191: Grinding to Infinity

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Grinding to Infinity

Videogames from all corners of the industry have attracted fanatical fanbases. But one game was seemingly built from the ground up to encourage this kind of fervor: Disgaea. Tom Endo explores the series and what makes it so attractive to obsessive players.

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I was actually playing Disgaea: Afternoon of Darkness on my PSP when I found this article...

Good article

I've never understood the appeal of grinding. Repeating the same action hundreds of times to make your level go up. But i guess some people like something to work at. I personally prefer a game with an end so I can look back afterwards and feel satisfied that i beat it. If i were to play a game with no end it would remove all sense of accomplishment and i would become incredibly unmotivated to play it.

I feel rather silly getting worked up about it but...

I cringed when I read "Shining Force was conceptually an SRPG". Merely conceptually? Are you kidding me?

The Shining Force series portrays the essence of the genre in its purest form. It is the great grandfather, the first, the one and only. FF tactics', Ogre Tactics, Disgaea's and La Pucelle's added complexities are mere elaborations on the theme and if you ask me distract from the main point. The main point being insight in the situation on the board and making correct decisions based on that. That's strategy, right? (Ok, I'm a fan of the series, but still, panning the first game in a genre irks me. Especially when its a quality game.)

Other than that, loved the article.

I've level grinded many games to pieces. Including a couple of Shining Force titles in fact. A friend of mine is a notorious level grinder, always goes for 100% saves in his games. His Disgaea fetish is the stuff of legends. The way he went on about all the various things you could level it seemed like he'd found the holy grail. Personally, I find grinding is something that shouldn't be inherrant to the design but rather something you feel compelled to do because of the game's other qualities (like Diablo, Shining Force (there she is again) and Valkyria did for me).

baggyn:
It's really quite liberating after the first few runs. You can lapse into a zen-like state that feels both restful and at the end there's a sense of accomplishment as well. Doing the same thing over and over again until the patterns and motions become second nature and you can find minute little tweaks to add to them can become really addictive. Yes, with all the negative connotations that word implies.

Now see, as much as I love games that allow the players to boost their stats to ridiculous proportions, I probably wouldn't be a fan of Disgaea. I have to have some variety in my games, otherwise I get really bored of the repetition. It's one of the reasons I'd been looking forward to the release of Star Ocean 4 so much.

Admittedly my only experience in the series was 3, but I loved how the game allowed max stats of 9,999. And sure you could grind through the 255 levels, but more than that the game encouraged the player to get those stats by creating insanely powerful weapons, armor, and items. Not to mention, even the grinding was made less repetitive by having Battle Trophies to collect. Star Ocean 4 seems to stay true to all of this, and even improving on the amount of things to collect, and the number of skills to level up to break up the grinding.

I guess what I'm ultimately trying to say is that although I am not a fan of Disgaea, I can certainly understand what would draw people to the game.

I used to grind in older games when I was in jr.high and hadall thetime in the world. I wish I new about Disgaea back then.
When I found the disgaea games (later in University) I did not have the time to play them that often and was content getting 3 or 4 endings. I always wanted to get to lvl 9,999, but just didn't have the time. It was especially devastating when I turned my game on and my memory card forgot EVERYTHING and I had to start from scratch.
But what it boils down to is that grinding takes a lot of time, and had little rewards (for me anyways). You would spend 20hours beating up the same monsters just so you could get a new 1 minute ending sequence, or a flashy attack, or a new character sprite, etc. I still walk into a hipnotic trance and grind my butt off, but the rewards (after beating the game) are not worth it IMHO.
Anyways, great article, it's reminded me that Prinny is out now. Disgaea is a great game for anyone, even if you don't grind and just beat the game a couple times.
Thanks.

It seems I've gotten myself into more than expected... I bought Disgea: Afternoon of Darkness for my PSP not too long ago after hearing my friend rave about it. Guess I'll have to go through it a lot more than I thought...

To Klutz: Yes, Star Ocean 3 was amazing for me. Before, when I detested turn based RPGs, but loved the concept, Star Ocean was the best game of my life. I only played 3 as well, but I spent a long long time on it. One of the few games I actually bought a strategy guide for too. The one thing that pissed me off, though, is that I simply could not beat Gabriel Celeste, no matter how hard I tried. I went through the other dungeon available(where you fight your clones) and got all the way to the end where I discovered I had to fight the hardest combo of all, Fayte paired with Luther... I died very quickly in that. Gabriel Celeste was too much for me, so I was never able to get further into the bonus dungeons, which makes me quite sad...

But, I bought Star Ocean 4, plus strategy guide, the day it came out. 15 hours into the game and I'm only about 30 pages into the strategy guide. That's one thing I truly love about the game, it takes FOREVER to get through the story. I have only a few complaints so far, and am overall loving it... Just find myself despairing with the knowledge that Gabriel Celeste is back -_-

The wonderful thing about Disgaea - aside from being "pornography for numberphiliacs", as a friend of mine charmingly put it - is that it works perfectly well as an ordinary SRPG. The story and writing is full of black, self-referential humour, the item world can be a completely optional extra for producing high-powered special weapons for your favoured units, you don't even need to get into reincarnation at all... And for the fanatics, you can level your units to ten thousand, reset them right down to level one by reincarnating them into a class that's functionally identical except for slightly better stats, fight through hundreds of levels for the sole purpose of powering up a single item, and then do it all again for the rest of your team.

Then again, I am a SRPG lover, a Nippon Ichi fanboy, and a Disgaea fanatic, so I might be very, very wrong. But what the hell, I'm going to go play some more Absence of Justice. Because it's great.

Disgaea is perhaps the most perverse video game series I've ever played. The entire system is about breaking the system. Instead of making the player feel cheap for leveling well past the challenge point of any given map, this series fervently demands and rewards such behavior. Your _items_ have dungeons to be cleared...think about it. It's an amazing well of gravity and you are rewarded for turning eye candy _off_. Turning games back into stochastic math is a service to some of us.

Yes, I'm a fanatic.

SaintWaldo:
Disgaea is perhaps the most perverse video game series I've ever played. The entire system is about breaking the system. Instead of making the player feel cheap for leveling well past the challenge point of any given map, this series fervently demands and rewards such behavior. Your _items_ have dungeons to be cleared...think about it. It's an amazing well of gravity and you are rewarded for turning eye candy _off_. Turning games back into stochastic math is a service to some of us.

Yes, I'm a fanatic.

Plus if you are playing right you never 'outlevel' the game ;). Can always crank up the enemies difficulty.

theultimateend:

SaintWaldo:
Disgaea is perhaps the most perverse video game series I've ever played. The entire system is about breaking the system. Instead of making the player feel cheap for leveling well past the challenge point of any given map, this series fervently demands and rewards such behavior. Your _items_ have dungeons to be cleared...think about it. It's an amazing well of gravity and you are rewarded for turning eye candy _off_. Turning games back into stochastic math is a service to some of us.

Yes, I'm a fanatic.

Plus if you are playing right you never 'outlevel' the game ;). Can always crank up the enemies difficulty.

Well...you can't always crank up the difficulty, there is a cap to that difficulty meter. Eventually.

But yeah, the time and procedure to properly max out your characters, and their equipment, is completely ridiculous. I've thought about devoting the proper time to do so, but Irealized I don't have that sort of time to actually do it, so I merely appreciate how breakable the system is. If only I were young again...

Also, I agree with Vortigar's assessment, Shining Force is a great SRPG.

Emsanity:

theultimateend:

SaintWaldo:
Disgaea is perhaps the most perverse video game series I've ever played. The entire system is about breaking the system. Instead of making the player feel cheap for leveling well past the challenge point of any given map, this series fervently demands and rewards such behavior. Your _items_ have dungeons to be cleared...think about it. It's an amazing well of gravity and you are rewarded for turning eye candy _off_. Turning games back into stochastic math is a service to some of us.

Yes, I'm a fanatic.

Plus if you are playing right you never 'outlevel' the game ;). Can always crank up the enemies difficulty.

Well...you can't always crank up the difficulty, there is a cap to that difficulty meter. Eventually.

But yeah, the time and procedure to properly max out your characters, and their equipment, is completely ridiculous. I've thought about devoting the proper time to do so, but Irealized I don't have that sort of time to actually do it, so I merely appreciate how breakable the system is. If only I were young again...

Also, I agre with Vortigar's assessment, Shining Force is a great SRPG.

I actually play Disgaea for the story. That's why I felt weird reading the article :P. Because its a wonderfully quirky universe to me, the grinding came as a secondary feature.

Come on Pikachu, two more level ups and we can beat the Elite F...oh snap is that a rare candy :>

Aby_Z:
It seems I've gotten myself into more than expected... I bought Disgea: Afternoon of Darkness for my PSP not too long ago after hearing my friend rave about it. Guess I'll have to go through it a lot more than I thought...

To Klutz: Yes, Star Ocean 3 was amazing for me. Before, when I detested turn based RPGs, but loved the concept, Star Ocean was the best game of my life. I only played 3 as well, but I spent a long long time on it. One of the few games I actually bought a strategy guide for too. The one thing that pissed me off, though, is that I simply could not beat Gabriel Celeste, no matter how hard I tried. I went through the other dungeon available(where you fight your clones) and got all the way to the end where I discovered I had to fight the hardest combo of all, Fayte paired with Luther... I died very quickly in that. Gabriel Celeste was too much for me, so I was never able to get further into the bonus dungeons, which makes me quite sad...

But, I bought Star Ocean 4, plus strategy guide, the day it came out. 15 hours into the game and I'm only about 30 pages into the strategy guide. That's one thing I truly love about the game, it takes FOREVER to get through the story. I have only a few complaints so far, and am overall loving it... Just find myself despairing with the knowledge that Gabriel Celeste is back -_-

Gabriel is in all of the Star Ocean games :)

The comments to this article made me realize how very, very sad I am that I don't have an Xbox 360. Or, perhaps, that Star Ocean 4 will never be ported to the PC.

mmm... Am I the only one who thought this guy didn't get disgaea at all?
I mean, yes the grinding is there for whoever (whomever?) wants to do it, but its not the whole point of the series as the guy repeatedly points out. And talking about the videos of youtube is further prove of how much he doesn't get the fanbase of this game, disgaea fans aren't the kind that get off when seeing people watch their characters on getting praised on youtube, it is a self-satisfaction thing (insert masturbation joke here).

I'm not the kind to make huge chunks of words for stuff, but somehow i felt really insulted by the article and how much he misses both the point of the game, and the point in the genre. I mean it is all about Strategy after all.

VZLANemesis:
mmm... Am I the only one who thought this guy didn't get disgaea at all?

You're not the only one.

I beat Disgaea 3 once and stopped playing. Despite not sinking thousands of hours into the game to get to level 999 (I think my chars were like level 50?) I completely enjoyed the game and recommended it to more friends than any other recent title. Between the entertainingly wacky storyline, complete playstyle freedom, reward of strategic play, and fast pacing, it's the best SRPG I've played.

FF Tactics on the other hand, struck me as overwhelmingly tedious mostly as a result of battle pacing being slower than hell. Issue an order in D3 and it's acted upon in less than a second. Issue orders in FFT and they take forever to resolve.

^^ I knew somebody had to agree with me... yaiii me
(most pointless post ever, yeah... I know)

I actually kinda disagree with this article. I imported Disgaea 3 last year as an experiment, and I found the characters and the story to actually be really funny, and the gameplay nto have some amazing variability - I hadn't seen an RPG where you could beat a level just by throwing people to the end point. The game didn't need to present a bottomless pit to get me to enjoy it, I enjoyed it as a regular game.

In the review you say "why stop at 400 when you can level to 999", you do know that you can go into the thousands right?In fact Baal, the now traditional Nippon Ichi games final secret boss is level 4000.

anyways, iv'e been a huge Nippon Ichi game fan sence the first Disgea. But i'm confused as to why Disgaea 3 was on PS3. The graphics were easily last generation capable, in fact id say only slightly higher than the original PS capabilitys.

they are overeacting, i dont think the game was grinded too much at all, i think its epicly fun with all the things you can do and theres almost no limit to what you can do with your characters, so fuck the escapist review i love the game

baggyn:
Good article

I've never understood the appeal of grinding. Repeating the same action hundreds of times to make your level go up. But i guess some people like something to work at. I personally prefer a game with an end so I can look back afterwards and feel satisfied that i beat it. If i were to play a game with no end it would remove all sense of accomplishment and i would become incredibly unmotivated to play it.

It might be like the same way I feel about work. I think it feels good to just do something relaxing, Something you know what to do, and takes a lot of time. That way, you can do it, while drifting off in your own thoughts. Just like work, that way you can enjoy your own thoughts and get something out of it while you do it (level in games money in work =P). I'm not sure with other guys, but that's the way I look at it at least ..

Hooray! My (hmm...1st is...2nd...OK) third favorite game of all time is getting a nod! I like Disgaea mostly because it's funny though. Oh, and throwing Prinnies NEVER GETS OLD!!!! I have to say that my other two were Kingdom Hearts 2 and Riviera: The Promised Land. The first I like because of the storyline and epic worlds (you get to beat SEPHIROTH!!!!!!), and the second because of all the possible endings and the hilarity ensuing from making the wrong dialogue choice (EIN!!! What!?! What did I do?!?) and the character development and the weapon attacks and...this list goes on towards infinity.

Anyway, I haven't even beaten Disgaea yet (mostly because I don't own a console and have to play it at my friends house) and I know that it is one of those games that will never really end. So I will just beat the "storyline" and move on to Disgaea 2, which looks just as good, in my opinion.

good article, i might have to get that...

hmm if its like FF tactics i might have to get it because i freaking loved ff tactics. i had one on gameboy advance and one on psp :)

Somthing:
hmm if its like FF tactics i might have to get it because i freaking loved ff tactics. i had one on gameboy advance and one on psp :)

It's better than War of the Lions, imo. It's ideal for just playing it a short while when you're on a train or something.

Only thing it lacks is a quicksave feature when you're in an item world (you NEED to clear 10 levels in a row (though there's shortcuts), unless you use another item to get out quickly)

Obtaining the true ending requires a few playthroughs, apparently, so longevity is here alright. I'm 25 hours in, and judging on the episodes count (14 in total, not counting Etna mode), I'm halfway through the first cycle.

Also, to the people who have the game as well: "THE PRISM RANGERSSSSSSSSSSSS"

Vortigar:
The Shining Force series portrays the essence of the genre in its purest form. It is the great grandfather, the first, the one and only.

Fire Emblem predates Shining Force by 2 years and is generally acknowledged as the first example of a true Tactical-RPG. Langrisser, Master of Monsters, and Shining Force (all near contemporaries of FE1) are known as improvements on the original concept. Not one is considered to be the original T-RPG, nor is any of them considered the purest example of the genre.

Dorian Cornelius Jasper:

Fire Emblem predates Shining Force by 2 years and is generally acknowledged as the first example of a true Tactical-RPG. Langrisser, Master of Monsters, and Shining Force (all near contemporaries of FE1) are known as improvements on the original concept. Not one is considered to be the original T-RPG, nor is any of them considered the purest example of the genre.

Youch! Consider me vanquished.

The pure remark was aimed at the fact that he (the article writer) didn't seem to consider Shining Force an SRPG at all. Which I think is more than a bit weird. Not that there was some general consensus on some kind of aspect.

Looking over this titles, I'd say all of them are 'pure' as they are completely no frills affair where the positioning of your units (the strategy aspect) is by far the most important determining factor.

It wasn't the first then, will adjust my notes for the future. Thanks for the history lesson.

Soooo true. So beautifully and wonderfully true. I love tactical, turn-based strategies with a passion; I am truly an SRPG fanatic. And these games are the crown jewel of comedic SRPG's, which is why I love them so. I really wish that I had a PS2 right now, I would definitely restart the game (but I don't, alas).

I always found disgaea to be so fun and enjoyable. Even if I didn't want to grind up to total level 999999999 I still found the story and humor a refreshing change as opposed to the usual seriousness of most tactical RPGs. I don't like grinding that much so to me it was quite the grind to get the weapon skills for the best attacks.

guess its just an aquired taste

Eric the Orange:
In the review you say "why stop at 400 when you can level to 999", you do know that you can go into the thousands right?In fact Baal, the now traditional Nippon Ichi games final secret boss is level 4000.

anyways, iv'e been a huge Nippon Ichi game fan sence the first Disgea. But i'm confused as to why Disgaea 3 was on PS3. The graphics were easily last generation capable, in fact id say only slightly higher than the original PS capabilitys.

I thought that it may of been to allow for the extra download-able content like the extra raspberryl chapters disgaea 3's version of Etna mode and dark hero axel mode from the psp ports of the original 2 not to mention all the unlock-able characters such as good ol captain Gordon

thatsaid it may just be to keep it accessible for all those who traded in their ps2's for non backwards compatible ps3's

Saphatorael:

Somthing:
hmm if its like FF tactics i might have to get it because i freaking loved ff tactics. i had one on gameboy advance and one on psp :)

It's better than War of the Lions, imo. It's ideal for just playing it a short while when you're on a train or something.

Only thing it lacks is a quicksave feature when you're in an item world (you NEED to clear 10 levels in a row (though there's shortcuts), unless you use another item to get out quickly)

Obtaining the true ending requires a few playthroughs, apparently, so longevity is here alright. I'm 25 hours in, and judging on the episodes count (14 in total, not counting Etna mode), I'm halfway through the first cycle.

Also, to the people who have the game as well: "THE PRISM RANGERSSSSSSSSSSSS"

TRRRRAAAAAANNNNSSSSSSFFFFOOOOOORRRR.. BANG BANG Blue yellow NOOOOOOO!

RagnorakTres:
Hooray! My (hmm...1st is...2nd...OK) third favorite game of all time is getting a nod! I like Disgaea mostly because it's funny though. Oh, and throwing Prinnies NEVER GETS OLD!!!! I have to say that my other two were Kingdom Hearts 2 and Riviera: The Promised Land. The first I like because of the storyline and epic worlds (you get to beat SEPHIROTH!!!!!!), and the second because of all the possible endings and the hilarity ensuing from making the wrong dialogue choice (EIN!!! What!?! What did I do?!?) and the character development and the weapon attacks and...this list goes on towards infinity.

Anyway, I haven't even beaten Disgaea yet (mostly because I don't own a console and have to play it at my friends house) and I know that it is one of those games that will never really end. So I will just beat the "storyline" and move on to Disgaea 2, which looks just as good, in my opinion.

Humph well you may of been able to beat sephiroth that little s.o.b. always kicked my ass in both 1 and 2

theultimateend:

Emsanity:

theultimateend:

SaintWaldo:
snip

snipity

snip snip .

I actually play Disgaea for the story. That's why I felt weird reading the article :P. Because its a wonderfully quirky universe to me, the grinding came as a secondary feature.

Agreed the delightfully shameless dialogue also drew me in, but how is it so bad to have a game based solely around the thing that all other games are about but try to deny?

Ok maybe not fps's but any game with any kind of levelling system is going to, in the wrong hands turn, turn into a case of grind away so I can get stronger/buy better items/advance in plot extremely overpoweredly, MMORPGS are infamous for this even the ones that claim they don't do. This game just does in the open what all the others do in the closet (insert gay joke here) with varying degree's of success. an if yo only pla through to the level 100 ish main plot boss so hat you still ejoyed it and if you smased in the teeth of the lvl 4000 hidden boss with your lvl 10k supersquad you wil still find the sae enjoyment if for slghtly diffeent reasons

Ocelano:
Agreed the delightfully shameless dialogue also drew me in, but how is it so bad to have a game based solely around the thing that all other games are about but try to deny?

Ok maybe not fps's but any game with any kind of levelling system is going to, in the wrong hands turn, turn into a case of grind away so I can get stronger/buy better items/advance in plot extremely overpoweredly, MMORPGS are infamous for this even the ones that claim they don't do. This game just does in the open what all the others do in the closet (insert gay joke here) with varying degree's of success. an if yo only pla through to the level 100 ish main plot boss so hat you still ejoyed it and if you smased in the teeth of the lvl 4000 hidden boss with your lvl 10k supersquad you wil still find the sae enjoyment if for slghtly diffeent reasons

Disgaea not only made grinding fun but they actively developed tricky methods players could use to streamline the grinding process.

There are dozens of functions and items that were added for no other reason than they are astoundingly fun and gamebreaking.

I liked this decision and it keeps me returning to their games. If they ever do vanish it'll be an unfortunate day for me since they are one of the few companies left that really makes games that interest me even in the slightest (not a huge deal since it has got me reading more now that most companies release (Warning Personal opinion Alert) complete shit).

I disagree that Disgaea demands you to be fanatical. I think the genius is that it gives you a choice. As much as I adored the game a first time through, it was a long time before I picked up my PS2 pad and played through it a second time.

I'd say with unexpected success of Disgaea that all of Nippon Ichi's game since have been about devotion and fanatical dedication, which is the reason why I disliked all of their games I played after (Makai Kingdoms, Phantom Brave and Disgaea 2). The locations looked more bland and, worst of all, the stories were terrible. These games only excelled in their battle systems, but that wasn't enough for me, neither was it for a number of others.

Well,the maximum level is 9999, with the maximum meta level being something like 40 000 or some other ridiculous number (its not 99 999, as some think...you're limited by the reincarnation point carryover and aptitude percentage boost caps).
And its awesome. The primary draw to disgaea is that there is more than one game to play using the same engine and storyline.

I never got into any other tactics games, in fact I hate tactics, but the Disgaea series is the only series I enjoyed and I've played almost all of them except ones on psp. Disgaea 4 is the only one of the series I played all the way through the story without using a save or gameshark, though I did use in game exploits that weren't patched yet. Yes I hate the grinding and I do anything to shave time off doing it, but it makes the game even more enjoyable to me and I don't feel bad about doing it knowing the other more time consuming, luck based options.

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