Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness was announced from NIS as a key part of its illustrious 20th Anniversary celebration. Disgaea is arguably the game that transformed the company from a small developer to an international publisher in the industry so the relevance of this event should be obvious. It has been very good to NIS throughout the years even as the series started to struggle to stay relevant during this console generation.
I’m happy to announce that Disgaea D2 is a proper return to form for NIS.
I say “return to form” because I haven’t liked any of the PS3 Disgaea games so far. As a huge fan of the first two, this was a disappointing realization. Instead of streamlining and improving what they had created, they tried to push new ideas that just sort of fractured the balance the first two Disgaea games brought. My dissatisfaction with those games was cemented when I stopped my playthrough of Disgaea D2 to see why I was so ambivalent towards Disgaea 3.
It really did feel like I was playing completely different games and I am happy to say that anybody who was put off by Disgaea 3 or even 4, should be reassured by Disgaea D2. The team could have taken the game in a number of directions, but I’m happy to say they didn’t take the easy road. Disgaea D2 is the first game in the series I would actually recommend to people who own an HD TV.
Finally we have sprites that aren’t blurry or pixelated when stretched. They look great on the clean 3D backgrounds. There was an effort put out by NIS to upgrade these sprites in to something special and I’m glad to say that I am looking at a Disgaea video game on an HD TV and it doesn’t hurt my eyes.
I’m usually the last person to make any proclamation that graphics matter. It really is hard though to sell people on games that have both 2D sprites and 3D sprites that underwhelm. That hurdle has now been cleared and we can talk about a Disgaea game like it visually belongs on the PS3.
This however is Disgaea and this franchise is all about the content. Disgaea D2 is the first actual sequel in the series. When we last left off, Laharl had powered his way through to becoming the self-proclaimed overlord of the underworld alongside his underling and an angel assassin he befriended. While he may be able to call himself overlord, not many really recognize the title. People can’t bully themselves to power and expect there to be no dissent, and that is where Disgaea D2 focuses its time. Of course we get sidetracked with a new sibling, a sex transformation and an oncoming war with Heaven, but the plot isn’t exactly robust.
It is fun and quirky, and that is everything a Disgaea title should be. The original still holds to be the most popular because of its fun ensemble and excellent setting. Here we follow up and it feels like the first real step forward for the series because finally Disgaea feels accessible. Well, at least more accessible than it has ever been.
Disgaea is a long, grind-filled SRPG. Fortunately, the series has a number of ways to boost your characters exponentially. You level up your character by defeating enemies, which raises your stats and awards you bonus points that can be used to reincarnate your character with higher stats or promote their job level. Items can be purchased or one through well executed battles and can then be upgraded through dungeon diving and raising the items level. Then, there are the new things. A dojo levels up stats minimally while a literal cheat menu allows you to shift the parameters of battle rewards so you can focus more on gaining experience, money or any number of other options.
All these things are complex systems built behind the standard tactical SRPG formula. Veterans will be well rehearsed in all these factors and newcomers should be concerned. It is a rich SRPG that will consume you. Yet this is the first Disgaea I’ve ever felt truly comfortable with. Which leads me to fear that those more hardcore amongst us might see this as a bit of a cakewalk. I certainly did initially.
Disgaea D2 is more accessible because the game offers you a lot of ways to boost up really quickly. By the fourth chapter, I really had found myself in a groove where I was managing my troops more efficiently than I’ve ever done before and I had to sit back and really study why this was. That of course was when I plugged Disgaea 3 in and began to find out.
I found out first hand that the level design here is just better. Disgaea 3 would have some levels with oddly placed platforms that obscured viewpoints. It made some levels a bit ridiculous and I believe the focus they needed on updating the 3D level designs really focused how they were going to structure the levels in an efficient fashion.
The Master/Pupil system in Disgaea D2 is phenomenal as well. For a good chunk of the game, I only needed an army of 10 to power my way through the main story. This was because this system allows you to transfer abilities to and from characters with ease. I was surprised that I could have a Prinny become a fairly competent mage and make it work out. It is simply fabulous and was a major focus for me to improve the ability list of my fresh new characters since weapon mastery takes a bit more time to build up new abilities. Did Etna really need to learn Target Lock? No, but I’m going to spend my time teaching it to her. This system works to also boost their masters stats as well ensuring the give and take is handled very well.
Monsters now can be mounted to perform interesting little special attacks which can boost stats and the like. This works so much better than more complicated monster fusions or even the magichange system. It is a simple relationship between human and monster. Since your party is largely full of humans anyway, it just makes more sense to have them intermingle instead of trying to figure out how to use a monster fusion appropriately.
Finally to round out the new features, books have been introduced to the game to act as a summoners weapon. It sort of plays like a mix between the gun and the staff as magic attacks only work in a vertical line, but they are still powerful. It doesn’t offer much range in attack, so that balances it out.
You can also change the personality of your fighters, which actually is a bit more in depth than one would expect. There is superficial color changes for those that want Laharl to have green hair, but more importantly, the evilities that were introduced in Disgaea 4 act as a personality trait for your fighter. You are given a choice of three abilities per class and some do quite a bit to change the game’s pace. For example, when Prinnys are thrown, they explode. This is common knowledge, but the effectiveness of their explosion can be dictated by the evility assigned. For those who really want to mess around with their fighters, there are some really interesting ones to use.
I have only had one notable issue with Disgaea D2, and that is that my Laharl has a tendency to drop his HP to 1 after battles where he is strongest on the map. Not a big issue most of the time, except when we get to the Item World. The Item World is this labyrinth of levels, one after another, that is the premiere place to grind within Disgaea. Having my main character drop to 1 HP after each level (regardless of what I’ve healed him to) is absolutely tedious. I also had experienced a number of game crashes, but an uninstall and reinstall of the game seemingly fixed the issue. Unfortunately my HP issue still remained so I can’t write that one off here.
Other than that annoyance, Disgaea D2 is the title that finally brings the franchise to where it should be. It is a fun grind and should be accessible to anybody that wants to skip past the old games and dive right in to the new one. As a fan of the series, I really have to say that I am glad it is back in top shape.
[+Graphics are HD] [+Finely Tuned Pupil System] [+Fun Story] [+Fun Characters] [+ Most Accessible Disgaea in Years] [+Solid Gameplay] [-Laharl’s Drop to 1HP]