Disgaea 1 Complete (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Az Elias 02.10.2018

Review for Disgaea 1 Complete on Nintendo Switch

Nippon Ichi Software shook up the tactics-based JRPG genre with the release of Disgaea way back in 2003 on PlayStation 2. Its depth of gameplay and humorous characters and storyline created a large fan following, with the series expanding to deliver many sequels and spin-offs. Now fifteen years old, the original game comes to Nintendo Switch, following on from Disgaea 5 Complete's launch last year.

Taking the perspective of someone introduced to the series through Disgaea 5 Complete's release on Nintendo Switch in 2017, Disgaea 1 might feel somewhat like a regressive step. There are many more gameplay elements incorporated into the fifth mainline title not present in this game, which is to be expected when comparing the first and last titles in the franchise side by side.

To this end, Disgaea 1 has a few less aspects to concern over, such as Revenge Mode, Magichange, the Squad System, the Research Squad, and the Cheat Shop, of which their absence may aggrieve some of the hardcore players, but, honestly, this makes things far less overwhelming and ensures it is a better starting point to ease newcomers into the series before they move onto the even more content-packed likes of Disgaea 5 (and, with any luck, other ports that have since been making their way to PC and, hopefully, Switch).

Screenshot for Disgaea 1 Complete on Nintendo Switch

Still, Disgaea 1 wastes no time in throwing everything it can at players from the get-go. It pretty much expects that you are familiar with turn-based strategy games, working much like Final Fantasy Tactics and Fire Emblem in its grid-like battlefield structures, but throws a number of twists into the format with the likes of Geo Symbols and character stacking. That last one is simpler to understand, whereby characters can throw other characters on top of each other, creating sky-high towers of units that can essentially then throw each other to further places on the map, allowing access to spaces, enemies or other objects much quicker than would normally be allowed by moving around over multiple turns.

Geo Symbols, however, affect the way stages play out much more directly, as these apply various effects to certain tiles on a field, such as reducing or increasing attack, defence, money and EXP gain, limiting the ability to use skills, and even restricting movement over certain panels. Many maps are designed in the enemies' favour, with some Geo Symbols granting huge boosts to enemy attack power, while the party has to figure out a way to overcome the disadvantaged situation. This can be from simply traversing the map carefully, throwing enemies away from crucial tiles, rushing to claim tiles before the enemy, destroying Geo Symbols that are causing panel effects, or even just levelling up to take down foes more easily.

There are countless ways to approach some stages, whilst others are more restricted in how they demand victory, forcing players to use Geo Symbols for their own gain. Needless to say, Geo Symbols are a major part of Disgaea's battle gameplay, and unless you take the time to figure out the best way to deal with them and turn the fight in your favour, combat will be a frustrating experience.

Screenshot for Disgaea 1 Complete on Nintendo Switch

Disgaea won't hold your hand, either. Not only are many early battles tough affairs, but money earned and the amount of units that can be created to begin with is limited. That is, unless you start grinding. Grind you will, too, because the game pretty much encourages the replaying of stages from very early on, especially once you add new characters to the squad who start at level 1.

Good grind spots will be found at a handful of locations during the story, generally where EXP bonus-granting Geo Symbols are applied, allowing some maps to be abused for easy levelling, but it is a shame that no matter how well you might learn the systems and try your best, the answer to completing certain stages is to simply go back and level up your characters. That doesn't always make for the most fun experience, as the story is such a compellingly cheesy and humorous affair, parodying comic book heroes and placing the "evil" demons as the stars of the game, that it doesn't deserve to have its progress halted by a necessity to grind.

Once the sweet grind maps are found, though, it is quite a satisfying feeling to jump ahead multiple levels, getting those struggling clerics and mages up to par alongside handy units like ninjas and, of course, main characters Laharl and Etna, and then being able to continue through a good chunk of story.

Screenshot for Disgaea 1 Complete on Nintendo Switch

Disgaea's unique voting system to pass bills for... pretty much anything in the Dark Assembly is somewhere a lot of time will be spent, too. Whether it is asking for stronger enemies, more EXP earnings, higher quality items in the shops, better movement range for units, or even opening up entirely optional side areas to test the most dedicated players and achieve new endings, everything must be put to the vote, with bribery and even brute force available as options to turn the results in your favour.

The more progress that is made in both the story and the characters themselves, the more fun Disgaea gets. With such an array of choice to tailor squads to your liking and tackle maps as you see fit, it is easy to see how the real game begins once the main quest is finished, as that is where you can really trial your skills. After the final chapter is done and dusted, it's time to take on the those new lands that expand both the world and gameplay even more. Provided you enjoy the grind and customising, this is a game that can eat a lot of hours - and is perfectly suited to the handheld nature of the Switch.

There are some noticeable faults and niggles that point to this having received a lack of care or emphasise its ported nature, however. With no way to twist the maps into an overhead or side-on viewpoint, instead being forced into diagonal isometric angles, it can be difficult to see certain parts of stages, such as when taller geometry blocks the ability to see lower tiles. Some characters are almost completely obscured if they happen to be standing in a particularly unfortunate spot on the map, so the option to switch to a bird's-eye view would have done wonders. The graphics are sharp and colourful, though, and character sprites have been redone to receive a fresh HD look.

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During dialogue sequences, the ends of many voiced lines can get cut off abruptly. Too often the last word isn't fully spoken, which quickly becomes an annoyance, and actually takes away any impact from certain one-word lines, such as a particular ending scene. Speaking of ending scenes, the game crashed no less than three times during this playthrough, with one occurrence happening right after the final boss as the credits were about to roll, and another mid-battle whilst doing some grinding. The PC edition came with a lot of baggage, and whilst it seems apparent the Switch port is based on a patched up Steam version (heck, the credits even still call this version "Disgaea PC"), not all the issues were left at the door, by the looks of it.

Aside from these random crashes, no other errors have been detected, but for such a grind-heavy game, this is not a good sign for players spending huge amounts of time in the fabled Item World and other intense and drawn-out battles. Save often, after every battle, and hope for the best at all other times... until a patch hopefully addresses this bug. For those also wondering, the multiplayer mode from the PSP version is absent here, so while it might not be completely "Complete," this is still plain old Disgaea on the Switch, which is really what (mostly) everyone is here for, anyway. Now, hopefully the rest of the series follows.

Screenshot for Disgaea 1 Complete on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Due to the nature of the gameplay, a good strategy RPG won't age poorly, and fifteen years later, that rings so true for Disgaea 1 Complete on Switch, which is now enhanced further through its improved visuals. The cheesy story and over-the-top characters are as funny and entertaining in the last chapter as they are in the first - but without dedication, experimentation, grinding, and probably some help from other sources, this can be a tough game to get through. With great strategic gameplay full of crazily exaggerated moves and all sorts of options and content to unlock, though, there is plenty of reason to stick with it and spend countless hours in the Netherworld. Aside from some major crash bugs and a couple of other niggling faults, portable Disgaea is right at home on Switch.


Nippon Ichi


NIS America





C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   


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