Nippon Ichi loves to kill my social life. Before recieving Disgaea: Afternoon of Darkness, the last title they sent me was Soul Nomad and the World Eaters. I sunk plenty of time into that game, and I'm still yet to complete it. Once I finally got through Castlevania, I thought I'd have some free time, but no, I had to play Disgaea.
I've sunk 200+ hours into Final Fantasy Tactics over several dozen play-throughs, but I wasn't looking forward to sinking that amount of time into a single playthrough of Disgaea. Sure, I could've just played through Etna mode, but this was my first time playing the game -- I was never able to pick up the game on its limited runs from way back when.
Disgaea: Afternoon of Darkness (PSP)
Disgaea: Afternoon of Darkness is the PSP port of Nippon Ichi's smash onto the PS2 back in 2003, Disgaea: Hour of Darkness. As the dark prince Laharl, you wake up from a two year sleep, during which your father, the king of the Netherworld, has died. The Netherworld is in turmoil, and it's up to you to reclaim your throne.
The one thing about Disgaea is that it's long. Unbelievably long. It's a massive timesink of a game. I've put in at least 15 hours so far, and I'm not even a quarter of the way through. The game requires level grinding for both your characters and your weapons, which causes you to spend a ton of time on this, making little progress in the game.
Depending on your play style, this will make you either love the game or hate it. Every Nippon Ichi game has a focus for its game mechanics that becomes a time sink, but opens a plethora of options. Once you take the plunge into it, though, the game becomes so much more personalized and interesting, because you're actively working to shape your characters and everything that they use and wear.
Moving the game off of the TV and onto the PSP makes the game a lot crisper and brighter, and ends up looking really nice. The thing with Nippon Ichi games is that the artwork from their games is all the same, whether it's 2003 or 2007. So, you get a certain level of quality with the artwork that will look good the first time you see it, and become increasingly stale as time goes on.
Load times for the game aren't bad, which is surprising. For some reason, the PSP has problems with ported PS1 games, but not ported PS2 games. The game doesn't lag on any of the moves performed, and I've enjoyed smooth play throughout.
For those of you who already own Disgaea: Hour of Darkness, the question remains about whether to buy this game. The folks at NIS have included Etna mode, where you can go through the game playing as Etna instead of Laharl. From what I've played, the story follows a similar path to the main game, the interactions just take a different dynamic, playing as Etna. It gives you an excuse to pay attention to the story mode again.
If that isn't enough, the game does feature an ad-hoc multiplayer option, where you can play wirelessly against friends. Of course, no one loves me, so I couldn't give this feature a test-run. It looks like a nice option, allowing players to pit their characters against each other under a variety of settings. If you've got a bunch of friends, and they also like Disgaea, then this'd be a really nice addition for picking the game up if you were arleady considering it.
As a port, this game does a great job of bringing Disgaea to a group that didn't necessarily get the chance to pick up the game. The multiplayer and Etna mode spice things up a bit, but for those who aren't jumping at the bit to play the game again, they aren't quite enough to convince you to pick this up. The camera controls are a little weak in the game, with terrain frequently blocking me from seeing what's on a square or where pathways exist.
If you don't already own Disgaea and are a fan of NIS-type RPGs, then plop down the money on this portable powerhouse. If you really want to take your first plunge into NIS RPGs, I'd suggest going with Soul Nomad and the World Eaters instead -- you'll make more progress through the game quicker. As for fans of Disgaea, it's questionable as to whether or not this is worth the purchase. The game really is a niche title that is going to appeal to only a small group. I'm certainly a part of it, but even I feel like the extreme customization gets to be a bit much.