Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness Review (PS3)
Developer: Nippon Ichi Software, Inc.
Publisher: NIS America
Released: October 9, 2013
Attention: strategy-RPG fans everywhere, stop what you are doing. Close your browser and go pick up Disgaea D2 before continuing. That is all, thank you.
Ok, so here we go! After 10 years the original charm of Disgaea is back and it is not pulling any punches. This is pure unadulterated tactics-style chaos that gamers spent hours upon hours pouring into Hour of Darkness back in 2003, but it is incredibly refined just enough to suck you back in without changing the feel that’s been much needed in the rest of the series since the beginning.
D2 takes place after the events of the original game, and yes, that means your favorite trio is back in full force. Laharl, Etna, and Flonne are an amazing breath of fresh air to be around again. The other casts in the series were never horrible, but very stagnant compared to the impressions left by Laharl and crew. If you missed out on Hour of Darkness, let me catch you up – Laharl wakes up in his coffin to be told by a castle vassal, Etna, that his father King Krichevskoy has died leaving the Netherworld (the game’s version of Hell) without an Overlord. Accompanied by Etna, Laharl sets out to reclaim the throne of his father by defeating various powerful demons across the Netherworld. Along the way he runs into Flonne, who is an Angel Trainee sent from Celestia (Heaven) with the orders to assassinate the King without knowing he was already dead. Laharl does not seem bothered by his father’s death, leading Flonne to wonder if demons are capable of feeling love so she decides to join their party throughout their journey. D2 starts off right after Laharl is successfully crowned Overlord, finally taking his father’s place on the throne. However, none of the demons across the Netherworld take his authority seriously with the Krichevskoy Faction at the forefront revealing their intentions to usurp him and pave the way for Laharl’s next round of struggles to prove his worthiness.
While Disgaea games tend to use assets from past games, they always make everything a joy to stare at for hours on end. D2 is no exception, it is easily the most beautiful entry in the series. From the beautiful anime cutscenes to the vibrantly colored characters and environments, there is always something that catches your eye. It’s what you’ve come to expect aesthetically from a Disgaea game – gorgeous artwork, eccentric voice acting, quirky writing, and a strong soundtrack to fully embrace the campiness of an anime.
For the most part, combat is still the solid and finely tuned tactics system they’ve mastered for years. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it – right? For new players, you will need to make sure to have a pen and paper readily available because learning the nearly countless systems and interchangeable strategies for the first time will be a very daunting task. Disgaea has never truly shown compassion enough to hold your hand through the steep climb of initiating yourself with mechanics and they did not break that mold here, which I’m very pleased with. This may turn some people away but the core audience should already be aware of the dizzying amount of options and challenges they are throwing themselves into.. and that’s half the fun. You still have the basic grid based attacks, the collaboration attacks when lined up with allies, the ability to throw allies, environmental hazards, apprentice systems, the options to create any character to your exact desire, the ability to pass bills and buy legendary skills with mana (or HL now), the item world where you go into an item to clear levels to rank them up, weapon masteries, etc. The list goes on and on, there is never a mechanic that doesn’t work with other mechanics. It’s a nearly limitless cycle of options and possibilities given to you to play around with.
There are a couple of new additions that fully flesh out what past entries have been missing, most notably the ability to mount monsters and the Demon Dojo. You can now use any monster class as a mount for any humanoid character essentially giving you a reason to include a few in your party for more than just fodder. Your mount will take all the damage, while the mounted character has its full range of actions available and both units receive full XP rewards. It’s incredibly well thought out and works brilliantly. The Demon Dojo is also a wonderful new feature that allows you to put characters into training sessions that increase the growth rate of a particular stat as they level up normally. The more you use certain training facilities, the further they will rank up as well rewarding you with faster growth rates and extra spots to assign more characters into that type of training. This idea is fantastic when you think of the possibilities of what you can do with characters when you consider the fact they can be reincarnated, mixed with various apprentice systems, and tailored with hybrid improved stat growths to create any type of class you want.
Disgaea D2 is a perfect example of why many have kept the original game at the top of strategy-RPG lists, and I believe D2 might just take that spot. The amount of content, options, features, and endless possibilities will keep you playing for as long as you want. The story alone can take you some 40 hours to blast through; then you add in side quests, tons of items to upgrade, unlimited randomly generating dungeons, replayable story maps, rare bosses to find, New Game+ mode.. suddenly you’re adding hundreds of hours into your game time. Did I mention the level cap is 9999 to which you can reset them back to level 1 to grind back to 9999 again? Yeah, you’ll be here for a while alongside all the people still playing Hour of Darkness 10 years later to this day. Time for them repeat the cycle with D2, as it shatters the expectations for an exciting bare bones strategy-RPG experience unlike any other.