you eat and drink. And if you didn’t, your strength and hit points would slowly drain. God not! Not MORE REALISM! For the same reason I love tactical and strategic RPGs, I loved Super Hydlide. You had to watch the clock. You had to watch your weight. And you had to watch your stomach. Oh. And you had to sleep. Because even brave warriors need beddy bye.

Hey! You like the Sims? This is as close as it got in 16 bit land. Your character had to do everything real life people did, except crap and masturbate. You want a game to be as close to what a REAL fantasy world would be like, this was your game. If dragons and zombies existed, you’d still have to fill your gullet and take naps between killing them.

Oh! And here’s a nice touch that was missing from earlier games: GOOD monsters. Yes, not everything that was hideous and vile looking was evil. Slimes and ghosts and boogermen could be good as well. Black and White? Not in this game. Sure you could kill these sweet peaceful law abiding varmints, but your ass would get it in the karma department.

As for boss fights, there are only four in the game. In this day and age where there’s about 3 dozen bosses in a RPG, it is nice to go back and remember when boss fights were truly something special and eventful in the game. The less watered down something is, the more you will enjoy what little you have. And Kaizack is a jerk. As my friend Dave puts it, “STUPID SPACE FROG!”br />

Look at all these things gamers would revel in nowadays. A very hard game that forces you to think and scrimp and decide what you really needed to survive. It was Morrowind before there WAS Morrowind. And yet gamers by the truckload complained. Sega Power, an official Genesis magazine in Europe actually WHINED that the game was so hard, no one on the staff could beat it. Guess what? I wasn’t old enough to drive and I could! My whole thought process was, “Hey, I can take trips. I don’t need to carry all this shit around with me! Impatience gets me killed in this game.” God, how times have changed. Sadly the fact most gamers carry themselves with a swagger and level of ego that is insane considering all they have done is beat a few video games and yet can’t understand why their pasty socially malformed asses get stuffed in lockers or rolled down stairs in Trash Cans during their formative teen years has not.

Whether you play the Warrior, the Thief, the Monk, or the Priest, you will love this game. From an amazing soundtrack (especially when compared to the original Hydlide that had only one song that looped every seven seconds), to a ton of micromanagement, you will be able to look past the horrid graphics that accompany Super Hydlide.

What’s nice about Super Hydlide is that it really does show the difference between the gamers that want a game that managed to be original and innovative and those that talk a lot of crap but squeal like a man with a purty mouth in Deliverance country when a game forces them to think or puts a challenge forth. Those that want originality and those that just want pretty graphics. Those that grew up to appreciate games like Panzer Dragoon Saga or Neverwinter Nights and those that grew up to think FFVII was groundbreaking or anything BUT a composite rip off of Phantasy Star 2 and the engine of Slayers Wonderful. Most people you find complaining about Super Hydlide in fact played the original and never touched the 16 bit completely different sequel. The worst is worthy of scorn upon scorn, but the sequel? Those that bash it are usually the same people that bash games for looking kiddee while being unable to beat a game without codes or a game shark. If want a game that was so far ahead of its time that the gamer of 1990 couldn’t appreciate it, Super Hydlide is it. Try and pretend the first game wasn’t a pile of fecal matter that should be avoided at all costs, even if you have to gnaw a limb off to get away. Super Hydlide is everything you love about ultra realistic RPGs for today’s next gen systems. It just happens to be very very ugly.

(Man, was I ever protective of this choice of what? Well, it does have Hydlide in the title so it is understandable. Would this still make the top 30 today? You know, I think it would. It would probably be a bit lower, but it would still persevere. God is it super ugly by today’s standard’s though.)

#26 The Bard’s Tale
Release Date: 1985
Developer: Interplay
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Systems Released on: MS-DOS, C-64, Amiga, Apple IIe, Atari ST, NES

What? You are surprised to see a PC game on the list? I never said it would just be console games. And The Bard’s Tale is the oldest game on this list. To be honest if it hadn’t been so many years since I have played this game, it would have probably been a lot higher. (And I was right. See the end comments) Time and nostalgia do play tricks on you, and as I refuse to use an emulator, I had to rank the game lower than one I can readily play to justify their ranking on here. If you can hook me up with a legit copy of the trilogy and the construction set, I will love you platonically. I’m breaking out my BT manual for this commentary. Yes, I have a 19 year old game still in the original box and with the manual. I’m nuts. Get over it. (Three different people sent me copies of the game and the construction kit. WOW! Thanks.)

Long before the Japanese started designing RPG’s for the lowest common denominator, the RPG was solely the domain of the American developer. Also unlike today when RPG’s run the gambit from excellent to runny diarrheic crap, in the early 80’s games from companies like Microprose, Origin and SSI were constantly stellar. The plots were well thought out and usually akin to those found in fantasy novels. The graphics were amazing for their time, and so was the action. Dragonlance, Buck Rodgers, Ultima, Wizardry. These are the games RPG players of my generation first devoured. And they were magical. So wonderfully magical.

If I had gotten more time with computer video games as a tot, this list would assuredly be filled with far more PC games than are going to be on it ( a grand total of 2). They would all be games from the mid to late 1980’s to boot. But no, I had an Atari and an NES, and god forbid I use the computer for video games. I had ENOUGH games, and so I only got a taste of PC games by visiting friends. Quest for the Avatar, Pool of Radiance, any game with Lord Soth; I loved them. The problem is I played them so little of each that it wasn’t fair to rank them. I own Ultima IV for my NES still, but compared to the PC version, it’s not even close to quality. I now own a PC compatible copy of every Forgotten Realms and Ravenloft SSI game ever made thanks to EBAY. I still can’t find the Dragonlance ones, and again, if any reader can put me on to legit copies, I will be most grateful (No luck here. Anyone have legit copies we can play on modern computers? Let me know).

There were two PC games I managed to sneak home to my own personal computer though. Ones I loved so much, I saved up my allowance for them and when my parents weren’t around, I stuck my floppy discs in and enjoyed games that blew away anything my Atari or Master System had to offer. One of those games will be talked about later on in the countdown. But for now, let’s talk about a game that deserves a revival (And it would soon get one in the form of a quality action RPG) and respect from every gamer on the planet. A game that at one time was considered the best in the genre and now is woefully in obscurity, held in esteem only by those of us that know how to love games long since gone by. My readers, I give to you today a glimpse at a game that truly defined roleplaying games as we know them: The Bard’s Tale.

On the fair town of Skara Brae, there was placed a curse of Winter never-ending. The evil wizard Mangar and his vampire horde kept the villagers in check by slaying all the noble warriors of renown and infesting the town with those that have sworn fealty to his evil. And so a group of six fledging sell-swords and loremasters unite in the name of justice with a single goal: to free Skara Brae from Mangar or perish in the attempt. Okay. Five of those other guys and a bard. But don’t discount the bard. These minstrels are not the ones that accompanied Bravely Bold Sir Robin, but warriors, rogues, and mages wrapped into one incredible package but happen to dress like poofs and play the lute. However, I can readily attest to the fact that women love a man with a nice muscular hiney clad in tight leather pants, so maybe those bards have something after all.

The game is pretty linear, but the fact that you have more control over your characters in this Reaganite-era game than you do in most PC or Console games in 2004 is mind boggling. Ten different character classes! Over seventy spells for your four types of magicians to cast! When is the last time you saw seventy different spells in a video game? I sure as shit can’t think of one. You could even have your magic users switch classes and/or upgrade to a higher class of magic using. But once you left your old class, you could never go back to the paths you had forsaken. This was some heavy thinking for a person in only single digits. Other character classes included standard fare like Paladins, Warriors, Thieves, and Monks. But with ten classes and six races, you had unlimited combinations for teams.

Can I say right now I miss this? I miss big party video game RPGs. This is decidedly an American phenomenon that captured good old fashioned table top RPG experience. The games read like an excellent DM speaking and the fact you could have a party as diverse as any you could with pen and paper was magnificent. What happened to those games and that flexability? Am I the only one sick of teams of 2-4 pre-generated characters that you have no real control over except in terms of what attacks they use? The closest we have had in many moons is Temple of Elemental Evil, and that’s just a slap in the face to those of us that grew up with games as great as Bard’s Tale. TEE may be prettier, but it’s a it is an amazingly awful game in nearly all regards and is a dark stain to those that remember how good non-pre-gen multi-character RPG’s could be. At least PC gamers have Icewind Dale, which is a terrific homage to the RPG’s of the 1980’s. The most I can hope for with next gen console games include a two player game of Dark Alliance 2, GBA multiplayer goodness with Shining Soul 2, or Tactical remake of SSI’s Eye of the Beholder. Please bring this genre back developers. If only to save the entire genre of video RPG’s from getting stale and cliché and lacking the last bits of originality it can muster. If you build it, we will play. (In 2007, we’re still lacking this. God damn it.)

Although the game may seem limited now, in 1985 it felt like you could do anything. You could purchase weapons and armour at Garth’s. You could chill out and drink at the guild hall. You could break into random domiciles and occasionally find monsters to butcher. You had to go before a guild review board to level up. They had to find you worthy of promotion. Again, something I really miss in RPG’s, both tabletop and electronic. That and mapping out dungeons. I enjoy automap features, but sometimes I miss the olden days where games required you to put that extra effort in and map the area yourself while dealing with a real time game. (Etrian Odyssey fulfilled this request at least)

There were such lovely aspects I haven’t seen since in this game. A slot for a 7th person to join you team. Said NPC’s could range from a mercenary to a summoned demon! You could even betray the NPC and kill them for gold and XP. I would do that all the time in Bard’s Tale once I knew how and where to get certain NPC’s. I’d take the weaker ones and butcher them like hogs, knowing that this one act of sadism would eventually allow the greater good to triumph. Even before I had pubes, I was justifying cruelty towards others. I should have been a NeoCon.

As long as I’m on the NPC slot of your team, I’d like to bring up another long gone by aspect of Bard’s Tale: THE DOPPLEGANGER This monster secretly kills one of your team members and takes their place. OOPS! And what’s worse is they turn on you when you are least ready for it! That level of paranoia is something I can’t begin to describe to you. How do you know all your characters are really yours? That they aren’t foul beasties waiting to slaughter the other party members in their sleep? I love it! This one little act adds so much depth to the game. Sure some gamers might whine, “Instant secret death. That’s too hard. I want a game where all my stats are maxed out and I have a dancing vorpal sword.” To those games I suggest getting out some 2nd Edition AD&D manuals and make your 42nd level Raistlin wanna-be. That way we’re all happy. I get my challenging evil game hellbent on making me say the word f*ck a lot, and you get your munchkin campaign complete with sparkly ten sided dice.

With five unique dungeons to explore, a plethora of ways to customize your game, and a level of difficulty you just don’t seen nowadays, The Bard Tale paved the way for games like Wizardry and Ultima (Yes, BT came first) and other classic computerized RPG’s on discs that can in no way interact with today’s modern computers. In fact, Ultima 3, Dragon Wars, and Wizardry would eventually be compatible with the Bard’s Tale series. Something that has never been before (or since), as all three games were made by entirely different teams. The fact you could have teams crossover was probably the same thing that comic book fans felt when Superman first met Spiderman, or when horror movie fans finally got to see Jason take on Freddy.

Two other Bard’s Tale games followed, creating what I consider to be the most solid RPG trilogy ever. In 1991, Interplay even released a Bard’s Tale Construction kit to allow gamers to design their own custom Bard’s Tale games. Something I wish to god I had. And if I ever do, I will make Bard’s Tale games for you, the 411mania audience to enjoy and to see that a twenty year old game is still better than a lot of a fecal matter being forced onto the current console systems. Hell, I’m sure Eric S from the wrestling zone would be all over that! I know in 1998, Interplay released the Ultimate RPG Archive, but like the Ultimate Wizardry Archives, I need to actually FIND a copy.

Bard’s Tale people. It’s the reason I still owned an Apple 2e for many years after it was obsolete. JUST to play that game. It’s just so pathetic that from 1985 to 1990, there was a massive influx or ultra high quality US made RPG’s for the PC that are now forgotten. Even the supposed “Hardcore” gamers that now litter the Internet seeking ego boosting validation because they own a Sega Genesis or imported a Wonderswan to play a portable version of the original Final Fantasy are, for the most part, clueless and ignorant to the possibilities and wonderment that lie on floppy disks long discarded by those who forgot who to appreciate true timeless classics. It’s a damn shame.
Out of any game on this list, this is the one I want to recommend this stronger than any other. If only to see where the genre’s roots lie. To show you what was possible two decades ago and how lazy sloppy developers have chosen to take steps BACK in terms of gameplay while taking leaps forward in graphics. This is the oldest game on the countdown and the one that deserves the most respect and admiration. I fret about the upcoming game that uses the legacy of this classic series and worry about how much of a bastardization it will be to the great name of Bard’s Tale. But in the end I know, even if the game is so bad it makes people skulls burst open and their brains try to run away from the horror being inflicted upon them (See FFTA), it will never be able to replace the legacy of the original Bard’s Tale. As longer as there are gamers that want quality over pretty sparkly crap, and respect the old, Bard’s Tale will be around for us all to enjoy even when it gets to be forty years old.

(This really should have been a lot higher on the list. There were other PC games that almost made the list like Ultima IV, Neverwinter Nights, Fallout, and a few others. I think I made Eric S’ day when he saw this game on the list though.)

#25. Disgaea
Release Date: 8/27/03
Designer: Nippon Ichi
Publisher: Atlus
Systems Released on: PS2

Yep. You read that right. The game the entire 411 staff praised and rightfully awarded not only the 2003 RPG of the Year award, but the 2003 GAME of the Year award as well.

So what is it doing at #25 on the list? Quite honestly, I looked at the games I had chosen and realized there were two dozen games I honestly preferred over Disgaea. And I LOVE Disgaea. It felt weird ranking a GOTY this low, and I expressed my comment to Kliq Member Liquidcross, who took a look at the games I ranked ahead of it and told me that he mostly agreed with it. I don’t know whether that confirms what we’ve been saying about 2003 (Pretty much a shitty year for gaming), (It really was looking back at it.) or that RPG’s of yore may have been uglier to look at but had a lot more passion put into the stories and gameplay. And of course, originality. In the end, it’s just a matter of taste. I love Disgaea, but there just happen to be games I love even more. This is also only one of two games from the PS2/Xbox/GCN generation to make the list. If you know me well enough or read me enough, you’ve got a good idea of what that other game will be. (Obviously this was written before Digital Devil Saga was on the market)

Now for Disgaea, or Makai Senki Disgaea, is part of the Marl’s Kingdom Series which includes the Rhapsody games (all in fact are basically the same game), and La Pucelle (American fans refer to these games as the Disgaea family now. Poor Rhapsody). I’ve noticed some people saying that these games all occur in the same world but, they have no repeating characters or anything truly in common (Of course that’s all changed now. Characters freely intermix between the games since Phantom Brave, and people are more aware of the Rhapsody games in the US). And that just says to me those people haven’t beaten (or god forbid, PLAYED the games) any of the games in this series. Marjoly, who is the main “Bad girl in Rhapsody is not only a major pain in the neck boss to beat in Disgaea, but you can acquire her as a playable character to boot after you beat her if you petition THE DARK ASSEMBLY. That’s a crossover between characters if there ever was one. And it’s also not the only instance; just the only one I’ll share. I’ll leave it to you to find the others,

But then I’m getting ahead of myself, aren’t I? Most of the Kliq has played (and beaten) Disgaea, but I know a lot of you haven’t. So let’s take a look at the plot of the game now.

You are Laharl, son and prince of the Netherworld. Some time ago you decided to take a nap, a nap for a demon being a few years or so. When you awaken you find that daddy dearest has kicked the bucket, and the throne to Hades is up for grabs. You, being an enterprising and prickish little imp, decide the title of Monarch should stay in the family and so you set out to achieve a dream of being a despot.

Not your typical RPG here in terms of plot, is it? And that is just the start of the insanity that makes up the story of Disgaea. In fact one has to realize that Disgaea is the electronic equivalent to Jon Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. Whereas the book is both a fictional tale, but also a Juvenalian satire on Whigs and Tory politics of Swift’s day, Disgaea is a Horatian on the clichés of Electronic RPG plot and gameplay, but it is also a present from Nippon to hardcore strategy RPG fanatics giving them the most of what they truly crave. Lots of battles and insane amounts of leveling up.

There are 17 classes in the game, from Brawler to Ninja. All standard fare classes in fact. But behind each of these classes are MORE classes. The Brawler mentioned earlier has five separate classes that it can evolve into! The Ninja has five as well. So let’s look at this for a second. 17 classes x 5 advancement possibilities equal what? EIGHTY-FIVE CLASSES Name a single other RPG, strategy, turn based or action that gives you that kind of possibility!

Then we have levels. What’s the highest you ever got an RPG character to, even those of you obsessed with power gaming and having to get your characters to the maximum level possible? 100 right? Pokemon fans know that sometimes they HAVE to get characters up that high. So what would you do if I told you this game lets you get even higher? A lot higher. So high that if you tried to level up all of your playable characters to the maximum you would only ever play this game for the rest of your life? Don’t believe me? Then try and get all of your guys up to level 9,999. That’s right. One level shy of ten thousand. Insane, isn’t it? Remember when I mentioned Marjoly? She’s approximately a Level 2500 Witch. Sure that’s only the quarterway point in this game of possible levels, but see how long it take you to get up to that level if you want to beat her in the optional Beauty Castle. Disgaea makes you work for kick ass extras. If you want the best shit in the game, even Munchkins are going to have their work cut out for them. The last opponents in the main game are only level 90 you see. And it’s all the side quests where you are actually going to have to use the insane leveling up ability Nippon gave you in this game.

Items in Disgaea have levels too. It wouldn’t surprise me if toilets, houses, food, and air had levels in the world of Disgaea as well. The thing about items that male them stand out from other RPGS, is that they need sweet loving just as much as your characters. And that’s where the “Item World” comes into play. The item worlds are made up of randomly generated dungeons. And in order to get your item more powerful, you have to beat (at least) ten of these levels in a row. Every tenth level you will encounter a weapon specialist named either Item Generals, Kings, or if you actually make it to level 100; an Item GOD. If you kill them, your items get their power. In addition to all of this, you just might encounter item specialists, friendly little spirits that improve your weapons. So you need to subdue them and add them to your item of choice.

Are you getting overwhelmed yet? If not, this is probably the game for you. In fact, Disgaea’s only downside is that the game requires such intensity, obsession, and micromanaging all the tiny details surrounding the characters that it is bound to scare off all but the biggest strategy RPG fanboys. And even for them, it is hard to do all that one can in the game without going completely mental and forsaking every other game you own.

Even if you hate Strategy RPG’s, or role playing games in general, it is the story and hilarious nuances of Disgaea that make it worth at least picking up and flipping through.

You’ve got the Prinnys. Or should it be Prinnies? The game says Prinnys, but the English major in me wants to write Prinnies. But that’s a debate for another time. Prinnys are exploding penguins that really like the word DOOD. Yes, DOOD. Not DUDE. I swear, Disgaea’s spelling of things is enough to drive a grammar teacher insane with rage. At least it’s not l33t. These Prinnys are a massive source of comedy throughout the game, until you realize the very most powerful thing in the game is a Prinny. Beating him is well, fun. No really, it is! No swearing or joystick throwing or head smashing at all. Go try it! Especially with characters under level 5000. Fun I tell you, FUN!

And for those of you who love Political intrigue and machinations, we have the aforementioned DARK ASSEMBLY. Think of the DARK ASSEMBLY as the Senate or House but you know, with less evil beings. After all, the DARK ASSEMBLY is just filled with demons, not vile repugnant monsters like Norm Coleman or Teddy Kennedy. The DARK ASSEMBLY serves many purposes, from helping you recruit new cannon fodder, er, I mean troops and friends, to giving you a higher rank through promotion tests, to even doing what Congress does best, pass laws based not on the importance of the law or how it would affect humanity (Demonity in this case?) as a whole, but by taking bribes and being intimidated by special interest groups. Of course, in Disgaea, YOU are the special interest group, so the fact that politicians are an easily corruptible lot works out for the best in this case.

Even more hilarious, if the Congress STILL votes against you, you can overturn their vote by slaying all the ones that voted against you. That’s right, if you don’t like how your representative voted, you can slay them in cold blood. Then all that remains are those that voted for you and hurrah, the bill passes! Ah if we could only do that here in the real world. Think how many career politicians would be dog food. Sweet fantasy, why canst thou be reality?

Just a warning if you kill Congress 100 times in a game, you will get a bad’ ending. But considering there is over half a dozen endings to this game, it’s worth seeing.

There is so much more that I can say about this game. It truly was the best game released in 2003. Ask Lee, Williams, Chuck, and the rest of the Kliq and how Disgaea made gaming feel halfway decent this year. Hell go read Lee’s Review from back in October on Disgaea. It may use the crappy old format we had here at 411, but this is one of Lee’s best reviews, simply because his love for the game shines through (His best is Demikids Light BTW). Go read everyone’s thought on this game and how the lowest score it got was an 8.0. Hell, go re-read our Best of 2003 Feature Part One and Part 2 and see why this is one of the best game of 2003 and also the second best RPG on any Platform of this generation of gaming. (It’s dropped a bit in the past 4 years. Also, don’t bother with these links as they don’t work anymore. Shame. Lee and Chuck’s reviews were great.)

I knew I’d raise an eyebrow with that “Second Best” comment. But to see what I consider the best (And it appears Chuck and our newest reviewer Matt are equally obsessed with it) RPG on the current platforms, you’ll have to stay tuned for a later installment of the countdown.

But for now, read the entire Kliq’s comments on Disgaea. And ask yourself how there are possibly 24 better RPG’s on the planet than this one. It’s a hard fact to accept, but true. That doesn’t mean our GOTY is anything less that superb. It just means, there are games above and beyond superb.

(You know, I think this would actually drop a bit. This was written only a few months after the Gaming awards for 2003, and I don’t think I could ever go back and play through Disgaea 1 again. I find Makai Kingdom and Disgaea 2 to be more fun at this stage. There’s a chance I would take this off the list completely)