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Disgaea ~ Hour of Darkness
  opened by paleface at 21:36:43 09/01/03  
  last modified by paleface at 12:27:18 03/05/24  
  paleface [sys=PS2; cat=Strategy; reg=NA]
Strategy RGP with lush graphics, cute demon characters, and a very pleasant interface. Like Ogre Battle or Final Fantasy Tactics or whatnot, you move your little super-deformed sprite characters grid-based battlefields, bashing the enemy and levelling up, with bits of story sequences in-between.
Disgaea has some interesting features distinguishing it from the rest of the competition, however. There's this whole "Item World" idea by which you can "go inside" your items, fighting through multiple "levels" inside the item to unleash its potential powers. An odd but clever concept that greatly expands the play time as you can spend hours and hours improving a single item, but it feels (and is, literally) rewarding to do so.
You've also got a generous combo system to work with where characters standing next to each other can add to each other's attacks, and slaying multiple enemies in a single round builds up a combo bonus that gives you, err, some kind of reward bonus.
Oh and there are these "geo block" or somethings, crystals that sit on certain squares of the battlefield and give a bonus to all squares falling in a certain geometric pattern, shown by a pulsing color overlay. Bonuses include things like an experience point bonus when killing an enemy on that square, or a defense bonus while standing on the square, etc. To complicate things, you can destroy these crystals, igniting a chain-reaction explosion covering all squares that had been affected by the block, or pick up the block and throw it into another geo zone, switching the block's bonus over to that zone.
Speaking of throwing, humanoid characters can also pick up and throw monsters or teammates. For instance, if have two warriors who can both only advance halfway to a foe in that round, have them move, then have one pick up the other and throw them the rest of the way to the opponent: they'll hand next to him and can then attack. This throwing and geo stuff can lead to some pretty wild strategies and chain reactions.
Your little demons and demonettes exude sassy charm as they animate smoothly around in their low resolution 2d glory, fighting for control of the lawless Underworld. Surprisingly, they fit in quite well with the blocky 3d backgrounds and 3d special effects. It's quite a rare success in the 2d-3d crossover realm, really, with bold color and modelling work serving to bind the two together with very pleasing effect. In battle 2d overlays zip across the screen as 3d explosions flash around and it all looks quite zippy.
The zip extends to the menus and interface as a whole, with panels opening and closing at lightning speed at the press of a button and the necessary information only ever a button press or two away, always presented in an attractive and easily-digested manner. Nothing gets in the way of enjoyment here (also I suggest that you switch from the English voices to the Japanese ones, as even though you won't understand the words, the Japanese actors convey so much more with just tone and tempo than the lackadaisical American actors) and this is one of those games that you'll find yourself having played for a good deal longer than you'd thought.
· La Pucelle: Tactics (PS2)

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