Attention Disgaea fans! If you do not have a PSP yet, you still have a little over a week left to come up with the funds to purchase one so you can play what I now consider the ultimate version of the original game. Scheduled to hit stores in time for a Halloween spooktacular, Afternoon differentiates itself from Hour of Darkness for the PlayStation 2 by adding local multiplayer matches, new stages and characters, and a smaller, wide screen presentation. There's even a new Etna Mode in which she 'accidentally' kills Laharl and replaces him with a Prinny, but the main benefit this version has over the console version is portability itself. All of those little tasks required to master the game can now be done on the fly, anywhere. This is why I have a cleric named Potty. As you may remember, Disgaea starts every new character you create off at level one, so no matter what level you are when you unlock a new class, they are starting off from the beginning, and some characters just don't level quickly during the course of combat. Take the cleric, for instance, who gets no XP for healing. Pretty soon you end up with a level 10 party and a level 4 healer, which doesn't work. In the original game this meant sitting in front of your TV for a good half hour or so taking your lower level character through beginner maps to help them catch up. While you still have spend the time, the PSP format means you can do this anytime, anywhere. My cleric has caught up to my party entirely during bathroom visits, hence the name Potty.
I know it really doesn't sound like much, but being able to level up my items while watching television, waiting for my roommate to get off work, or during pauses in my daily writing is extremely satisfying . A visit to the Demonic Assembly certainly isn't out of the question, as a quick vote or promotion exam can take only a couple of minutes to complete. There's just something inexplicably awesome about being able to pick up Disgaea anywhere, take care of a few quick tasks and then set it down again.
The game's wide screen presentation is pulled off without even a hint of stretching, maintaining all of the character of the original's sprites in tiny form. The sound is amazing as always, though of course this is the PSP and headphones are in order if you want the full effect. Japanese and English voices are both included in the title so you're free to pick your poison, though I highly suggest newcomers to the game leave it on English until after Flonne infiltrates the castle. Nin nin!
The sad thing about getting an early copy of the game for review is that no one is around to test out the local multiplayer with me, though since a great deal of my play time has been spent in the bathroom it would just have been awkward anyway.
I'd say that Disgaea: Afternoon of Darkness is the best strategy RPG available on the PSP, for the simple fact that there are activities you can perform that take only minutes, as opposed to a game like Final Fantasy Tactics or Jeanne D'Arc, where gameplay consists mainly of long battles. Sure we love long battles, but the option to actually get something productive done in the span of a few minutes adds to the overall portability of the title. For fans of the original Disgaea as well as strategy RPG fans in general, this is a game worth buying a PSP for.
Now if you'll excuse me, Potty needs some leveling.