Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness Review
Years ago, I was introduced to the Disgaea series by way of Disgaea 2. Up to that point the only RPGs I played with any regularity were the Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, and Persona games. Being someone who always enjoys playing new IPs, I took my friend’s advice, played Disgaea 2, and never looked back.
To this day I am still a huge fan of series, and I place it up there with all my favorites. Disgaea turns me into a masochist; it’s so unforgivably punishing, yet I keep coming back for more. Everything about it is huge; from the over the top humor and acting, to the sheer number of levels available via the Item World.
I don’t think I have ever played any game as large as the ones on offer from the Disgaea series. Sure there are games out there with huge worlds like GTA V or Skyrim, and games like Persona 4 can offer hundreds of hours of content, but very rarely do I play games that are virtually unending. Disgaea D2 (and others in the series) is a game that basically never ends. It’s a grinder’s dream come true (more on this later).
Disgaea D2 continues the story of Laharl, Etna, and Flonne, our loveable cast from the very first Disgaea game waaaaay back in 2003. Now established as the full fledged Overlord of the Netherworld, Laharl isn’t having as a great a time as you might thinking, finding himself constantly trying to make his new position known to everyone. Evidently only a few demons know about his recent ascent to Overlord. Tired of this non-fame, Laharl sets off with Etna and Flonne to gain the respect he seeks.
The hallmarks of the Disgaea series are still in place, and as someone who loves SRPGs, I’m glad to see that D2 is still as brutal and unforgiving as ever. The basic concept remains unchanged, with a heavy emphasis on manipulating Geo Panels (colored pyramids that provide elemental bonuses or detriments to the terrain), placing characters adjacent to each other for Linked Attacks, and throwing allies and objects to traverse obstacles. This is the meat and bones of Disgaea combat and I don’t really ever expect it to change too dramatically; but that’s not to say that D2 doesn’t offer anything new. Oh, it does.
First off, in a move that’s reminiscent of the Pokemon and Persona games, you can now capture and train the monsters you face in battle, which then can be ridden in battle. Not only does this look epic, but mounts will take hits for you while you can continue to cast spells and attack from atop your majestic steed. Now weaker “healer” type characters don’t have to always be held back or protected, and can mix it up in the forefront along with everyone else.
The character creation system has also seen an overhaul, giving players more options to create unique characters than ever before. Now when you create a new character you can choose their personality type and color pattern in addition to their base job class. Different personality traits will affect your created character’s base stats. It’s nice to have more options when creating characters, and man, it sure is nice to have some different looking party members for once.
Perhaps my favorite new feature is the Master/Pupil system which allows one character to be designated the “Master” and another as the “Pupil.” In this system, skills can be taught from the Master to the Pupil, allowing certain characters to learn new skills that were previously unavailable to characters of certain classes. Going back to my previous example of having an offensively weak healer character, you can now teach him/her some new attacks and weapon affinities, resulting in a much more balanced (and useful in different situations) character.
The Disgaea series provides some of the most meaty game experiences out there because it encourages grinding…but not in the way you might be used to. Rather than hanging out in the same area or dungeon and fighting horde after horde of randomly generated enemies until your eyes bleed, D2 (and all other Disgaea games) give you the Item World, one of the most clever ways of asking players to grind.
The way the Item World works is like this: every item you procure throughout the game, whether it’s a piece of candy, a weapon, a bomb, or armor, exists as its own multi-leveled dungeon. When you enter the Item World, you choose an item to “enter,” and voila! You get a randomly generated series of dungeons. Think about that for a minute; due to the Item World, D2 technically never has to end. Ever. As long as you keep collecting items, you will continue to have the Item World at your disposal.
As far as presentation goes D2 looks pretty much exactly like Disgaea 4, which is a good thing. I never thought the series looked bad, and even going back and playing the PS2 Disgaea games, they still look pretty decent. Disgaea 4 and D2 both use the signature series’ sprite heavy art style, just with a coat of high-res polish and animated backgrounds. Dialogue sequences look nice and sharp, and even though they aren’t fully animated in the traditional sense (they move more like a motion comic), they still look fantastic. On the audio front, the voice actors do an admirable job as usual. I’ve played more than my fair share of localized JRPGs, and I’ll be the first to say that many, if not most, translations are pretty poor. Thankfully this has never really been an issue with the Disgaea series, and certainly is not one with D2. The series has always been over the top with its humor and never took itself too seriously.
Disgaea D2 is a wonderful true sequel to the game that started it all, and does the original plenty of justice. NIS has had four core Disgaea games to draw from, and the end product of D2 is finely tuned display of everything we know and love about the series. Ultimately it’s a familiar journey, but there are just enough new additions to keep things interesting.