Disgaea is packed with a bunch of good ideas. I’ve logged over 100 hours with the game on my trusty DS (with a sadly defunct R button), and I’m still looking forward to playing more. The game isn’t perfect, and has a few glaring flaws, but I wanted to point out the things they do well first (so yes, I’ll be writing a few articles on the game). One of the best facets of the game is the way it handles classes.
Any character can equip any bit of gear. Each character “class” uses gear a little differently, however.
The ten core statistics (HP, DEF, ATK, etc.) each have their own “inheritance” value. This inheritance value is a percentile, typically between 50% and 100%. It dictates how much equipped gear’s stats carry over to the character. For example, a Mage class character with a 50% HP inheritance value will get a boost of 200 HP from a bit of gear that grants a base boost of 400 HP. A Sniper character with an inheritance of 110% HIT will predictably get a 220 HIT boost from a bit of gear with a 200 base HIT boost.
As such, classes come with a relatively clear role, as defined by how their inheritances balance out, but the player isn’t locked into arbitrary equipping rules. It’s perfectly possible to make an Axe wielding Cleric. It’s not terribly smart, but it’s possible (and random enemies will often have such class/gear mismatches). It’s all up to the player to choose how they want to approach character progress.
This freeform character control is a great way to handle development. Classes are still present, but are more like guidelines rather than hardcoded expectations. If you want your squishy mages to use the most incredible armor and carry pikes into battle, you can do that. They won’t be as effective on the front lines as a battle hardened Ronin, but they will certainly be more durable than they would be in typical mage robes.
This flexibility is especially useful if mages have already learned all the magic they can and want to branch out. Everyone can learn almost everything, taught by weapons, so it may well be smart to crosspollinate a bit for situational tactics. Since you can change gear for free in a fight, you can afford to have several skills “on standby”.
And sometimes, it’s the little things like that that make all the difference in a pitched battle (though, to be fair, there aren’t a lot of those, considering the wide power band and the ability to outlevel pretty much any challenge). It’s certainly most welcome in a game where tactical choices are what make the game tick.
It’s also possible to “reincarnate” a character as a different class, and if you do it right, they retain memory of what they learned in their previous life. The level cap is an insane 9999 (not a typo), and since you can effectively level to the cap in each class, things can get extraordinarily grindy for the completionist. For someone just exploring the system, though, the freedom is excellent.