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Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness (PlayStation 3) artwork

Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness (PlayStation 3) review

"If you’re a fan of the Disgaea series or of strategy RPGs in general, look no further than Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness. It’s the most refined and aesthetically pleasing Disgaea title to date."

If you’re a fan of the Disgaea series or of strategy RPGs in general, look no further than Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness. It’s the most refined and aesthetically pleasing Disgaea title to date.

Nippon Ichi Software has handled this game very well, which perhaps shouldn’t come as a surprise since it’s the fifth game in the series (though the first to function as a direct sequel to the first title, Disgaea: Hour of Darkness). Unlike most direct sequels in JRPG history, this new entry doesn’t feel like a cash-in. It actually adds to the lore and to the characters of the series in a proper and tasteful way. Not only that, but the developers were also able to maintain the sense of humor and awareness for which the Disgaea series is known. A year has now passed since the events depicted in Disgaea: Hour of Darkness, and while much time has passed here in the real world, not much has really changed in the Netherworld for our lovable main characters.

Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness asset

The game begins when Laharl, the newly crowned Overlord of the Netherworld, crashes in on Flonne (a former angel who is currently indebted to and living with Laharl) on the back of a gigantic meteor. Immediately afterwards, Etna (Lahar’s faithful vassal) makes a similarly noisy arrival on her own meteor. After a comical scene where the three main protagonists discuss the damage that resulted to the flowerbed Flonne was tending, it’s time to talk business. It seems many demons in the Netherworld aren’t satisfied with Laharl’s claim to the title of Overlord, and so he ventures forth in order to establish his dominance.

In typical Disgaea fashion, the initial episode consists primarily of tutorials, with a couple of proper test stages at the end. Each optional bit of tutorial is filled with humor, while properly teaching you the core mechanics of the game. Gameplay takes place on a grid, much like what you’ll find in other SRPGs. However, you may find that your grid features specifically colored squares, and tiny pyramids of varying color are positioned around the battlefield. The colored squares and pyramids are called “Geo Panels” and “Geo Stones,” respectively. These have the potential to either make or break fights, since Geo Stones often boost or Nerf the abilities of any units who come under their influence. Those effects are applied to all panels of the same color a given Geo Stone rests on. However, you can clear the field of such complications by triggering a Geo Chain. The game acquaints you with the required process by the end of the first chapter, so don’t worry too much if it all sounds overly complex.

Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness asset

Your units are able to perform standard functions in this sort of game, but they also can throw units and objects. Unlike previous titles, however, this new installment allows you to freely toss units and objects in any direction, rather than limiting you to strict lines. Units still possess a limited throw range, though, so don’t expect to clear ground in the first turn.

You’re also able to initiate team attacks, which occur when numerous allies are within range of an enemy unit. Team attack animations are dependent upon the weapon being used by the characters, as well as their individual classes. There’s a variety of amusing cinematics and flashy strikes to see. One thing that you’ll also notice immediately is the mid-battle character interaction. If you place two ally units with high Likeability ratings next to one another, they may start a dialogue. Likeability levels also determine how often units will assist each other out in battle, influencing both team attacks and support attacks. Units may also begin to protect one another, whether that means taking hits for one another or just decreasing the amount of damage an ally sustains while defending.

Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness asset

Another addition to the battle system is the ability to ride monster units, or “Mounts”. This replaces Disgaea 3 and 4’s magichange system, and the change is a welcome one. Previously, you could equip a monster unit as a weapon and gain access to special skills, but now you can ride them instead while still gaining access to special abilities. Additionally, the monster that you choose to mount will absorb damage for the mounted unit. This really helps certain characters to get around the battle field, especially when their movement and health is otherwise pretty low. Pairing a mage up with a mothman is one great way to overwhelm the enemy with magical might or, if you really need to save a remote unit, pairing a healer up with a mothman can lead to a clutch save.

After you’ve cleared a few tutorial battles, the game prompts you to make a new unit. Unit creation has changed a bit, since you can now choose the unit’s favorite weapon as well as picking a “Personality” for said unit. Depending on which “Personality” you choose, the default special ability, or “Evility” will change. Evilities are something every unit possesses, friend and foe alike. Those Evilties can change the tide of battle, either in your favor or otherwise. They impact factors such as damage dealt, MP consumed casting spells, and so forth. They add a nice element of strategy and allow you to customize your party even further. It’s also possible to make cosmetic changes to things like unit color, regardless of class tier.

Disgaea D2 also introduces an apprenticeship system for units, wherein you can pairany unit with an apprentice, in order to pass on skills otherwise unknown to their class. There’s also no limit on who can learn what, since you can freely exchange apprentices between characters. Do keep in mind, however, that certain skills are restricted and are unable to be passed down. It’s a very handy option when you want to pass around a particular healing spell or buff, however.

Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness asset

For those who are worried about the past grind that was presented by the Disgaea series, don’t fret. There’s not only the Demon Dojo, where you can assign units to a specific training regimen in order to boost specific stats, but there’s also the Cheat Shop. With the Cheat Shop, you’re now able to alter the amount of Experience Points, Mana (which is used to ascertain post-battle bonuses), HL (the in-game currency), Weapon Mastery EXP, and Skill Mastery EXP you obtain from combat. Initially, you have to decrease the amount gained in one category in order to increase the next. However, post-game play grants you the ability to freely boost percentages through the roof without any drawbacks. This is NIS’s way of saying “You beat the game, now feel free to grind to Level 9999 with ease!”

From the opening cinematic to the characters and stages and especially the soundtrack (which impressed me the most), Disgaea D2 does not fail to impress in any field. NIS has even gone as far as to revise the user interface and menus to make them more pleasing and friendlier for the player, which I believe will leave a great impression on newcomers to the series. There have also been a few system mechanic changes to the game, which I believe NIS may have done in order to make the game more accessible and less of a grind or hassle. Quite a few features from previous titles have definitely been streamlined. It’s clear that the developers tried their best to incorporate anything and everything they learned from past endeavors, and it seems that they’ve packed nothing but love and care into this newest title.

Whether you’re a long-time fan of the Disgaea series or a newcomer, you’ll almost certainly enjoy this latest title. From the throwbacks it gives to Hour of Darkness, to the improved mechanics fans know and love, to the amount of all-new content it provides, the game ensures that you’ll never find yourself wanting for something more to do.

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Freelance review by Adrian Rosas (October 24, 2013)

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