Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness (PS3) Review
- Brings back the original Disgaea characters for a story far more entertaining than the other Disgaea PS3 sequels
Not so much?
- Complexity of gameplay might be offputting for newcomers to the franchise.
- -Inconsistent difficulty levels and some poorly designed stages will hamper progress and enjoyment.
Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness is the latest title in Nippon Ichi Software’s flagship series about the antics of heroes and demons seeking to take over the Netherworld. Unlike the other Disgaea sequels, which featured new protagonists each time, Disgaea D2 is a direct sequel to the original PS2 Disgaea, reuniting Laharl, Etna and Flonne [...]
Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness is the latest title in Nippon Ichi Software’s flagship series about the antics of heroes and demons seeking to take over the Netherworld. Unlike the other Disgaea sequels, which featured new protagonists each time, Disgaea D2 is a direct sequel to the original PS2 Disgaea, reuniting Laharl, Etna and Flonne for more strategy RPG fun.
At the end of the first Disgaea game, demon Prince Laharl had managed to beat up all his rivals and claim the title of Overlord of the Netherworld. Unfortunately, not everyone is willing to accept his authority, forcing him to once again rely on his self-interested vassal Etna and the now fallen angel Flonne to whip dissenters into shape. In the meantime, Celestial Flowers are blooming all over the Netherworld, and if nothing is done about them, the fiery pit will be transformed into a heavenly paradise!
Nippon Ichi Software have built something of a cult following with their deep and complex strategy RPGs, and Disgaea D2 offers more of the same – in fact, apart from a handful of modifications, veterans of the series will realise that very little has changed. For those who are unfamiliar with the series or the genre in general, however, an overview is required. The game is divided into a number of chapters, each of which consists of a series of grid-based maps populated by enemy units. The player must summon their forces to the field, and take turns with the enemy moving around the map and attacking their opponents until one side is defeated.
Of course, this brief explanation hides a wealth of complex game mechanics. As one would expect from any self-respecting strategy SRPG, players can create and deploy a wide variety of units, including short and long-range attackers, mages and even monsters. But that’s not all Disgaea D2 brings to the party. The hub world has a range of options that allow for near infinite customisation of character aptitudes and abilities, or even to change the properties of the actual levels themselves. There are also a near-infinite number of random dungeons to explore, which are vital for levelling up – in true Nippon Ichi tradition, levels are not limited to a mere 99, but rather 9999!
Similarly, out on the battlefield, the possibilities can sometimes seem endless. The simplest approach is just to move your units around and use basic attacks on the enemy, but if you want to make any real headway in the game, there is much more to learn. There are squares with special effects that must be exploited or avoided; the ability to lift, stack and throw units and a variety of different combo attacks that trigger under certain circumstances. Although the game does offer a few tutorials at the start, the sheer number of options available might be a bit daunting for new players. Even veterans will struggle in places as the difficulty balance is very uneven, with long stretches of straightforward, easy to beat levels punctuated by stages so unforgivingly tough that you’re forced to go off and grind for several hours to beat them, only to then find yourself massively overpowered for the next set of stages. Worse yet, there are even some poorly designed stages where what seems like an obvious thing to do can leave unable to either win or lose the level, forcing you to reload from your last save.
Story-wise, the Disgaea series has always walked a fine line between quirky self-parody and simply trying too hard, with the newer games usually falling on the wrong side of the divide. Fortunately, bringing back the original characters seems to have revived the offbeat humour, making the game more of an amusing experience than a painful one.
Visually, Disgaea D2 hasn’t changed much from the original. The graphics are cleaner than in the PS2 days, but the series still relies on the same cute 2D sprites and isometric level maps. It looks distinctly old school these days, but it suits the tone of the game. Unfortunately, however, even with a variety of angles and zoom options for battle maps, it can still be hard to get a good view of ally and enemy units. This is especially true for the randomly generated dungeons, where it can be so hard to see what’s going on that it starts to detract from the enjoyment of game play.
The game’s music is composed by Nippon Ichi regular Tenpei Sato, and consists of a selection of catchy themes that sound pretty much identical to those used in the first Disgaea game. Both English and Japanese voice acting is available, and whilst it may just be nostalgia speaking, the English soundtrack is probably one of the better efforts of recent video game dubs.
Whilst other Disgaea PS3 titles have been poor reflections of their PS2 predecessors, Disgaea D2 breathes life back into the franchise with a game that retains the complexity of game play but doesn’t forget to ensure that the quirky, offbeat humour is actually entertaining. Whilst newcomers to the genre might resent the time investment needed to master the game play, Disgaea veterans will be able to jump right in and have a great time.