on October 11, 2013 by Kitsumeda
A long time ago a game called Disgaea was released. It stood out from the crowd with its cute and colorful art-style, and extreme amount of depth. In quickly became very popular and had 7 released games and an anime adaptation. Now, exactly one decade later NIS has given us Disgaea D2, a direct sequel to the original game which started the whole franchise.
For those new to the franchise, Disgaea is a tactical RPG where you play as a demon in the netherworld. The game is very complex featuring tons of characters each with its own weapon affinity and skills. Further differentiating it from other similar games are special tiles called geo panels which glow in a specific color and giving bonuses to whoever stands on them. In order to easily maneuver past hazards or get somewhere quicker you can pick up enemies or character and throw them around with one of your characters. A trademark of the series is being able to level up your character up to level 9999, as well as the ability to level up each item by traveling into it and completing stages. Leveling up is a breeze since, Disgaea is the only game I know where a level 1 character can kill a level 90 enemy and get 33 levels in the process.
While all this does sound way too complicated, it’s not. Disgaea D2 does a fantastic job of easing the player into each of its core mechanics. While the game does skip on some of the explanations, you can always read about things in more detail by talking to NPCs or opening help from the menu in your spare time. Still half of the elements are totally optional meaning you can play the game as you like utilizing whatever means you want.
The story of Disgaea D2 loosely follows one of the endings of the original Disgaea. I say loosely because many of the characters you met in the original game are non-existent in this installment. Captain Gordon, Kurtis, Thursday, Jennifer, Maderas, Prism Rangers and even the Dark Adonis are nowhere to be seen in the main story. This is a real shame considering how crazy some of these characters where. Some of them were essential to the plot of the original. This time around there aren’t as many characters, with Sicily and Xenolith being the only notable inclusion, of which only the prior is a playable character. Sicily is an angel who comes to the Nether realm sent in a box claiming to be Laharl’s little sister. Xenolith is a mysterious red-headed demon who seems to have ties with Etna.
The lack of older characters wouldn’t have been an issue if the focus of the story was exclusively on the trio, but Disgaea D2 seems to have a hard time of deciding what it wants to do. It starts with almost a reset of the first game, with Laharl trying to prove to everyone that he is the new overlord, forgetting all the lessons he learned in the original. The game soon introduces Sicily and then it’s a quest to find out why flowers are growing in the netherworld. The setup isn’t interesting at all. While the flowers seem to impact how some of the demons look or behave, it really isn’t a strong setup. Laharl changed gender during one chapter, but in the next he was swapped back nullifying any sense of urgency.
The whole story just happens without rhyme or reason. Laharl goes to an idol concert, Laharl goes to the angel realm and after a whole set of levels you just find the gate to the angel realm locked, making you feel like the entire episode was a waste of time. It doesn’t help that the characters you meet are quite generic. During an idol concert you get the idol in your team, who just coincidentally happens to look exactly the same as a generic archer sprite. Even one of the lesser villains is just a generic knight. With such an interesting cast of characters in the first game I am really confused as to why they went in this direction.
Fortunately the humor is there and you will get quite a few laughs out of the main team. Flonne’s “love conquers all” and Etna’s backstabbing nature still managed to bring a smile to my face after all these years. And like in the previous titles everything is filled with humor from item descriptions to NPCs in the hub.
From the gameplay side Disgaea D2 is good as it gets. The tactical gameplay has all the elements you have come to expect and more. You are no longer constrained to throw things straight or diagonally, but instead you can throw anywhere in range. This is a huge upgrade and allows for a great deal of freedom when stacking or throwing characters, enemies or geo symbols. The master pupil system has been reworked and allows for transfer of skills between characters. Fusions are gone and instead your characters can mount your monsters. There is a new weapon type, the book, which Sicily uses. The character customization is better than ever before, with tons of characters and job classes to choose from. You can even choose their personality type which influences their base stats and pick a color pattern regardless of their class. Characters now have relationships with each other, influencing team attacks and monster mounting.
Another new feature is the Demon Dojo that allows your characters to be slotted into specific training rooms. When they level up in battle they will gain the bonus that room gives. For example you can place Flonne in a training room that gives her 5% more intelligence every level up allowing her to heal more efficiently. There is a bunch of rooms to choose from and after some time they gain additional slots so you can place multiple characters in them, meaning you will never have to worry if you have lots of characters.
Disgaea D2 is a dream for people who love to abuse the system. Now you have a Cheat Shop which allows you do modify how much experience, money, mana and weapon experience you are going to get. Have too much money? Just lower the amount you get by 20% and put those 20% into experience for faster leveling up. It’s a really clever concept that doesn’t break the game.
Now characters talk one with another when placed next to each other in a battle. This livens the combat since they usually crack a joke or talk about a thing they just found out. While you are in the hub characters also follow you in a line, allowing you to talk to them at will. Any ally not following you will be standing around in the hub, so you can populate it with your all your characters.
The dark assembly is also back, allowing you to vote for bills such as more expensive items, resurrections or special maps. New in Disgaea D2 is the ability to freely move around while in the assembly. You also get a chairman who can sway votes in your favor if he is not asleep like usual. Items like bombs or chloroform are used on such occasions, to wake up sleeping senators who will vote in your favor or put to sleep others, who may want too much of a bribe.
The menus have finally got overhaul. Gone are the list like menus and now everything has a modern look. Still it can require some getting used too if you are a longtime fan of the series. The graphics are the same found in Disgaea 4, which are far superior to the ones from the previous versions. Character animation is gorgeous and this time around even the backgrounds are animated. The only thing I feel missing from Disgaea D2 is Laharl’s iconic portrait.
As always the game features both the Japanese and English voices. So if you played through the original in English you will be pleased to know that for the most part all the original voice actors are back.
Disgaea D2 does have some freezing issues. My copy froze my console around 7 times in the middle portion of the game. This kind of thing never happened to me in a Disgaea title before, but at least the freezes seemed to die out later in to the game once I started to skip battle scenes frequently. Hopefully a patch for this is on the way.
The main story of the game is quite short. It took me 19 hours to complete but there are still a lot of things to do once you complete the game, such as seeing alternative endings, grinding in the item world and playing through special stages.
For what it’s worth Disgaea D2 is one of the best tactical RPGs I have ever played. It’s still addictive to grind for hours, which I can rarely say for any game. Still, from a story and character standpoint it falls way too short. With such a cast to bring back from the original it’s quite disappointing that a lot of them are missing. Laharl forgets most of the lessons he learned by the end of the original and the story isn’t really engaging. If you are a long time Disgaea fan you probably already know if you are going to get this game or not, but as a newcomer to the series Disgaea D2 might be a perfect place to start since you don’t really need to play the original to appreciate the gameplay.