Disgaea: Afternoon of Darkness

Nippon Ichi’s Disgaea: Hour of Darkness first came to North American shores courtesy Atlus, and became a hit among critics, with the developer ultimately establishing their own North American branch. A few years later, after the release of the PlayStation Portable, N1 added to the system’s roster of ports with an updated rerelease entitled Disgaea: Afternoon of Darkness, retaining the original version’s deep, addictive gameplay.

The gameplay is more or less the same as it was in the PlayStation 2 version, aside from added multiplayer features, and this reviewer can easily guide players to his review of the original version (see Disgaea: Hour of Darkness for reference) as to how things work. New to the PlayStation Portable version, as well, is Etna Mode, where Etna accidentally kills Prince Laharl while trying to waken him. Also handy is the PlayStation Portable’s built-in sleep mode, a blessing, for instance, if the player is grinding in the Item World and needs to take a break. Grinding is a bit necessary at times, particularly in Etna Mode if the player starts it via a New Game+, with the enemies in the story maps consequentially having higher levels. There are also some minor camera problems, where the oblique view of the battle maps can sometimes obscure things like portals in the Item World, but otherwise, combat is solid.

Control is largely adequate, with an easy menu system and a linear structure that always keeps the player moving in the right direction, although an equip-best option would have been nice, given the potential of the player’s party to be massive, and the scene-skip feature is still somewhat poorly-implemented, with the player not able to view scenes before deciding whether to skip them or not, and the option unavailable in story scenes between chapters.

The story is generally well-told, with Etna Mode providing a nice alternative to the main plot, with plenty of humor and multiple endings, along with a decent localization, though the game is still referred to as Disgaea: Hour of Darkness.

Tenpei Sato’s soundtrack is also nice, with a Harry Potter-esque main theme and solid voicework, with Etna’s lines rerecorded and consequentially sounding better than in the PlayStation 2 version. New is the option to choose between English and Japanese voices, with the latter option accounting for more voiced scenes than in English, although battle voices still hybrid English and Japanese voices. Still, a great-sounding game.

While the graphics, combining 2-D sprites with 3-D scenery, didn’t push the PlayStation 2 to the limit, they look nice on the PlayStation Portable, a system with the flexibility to accommodate different visual styles, the art still being the high point of the graphics, although the character designer, as mentioned in an interview, had to make sacrifices to accommodate Nippon Ichi’s visual style, and there are some minor oddities such as characters winged characters’ sprites not having wings.

Finally, despite its linearity, the game is surprisingly long with both Laharl and Etna Modes combined able to last players over two hundred hours, though they might spend most of it grinding in order to take on the tougher maps and other challenges.

Ultimately, Disgaea: Afternoon of Darkness is a solid port of an already-great game, retaining the PlayStation 2 version’s solid gameplay while adding ever more such as Etna Mode, sure to satisfy fans of the original and newcomers to the franchise. Incidentally, ports of games in the series would become commonplace, with the game’s first sequel receiving a PlayStation Portable port and the third game for the PS3 receiving a port to the PS Vita.

The Good:
+Solid battle system with tons of variety and depth.
+Great control.
+Humorous plot with multiple endings.
+Nice music and visuals.
+Excellent replay value.

The Bad:
-Can be one big grind-fest.
-Some localization incongruities.

The Bottom Line:
Sure to please tactical RPG fans.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: PlayStation Portable
Game Mechanics: 7/10
Controls: 8/10
Story: 9/10
Music/Sound: 9/10
Graphics: 8/10
Localization: 8/10
Lasting Appeal: 10/10
Difficulty: Hard
Playing Time: 200+ Hours

Overall: 8.5/10

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