Inside Pulse 12

Diehard GameFAN Hall of Fame Nomination: Disgaea

Every week, we will present a new game to be nominated for the Diehard GameFAN Hall of Fame and Hall of Shame. These nominations will occur every Monday and Friday, respectively. Our standards are just like the Baseball Hall of Fame: every game will be voted on by members of the staff, and any game that gets 75% of the vote – with a minimum of four votes – will be accepted – or thrown – into their respective Hall.

Game: Disgaea: Hour of Darkness
Developer: Nippon Ichi Software
Publisher: Atlus USA, Inc.
Release Date: 8/27/2003 (PS2), 10/30/2007 (PSP), 9/23/2008 (DS)
System Released On: PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable, Nintendo DS
Genre: Strategy RPG

Who Nominated The Game: Disgaea: Hour of Darkness was the Game of the Year in 2003, when we were still working as 411 Games. Disgaea also won other awards that year as well. For the next couple of months, we will continue to go through our Games of the Year all the way up to 2009.

Why Was It Nominated: The staff was positively ga-ga over Disgaea when it came out. This quote, explaining why it was our Game of the Year, sums it up.

“Forget Final Fantasy Tactics, Disgaea: Hour of Darkness is the best tactics style RPG out for any of the current next-gen platforms. With an artistically well-done anime flair, humor by the truckloads, and gameplay innovations to spare, Disgaea’s charm will surely steal your heart as it has ours. Make no mistake about it; you need to buy this game upon site. I mean, what else do we need to say here people? Don’t overlook one of the greatest RPG experiences of the year.” – Bebito Jackson

My personal experience with the game wouldn’t be until 2004, after I’d left the Navy. I picked it up at GameStop, and was immediately… intimidated. The levels were insane. Fighting inside items was insane. The whole game was insane, including the parodical story. It was an absolute blast, and I thoroughly enjoyed my time with it.

Now, let’s see if it’s worthy of being included in our hallowed halls.

All in Favour:

Ashe Collins – After waffling on this one I finally made up my mind. Yes, there’s a bit of grind to this one, but it ended up rekindling my love for the SRPG all over again and to top it off it was a really well done game with a great story mode that really kept you involved. Without a story to go with it most RPGs fall flat and the amusing antics going on with everything involved here clinched it for me and I knew I had to have this game.

Sean Madson – This game is memorable not just for bringing fresh blood into the SRPG fold, but for casting the spotlight on quirky, niche, anime-styled offerings from Japan and showed the world that there is a market for them outside their homeland. The gameplay has an incredible amount of depth to it and even though it’s a lot for a newcomer to absorb on their first outing, there are plenty of tutorials included in this title to assist anyone in mastering Disgaea’s quirks.

The storyline was also another major selling point to this title. Featuring likable characters and a humorous plot that poked fun at a lot of common SRPG elements and anime character archetypes. The main quest only lasted about 30 hours or so depending on how much time you spent grinding your characters up, but even after the credits rolled you were just scratching the surface. There is a TON of stuff to do in this game, and anyone who is concerned about how much mileage their gaming dollar will get them these days needs to check this game out.

Alex Lucard – To be honest, there are very few new IPs in the 21st century that are on par with Disgaea. Not only did it completely revitalize the SRPG market the same way Shining Force did a decade earlier, it was one of the few comedy RPGs to not only be successful but also incredibly fun. This game brought new gamers to the SRPG market in a similar fashion that Final Fantasy VII opened up RPGs to casual gamers. It helped create the most successful new video game franchise out of Japan in the past decade and it’s been the second biggest worldwide after only Grand Theft Auto. That’s pretty damn impressive. It’s spawned a legion of sequels, brought Atlus USA out of niche obscure publisher into the limelight and helped bring an entire branch of Nippon Ichi into the US instead of letting other companies publish their games like La Pucelle or Rhapsody.

Since we’ve been in business, no single game has shaken up the industry world wide in the same way Disgaea has – spawning cartoons, radio plays, cosplayers, and most importantly a legion of gamers that love the titles.

I kind of compare Disgaea to the old Cincinatti Reds catcher Johnny Bench. In the same way Johnny was loved and revered by passionate diehard baseball fans, Disgaea became the flagbearer for RPG zealots. At the same time both were well known and loved by casual fans as well, be it Bench through the old “The Baseball Bunch” TV series and Disgaea through its loveable and charismatic characters that made many a newbie to SRPGs pick up the game and fall in love with the genre.

Like Dragon Quest, Shining Force, and Final Fantasy VII before it, Disgaea was the game that revolutionized the RPGs for the PS2/Dreamcast/GCN/XBX generation and there’s no other RPG from that era that deserves a Hall of Fame inclusion more.

Aileen Coe – Underneath the brightly colored veneer is a rather deep strategy RPG that gives you plenty of tools to use to your advantage, all of it wrapped in irreverent humor. There is a sprinkling of imbalance in the game mechanics, but oh is it fun to exploit. Games where you can beat a level 112 enemy with level 12-14 characters (without Codebreaker-type devices) are awesome. Yes, I’m well aware that’s nothing compared to the insanity that can occur during battles, but that’s the first bit of craziness that sticks out in my mind (and that I encountered when playing).

Yes, there is a learning curve that can be difficult for some to navigate. Yes, it can get grind heavy. However, there’s an insane amount of things to do, to the point where beating the main story is just scraping the surface. That makes this something you can keep coming back to over and over without running out of stuff to do for a long, long time. It also propelled NIS into the public’s eye and spurred releases of other quirky games that might’ve otherwise been confined to Japan.

Chuck Platt – When Disgaea was released, I had little reason to make the jump. I already had a GameCube, a DreamCast, and a DVD player. What did I need a PlayStation 2 for? The answer was Disgaea.

Disgaea is the first, and thus far only, successful parody of a video gaming genre. The strategy RPG, with its convoluted plot, recruitable enemies, and horrendous amounts of grinding is a ridiculous genre. Seriously, my favorite games are strategy RPGs, but I feel pretty silly while I am playing them. Disgaea took all of those tropes and managed to make them as fun to play as they were funny.

Without Disgaea, a number of NIS titles would have stayed in Japan and that would have been a shame. For opening the door for more Japanese niche titles to make it to the States and being that rare successful parody, I say Disgaea belongs in our Hall of Fame.

James Hatton – I remember fondly loading this up and thinking it was going to be just another Final Fantasy Tactics. The darker themes with cute little demons and its episodic nature was fun, but we were just going through the motions of every other turn based strategy RPG. Then I unlocked a job. Then I captured a monster. Then I started shifting abilities from weapon to weapon. A 20 hour grindfest turned into a 120 hour obsession.

I still play. I still haven’t beaten the game by choice.

All Opposed:

Christopher BowenDisgaea is a great game for people that like to get a lot of bang for their buck. There is a crazy amount of stuff to do in the game, between the story, fighting inside items, the great humour contained within… it’s an amazing game that almost singlehandedly brought back a dead genre, and has fathered plenty of great spin-offs.

But unfortunately, I feel that a Hall of Fame game should be more accessible than this. Disgaea requires a lot of grinding. A LOT of grinding. Is this the kind of game I can recommend to the average gamer? Not really; I think they would get frustrated and overwhelmed too easily. That’s not to say that the Hall is only for popular, yet dumb games that cater to the lowest common denominator. But Disgaea simply has too much going on, and is too… I hate to use this as a negative descriptor, but too niche for too many people that I can’t really vote it into the Hall of Fame.

Mohamed Al-Saadoon Disgaea is the game that put NIS on the map with their humorous and cute style of SRPG that they’re now well known for. They can arguably be credited with increasing the popularity of Strategy RPGs.

But even with this boost of popularity, SRPGs are still a niche genre. Why? because Disgaea is a niche game.

From the moment you start you’re bombarded with stats, numbers, concepts and quests to do. While this is fun for hardcore grind nuts and old school RPG nerds, for the average person this amount of “stuff” is practically overwhelming and represents a steep learning curve.

Accessibility is one of my most important things when playing the game and I’ll refer to it constantly during the Hall of Fame voting simply because when I come back from a hard day of learning shit I won’t use in university, I don’t want to let off steam with MORE studying and work.

Simply put, Disgaea is a game that favors people who are willing to put some effort in, which is sadly a small niche of gamers.

Result: 6 In Favour, 2 Opposed, 75% Approval = ACCEPTED

Conclusion: Disgaea, even seven years after its initial release and through ports to the PSP and DS, retains its charm, and is as entertaining now as it was when it was our Game of the Year. When the only complaints people can find about a game are that there’s too much of it – really, the two dissenters, myself included, could be seen as saying that Disgaea is too good a game – you know you have a gem.

Disgaea: Hour of Darkness is officially our Hall of Fame’s Babe Ruth. It’s the first game to gain admission to our immortal halls, and that is a title that will live with the game for eternity.

Next Week: We’ll look at an obscure Japanese game that took both casual and hardcore gamers by storm, and was good enough to be 2004’s Game of the Year.

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  • You did a great job putting this together while I’m out of action Bowen. Thanks a lot. I really appreciate it.

  • Ashe Collins

    It’s a shame I just heard Atlus is being dissolved by its parent company. :(

  • Ashe – Remember that though they’re being dissolved, the brand is still the same. In other words, unless the people at Index completely step on their toes – and they’d be stupid to, but as I pointed out in my article on the matter at DailyGamesNews.com, Sammy wasn’t very smart with Sega – it won’t affect their games much.

    I’m more interested in what happens with Atlus USA. Though they’re a subsidiary, they’re technically independent, as they can do whatever they want with other Japanese releases that get localized. I’m curious as to how that goes.

  • Derrick Suber

    It’s great to see this game, though long (very long) overdue, is finally getting some justice…seriously why enough people dont know of this game still surprises me..and to people who still are against it..its only hardcore if you want to take it that far just playing for the story is completely fine as well because the story itself is still amazing.

    About Atlus though thats really upsetting (hopefully we’ll still get another persona release one day though), they never really announced that they were in any kind of trouble though, but i guess maybe they were. Hopefully someone might pick up the slack they import alot of great games.

  • Derrick, Atlus was not in “trouble”. They were doing just fine. The purpose of the reorganization was basically to give Atlus and Index (Index is a mobile development company) better access to each others’ resources. Essentially, expect to see a lot more of Atlus on cell phones in Japan.

  • cwk

    I like how ‘all opposed’ seem to be speaking solely for themselves, and not really for the majority.

  • And… you think anyone opposed should speak for the majority? I don’t get where you’re going with this. You make it seem as if anyone “for” is righteous and good, and the opposed – which I’m a part of – are just rabble-rousers. Does that mean James Hatton – in being the only one out of nine to vote in favour of Katamari Damacy – is speaking for “himself” as well?

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