You Can Thank A Musical For The Dawn Of Disgaea

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“Say no to violence,” declares the 12-year-old as she pulls out a gun and fires at the forest creatures in front of her. You don’t expect someone to pack so royally, especially in a classic pixelated turn-based RPG with a traditional fantasy setting, but it’s all part of the humor of the Rhapsody series. The more I played, the wilder things got. Crea, a girl with a gun, accompanies her best friend, Princess Kururu, on her quest for true love, but this port from the past is full of comedy as well as emotional twists.



During the preview, two friends follow the trail of kidnapped ice cream chefs to a parlor run by cats. As you discover and rescue each chef, there’s a dramatic Law & Order-like sound blast, and you’ll eventually encounter the main cat chef, leading into one of Rhapsody’s signature musical scores. Pixelated cats dance around while the chef eats and mixes all the necessary ingredients for the ice cream. It’s something you have to see for yourself to fully appreciate, but it’s easy to see why fans rave about the musical aspect of the series.

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RELATED: It’s not too late to get into Disgaea

It all seems pretty cute until the chef feeds the mixture to the kittens, who then poop out the ice cream. It turns out that cats can’t make ice cream properly. Princess Kururu — who had previously unknowingly eaten an ice cream — is outraged, and while she vents her disgust, the word ‘poop’ is censored when she speaks for comic effect. Of course the girls then fight the cats. It’s such a hilariously unexpected moment that many of us at the event lingered over others as they approached the piece to witness their reaction.

I’ve never heard of the Rhapsody series, but that’s not surprising given that the upcoming release of Rhapsody: Marl Kingdom Chronicles will be the first time that Rhapsody 2 and 3 will be localized in the West, even though both are over twenty years old. The first game, Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure, was released in Japan in 1998 and in the US in 2000, but Europe didn’t see it until 2009.

Adam Johnson, senior director of business development at NIS America, told me that Rhapsody and La Pucelle are precursors to Disgaea. Although not direct sequels, you can see the evolution of what NIS was doing and what would eventually become Disgaea. Rhapsody plays so differently than Disgaea, offering turn-based battles with creatures that can be summoned and puppets that can be collected and used in battle. La Pucelle was based on the same setting as Rhapsody, but is mechanically closer to Disgaea, being a tactical RPG. Each new game was a step closer to its final form – Disgaea.

Known as Marl Kingdom in Japan, the series was a hit that spawned two sequels and several spin-offs, including a mahjong game and a mobile game. “That was [Nippon Ichi Software’s] the first really big franchise,” says Johnson. “The next big game was called La Pucelle, which had a lot of gameplay features that you would later find in Disgaea. It’s a grid-based strategy RPG, it has geographical elements that will later appear in Disgaea, and a lot of things that come back from Rhapsody were used in Disgaea as well.”

La Pucelle - The player who attacks the Pumpkins in the level.

Maid.

Rhapsody elements still dominate Disgaea. Both games share a similar sense of humor, as well as more direct references, such as the Eringer mushroom monster type and the Rosen Queen Company store, which pays homage to Rhapsody’s Etoile Rosenqueen. This is a multi-layered level of fanservice in more ways than one, but to fully appreciate it, you need to play both Rhapsody and La Pucelle.

“A lot of Disgaea’s sound cues come from that series,” Johnson says, humming the tune. “It’s very lovely that they continued. You can find little things where you’re like, ‘oh, I didn’t know they were doing that’. Like if you’re playing Breath of the Wild or Tears of the Kingdom and you hear those themes from Ocarina of Time or something.”

It’s interesting to think how Disgaea was NIS’ biggest series worldwide, though it’s not the first time a spin-off or spiritual successor has overtaken the original. Nier is much more famous than Drakengard, people know and love Persona more than Shin Megami Tensei, and even Super Mario started as a character in Donkey Kong.

Disgaea, Prinny brandishes her knives

“NIS really likes to do that,” says Johnson. “You’ll see the Prinnies pop up in a lot of different things, but they’ve been loosely connecting all of their universes for a long time. Phantom Brave has a character that appears in another game called Soul Nomad, and the implication is that one of Phantom Brave’s endings leads to Soul Nomad. “It’s the same character because of what happened in the previous game, but you wouldn’t know that if you hadn’t played Phantom Brave. It’s just there for the fans.”

Even as a non-Disgaea player, I found Rhapsody: Marl Kingdom Chronicles easy to enjoy. Its unusual humor, charming retro style and graphics, interesting puppet battle mechanics and funny musical numbers give it real charm. Of the two, I preferred Rhapsody 2, but Rhapsody 3 adds a whole new layer to the battles – literally – for those who want to dive a lot deeper into tactics.

Rhapsody: Marl Kingdom Chronicles launches on August 29, while Disgaea 7 launches later this year. It’s a great opportunity for fans to embrace the newest addition to the series while discovering the roots of Disgaea.

NEXT: Eternights Preview – Falling in Love at the End of the World

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