Disgaea: Hour of Darkness (魔界戦記 ディスガイア, Makai Senki Disugaia?, lit. “Netherworld Battle Chronicle: Disgaea”) is a tactical role-playing game developed by Nippon Ichi Software for the Sony PlayStation 2 video game console. It was released in Japan on January 30, 2003 by Nippon Ichi Software, in North America on August 27, 2003 by Atlus USA, Inc. and in Europe on May 28, 2004 by Koei. Disgaea follows the adventures of Laharl, a demon prince residing in the Netherworld.
Nippon Ichi has also licensed or produced a wide variety of Disgaea merchandise, including a manga. A sequel has since been released in 2006 titled Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories, along with a 12 episode long anime.
Due to popular demand, Nippon Ichi announced that they would be porting Disgaea to the Playstation Portable video game console which was released on November 30, 2006 in Japan. A North American or European version has not yet been announced.
Disgaea has many features which differ from those in other tactical RPGs. One of the game’s tutorial levels explains the ability of the player’s units to pick up enemies or allies and throw them to a different square on the map. Monster units cannot use this ability. The distance that a unit on the map can throw another unit depends on its character class; rogue class characters and Gordon have the best range in the game. It is possible to capture enemy units by throwing them into the player’s entry square on the map, after which they join the player’s party. However, bosses and humanoids cannot be captured.
The game also has “cycles”; at the end of each trip through the storyline, the player can choose to restart the story from its beginning and maintain each character’s statistics and item inventory from the previous game. Characters that join and leave the party as part of the game’s story will only be usable in the same parts of the game that they were before, but they, too, will retain their items, abilities, and stats. This complements Disgaea’s high character level ceiling of 9999, while also giving the player additional chances to see Disgaea’s multiple endings.
Disgaea’s configuration allows the player to select the audio and soundtrack in the U.S. release from English or Japanese. The song “The Invasion From Within” by Tsunami Bomb was licensed for the English audio track by ATLUS due to its organ opening and fast pace, and is only played when English is the selected language. The option to select the language is not present in the European release of the game, because the European release used a lower capacity storage medium (CD instead of DVD).
Souhei Niikawa and Yoshitsuna Kobayashi, the game’s producer and main programmer, have explained the intended humor of Disgaea; they give the example of Captain Gordon being a satire of American comic book characters. Episodes of the game are separated by previews, parodying such previews at the end of anime series episodes. Most of these have voice-overs by Etna and do not accurately reflect the plot of the next episode; one of the characters calls these previews Etna’s fantasies. The game is also filled with Prinnies, penguin-like creatures that explode when thrown. More information on their origins is revealed as the game progresses – they contain human souls and labor in the Netherworld and Celestia to atone for their sins. Character designer Takehito Harada described the prinny design as becoming less realistic as development continued.
Laharl’s castle acts as a hub, allowing the player to access the other locations in the game. Each episode of the game gives the player access to a new set of maps, which must be completed in order to proceed in the plot. With the exception of the Item World and the Dark Assembly, all sets of maps are accessed by speaking to a dimensional gatekeeper. With the exception of some maps, maps can be accessed and played again at any time, occasionally with minor changes.
Unlike many other RPGs, the world of Disgaea has only one set of stores where items may be purchased, consisting of an armor shop and a weapons shop directly within Laharl’s castle itself. These shops are described in-game as the Netherworld branch of the Rosen Queen Co. The overall quality and types of the items sold in these shops can be changed through proposals to the Dark Assembly. A hospital where characters may be healed in exchange for payment is also present in the same area of the castle and rewards Laharl and company by giving them items when they receive certain amounts of treatment.
At the other side of the castle, Laharl and the members of his party may appear before the Dark Assembly, an area where non-player characters may vote on proposals to aid Laharl’s party, including proposals to unlock special maps required for some of the endings or secret characters. Senators have a visible predilection toward the party that affects their votes. Votes can also be affected by bribes with items from the player’s inventory. Each proposal to the Dark Assembly costs “mana”, which is built up by characters as they defeat enemies. If a proposal fails to receive sufficient votes, the player may attempt to pass the bill anyway by choosing to “persuade by force” and defeating the opposing senators in battle. The proposals available to place before the senate depends on the number of promotion examinations completed by a character; these examinations consist of a battle with a handful of monsters on the floor of the Assembly.
Some maps in Disgaea contain Geo Panels, which are represented as squares on the floor of the map of a particular color. Colored objects on the map known as Geo Symbols may be present on either Geo Panels or regular, uncolored squares on the map. These Geo Symbols can usually be thrown. When a Geo Symbol sits on a Geo Panel, it gives the all Geo Panels of the color it sits on a property, such as making all units on them invulnerable, or decreasing the HP of friendly units on those panels by 20% at the end of each turn. When a Geo Symbol is destroyed on a Geo Panel of a different color, it causes panels of that color to change to the color of the Geo Symbol and damages units on those panels. If another Geo Symbol is on one of the panels when it changes, it too is destroyed, and the Geo Panels begin to change color and properties again, creating a chain reaction. This chain reaction can be of any length that can be supported by the number of colors of panel and symbols on the map. Some Geo Symbols have the color “clear” and cause the Geo Panels to become regular map squares when destroyed. Removing all of the Geo Panels from a map will cause a blast of energy which hurts all enemies on the map and results in maximum bonuses for the player, referred to in the manual as the Panel Termination Bonus.
Laharl’s party may also enter the Item World from the Castle, going inside an item in their inventory in order to increase its attributes. The world associated with an item contains up to 100 randomly generated levels. Inside the Item World, monsters called Specialists raise the statistics of the item they are in when defeated. Often, the maps are full of Geo Symbols.
Each floor has a gate, a special map square that can be used to go to the next level in the item world. However, a monster with the unique class “Gate Keeper” will sometimes block the gate. The Gate Keeper must be defeated to use the gate. Every once in a while, rare items, such as the Legendary Cosmic Blade, show up on a bonus list of items rewarded when all monsters on the map are defeated.
Every ten levels has an item boss – level numbers 10, 20, 40, 50, 70 and 80 have Item Generals, 30, 60 and 90 have Item Kings, and 100 has an Item God. The strongest of each type of weapon and the three ultimate items – the Yoshitsuna, the Super Robo Suit, and the Hyperdrive – each contain an Item God 2. Defeating these bosses also increases the attributes of the item. The Yoshitsuna can only be acquired from an Item God in a Legendary Cosmic Blade, the Hyperdrive is rewarded the first time the player defeats an Item God 2, and the Super Robo Suit can be stolen from Tyrant Baal. The Item World can only be exited at the end of every 10th level containing an Item Boss, or at any other time by using an item called Mr. Gency’s Exit, a play on the phrase “Emergency Exit”.
Main article: List of Disgaea characters
Note: Significant plot details follow.
Laharl is the main character and antihero of Disgaea: Hour of Darkness, He is the son of King Krichevskoy, former Overlord of the Netherworld. After awakening from a two hundred year slumber at the beginning of the game, he discovers that his father is dead and almost all of his vassals are gone (most of them are, in fact, trying to take Laharl’s place, rather than trying to serve him). As the rightful heir to the throne, Laharl sets out to conquer the Netherworld and establish himself as the one true Overlord.
Laharl is incredibly arrogant and always tries to prove that he is the strongest demon in the Netherworld. He does, however, possess incredible power for his appearance, which, despite the fact that he is a 1313 year old demon, is still that of a small human child (his large hair “antennae” and billowing scarf are meant to mask this fact). Will he succeed in his quest, and what kind of Overlord will he become?
Etna is one of the few former vassals of the late King Krichevskoy who remained in his castle after his death. At the beginning of the game, she awakens Laharl from his two hundred-year nap and tells him of the events that occurred while he was asleep. With the help of a Prinny squad, she fights alongside Laharl in his quest to become the new Overlord. Etna is driven throughout the game by a deep loyalty to the late King Krichevskoy, and she becomes Laharl’s closest, though not necessarily most trustworthy, vassal. Her carefree manner masks a devious and clever mind. What is she really after?
Flonne is an Angel Trainee who hails from the land of Celestia, where the Angels reside. She was sent to the Netherworld by Seraph Lamington, the ruler of Celestia, and was ordered to assassinate the Overlord, King Krichevskoy. Shortly after her arrival, however, Laharl and Etna inform her that King Krichevskoy has, in fact, been dead for over two hundred years.
Eternally optimistic and cheerful, Flonne is the most innocent and naive of the three main characters in Disgaea. She is deeply devoted to both Seraph Lamington and to the concept of ‘love’. Perturbed by Laharl’s rejection of everything to do with love, Flonne decides to follow him and learn if demons actually are incapable of feeling it. Can she teach Laharl the true meaning of love?
Laharl and the others face a variety of challengers to his throne. One of these, Vyers, who refers to himself as “the Dark Adonis” and is renamed “Mid-Boss” by Laharl, is the first demon that Laharl confronts in his quest to claim the title of Overlord. Vyers reappears throughout the game as a somewhat comedic would-be rival to Laharl. Other demons Laharl must fight include Hoggmeiser, a pig-like demon with a self-proclaimed love of money, and Maderas, a vampire that attempts to blackmail Laharl into fighting a battle under very unfavorable circumstances.
Later in the game, they meet several characters from Earth, starting with Captain Gordon, the 37th Defender of Earth; his assistant Jennifer; and the robot Thursday. Laharl makes Gordon into one of his vassals after defeating him in battle. They also encounter Gordon’s rival Kurtis, who holds a grudge against Gordon and considers himself to be more worthy of the title “Defender of Earth.” Gordon and Kurtis are both under the command of General Carter, the leader of the Earth Defense Force.
Other characters include Big Sis Prinny, who seems wiser and more mature than the other Prinnies, the paranoid Archangel Vulcanus, who hates all demons and is suspicious of Flonne, and Seraph Lamington, the ruler of Celestia.
In addition to the plot-related characters, the player can create generic characters that are used only in battles. There are 3 different types of generic characters – humanoids, monsters, and Prinnies. Monster classes can obtained after the player defeats at least one of them in battle. Some humanoid classes are available at the beginning of the game, and others must be unlocked. Prinnies are basically the same as monster characters, with one major exception. A Prinny, unlike other monster characters, explodes when thrown during a battle.
Secret characters can also be found in Disgaea. Priere from La Pucelle: Tactics is the Overlord of an alternate Netherworld. Marjoly from Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure is the final boss of the Beauty Castle; she has items equipped that come from other Rhapsody characters — Myao’s Ears, Gao’s Guts, Crowdia’s Beauty, and Nyanko’s Soul. Both Marjoly and Priere become playable members of Laharl’s party when defeated. Another secret character is Baal, the Lord of Terror; he does not join the player’s party when defeated, but is instead reincarnated as a Prinny and can be challenged again. Baal also appears as an optional boss in most other games developed by Nippon Ichi.
Note: Significant plot details follow.
The story of Disgaea opens with Laharl rising out of an open coffin in his room. Etna, one of the castle vassals, is standing next to him, surrounded by various weapons. She explains that he has been sleeping for two years, far longer than he intended, and his father, King Krichevskoy, has died. Laharl vows to reclaim the throne, and, after consulting with Etna and his other vassals, goes to Vyers’ castle.
After defeating the demon Vyers, who refers to himself as the “Dark Adonis” and is renamed “Mid-Boss” by Laharl, he meets Angel Trainee Flonne. Flonne had been sent to the Netherworld by Seraph Lamington, the ruler of Celestia, to assassinate King Krichevskoy (who was already dead). Shocked by Laharl’s lack of grief at his father’s death, the eternally optimistic Flonne joins Laharl’s party to determine if demons are capable of feeling love. Observing them in secret is the paranoid Archangel Vulcanus, who interprets Flonne’s actions as treason and is convinced that she is plotting against him.
After Etna demands that Laharl pay the salary of the Prinnies that she has hired, he decides to attack the demon with the most money in the vicinity. This is Hoggmeiser at Dinero Palace. After defeating Hoggmeiser, Laharl is about to kill him, until Hoggmeiser’s son rushes out and gets in the way. Flonne convinces Laharl to spare them, and Laharl lets them keep some of the money. In response to this act, Hoggmeiser joins the party.
At one point, Flonne and Etna discover a photograph of Laharl in an embarrassing situation. Laharl refers to this as a “paparazzi shot”, however, the actual contents of the photo are never actually revealed. (Two popular theories are that Laharl was doing something sexual or that he was doing something nice. He could also have been caught crossdressing.) A threat on the back of the photograph states that copies of it would be distributed if Laharl did not accept a challenge to fight for the overlordship; thus Laharl was blackmailed. One of the demons in Laharl’s castle, after learning about the photo, says “I didn’t know you were into that sort of thing ♥”.
Responding to this challenge, Laharl meets Maderas, a vampire. He was banished by King Krichevskoy, for stealing the King’s favorite snack, black pretzels. Maderas takes advantage of Laharl’s two biggest weaknesses – optimism and women with sexy bodies. Maderas was also controlling Etna by holding her memory. He had instructed her to kill the prince, but she had put him to sleep for two years by poisoning him instead. Etna eventually betrays Maderas, and along with Laharl, Flonne, and Mid-Boss, defeats him.
Waking up later at night, Flonne discovers that several Prinnies are chanting and leaving the castle. Laharl, worried that his reputation will be tarnished if it’s discovered that he let his vassals escape, chases after them the next morning. Eventually, he runs into Death, and the player learns that Big Sis Prinny is actually Laharl’s mother; she became a Prinny because she gave her life to save him.
After Laharl becomes the undisputed Overlord of the Netherworld, he meets a group of humans from Earth: Gordon, self-proclaimed Defender of Earth; Jennifer, his assistant; and the robot Thursday. Gordon has been led to believe that his mission is to assassinate Laharl due to an impending attack on Earth by the Netherworld. Laharl promises not to invade Earth if Gordon defeats him, on the condition that Gordon becomes one of his vassals if he wins; Gordon is embarrassed by his ensuing loss and servitude. After the Earth Defense Force appears in the Netherworld, it is revealed that Gordon was actually sent to secure a path for an invasion of the Netherworld by the humans, who had been tricked by Vulcanus.
General Carter sends Kurtis to the Netherworld, and eventually goes there himself on the Space Battleship Gargantua. Kurtis abducts Jennifer, and Laharl engages the EDF fleet of spaceships in a rescue attempt, destroying all but the Gargantua by himself. When Laharl and his party arrive at the Gargantua’s bridge, several angels from Celestia appear and attack them. After being defeated, General Carter escapes, only to have Mid-Boss appear to give him a message.
In response to this turn of events, Flonne and the rest of the party decide to go to Celestia to confront the Seraph. Vulcanus goes to Seraph Lamington, declares that Flonne is a traitor who is leading an army of demons in an invasion of Celestia, and goes to lead a group of angels to repel this “invasion”. Vulcanus reveals to Laharl and his party that he intends to conquer all three worlds and rule over them as a god. After defeating Vulcanus, Laharl finally meets the Seraph and Flonne explains Vulcanus’s plan and what she has learnt while travelling with Laharl. The Seraph accepts her version of events and agrees that demons are, in fact, capable of feeling love. However, he declares that Flonne must be punished because she fought against other angels, and turns her into a flower. Outraged at this injustice, Laharl attacks the Seraph, initiating the game’s final battle.
The game has multiple endings. Depending on the way the game was played up to this point, the Seraph may or may not survive, Flonne either remains a flower, is restored to her original form, or is transformed into a Fallen Angel, and Laharl either becomes a great Overlord, disappears and leaves Etna in charge of the Netherworld, or dies and becomes a Prinny. It may also be noted that, on the Good Ending, when the spirit of Laharl’s mother appears to him, Vyers appears to already know her, and the way he talks to Laharl suggests that he is King Krichevskoy.
Note: Significant plot details follow.
Disgaea is separated into 14 episodes, or levels. After the first time the game is played, in subsequent cycles, new endings are sometimes available before the canon ending point of the plot; the availability of these endings also sometimes depends on conditions, such as having members of the player’s party kill other members of the party a certain number of times.
- Prince of the Netherworld – Laharl awakens and battles “Mid-Boss”. The Mid-Boss Ending is accessible for the first time, and will be again every time the party fights Mid-Boss.
- Enter Flonne – Flonne joins the party.
- A Hint of Kindness – The party battles Hoggmeiser. “Flonne’s Ending” can be accessed.
- A Gift from an Angel – Vulcanus steals Flonne’s pendant, which she needs to continue to survive in the netherworld.
- Etna’s Secret – The party battles Maderas. “Etna’s Ending” can be accessed.
- Laharl’s Challenge – Laharl fights a series of increasingly ludicrous battles, and eventually triumphs, becoming the Overlord.
- Of Being an Overlord – Etna finds Laharl a job worthy of his first act as Overlord: helping a child track down his pet zombies.
- Reincarnation – The Prinnies escape. Prinny Land becomes unlockable.
- Captain Gordon, Defender of Earth – Captain Gordon, Jennifer, and Thursday join the party.
- Angels, Demons, and Humans – The group tries to go on a picnic, but Mid-Boss steals the picnic basket.
- Hero’s Will, Overlord’s Way – Laharl receives a challenge from the “Defender of Earth”. Gordon is shocked, as he did not write the challenge.
- War of the Netherworld, Part 1 – The EDF invades. (NOTE: at the end of this chapter, the player will temporarily lose Jennifer.)
- War of the Netherworld, Part 2 – The party counters the invasion, and learns of angelic involvement. The “Human World” stage becomes unlockable and the “Human World Ending” becomes accessible.
- What Lies Beyond the Battle – The Final Chapter. The party invades Celestia. Prinny Kurtis joins the party. The player’s decisions determine the outcome.
There are also extra levels that can be unlocked in the Dark Senate. These include “Prinny Land”, “Cave of Ordeals”, “Human World”, “Alternate Netherworld”, and “Beauty’s Castle”. After clearing “Alternate Netherworld” and “Beauty’s Castle”, “Baal’s Castle” will be available.
Audio and visuals
The style of Disgaea‘s visuals is very similar to the Super Robot Wars series, as the makers of Disgaea have responded that characters represented by 3-D models in other games are often limited by a “set pattern of motions”, and they were able to make the characters of Disgaea more expressive with sprites.
There were two different styles of boxart for the American release. These differences were noted by a single image located on the bottom left hand corner of the cover, which could either have been Laharl or a Succubus. Though with limited information, nobody knows for sure which one is the original print, and which was is the second edition print.
- In IGN’s GotY awards, it won Best Game no one Played, it won Reader’s Choice for Best Strategy Game, and was runner-up for Best Strategy Game.
- In GameSpy’s GotY awards, it ranked #9 on the top ten PlayStation 2 games, and was called the “Strategy Game of the Year”.
- The Disgaea official website also lists the high review scores for the game and has a near complete list of its various awards.
Disgaea animated series