DS Review: Disgaea DS

Disgaea hits the DS in this charming RPG…

Apparently, Disgaea has been available on the DS since last year in America. Why it’s taken all the way to now to come out (It finally touches down next Friday of this review) is a mystery. I’ve played more or less every game in the series, apart from the more recent PSP version. What I did discover though, is that the DS version is a port of the PSP game…just with new additions and DS support like stylus and dual-screens.

The Netherworld – a place darker than a pitch-black cave, located deeper than the depths of the seas. It is a cursed land where evil reigns and foul beings dwell. Nobody knows its whereabouts, but everybody fears its existence…
The story takes place two years after the death of King Krichevskoy, the ruler of the Netherworld. His son Laharl slept for two full years, unaware of his father’s death, while demons fought for supremacy over the Netherworld. With the help of his vassal Etna and her underlings, the egocentric, megalomaniac Prince Laharl fights his way to become the next king.

The Disgaea series has always played more or less the same. Combat is tactical and the Geo Cubes make a return, besides the new story and even a new exclusive story for Nintendo’s handheld, not much has changed in the Disgaea series.

I recently reviewed Disgaea 3 on PS3 and was surprised that it didn’t improve the series in terms of gameplay and visuals. It was a bit of a disappointment and after playing the new DS game for about an hour or so, I noticed that the game still hasn’t evolved that much. I would have thought that a DS game might have taken the series to a new level, but instead it follows the same pattern of combat and dialogue, same characters, just with a different visual perspective.

There is some good news though, the game does allow you to Shop and Share with Wireless Communication Mode, trade with friends and share your item data as well as Multi Customization which lets you customise the multiplayer mode, with changes to game rules, field and win/loss conditions and much more. Unfortunately, the multiplayer is only local and requires multi-card to function. It’s a shame as it could have enticed another gamer to pick up the game after, like if they included an exclusive option for multi-card users as opposed to single-card users. It seems like another missed opportunity.
There are some new characters in the DS version that unlock as you play, I won’t spoil it for those fans out there, but you should be pleased with the selection. My main problem with the game is that it clearly hasn’t been 100% designed for the DS as stylus control is optional, it’s not required to play the game. I actually found it easier to use the D-Pad to navigate than the stylus, although it did help moving units in combat. Besides that, there didn’t seem to be any reason for it.

Maybe the game could have benefited from something exclusive that only the DS could achieve. Perhaps some interaction with the microphone or a few mini-games, instead it’s essentially a PSP port with touch-screen support and a map on the top screen. The visuals are good, but they could have been a bit better…the DS is capable of much better looking games, I remember Golden Sun on the GBA looking better. Sound quality has taken a bit of a dive thanks to the DS’ capabilities, voice-acting will appeal to fans of the series, but ultimately I found it annoying as I did in each game before it. I can’t see why they think that these voices are good; although maybe it helps to keep the story seem as light-hearted as possible. If it was actually taken seriously enough, it would be awful. So on the plus side, the humor is there.

The Verdict

Disgaea DS doesn’t do anything that’s blasphemous for an RPG, it just lacks innovation and it seems the series keeps rolling out the same ideas from years ago. It needs a step in a new direction, perhaps an improved combat system or better visuals, cel-shaded perhaps? Unless it changes, I can’t see the overall scores getting much higher than this.