This year marked the 20th anniversary of Nippon Ichi Software (NIS), and to celebrate they launched a few new games, one of which is Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness. Disgaea has always been NIS’ bread and butter, currently being one of the company’s main franchises, and the franchise they’re best known for in the west. D2 brings us back to the original game that started it all, for a fun trip down memory lane.
Being a direct sequel to the original Disgaea, the game picks up right after the original with Laharl becoming the Overlord, and having Etna and now fallen angel Flonne, by his side. Life should be smooth sailing for our main trio seeing as the central conflict of claiming the throne is over, but as it turns out, trouble is just starting. Even though Laharl has claimed the throne and title of Overlord, it seems that most of the demons in the netherworld are still loyal to his father, King Krichevskoy, and find Laharl an ill suited replacement, or just flat out don’t even know who Laharl is. It looks like Laharl will have to start flexing his muscles again to put everyone back in their place, a task constantly undermined by Etna and Flonne for hilarious results.
Disgaea D2 still has all the charm and comedic timing of the original Hour of Darkness, with lots of humor focused on our favorite Prince turned Overlord. It seems it is not easy to be Laharl. One of his plans for greater recognition in the first chapter of the game involves the building of statues of himself to be placed all around the Netherworld. Too bad that all the statues have incredibly odd-looking faces, but Etna and Flonne say there’s no need to worry, since the hair antennae on the statues are all that matter anyway. Later, we see one statue is also a fountain and the water comes out of the crotch area. Laharl screams, “What!? It looks like I’m pissing my pants!” while Etna and Flonne remark how the monsters seem to like the fountain—as a line of them are using Laharl’s crotch fountain to fill up their water bottles.
This is the kind of humor you can expect out of D2; crude, over-the-top, and a large majority of it makes Laharl the butt of the joke. The chemistry between the main trio remains intact and as fun as ever, and there’s plenty of it to go around. From the story, to talking in the castle hub, even talking in the midst of battle, there’s lots of interaction between our cast of loveable demonic misfits. Perhaps the biggest change up in the roster is the introduction of Sicily—an angel trainee, who may or may not, be the daughter of King Krichevskoy.
Initially Sicily is just another thorn in Laharl’s side, she shows up unannounced (via the mail no less) in Laharl’s castle, and tries to take the title of Overlord. Not standing for this, of course, Laharl and crew chase her down. How can an angel even dream of being the Overlord of the netherworld!? Following Flonne’s… uh, kind words (and a flogging at her hands), she decides to follow Laharl, and begins to call him “Big Brother”.
Story aside, there’s plenty to do and see in the game, but boy oh boy, is it a grind fest. The Disgaea franchise has always prided itself on the sheer amount of content it has, and D2 is no different. Just about everything is customizable. It’s actually quite absurd, and I don’t even know if I can even scratch the surface of all the content.
From the return of the Dark Assembly, where you can make characters, evolve your characters, set battle conditions, to the way you can change how you walk and jump around your castle, and even customize the looks of your party’s sprites. To customizing your gear you have and using the Item World, where you can dive into a long chain of battles through examining said gear. There’s a lot of meat here outside of the main story’s battles. And if that’s not enough, you can always redo any of the story-based battles over and over again to your heart’s content. You can even change a bunch of small little things in the menus, such as what the save icon will look like on your Playstation 3, and set up if you want auto-save or manual save. You can of course pick between Japanese and English audio, and change the combat speed, too.
The simplest way to put it is to say that Disgaea D2 bombards the player with as many options as possible, both big and small. I think it will be impossible to ever have two play-throughs that are exactly the same.
The animations in the battles are just as over-the-top and hectic as the humor, and often time’s fun to watch as characters go flying across the screen unleashing all hell. That said, for those who get tired of the flashy animations, you can skip them by pressing triangle. The story segments can be skipped as well with triangle, so getting a Game Over won’t force you to sit through all that talk again, and you can get right back into the fight.
The fighting being the main core of the game is as intuitive and fleshed out as ever. Long term Disgaea fans will feel right at home, with geo panels, combination moves, lifting and throwing—as well as mounting, using Prinnies as suicide bombers… the list goes on.
On top of the large amount of customization and grinding, and the over-the-top humor and battle animations, there are the sprites, which are gorgeous. It is to be expected from NIS now, but the sprites in D2 are beautiful, and look great no matter what angle you see them from. Having missed out on Disgaea 3 and Disgaea 4, I was just in awe at how good the sprites were, and how fluid they looked moving around. The over-all aesthetics of the game are top notch. The portraits of the story sections are large and take up a good chunk of the screen. They show plenty of emotion and have the charm of veteran NIS character designer, Takehito Harada. The environments don’t fare as well as the characters and art design, but get the job done and look fine, if not a little basic and barren. Regardless, Disgaea D2 is easy on the eyes all the same.
Disgaea D2 delivers on all the staples that the franchise is known for, and offers its long time fans a second adventure with the original trio that started the franchise over ten years ago. It’s a fun—or maybe I should say funny—grind fest with hundreds of hours of content to keep completionists happy.
Food for Thought:
1. I found myself debating over whether or not players who missed out on the first Disgaea could enjoy this direct sequel. I think for the most part new players can still jump in, but they will be missing out on a lot. Players who experienced the first game will enjoy D2 the most. And really considering how many versions of the first Disgaea there is—two print versions on the PS2, Afternoon of Darkness; the enhanced PSP port, and even an DS port—there are plenty of ways to acquire the first game even ten years later.
2. I personally didn’t like the Opening for Disgaea D2. I found the animation nice, but the song never managed to grow on me. I also felt that the song didn’t match the animation on the screen very well.
3. I used the Flonne icon as my save icon, and I also implemented the auto-save feature as well.
4, The new male healer is a total trap, and I kinda dig it.
5. As someone who sat out previous Disgaea titles this generation, I felt at home again with D2. It might have to do with revisiting the original cast, but ether way, Disgaea D2 might be a good title to get you back into Disgaea if the previous entries on the PS3 have not interested you as much.