There are many types of games out there catering to many different audiences,
but has there been a game for the Goths? There's The
, but that stinker hardly even counts as a game. Devil
, maybe, but that wasn't really depressing enough. I'm not a Goth myself,
but I think Pokemon: Picnic in the Park
isn't going to whet one's
appetite for doom and gloom.
If Final Fantasy Tactics and Tactics Ogre
are too medieval for you, then try Disgaea, the gothier strategy
RPG. Well, I wouldn't exactly classify it as full, depressing Goth - it's actual
more like a Goth world of demons and darkness with a dose of Anime Ritalin.
prince of the Demons, has been asleep for two years. During this time, his father,
King Krichevskoy, was assassinated, leading to a political struggle for power.
Laharl awakens to a tattered Demon World he must rightfully reclaim. "
The dual worlds of Demons and Angels in Disgaea set up a
"demon discovering love and caring" plotline. Despite the predictability, the
lightness of the storytelling with its goofy Anime hijinks keeps things interesting.
Plus, there are four possible endings. "
I especially like the episodic flow of the game and how after each episode, Etna, Laharl's cute-as-a-button Goth-chick vassal, offers her "Next Episode Preview" from her own twisted perspective.
Etna and Laharl begin each episode from within Laharl's castle. This mighty
fortress includes everything a demon could want out of life (or death, whatever),
including stores in which to upgrade weapons and armor and a hospital for healing
up. Sorry, there is no Hot Topic in Hell. The Dimensional Gate allows Laharl's
party to teleport to the playing fields. "
Disgaea is played from an isometric Q-bert
perspective with two levels of zoom. The player always faces the grids from
an angle. While the playing field can be rotated, you can't play it from a straight
on, vertical/horizontal perspective. Eventually you get used to the angled controls,
but it isn't as intuitive as a traditional grid.
The combat is turn-based with up to 10 characters in your party. Besides the
standard attacks and specials, characters can "throw" one another in order to
reach the occasional precarious ledge. There are also chances for combo attacks
when your character is flanked by teammates. Experience points are only doled
out to the character or characters that finish off an enemy, so it pays to combo.
Some of the maps feature inlaid colored squares known as Geo Panels. Standing on one of these squares causes different effects to happen. By tossing a differently colored Geo Crystal onto a Geo Panel and then subsequently destroying that Crystal, you can negate all Panels of that color, starting a chain reaction to sweep enemies away and earning a huge point bonus. It adds almost a puzzle game strategy to some of the stages.
The different side quests can be overwhelming at first, but the game still
tries to keep them relevant; one of the NPCs assures that these aren't necessary
to beat the game.
example of the depth can be found in the Item World. Each individual item can
be upgraded by going to this alternate dimension, which is essentially a randomized
series of 10 floors to conquer. After killing all the ghoulies, the item boosts
One item, "Mr. Gency's Exit," is a one-time use item used to "exit' the Item
World. You won't be given Mr. Gency's Exit until about 4 episodes in. If you
decide to go into the Item World before then, you must beat the full 10 floors
in one go. Not easy.
There is also a Senate within Laharl's castle that can be appealed to in order to add more items to the stores. Appealing in this case means bribery or smacks upside the head.
Disgaea can be on the tough side, and the "game over' screen
will come up often, but with the Item World, the ability to continuously develop
new characters from a pool of 150 and characters that can level up in four areas,
the advantage is on your side.
The throwback graphics are charming, again best described as a Goth Final
Fantasy Tactics, with similar character designs in a fittingly drab
palette. More frames of animation in the sprite characters to accompany the
larger drawn images would have been nice. There are also some polygonal effects
for the special moves, but nothing mind blowing. By all accounts, this could
have been done on the PSOne.
But then there wouldn't be room for the voiceovers. There's a campy quality
to the voices that fits the game to a tee. While the English voices are well
done, the game still includes the original Japanese voices, so self-righteous
Otakus can say they're playing the game how "it was meant to be played." The
music fits the lighthearted tone of the game. "
Disgaea is a solid title with plenty of personality that
is unfortunately going to go under the radar next to juggernauts like Soul
Calibur II and F-Zero. While it isn't going to wow
anyone with cutting edge graphics, there's a great deal to do and it features
a very charming atmosphere. I wholly recommend it as a late summer strategy
RPG fix. Hey, it might even make a Goth