Developer: Nippon Ichi
Publisher: Atlus USA
Genre: Tactical RPG
Release Date: 08/26/2003
AWARDS WON: Best Story, Best RPG, Best PS2 Game, GAME OF THE YEAR: 2003
This of course was our big winner this year. No other game won more than a single award, and here comes Disgaea plowing through winning four big awards. It was a dominate year for this game, mainly because everything else at the time rather sucked.
Disgaea gave us a hilarious plot, some excellent tactical gaming, and a great deal of innovation to a system that really hadn’t changed since the 16 bit era. Now the game is a cult classic with original print runs sometimes hitting $100. Just remember that we were big fans of it long before the average gamer ever heard of it.
At the time, Disgaea was a substantial breath of fresh air for gaming: cutesy anime inspired style, solid and entertaining writing, and some insanely in-depth gameplay. Of course, that was before Nippon Ichi TOTALLY BEAT THE GIMMICK INTO THE GROUND with four more games in the past three years based around the same concept, but even so, Disgaea still stands as the pinnacle (in my opinion, anyway) of what Nippon Ichi can do, as none of their other titles have managed to surpass it in terms of quality to date. Absolutely deserving of every award it won in 2003, and it still holds up today as a fantastic example of innovation in gaming.
US strategy gamers are a weird bunch. We know that there’s not much people can really add to the strategy genre. You have your subgenres that all have varying levels of complexity – from the relatively simple weapon triangle in Fire Emblem to games like Rome: Total War that require full dedication, but the basic concept of using strategy and statistics to outwit and outkill an opponent is something every strategy fan loves, even if the game itself is dryer than school cafeteria bread.
Disagea took that initial premise, ran with it, added some beautiful gameplay elements, and possibly the most endearing trait, an absolutely brilliant storyline with some legitimate laugh-out-loud humour. The whole experience was highly tongue-in-cheek – the same thing that made Snakes on a Plane so highly touted in the theatres – and hardcore gamers flocked in droves. Predictably, casual gamers couldn’t have cared less.
Fast forward four years. Disagea now fetches an absolute minimum of $60 on eBay due to it’s rarity. Nippon Ichi proceded to churn out just about every half-baked strategy game it had lying around, and others proceded to follow suit, to mixed successes. And due to the cult following the original got, Disagea 2 – a game just as good and even more quirky than the original – is selling well, as casual gamer sheep have been told by their masters that this is an “acceptible” title to spend money on, as if it were a Madden or Tomb Raider game.
Disagea was not just the best PS2 game and strategy game of 2003, it stands just as well today as it did then, and will likely be one of the few games to get better in the eyes of gamers as it ages.