Disgaea (魔界戦記ディスガイア Makai Senki Disugaia) is a series of SRPGs created and published by Nippon Ichi. The series is known for its unique setting, humour and high focus on level grinding, jobs and stat growth. Each of the games explore the Netherworld, the realm of demons, as well as Celestia, the abode of angels, and Earth, the home of humans.
The plots of the Disgaea games differ. However, characters from past Disgaea games can appear in them, sometimes making guest appearances, bosses or even playable characters.
Disgaea: Hour of Darkness follows the (mis)adventures of Prince Laharl as he tries to become Overlord after learning of his father's death, his not-so-loyal-in-a-way vassal, Etna, the Angel Trainee Love Freak, Flonne, Captain Gordon, a defender of Earth, his partner, Jennifer, and their little robot buddy, Thursday.
Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories follows Adell, the last remaining human in Veldime who wants to make his family human again, Rozalin, a spoiled princess (and only daughter) of the Veldime Overlord, Zenon, Adell's siblings, Hanako and Taro, Laharl's former vassal, Etna, Rozalin's childhood friend, Tink, a perverted demon turned into a frog, and Yukimaru, one of the last remaining members of the Snow Clan.
Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice focuses on Mao who is trying to become a hero to defeat his father, Almaz, a hero-in-training, Raspberyl, a delinquent at Evil Academy, Sapphire, a princess who is trying to defeat the Overlord, Mr. Champloo, a teacher, Master Big Star, an elegant demon, and Salvatore the Magnificent, a senior student.
Disgaea 4: A Promise Unforgotten details Valvatorez's campaign of usurping the Netherworld regime, Fenrich, a werewolf and loyal servant of Valvatorez, Fuka, a human girl who is supposed to be a Prinny, Desco, a final boss in-training, Emizel, the president's son and Vulcanus, a greedy angel.
Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness is a direct sequel to Hour of Darkness, detailing Laharl, Etna, and Flonne's discovery of Sicily, an angel who claims to be Laharl's little sister, and rivalry with a group of the late Overlord's former servants who feel Laharl is unfit to rule, as well as investigating the blossoming of odd Celestial flowers in the Netherworld.
Every Disgaea game takes place in the Netherworld, sometimes exploring the Human World and Celestia.
Disgaea: Hour of Darkness takes place in a Netherworld filled with many volcanic and frozen areas. It is also home to the Overlord's Castle, which serves as the game's hub area.
Veldime serves as Disgaea 2's main setting, originally a human world before the curse placed by Overlord Zenon. Every human has been turned into a demon by the curse and Veldime was turned into a Netherworld.
Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice's Netherworld is home to Evil Academy, where bad deeds make demons a honor student and good deeds make demons a delinquent. The Principal of Evil Academy is considered to be equal to an Overlord.
Disgaea 4: A Promise Unforgotten's Netherworld is more political, featuring a government system called the Corruptenment. Demons fight in the Evilection in order to become the President and ruler of the Netherworld. It contains various areas home to demons of various levels.
Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness takes place in the same Netherworld as Hour of Darkness, though not in all of the same areas. The Overlord's Castle returns as the game's overworld, albeit with small changes.
Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance takes place across multiple Netherworlds, and the main hub world and base of operations for the player's army is the pocket Netherworld hosted by Seraphina.
The gameplay of the Disgaea series is very complex, battles are turn-based. Stages are completed by defeating every enemy. Players dispatch a maximum of 10 characters at a time from a Base Panel onto the field as an isometric grid. The player can then set attacks, lift and throw characters, or use items before ending their turn. Actions will not be performed until executing them from the menu (with few exceptions, like items), and turns will not end until ending them from the menu. The player can allow a maximum of 10 characters to lose all of their helath before a Game Over is triggered. The Bonus Gauge is a bar that fills from things such as consecutive attacks and combos and grants the player the series's currency, Hell (HL) as well as items upon completing a stage. From the battle menu, the character can do things such as look at what items they'll earn from completing the stage after filling the Bonus Gauge a certain amount of times, or even quit the level and return to the title screen, losing all unsaved progress. Geo Symbols add more depth to battles; Geo Panels have positive or negative effects, such as increasing Attack by 50% or multiplying the enemies' stats by 3, depending on if allies or enemies are standing on them. A unique feature to Disgaea is that the character takes more or less damage depending on if they are attacked from above, below, in front, the side, or the back.
Team Attacks are something that are present in all Disgaea titles. When performing a regular attack, if a character is standing beside or behind the attacker, there is a chance that one to three characters may assist the attacker, strengthening the attack. The characters standing beside or behind the attacker may still perform other actions after the Team Attack, and characters can even be dispatched onto the battlefield, perform Team Attacks, then retreat back into the Base Panel.
Tower Attacks are available in Disgaea 4 and D2. Besides throwing another unit, characters can also perform Tower Attacks after lifting an ally. Some skills are only useable when a certain amount of characters are holding each other. Tower Attacks are more powerful than normal attacks, and in some cases, they are even more powerful than solo special skills. Attacks are stronger when more characters are being lifted. When an enemy is defeated by a Tower Attack, the experience is distributed evenly to everyone in the tower.
Equipment is sorted into Weapons and Armor. There are a variety of weapons, such as Swords and Guns, and Armor has many categories, such as Belts and Emblems. Items can be leveled up (strengthened) via Item World, a world inside an item with many difficult floors to progress. Innocents are special residents that power up an item's stats and can be transferred from item to item for stronger residents. Reverse Pirating is a feature introduced since Disgaea 3 that allows a player to use a pirate ship and travel to an Item World floor by multiples of 20 in order to seek out special innocents and treasures. Disgaea 4 later introduced the ability to create a custom pirate ship in addition to maps.
Players can create many classes with various strengths and weaknesses. A character's stats are divided into HP (hit points), SP (special points), ATK (attack power), DEF (defense), INT (intelligence), HIT (accuracy), RES (resistance), and SPD (speed). Aptitudes decide a character's proficiency with items, aptitudes of 100% or higher will grant higher stat bonuses with an item. Certain classes like the Samurai are good with weapons like Swords. Each class has a Weapon Mastery/Forte for each weapon and can level up their mastery of the weapon faster by having a S in mastery or learn multiple skills with their Forte.
Unlike most RPGs, the Disgaea series features a level cap of 9999. Reincarnation allows the character to start over from level 1 as a new character while storing their levels in the process. Repeated Reincarnations will result in one character accumulating bonus points to add to their base stats, eventually reaching a maximum of 186,000 stored levels and 210 bonus points. Reincarnation allows any generic character to change to a different class, being able to learn multiple Evilities and skills from multiple classes by this method.
In the hub world of each game, the player can explore, buy items from various shops and talk to many NPCs. The hub world is also where the player can pay Hell in order to heal their characters' HP and SP. Every game features the ability to pass bills through an assembly. They range from adding a new type of item to the shop, making enemies higher leveled or unlocking new maps. During the voting process, the player can bribe senators with items to vote for them. Should the bill fail to pass, choosing "Persuade by Force" will allow the player to fight the opposing senators and pass the bill if they win. In Disgaea D2, the option to pay the senators so they'll pass the bill will also be available if a bill is rejected. The hub world is the only place the player can save their game.
In Disgaea 3, there is also a special ability called Magichange where monster characters can transform into a weapon for one character. This was later expanded in Disgaea 4 where monsters can fuse with each other and can Magichange with a character for a Giant Magichange weapon.
In Disgaea D2, it is possible for humanoid units Mount friendly monster units in battle. When a monster unit is Mounted, the monster moves and takes all the damage when attacked while the humanoid performs actions such as attacks and skills. When using buffs, such as raising attack power, it only affects the monster, not the humanoid. Mounting also makes a Mounted Skill available. Each monster class has a unique Mounted Skill that can only be used when Mounted. Using Mounted Skills raises Likeability between units.
Likeability is a feature introduced in Disgaea D2; depending on how often characters do things like heal each other, converse, and perform attack together, their Likeability will go up. Likeability goes down by doing things like attacking or killing allies. High Likeability strengthens attacks that characters do together and makes Team Attacks more probable to happen. High Likeability also raises the chances of a treasure chest appearing after defeating an enemy with a Team Attack.
Each Disgaea game is split into episodes with separate stages. To progress through the story, the player must win each stage to unlock the next one. From Disgaea 2 onwards, there has been a more difficult set of stages called the Dark World/X-Dimension. These stages take place on the same maps but have stronger enemies and more devastating Geo Effects such as Game Over or Absolute Area.
Starting in Disgaea D2, a Game Over only causes the player to be transported back to the Overlord's Castle instead of being sent to the title screen and losing their unsaved progress. Disgaea D2 also introduced the Cheat Shop, where players can do things like strengthen/weaken enemies, handicap themselves, or change how much experience, money, etc. they earn.
Disgaea: Hour of Darkness follows the (mis)adventures of Laharl, Prince of the Netherworld as he attempts to gain the throne, with the assistance of his not-so-loyal vassal Etna. Joined by the angelic assassin Flonne, the humans Captain Gordon and Jennifer, and their robot buddy Thursday, Laharl ultimately discovers the goodness inside himself, allowing he and Seraph Lamington to reconcile the Netherworld and Celestia. The game was ported four times, first to the PSP as Disgaea: Afternoon of Darkness, followed by the DS port dubbed Disgaea DS, a PC port dubbed Disgaea PC, and finally to the PS4 and Switch as Disgaea 1 Complete. An anime, Makai Senki Disgaea and manga volumes both adapted the story differently.
Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories focuses on Adell, a Demon Hunter who is trying to defeat Overlord Zenon and return his home world to normal. Along with Rozalin, Zenon's Daughter, Taro and Hanako, Adell's siblings, Tink and Yukimaru, they defeat Overlord Zenon and return Veldime to normal. The game was remade for the PSP as Disgaea 2: Dark Hero Days featuring new characters and a mode focusing on Axel, then again for the PC as Disgaea 2 PC.
Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice follows Mao, son of the Overlord and No. 1 Honor Student in the Netherworld as he tries to become a hero to defeat his father. He learns to become a great Overlord, he must have friends to support him. It was rereleased on the Playstation Vita as Disgaea 3: Absence of Detention, bundled with all the DLC of the Playstation 3, features from Disgaea 4 and new scenarios.
Disgaea 4: A Promise Unforgotten features Valvatorez, a former tyrant who learns of deteriorating state of the Netherworld and forms a party to overthrow the current regime. An enhanced port for Disgaea 4 was released for the Vita under the name Disgaea 4: A Promise Revisited. An even further enhanced version was released on the Nintendo Switch titled Disgaea 4 Complete+.
Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance follows the wandering demon Killia as he forms the eponymous alliance and fights against the Overlord Void Dark and his army of Lost, who have overrun and conquered countless Netherworlds.
The Disgaea series has spawned five spin-off games: a Japanese-only mobile phone game entitled Mugen Keitai Disgaea, Prinny: Can I Really Be the Hero?, a platformer game focusing on the titular Nippon Ichi mascot, Disgaea Infinite, which is a visual novel focusing on the life of a Prinny, and a sequel to Prinny: Can I Really Be the Hero? has been released as Prinny 2: Dawn of Operation Panties Dood!. In addition, the two Prinny games will be released as a compliation for Nintendo Switch as Prinny 1•2: Exploded and Reloaded. None of these games follow the mechanics of the Disgaea series as two are fighters, one is a visual novel and one is a card/fighting game. Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness, however, retains the base gameplay of the series. A direct sequel to Hour of Darkness, Disgaea D2 follows Laharl as he attempts to earn respect as Overlord and defeat several of his father's former vassals who plan to replace him as ruler.
Aside from these, each game has also produced associated merchandise including manga, novelisations, soundtracks, artbooks and drama CDs. There is also a 12 episode long anime called Makai Senki Disgaea based on, but not exactly the same as, Disgaea: Hour of Darkness.
The Disgaea series is closely related to a number of Nippon Ichi games through similar gameplay mechanics, crossovers and setting. Many characters from games such as Makai Kingdom, Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure, La Pucelle, Soul Nomad and the World Eaters and Phantom Brave appear in Disgaea games as extra characters, bonus bosses or (in the latest installments) downloadable content. Similarly, characters from the Disgaea series make appearances in other Nippon Ichi games.
Many Nippon Ichi games share similar settings, and it is implied that all games set in Netherworlds are actually part of the same universe. In Makai Kingdom it is revealed that there are many Netherworlds in existence, with the characters from the Disgaea series treated as other Overlords from another Netherworld. This is backed by the characters from past Disgaea games appearing in the Netherworlds of newer ones, as well as some of the character appearances (e.g. the appearance of Priere as a Demon in Disgaea: Afternoon of Darkness).