"What comes to mind when mechanical penguin monsters say “dood,” a bipolar talking frog with a French accent addresses you as “Monsieur Napoleon Bonerhard,” or when the Rainbow Prism Rangers are willing to come to your aid with a simple cell phone call? Well, you’re either on some illegal substance, or you’re playing Disgaea. A few years ago, Nippon Ichi brought us the first game Disgaea: Hour of Darkness, which proved that tactical strategy RPGs are still cool, and it also had a wacky storyline...."
What comes to mind when mechanical penguin monsters say “dood,” a bipolar talking frog with a French accent addresses you as “Monsieur Napoleon Bonerhard,” or when the Rainbow Prism Rangers are willing to come to your aid with a simple cell phone call? Well, you’re either on some illegal substance, or you’re playing Disgaea. A few years ago, Nippon Ichi brought us the first game Disgaea: Hour of Darkness, which proved that tactical strategy RPGs are still cool, and it also had a wacky storyline. The sequel, Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories, recently released and does just the same.
The story of Disgaea 2 takes place in the Netherworld, where everyone has been cursed by Overlord Zenon. This guy is like a billion levels higher than everyone and has killed 100 other Overlords, or so the dialogue says. The curse has turned everyone into demons, except for a lone human named Adell. In order to break the curse, Adell’s three-eyed mother summons Zenon so that Adell can defeat him. However, not everything goes according to plan and Zenon’s daughter, Rozalin is summoned instead. Adell must now use Rozalin to find Zenon and defeat him.
Rozalin, a spoiled princess who's never left her mansion to see the outside world, debates on whether she should kill Adell or remain in bewilderment about her persistence for an audience with her father. The game becomes stranger later on and each chapter is concluded with a hilarious newscast from a talking bunny who discusses recent issues such as “standardized test scores show a decline for the subjects of lying and torture…”
While the story is one half of what makes the game awesome, the other half is the deep tactical turn-based strategy that encompasses the battle system. The gameplay is similar to other tactical RPGs like Final Fantasy Tactics and Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure. You start out with a pretty balanced group of units like melee fighters, mages, healers, and so on. More characters can be created as you acquire mana by defeating enemies in battle. You can pretty much make as many as you want, but can only ten characters at once. One problem I had was having to start from level 1 each and every time you make a new character. This slows down the progression of the game. New monster characters can be created when you defeat them in battle while new demon characters can be produced after reaching a certain part of the game. Then it must be approved by the Dark Assembly.
The Dark Assembly governs all the happenings in the Netherworld and players must persuade the Senators to approve a new bill by giving them items or coercion. However, the latter may result in you getting royally owned since Senators seem to be level 1000 while you're level 10 trying to get a triple experience point bonus bill approved.
Another element is the Dark Court in which characters are tried for crimes. Since this is the Netherworld, things tend to be the opposite of what is normal. For example, in the game, becoming a felon is a symbol of heroism, which allows you to enter certain areas you couldn’t before. In order to acquire these 'marks of honor', you must receive a Subpoena and then enter the Item World. The Item World consists of multiple randomly-generated stages of combat. There are no breaks and players clear each stage by either defeating all the enemies or have a character reach the stage clear portal. The court located on a certain stage and the Item World is used for powering up your items as well as leveling up your characters.
If you’ve played a tactical RPG before you should feel at home. You move your units to enemy units and attack when in range. Awesome combos can be created when you have two or more units adjacent to each other. Up to four can participate in a combo at once (the person attacking, one person behind them, and one person on both sides of the attacking character). When you trigger the aforementioned combo, you feel so awesome and it may cause a spontaneous little victory dance. In addition, you can pick up units and throw them across the battlefield. This is usually used for helping other characters move closer to or farther away from enemies.
The last thing I'd like to bring up about combat (so this doesn’t drag on), is the GeoEffect, powered by GeoSymbols. The GeoEffect offers special bonuses to units that are standing in a colored field of the area. Some are rewarding such as double experience if players attack someone in the field while others help your enemies, such as giving them double damage when attacking you. The effect can be stopped by destroying the GeoSymbol, which causes all the same colored squares of the GeoSymbol to explode and damage any units (enemy or ally) that are standing in the field. In general, the combat is pleasing and leaves limitless possibilities, while those who aren’t familiar with this type of gameplay will be confused.
Like other Nippon Ichi games, the developer sticks with bright and colorful 16-bit sprites. Despite the dated look, they’ve always had a place in my heart. I’ll always prefer these cute little chibi characters over the bump-mapped pre-rendered polygons that we see in other RPGs. This graphic style also leads to an anime-style look for characters during story scenes, which also means a cool intro anime cutscene. There’s also a trailer for the Disgaea anime series on the main menu, which connects to the humor of the main game.
Accompanying the visuals is an upbeat soundtrack, with little to no J-Pop to be found. Instead, we get some cool sounding synthesized midi tunes and other goodies. The voice acting is hilariously performed and helps bring the zany story to life. While most people will prefer the Japanese voices, the voices for this game were easier to deal with than usual. The sound was one of my favorite parts, even if the music sounds fruity and the fact that the 60-year-old something Druids have voices of a 20-year-old.
Overall, if you’re looking for something to keep you busy until Final Fantasy XIII, or you want a nice nostalgia burst, I recommend giving this game a try. The main story is pretty long. It's way past the typical 40 hour experience, especially if you choose to unlock the 200+ classes and do all the sidequests. It’s a light-hearted RPG that you should experience or else Napoleon Bonerhard will push you around.
Community review by Ness (February 28, 2008)
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