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Disgaea 2: Dark Hero Days (PSP) artwork

Disgaea 2: Dark Hero Days (PSP) review

"If you're a fan of complex strategy games and missed out on the PlayStation 2 version, be sure that you don't make the same mistake the second time around!"

Disgaea 2: Dark Hero Days on the PSP is a port of Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories, a PlayStation 2 title released way back in 2006. Despite the age of its core content, the title is one of the deepest strategy experiences available on the PSP. The game offers numerous options both on and off the battlefield, a fact that should cause many fans of the genre to fall in love with this portable return to the Netherworld.

The game tells the story of a mystical world, Valdime. Nearly its entire population has been turned into demons by Overlord Zenon. One exception is the protagonist, Adell, who mysteriously remains unaffected by the demon curse. If he hopes to lift the curse so that others can enjoy the same human existence once more, he must challenge Overlord Zenon and defeat him in combat. When his mother attempts to summon Zenon, however, something goes wrong. Instead they are introduced to his daughter, Princess Rozalin. Now Adell has no choice but to team up with Rozalin in an attempt to locate Overlord Zenon. The adventure that unfolds is one full of surprises, crazy demons and humor.

Like its predecessor, Disgaea 2 is a turn-based strategy game. Encounters take place on grid-based arenas. Each character can move, attack, cast magic or perform other actions within a limited range on that grid. There is more to worry about in each battle than simple movement and attack options. Careful positioning of your character before each attack is also vital, since attacks from the back and sides inflict more damage. Similarly, if you place two or more characters side by side and then attack an enemy, there is a chance that you will execute a devastating chain attack or combo. On top of that, there are Geo Symbols on each map which grant status effects to characters standing within range. Part of a successful strategy will often involve lifting and throwing your team mates to move them out of harm's way, or you may prefer to throw them into the thick of things so that they can earn more experience points while participating in combo attacks. With such a deep battle system, this is a game that is suited for the hardcore strategy gamers rather than casual ones.

Time when you're not battling monsters is spent at Valdime, your home base. Here you can shop for items, weapons and armor. You can also heal and revive teammates, plus it's possible to create new members for your army. New characters become apprentices of the characters who create them. A master-apprentice relationship exists between them that allows the two of them to inflict greater damage if they are involved in a combo attack. Characters can fall into any number of classes, including fighters, mages, healers and so forth.

Besides creating characters, you can present bills in the Dark Assembly. The Dark Assembly is the governing body of Valdime. Its primary function is to approve or reject proposed bills in the game. You can petition the assembly for changes that will help you work through the game. For example, having the More Expensive Item bill passed means that shops start carrying much expensive and better items for you to purchase. Politicians may vote either for or against your bill, and it's possible to bribe key politicians to increase the chance of your bill being passed. When a bill is passed with or without such tampering, it feels good and satisfying.

Another element in the game is the Item World. You can enter dungeons by offering up items from your inventory. Each dungeon that an item opens is unique. All of them provide you with the opportunity to earn experience and rare items.

Visually, the style of cutscenes in Digaea 2 is something that you might expect from a Japanese-style anime. It features colorful sprites that have wacky facial expressions. On the actual battlefield, the combos and chain attacks look particularly nice and sometimes implement the personable character portraits so that it's easier to tell who is involved in a given attack.

Voice acting throughout the game is also well-executed. All of the actors do a great job of delivering their lines with credible emotions. Gamers who like to experience their games in their purest form will no doubt be delighted to learn that the game features the full Japanese voice over, available as an alternative to the English voice work.

Disgaea 2 features tons of content, ensuring that players who stick with the title will find it to be a rewarding experience that can last for months. It's the rare example of a port that comes to the PSP with even more content than the console original. If you're a fan of complex strategy games and missed out on the PlayStation 2 version, be sure that you don't make the same mistake the second time around!


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Freelance review by Sohail Saleem (December 29, 2009)

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