Nippon Ichi Software has seen better days. Reports indicate that the developer is unable to pay its staff after its mobile-only Disgaea RPG was taken offline last month. The game failed to recoup investment costs when it launched this past March and instead entered a three-month long maintenance period. Nippon Ichi’s stock plummeted accordingly and it has since been unable to borrow funds from banks or investors. All of this harrowing news comes right after new IPs like The Princess Guide and Destiny Connect failed to perform well in sales.
While the company won’t be shutting its doors tomorrow, the following are a few games that curious otaku should check it out if they’re unfamiliar with the developer or want to help it recover from its financial woes.
Nippon Ichi Software’s Best Games | Disgaea: Hour of Darkness
Disgaea: Hour of Darkness is nothing short of a cult classic. When the title launched for PlayStation 2 in 2003, critics and fans praised how well it combined RPG and strategy elements to produce something the industry hadn’t seen until then. As an arrogant half-demon boy named Laharl, players are tasked with reclaiming the kingdom’s throne alongside his witty vassal Etna and an angel trainee named Flonne.
The game oozes charm, be it through its bright aesthetic, memorable cast, or crude humor. That’s not to mention that the title boasts over 50 hours of gameplay, 150 customizable classes, and a seemingly infinite number of attack combinations. It’s no wonder how Hour of Darkness managed to spawn the Disgaea franchise, as it offers so much personality and content in one convenient package.
Nippon Ichi Software’s Best Games | Phantom Brave
It should come as no surprise that Phantom Brave is a worthy spiritual successor to Hour of Darkness. The game successfully reinvents the tactical RPG formula thanks to protagonist Marona’s phantom-summoning ability, the likes of which allows her to channel ghosts into physical objects. Every item on the battlefield has its own unique stats and can be picked up and used as a weapon for additional damage. However, each one of these phantoms eventually disappears after a few turns, meaning players need to carefully ration summons if they hope to survive.
Phantom Brave may not be for everyone, as it doubles down on Disgaea‘s strategic elements and offers more than a few challenging boss fights. However, fans who love meticulously planning out their battles could find themselves pouring hundreds of hours into the game. The title is also available on PlayStation Portable as Phantom Brave: The Hermuda Triangle for fans who prefer to take their tactical addictions with them on the go.
Nippon Ichi Software’s Best Games | Disgaea 4
Disgaea 4 offers a dizzying array of features to mess around with. While commanding one’s troops on the battlefield remains integral to the experience, fans will also have to worry about petitioning the government, leveling up their item stats, and building their pirate crew for online invasions.
As in the case of Phantom Brave, this may seem overwhelming to the uninitiated. Fortunately, the title’s campaign and cast is enjoyable enough for anyone to follow along. It’s especially funny when protagonist Valvatorez complains about his low-ranking job as a Prinny instructor or when Desco comments on her failed takeover of Earth. Players can also inflict 10 billion damage, which is pretty neat.
Nippon Ichi Software’s Best Games | Yomawari: Midnight Shadows
Survival horror game Yomawari: Midnight Shadows represents the antithesis of Disgaea because of how creepy it is. Throughout the title, players alternate between Yui and Haru in an effort to reunite the pair. Meanwhile, menacing phantoms lurk in the shadows of the dormant night town, eager to murder their next victims with one quick swipe.
As these ghouls inch closer, Yui and Haru’s hearts beat faster, thus building a fan’s nervousness as he or she desperately tries to look for a good hiding spot. Midnight Shadows is a welcome departure from most other Nippon Ichi games, making it perfect for players who may be intimidated by Disgaea or Phantom Brave‘s dense strategic gameplay.
Nippon Ichi Software’s Best Games | Disgaea 5
Disgaea 5 doesn’t take too many risks when it comes to the franchise’s signature mechanics. However, it adds a few new features that makes the experience easier to pick up and play by newcomers. The squad system, for instance, is simpler for fans to group certain characters together in order to maximize their damage potential and gain unique stat bonuses. The new maid class allows players to use an item and an action in one turn. New intricacies like sub-classes and quests are available for veterans to sink their teeth into, too.
Visual improvements are much more noticeable here than in past entries, as character sprites and special moves pop off the screen. Ultimately, Disgaea 5 successfully manages to modernize the franchise without sacrificing its depth or style, which is no easy feat to come by today.
There’s still hope for Nippon Ichi Software to recover once Disgaea RPG re-releases for smartphones this summer. The franchise typically sells well, as Disgaea 5 Complete sold 200,000 copies on Switch less than one year after its launch on the console. There’s also hope that Destiny Connect will perform well in North America when it launches in the region this fall.
Nippon Ichi is one of the world’s best tactical RPG developers. Its closure would be an incredible loss to the industry, no matter one’s opinion on the genre. Those who haven’t yet tried out the studio’s games can’t go wrong by playing any of the titles listed above. They may find themselves saying “dood” a lot more often.
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