By Kurt Kalata . March 21, 2006 . 12:49pm
Nippon Ichi’s tireless efforts to create light-hearted, astounding deep strategy RPGs just can’t be stopped. Makai Senki Disgaea 2 is the fifth strategy RPG they’ve put out in as many years. Despite their outward similarities, each Nippon Ichi title has its own unique gameplay systems, which kept the experience new and interesting with each installment. Disgaea 2 is the first title they’ve published that’s a direct sequel to any of their strategy RPGs – but they’ve put an astounding amount to work into making it feel fresh, both from a storyline and gameplay perspective.
At first, the world of Disgaea 2 seems a bit removed from its predecessor – rather than focusing on the demon prince Laharl, the story revolves around a young human named Adel. Adel’s world is ruled by the vicious lord Xenon, and most of the populace has since been turned into demons. When Adel’s mother tries to summon their master to confront him, she accidentally ends up calling upon his daughter, Rosalyn. She has no idea where her father is either, so the two join up to hunt down their cruel overlord. While this duo isn’t immediately as likable as Laharl and Etna from the original game, they are joined by a cavalcade of humorous characters. Among these include Tink, a schizophrenic, baseball-bat wielding frog; Akutare, a washed up rock star cum super hero who’s trying to make a comeback; Yukimaru, a samurai who takes herself just a bit too seriously; and Adel’s cutesy siblings, Hanako and Tarou. Etna and her Prinnies also show up in the early stages of the game, although she’s really after the power of Xenon for herself. While fans may be disappointed that any returning characters play relatively minor roles, the new cast keeps the storyline fresh, and the wacky sense of humor still permeates throughout.
After experimenting with Phantom Brave and Makai Kingdom, Disgaea 2 returns back to the basics of predecessor – the grid-based movement system is back, as well as the Geo Panels. It’s solid and easy to manage, and overall feels quite a bit more refined.. Each character can only equip one weapon along with three accessories, keeping the balance in check. If you start up a combo and kill your opponent before all of your characters can act, the remaining units no longer lose their turn. The experience system has been improved, as you no longer end up with healers or magicians that get stuck being underleveled. Even the AI seems quite a bit smarter.
This extra spit-shine of polish shows through in the presentation as well. For the first time, the graphics are rendered in high resolution, resulting in much crisper landscapes and less nasty pixilation. The character portraits and text benefit the most from this upgrade. The character sprites still don’t look as good as, say, Atelier Iris, but they’re much better looking There’s also a short, fully animated intro, showing off the new characters and features one of the game’s vocal songs, Tsumi no Bara (Sinful Rose). Certain characters have their own J-pop oriented themes that pop up when you fight them. The rest of the soundtrack is once again composed by Tenpei Sato, and sounds very similar to the original Disgaea. Some old songs are reused and rearranged as well, including an amusing NES-style rendition of Laharl’s theme.
There are plenty of new additions and features that should make long time fans happy. Some geo crystals now move randomly from square to square, greatly altering your strategy. Combos are back, so if you stick characters with high affinities close to one another, you’ll get in some extra hits. They’re quite a bit flashier this time around too – one particular three hit combo involves launching an enemy hundreds of feet into before power spiking them straight into the ground..You can now lift and stack units on top of each other, creating huge towers of characters that can execute even more absurd combos.
The Dark Assembly is also back, where you can address a grouping of monsters to ask for better weapons or new characters. This time around, in addition to bribing them, you can knock them out with drugs or slip them some sake to put them in a drunken stupor. You can even appoint yourself to the council. But the most interesting addition is the Prinny Court. At certain points in the game, various characters can be charged with a crime, whether it be attacking too much or raising your stats too high. By visiting the Prinny Court, one (or more) of you characters can be “convicted”. Since this is still the demon world, being convicted is a badge of honor, and will lead to various stat boosts and other material bonuses. Unfortunately, the only way to clear your slate of sins is to temporarily transmigrate into a Prinny for a little while. You can still upgrade weapons by diving into the Item World, a series of randomly generated dungeons inside practically any item. In additions to shops and hospitals, there are also minor events that occasionally pop up, which can open up even more subquests.
The only problem with some of these new features is the over-reliance on the Item World – in order to get into the Prinny Court, you need to get to a certain level in the summons letter each time you want more convictions. Similarly, certain items can only be purchased there. I was never a fan of the Item World to begin with, as their layout is just a bit too chaotic, and the music is incredibly annoying. And once again, you can’t leave the Item World unless you have a certain item (which are in limited quantities) or hit the tenth floor. It just feels like an artificial way of lengthening a game that already has an astounding amount of depth.
Import Friendly? Literacy Level: 5
The entire game is fully in Japanese. If you’re familiar with other Nippon Ichi titles, or just SRPGs in general, navigating around menus isn’t particularly hard. Some of the geo panel effects or more difficult menus may cause problems if you don’t know your kanji.
NIS America is set to bring this out sometime around August 2006.
+ Pros: More balanced gameplay, better AI, more systems to toy around with, improved graphics, funny characters and a nice, animated intro
- Cons: Too much of the Item World
Overall: Disgaea 2 is nearly a perfect sequel – it feels familiar, yet it’s still fresh. Long time fans may still find nitpicks with the new characters, but otherwise Disgaea 2 is unquestionably the better game, offering a more finely tuned experience overall.
< Screenshots >