Wait a couple months, dood!
I’m mostly going to be focusing on the state of the PC port in my review. We all know by now how incredible and influential Disgaea was (and continues to be), and with the port in its current state, I feel it would behoove our readers to know exactly what they’re getting into, especially since it’s $20 on Steam.
PC ports of Japanese RPGs have, in the past couple of years, largely been messy. Final Fantasy XIII and XIII-2 both had gargantuan technical issues ranging from lack of resolution selection to choppy framerate to the keyboard/mouse controls being essentially unusable. So it should be no surprise, although it should be met with some chagrin, that the Disgaea PC port is a burning car crash of a video game launch.
I should say, Disgaea in its own right is fantastic. Originally released on the PlayStation 2 in 2003, and then later in 2007 on the PSP, Disgaea sought to revitalize and revolutionize the strategy RPG genre with tongue-in-cheek writing, absurd characters, and gameplay which has since become iconic for the series. Wacky is its trade, and it plies it well. Not to be overshadowed by the comical presentation, though, is the depth of content: there are hundreds or even thousands of hours worth of game here. Not since Star Ocean have I found a game which allows me to grind hundreds of levels at a time in an endless series of battles. It’s extraordinarily gratifying to step on a random tile and gain thirty levels instantly. In addition, picking up and throwing characters adds a lot of strategic depth to battles, and the depth and breadth of content is definitely there if you’re willing to jump the technical hurdles. Customizing characters and feeling like they’re perfect, then realizing you can “transmigrate” them (start them at level 1 with better per-level bonuses) to make them even more powerful is immensely satisfying. You can also pick up and throw penguins, then have said penguins explode. So there’s that.
The specific problems with the port involve a lot of very technical jargon — like screen end blur, normal map, and depth of field — and most of it should just be disabled in the options completely, because it adds nothing substantive and in fact makes the game look and run immensely worse. The options menu is fairly bare-bones, with no resolution selection and no borderless full-screen option, and the gamepad control prompts default to numerical buttons (think joystick or power pad circa 1999). It’s a nightmare. Also, for some reason, it actually runs worse in full-screen than it does in windowed mode. I almost forgot: If you’re using a gamepad, and the mouse cursor is in the game window, it will still take mouse inputs, so positioning units is nearly impossible sometimes. I had to literally shrink the game window to 1600×900 and move the cursor outside the window.
It’s kind of amazing that the port is so broken, considering both the PS2 and PSP versions of the same game have been emulated perfectly for quite some time, and in fact run and look better than the version released on Steam. It makes one wonder why they didn’t just pull a Sega, and create an emulation wrapper that the PSP version of the game runs in. Perhaps that would have been more work than just porting the damn thing to PC. Who knows? I’m no game developer.
It should be noted that Nippon Ichi Software has been active on the Steam forums for the game, setting out a roadmap for their intended fixes. They seem really dedicated to improving the shoddy port, which is something that can’t be said of many developers (FFXIII/XIII-2 are still extremely broken in some key areas). It’s admirable, especially considering NIS doesn’t have a whole ton of experience porting games to the PC.
This thing is twenty bones and is completely bare-bones and busted. So, yeah. Maybe wait a month or two. Or three. Or four. You should probably buy it eventually — it’s Disgaea on PC and that’s awesome — but for now it’s too messy and broken to bother with, unless you’re pining to play Disgaea and PC is your only option. At that point, though, you probably have already played this specific Disgaea game. Or, as a last resort, a PS2 on Amazon is like $40.
Final Verdict: 2/5
Available on: PC (reviewed) ; Publisher: NIS America; Developer: Nippon Ichi Software, Inc ; Players: 1; Released: February 24, 2016; Genre: Strategy RPG ; MSRP: $19.99
Full disclosure: This review was written based on review code supplied by the game’s publisher, NIS America.