My relationship with the Disgaea series has been an odd one over the years. I picked up the first game for $10 (before the reissue brought the price way down) at a thrift store attached to a church in the small town of Loyalton, California. How a game like that ended up where I found it is a mystery that I still ponder on occasion to this day, and I've probably spent more time pondering that strange find than I have actually playing it. That's at least more than I can say about Disgaea 2, which I haven't actually played, but the crazed collector in me demanded that I spend money on it so I would have the entire series. Really the only game in the series that I've spent a significant amount of time with before I undertook this endeavor was Disgaea 3, as I got about 25 hours in before hitting a wall, but it also holds the high distinction of being the only video game to ever get me fired from a job.
Like many of the people reading this, I was at one point convinced that working at a video game store would be the coolest job this side of being a cocaine dealer for rock stars, and when a local Game Crazy (hey remember those?) called in reference to an application I must have dropped off years beforehand, I instantly jumped at the chance to dump my well paying pizza delivery gig to go work minimum wage at a place with terrible hours and a habit for scheduling their employees during their requested time off for college. It didn't take me long after the fifth crackhead looking to sell old Nintendo gear for their next fix to realize the job sucked, as the high pressure sales environment created by clueless corporate assholes helped to ensure that every sales associate would be stressed out and miserable, but I was determined to make the best of it.
Imagine actually watching the legendary training video as part of your ACTUAL training!
One of the ways I would do this was to try and push games I wanted to push. Granted, I wanted to avoid being that guy at the game store who berates people for having different tastes, but I was successful at getting some people who wouldn't normally try something like Disgaea 3 to check it out. I'll never forget the night of the Gears of War 2 launch when one of the customers whom I sold on picking up Culdcept Saga thanked me for showing him that awesome game, as he finally found something he and his wife could play together. It was a rewarding moment in a job that didn't have very many.
So one of the things you had to do at Game Crazy (just like at GameStop) was give the same little spiel over the phone whenever customers would call. There was a little script on the computer that read, “Thank you for calling the Aloha Game Crazy where you can trade your old games to pre-order (insert whatever AAA game they were pushing at the time), this is Jarrod, how can I help you?”. There would be a little list on there with games like Madden, Call of Duty, Gears of War, etc., but I decided to do a little improvisation. On a fateful day in October, I answered the phone by saying, “Thank you for calling the Aloha Game Crazy where you can trade your old games to pre-order Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4, this is Jarrod, how can I help you?”. The man on the other end replied, “What the hell is that?!”.
That man turned out to be the district manager, who didn't like me going off script too much. You see, game companies pay good money to make sure their games get top billing at game stores, and these contracts are part of the putrid lifeblood that make up video game retail. Odds are if the game isn't buying ad space in the store or if it doesn't have some kind of retailer exclusive pre-order incentive, the store brass doesn't give a fuck about it. They only want their employees to push games under contract so they can go to companies with various spreadsheets that show how successful their partnership was to get bigger, more expensive contracts, and Persona 4 wasn't on the list.
This phone kerfuffle caused the DM to actually go through my sales records to track what I was selling. He noticed I had sold a disproportionate amount of games like Tales of Vesperia and Culdcept Saga compared to other associates, and apparently I was responsible for selling 40% of all the non pre-order copies of Disgaea 3—which I would estimate at around seven copies—in the entire district, a feat which I am still somewhat proud of to this day. This caused him to give me a stern talking to in front of my boss, and on top of calling JRPG's, and I quote: “stupid ass crap”, he would also inform me that “our market doesn't care about the games you like”.
This demoralizing experience was followed up by a 20 hour reduction in my work load on the next weeks schedule (during the holiday season. Merry Christmas!), and that just about wrapped up my time with Game Crazy. A couple of months later, Game Crazy, along with its parent company Movie Gallery, went kaput, so he was out of a job, and I was still in college well on my way to becoming far more successful than that astounding douchebag ever was, is, or ever will be.
I didn't put many presents under trees that year thanks to the Henry F. Potter of video game retail management...
The original intention was to give Disgaea 4 a go after the Cowboys game on Sunday, but Tony Romo's incessant need to continue and shit all over himself caused me to drink a little more heavily at the bar, so by the time my drunk ass waddled back to my house, I was hardly in the desired state needed to play a strategy RPG. Luckily I had Monday off, so it was finally time to dive into the insanity. Not that there's anything wrong with insanity. Games like WarioWare and Katamari have thrived on insanity, and Disgaea 4 wears it like a badge of honor just as its forefathers did.
Monday served as a nice introduction to the game. The protagonist this time around is Lord Valvatorez, and he seems perfectly contempt ditching his horrific vampire overlord ways to become the sardine loving head of a prinny training facility in Hades, which serves as the prison of the Disgaea netherworld. The first thing that will jump out to long time fans of the series is the overhauled sprites. The first three entries in the series could have easily been done on a PlayStation 1, and now I would like to congratulate the developers from NIS for making the jump to PS2 quality sprites. This is far from a detriment, as the sprites are as lively and expressive as ever with lots of nice detail, but it's still a little strange playing a full priced PS3 game in 2011 that looks like this. I wouldn't have it any other way.
Why don't American advertisers use fire as much as their Japanese counterparts?
Then Tuesday came along, and after a shift at work, it was time for another meeting of the Fuck Yeah Lets Fucking Do It Club (FYLFDIC for short). The club was founded on the premise of midweek camping trips, as the five founding members would all cram themselves into my tiny Hyundai Accent along with all our camping gear, go camping for a night, drink a metric ton worth of cheap beer, eat good food, and be back to Portland in time for Yohhei to get to work at the yakisoba food cart before the lunch rush the following morning. The beauty of Portland is that it's a short drive to so many awesome parts of nature, and the seven camping trips we've conquered over the summer have unleashed our inner hippies in ways the FYLFDIC could have never anticipated.
By the way, here's a helpful camping trip tip for all the Oregon campers out there: Get on Powell going towards Government Camp until you hit the small town of Zigzag. Make a left on Truman road immediately following the Zigzag mountain store, and you'll see a bridge. Right before the bridge should be a tiny path blocked off by three rocks. Move the rocks and drive about 150 yards down the overgrown path (if my Hyundai Accent can make it, your car can too) and park when you get to a small clearing. To your left should be a little trail through two trees, and laying before you will be a badass little campsite right by a river (with firepit) that we're pretty sure was once the home of a hobo given the makeshift tent made out of branches, some old PBR cans, and some porno strewn about the site. Don't worry, we picked up the cans and burned the porn, and it's a far cleaner area for your enjoyment. Best of all it was free, which is what FYLFDIC is all about.
I'm not quite sure what this has to do with Disgaea 4, but hot damn do I love me a good camping trip. I highly recommend it to anyone who is over the legal drinking limit.
The rest of the week left me with a little more time to start grinding. There's an amazing, trance like groove that one can find themselves in while playing A Promise Unforgotten. Hours tick away from the clock as you constantly level up, grind, acquire money, buy new equipment, then try out said new equipment to start the process anew. I've yet to find many levels of satisfaction in gaming above the feeling you have when arriving to a pivotal battle only to lay waste to the entire armada due to all that extra work you put into grinding your characters.
Of course, one of the main reasons I've maybe had a fairly easy time sliding back into a game like this is because I've played it before. The fresh coat of paint is great, but not much has changed from Disgaea 3, which wasn't too different when compared to Disgaea 2, which shared an odd similarity to the first Disgaea. This isn't too big of a problem for me, as I kinda knew that going in. Plus I haven't invested hundreds of hours into this series like others have, so it's still pretty fresh to me, especially considering all of the linear corridor shooters I've been playing lately.
So far my pledge to make Disgaea 4 the only game I play until it's done hasn't been broken, but the copy of Deus Ex that I purchased two days before buying A Promise Unforgotten keeps taunting me. Valvatorez and his merry gang of political activists just wrapped up Act 3 with Lord Val leading the way at level 28. The final battle of act 3 required me to level up a weapon to level 10, and the common sword I was told to do it in was weaker than the Bloody Dagger I was using at the time, but I was still forced to use it in a puzzling situation. Item World was something I've pretty much avoided during my time with the series, so I think I'll maybe work on that Bloody Dagger sometime next week. Until then, I'll be in the basement giving The Wall the finger while I continue my quest.
TOTAL PLAY TIME: 11 HOURS, 17 MINUTES