I actually started this game wayyyyyyy before the first Mana Khemia, but I was sort of stuck at Chapter 8 due to some stage gimmicks. At that point, many games came in and since I got a little bored with this game, I decide to temporarily put it on a break. Now that all the other games are finished, I’ve decided to clear it as soon as possible before I start to forget my early impressions of the game.
Without further adieu, let’s get into the review!
Note that aside from points where I specified otherwise, my opinion is always completely objective and built up from an absolutely neutral point. While the title is called a ‘Review’, this article is nothing more than a personal opinion (or random rant) of someone who has played the game.
This review will contain spoilers to [Disgaea: Afternoon of Darkness]. Proceed at your own risk!
I’ve known of this series for quite some time since high school. Back then, my jerk friend under the name ‘VZ’ (the same guy who introduced Star Ocean 3 to me) was playing this game. He told me how this game was so mind breaking hilarious and of course, he did not fail to mention the infamous level cap of 9999 (Nope. That’s not a typo. The Level Cap is OVER 9000!!!!!!!).
Back then, I wasn’t very interested in SRPGs, so I didn’t really give the game much interest.
After that, I forgot about the series until I picked up Cross Edge. Yes, it’s that game again. Etna and Prinny, both of which had apparently become the mascot of the series, were cameo’d in Cross Edge, and they played a pretty hilarious role. Of course, I was immediately reminded of this series and decided to give it a try.
Now you might wonder why I decided to get into this game before Mana Khemia. It was because I was more familiar with this series’ title. At least, I’ve heard about it, as opposed to Mana Khemia, which I’ve never known of its existence.
This game is developed by Nippon Ichi Software and originally released on PS2 under the name “Disgaea: Hour of Darkness”. The version I played is the PSP ported version called “Disgaea: Afternoon of Darkness” which includes various bonus contents. (Credit)
In this game, you take control of Prince Laharl, the son of the previous Netherworld Overlord. Laharl was awakened from a deep two-years sleep to find out that his father had passed away from choking a black pretzel.
As a result, Laharl has to step up and defends his father’s throne as the rightful heir. Thus, the dark hilarious drama in the Netherworld has begun.
Exploration and Graphics
The battle and exploration are presented in a sprite-based graphics. Some of the events in the game are also presented in the same graphics, while some are in Visual Novel style.
For the whole game, outside of battle, you will only get to explore a small portion of the overlord’s castle. This is because, after the previous overlord died, the castle has been sealed off to prevent other demons from entering and stealing the throne.
Luckily, the small portion that you can explore has all the facilities that you need to go through the game.
First of all, there are two shops that sell weapons, equipments, and items for you. Their selections change as the game progresses or after a bill for ‘More expensive stuffs’ is passed (We’ll get into the ‘bills’ in the [Features] section).
Next, we have RPG’s traditional ‘Inn’ in the form of Netherworld Hospital. In this place, you use your money to heal up your injured party members. The hilarious thing about this place is that it encourages your characters to die and get recovered her several times. Why? Because after you’ve recovered HP and SP of your characters to a certain amount, you get ‘prizes’ for it. Hence, don’t be afraid to get yourself killed in battle.
Last but not the least, we have the ‘Gate Keeper’ who opens the dimensional gate that connects to various places. To enter each battle, you have to talk to the Gate Keeper and ask her to take you to the next battle where battle will take place.
The flow of this game is simple. It consists of 13 chapters, and each chapter has about four battles (some have more). Once you finish a battle, the story will progress, opening the next scene for you.
In the battle, you can deploy up to 10 units from your ‘Base Panel’.
You get storyline characters as the game progress, but you can also create generic units to help aid you in battle. There are many generic units for you to choose from, and that’s part of what I really like about this game. I love having various unique classes of characters to play around with, regardless if one is completely broken or outclassed by others.
You should deploy the units that will best suit your battle situation.
After you’ve deployed your units, you will be prompted to enter a command for that unit. Be it ‘Move’, ‘Attack’, use ‘Special’ attacks, ‘Defend’, use ‘Items’, and ‘Lift and Throw’ (more about this in a minute).
Lift and Throw
Believe it or not. A simple lifting and throwing determines life and death in this game.
‘Lifting’, as its name suggests, allows your unit to lift up another unit, be it your ally or enemies, and ‘Throw’ them to other panels.
This move can be used to create openings for your characters to move through or to help your units form a specific formation as soon as possible.
A popular technique to use in the harder battles is to have one attacker, with buffed parameters, attack any enemy, then lift him up and throw him away from the enemy. This way, the enemy won’t be able to pursue your main attack unit.
Items, Weapons, and Special Skills
You can take only 26 pieces of items into your item bag for the battle, so plan ahead on what you need. Restorative items are a given. Oh, as far as I know, there is no way to recover your fallen units in battle, so do not bother.
Each character can equip a weapon and a combination of three pieces of equipments and / or accessories. The weapon that the character holds determine the special battle skill that character can use in battle. Each weapon has different range and specialty. For instance, ‘Spears’ do not hit very hard, but can reach targets that are two blocks away from the attacker. While on the other hand, ‘Axes’ are very strong, but has low ‘Hit’ rate, making it hard to hit a target. Among the weapons, there aren’t really any types that are completely ‘useless’ (as far as I know). You just have to use them accordingly to your situation.
There is a small gauge to the bottom right of the screen. Attacking enemies will slowly fill up that gauge. Upon leveling up the gauge, you get items after clearing that stage. Obviously, the higher your level, generally, the better and more items you get upon clearing.
Geo Panels and Symbols
You might be wondering what those colored panels and pyramids on the battle field are.
Some times, the stage will be covered in a glowing field. These fields are the ‘Geo Panel’. They are special panels that will spread the effect of the ‘Geo Symbols’ placed in its color.
For instance, if there is ‘Attack +50%’ Geo Symbol on a blue Geo Panel, then all units that landed on the blue Geo Panels will gain 50% Attack Boost.
Geo Panels and Symbols are essential in clearing some stages. The idea is to abuse the panels and symbols that benefit you (DEF+, Recovery Panels, No. of Attacks +1) and destroying the symbols, such as ‘Enemy Boost x3’, that create disadvantages for you (or preventing the enemies from using ones that benefit you against yourself).
I was stuck in a chapter (8-1 specifically) because the enemies gain x3 stats boost from a Geo Symbol that is situated extremely far away from my base panel. Obviously, charging through is impossible because my attacks do next to no damage while all enemies can easily one-shot me to death. As a result, I came up a strategy to throw Laharl, my hardest hitter, farthest into the field to destroy the infernal Geo Symbols, while taking out my tank to accept hit and buy some time until Laharl is able to destroy the symbol.
Destroying a color of Geo Symbol on a Geo Panel changes that Geo Panel’s color as well. For instance, if I destroy a green Geo Symbol on a blue Geo Panel, then all the blue Geo Panel will change its color to green. This process is called ‘Geo Chaining’. Doing this destroys any pesky geo effects that get in your way as well significantly builds up your bonus bar.
Customization and Other Features
Character Growth and Level Cap
This game follows the good old RPG formula of the Level System. Defeating enemies give your characters EXP. Collect enough EXP and your character levels up, increasing their parameters.
Now, the thing about this game, as I mentioned in the intro, is that the level cap is at Level 9999. No. Not 99 or 100 like many other RPGs. Not 255 like Star Ocean 3. Not 500 like Cross Edge. But the level cap is literally OVER 9000!!!!!!!
I’m not really sure what is the rationale behind this, since you can clear the game at roughly level 70 or so, provided you have a good team and weapon. The number seems really like an overkill, but when you look at the side quests where super optional boss can do over million of damage to you, that level cap almost seems totally justified…
One of the most unique features of this game is the ‘Item World’. The operator in the Overlord’s Castle can take you inside the world within an item. Traversing deep into the item’s world will strengthen that item’s power tremendously. The deeper you go, the more powerful that item, and even more so if you defeat the Item Guardians on floors ended with 0 (10, 20, 30, etc).
You can enter into the world of every single item in the game, be it swords, armors, or even consumables.
Upon entering the item world, you will be presented with a set of randomized battlefield. To proceed to the next level, you have to either defeat all the enemies on that level or reach the Dimensional Gate that leads to the next level.
The levels of the enemies in the item world are determined by the strength of the item. The rarer and more powerful that weapon, the more powerful the enemies in that item.
You can leave item world on every tenth level or use an item called ‘Mr. Gency’s Exit’.
There are special third party NPCs in the item world. These are called ‘Specialists’ and will have yellow colored HP bar. They are neither your ally nor your enemy.
However, if you subdue (kill) them, you can use those Specialists to power up your equipments and items. The more specialists you subdue, the more powerful your equipment become. Think of it as some form of ‘parameter’ grinding, similar to Final Fantasy VIII’s Draw / Junction system.
A method I came up with when I got mid-way into the game is to gather a lot of ‘Mr. Gency’s Exit’ and venture into item worlds that have high-leveled specialists. Should I face a floor with an exit too far away, I use the emergency exit item to leave the world. Once I encounter the specialist, I subdue them and pool them into my ‘main’ weapon. Regardless if I can get the specialist or not, most of the time, I would be able to venture 2 or 3 floors down, powering up the current equipment.
This is not exactly the most efficient method to power up, but it is good enough to power up my current equipment (which for most part, is a lot more important than grinding for levels).
Another interesting feature in this game is the Dark Assembly.
First of all, within the Dark Assembly, you can spend the ‘Mana’ you attained from killing enemies to create new generic units. Generally speaking, the more Mana you spend, the better that character’s capability. The generic created under a character becomes the ‘Pupil’. The ‘Mentor’ who created that Pupil can learn skills available to the Pupils (which, if you think about it, is pretty weird since it should have been the other way around…). So you can make a spearman learn how to use star magic or create a warrior that uses recovery magic.
This is also where the Senators of the Netherworld gather around to discuss the approval of various ‘bills’. These bills include things like ‘More Expensive Stuffs’, more variety of items in shops, or request for the opening of optional dungeons.
Once you select a bill to pass, you will be taken to the congress where all the senators are presented. At this point, you can see how much these senators love or hate you. The more they love you, the more likely they are going to vote for your approval. Now, the interesting thing about this is that you can ‘bribe’ these senators and make them like you. Basically, give them an item from your item bag, and their attitude towards you will change. The senators’ preference for items run on some kind of the game’s RNG, so generally speaking, it’s virtually random. This means that common low-leveled items like Mint Gum can be a ‘Must Have!’ for these senators and rare items do not guarantee that you will get more favors. So what you want to do is fill your item bag with craps and go into the congress to bribe the senators until they favor you.
Of course, when all else failed, you can persuade these senators to pass your bills ‘by force’. In a nutshell, you have to defeat all the senators that were opposing you. Some senators are pathetically weak (Level 7…How did these guys even become a demon senate?), while some are level 300-ish.
(By the way, I know about the Throw-into-stronger-senator-trick and I even used it to pass a couple of bills before, lol)
Dark Assembly has a set of promotional exams for your characters to take. Promotional Exams basically pits your character solo against a specific group of enemies you have to beat. Defeat them, and your ‘Demon Rank’ rises.
Once your Demon Rank reaches 3, your character can ‘Transmigrate’. In a nutshell, transmigration is ‘reincarnation’. You can make that character reincarnate into an entirely new class or move up along the same class’s tier. However, as the name suggests, this process gets your character back to level one. Luckily, your character gets to inherit some of their skills and parameters after transmigration. In theory, you can make a level one character that can kick the ass of a level-100 character just easily. This also allows the character to carry their weapon proficiency and mastered skill to another class, which is extremely helpful for classes that can’t attack a thing, like Cleric (to simply put it, they are healers). Level up a generic with swords or axe proficiency to a certain point and transmigrate them to Clerics. This creates a Cleric that can heal AND use swords to attack the enemies.
From what I understand, you can grind for maximized status through this process as well.
Various Optional Bosses and Dungeons
At a certain point in the game, when your demon rank reached a certain level, you can ask for approvals from the Dark Assembly to pass the bills to open the gate to various sidequest dungeons. As far as I know, these places are insanely hard and they have enemies with absurd levels.
I haven’t tried any of them yet, since I’m lazy to persuade those pesky senators by force, but I probably will be doing it in the future.
The game features various endings, accessible after performing certain conditions. To get the best ending, you have to clear the game without directly killing any of your units by your own hands. Getting blasted by your mages’ AoE spells count as intentional ally kills.
Other endings are determined by various conditions, such as defeat one item god in an item world, kill at least one ally in the game, persuading the pesky senators by force A LOT, or losing to a certain boss early in the game (which I believe that last one is a joke ending).
I got the best ending on my first run, by the way. And well, gotta say it was pretty dramatic and touching.
(Dat…Final battle… ._____.||||)
New Game Plus
Upon clearing the game, you can carry over your data.
This game’s carryover bonuses are great. You get to retain every item you spent the effort building up as well as your generic units. Storyline characters need to be re-recruited. I normally have a gripe for games that carry over your main characters’ levels since it makes the new cycle boring. But since you have transmigration, there is nothing to complain about.
A bonus for the PSP port features an alternate storyline that stars Etna as the main character of the game instead of Laharl.
The story assumes that Etna ‘accidentally’ kills Prince Laharl while trying to wake him up. So she decides to take over the title of the next Overlord.
This mode is fairly short since it has only 4 chapters, and I’m actually already half way into this mode while writing this review. XD
I just thought that I should make a separate section about this since it is part of what made this game truly unique and distinguished from other RPGs.
This game’s dialogues and character interactions are downright hilarious. Every single chapter (…maybe aside from chapter 8 where story gets pretty dramatic) has something that makes me laugh till I almost fell down the chairs. Just to name a few:
- The king dying from choking of black pretzel.
- Flonne’s entrance dialogue: “Nice to meet you. I’m an assassin.”
- Laharl’s blackmail and ‘weakness’ events.
- And most importantly, anything involving the Dark Adonis, a.k.a.“Mid-Boss”.
At first, I have the impression of the game being stupidly grindy due to the overwhelming level cap. After playing, I found that it is only half true. These are some of the stuffs that bugged me when I cleared the game.
- First and foremost, the game is EXTREMELY TIME CONSUMING AND ADDICTIVE. This might seem like a ‘good point’ for a game, but it kind of worked the other way around for me. There are SO MANY THINGS for you to do explore in this game. The customization is so wide and free – to the extent that at first you will probably have no idea what you want to do to improve your characters.
Seriously, it wasn’t until I was already more than half way into the game that I begin to appreciate the process of creating characters and making them inherit abilities.
Overall, this complaint is not really a bad thing. It’s just that you should be prepared to burn a few dozens of hours of your life when you start this game.
- While many veteran Disgaea players argue with me that you can literally get through ANY map in the game with the right units and strategy, I personally found that, at the very least, you still need one dedicated power house who can endure several attacks from onslaughts of enemies that gain various cheap bonuses.
I was stuck in one or two maps because enemies get two x3 parameters boost (totaling a whooping x6 boost), and they can easily one-shot your team to death. Of course, you should focus on taking out the Geo Symbols that boost those pesky enemies, but then the problem of who will tie the bell to the cat occurs. The Geo Symbol is located stupidly deep into the field. You will need a good position of Lift and Throw and a tough dedicated tanker with LOTS of HP to get inside and destroy that symbol. And even then, my tank was only able to destroy one symbol. Luckily, my dedicated powerhouse, Laharl, was strong enough to plunge into the field of enemies with x3 boost and destroy the last symbol without getting killed.
Sure, a good strategy makes you win over half of the battle, but the rest depends on how you build your party’s parameters as well. This brings me back to my first point – EXTREMELY TIME CONSUMING.
- The bonus bar is wayyyyyy too hard to fill. In fact, I don’t think I’ve been a battle long enough to fill a single bar. Any time I got any significant increase in the Bonus Bar was because of Geo Chaining.
I want to say I’m missing something here, so if you know other methods to build up the Bonus Bar aside from Geo Chaining, please feel free to tell me in the comments.
- While resetting the demon rank and accumulated mana only make sense when you transmigrate a character, requiring that you have to retake three promotional exams every time you want to reincarnate the same character gets old and boring really fast. At the very least, they should have made the transmigration option available after it’s unlocked for that character once.
- As far as I know, I don’t think the game ever describes what each specialist’s class do, and that’s not very good considering how subduing the desired specialists is one of the main method of powering up your equipments. Parameter boosting specialists are easy to tell, since the game graphically indicates them so. But non-parameter boosting specialists aren’t exactly easy to guess what they do.
If the game does explain about the specialists’ classes, please notify me where the game explains it.
- Minor complaint, but it would be great if there are other secret chambers, aside from Etna’s, within the Overlord’s Castle to explore.
I was not disappointed to try out this game. It was definitely fun and veryyyyyyyyyy addictive.
On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being ‘awesome’, this game gets a solid 8 from me.
One of the NPC, who broke the 4th wall, quoted that you can clear the game with minimal knowledge of the game’s mechanics. Most of the stuffs like item world exploration and the sidequests are completely optional, and most of them are reserved only for hardcore players.
Most of the minus I gave this game came from the how time consuming it was. Of course, this is not necessarily a bad thing, but due to how I always rush through the first run of the game, the amount of time required to get through was frowned upon. If you don’t mind a game with an extremely long first run, then it’s not really that bad.
If you are a fan of SRPGs, you definitely need to give this game a try. Or at the very least, play the game for its humor.
As of the moment, I’ll be working on Etna’s story mode as well as my personal ‘secret project’ within this game. Once I’m done, I’ll be showing it here on my blog.
And that’s it for my review. I hope you guys enjoyed reading it, and I’ll see you again next time.
Next up, I’ll be finishing Corpse Party: Books of Shadows and Rockman Dash (aka Megaman Legend), as well as explore the first Mana Khemia’s post-game.