When you talk about cult classics one franchise sticks out in the minds of RPG fans across the globe. Yes I am speaking of the quirky anime-inspired title known as Disgaea. It’s hard to believe that it has been three years since we first booted up this eccentric SRPG, but the minute you begin playing this sequel everything will fall back into place. Nippon Ichi has left the original formula alone and simply added more content and a new storyline. While this is somewhat of a disappointment for fans hoping for something fresh, once you dive in you will remember why you loved the original all over again.
Newcomers to the series will be happy to know that Disgaea 2 doesn’t require you to finish the first title in order to understand its sequel. In fact the storyline is completely self-contained. Disgaea 2 focuses on newcomer Adell, who appears to be the last survivor of his hometown that is currently infested with monsters. Apparently this has all been caused by the overlord known as Zenon. So like any good RPG protagonist Adell sets his sights on destroying this monster and saving the world from evil for the 1,456,111th time. All sarcasm aside the storyline, while not original, is certainly entertaining with a broad cast of goofy characters and interesting plot points.
Adell is not alone on his quest however, at the start of his journey he runs into a gun-toting princess named Rozalin. Along the way you will also run into an animated cast of characters including a frog with a French accent and an emo ninja girl whose main goal is to find a way to end her life. All of the characters are fully voiced and to be honest they do a nice job of creating likeable personas. Oh and just to add one more cliché to the mix Adell and Rozalin end up liking each other by the end of the game, as more than just friends mind you; RPG cliché #127.
The core game play element will be familiar to anyone who played the original or any other title in the genre. Before each mission you will be able to venture around the hub world and gather items and the like to prepare for combat. Speaking of combat if you have played an SRPG before you know the drill; each battle consists of you deploying up to ten of your own characters onto the battle grid and strategically placing them to deliver fatal blows. All the general rules apply; attacking an enemy from behind is an advantage and it is always good to have a party that consists of all the fundamentals such as close combat, magic, and of course ranged attackers. Your party levels up ala any other previous title in the genre and of course gains new skills and abilities as you progress. The battle system itself tends to move a tad faster than previous titles, but once you get into the flow it will feel natural and simply make all other games seem sluggish by comparison.
The details that set Disgaea 2 apart from similar games can be accredited to simple goofiness. For instance you can actually pull out a cell phone and order pizza delivery in the middle of a battle. You can also perform obscure battle tactics such as forming a giant tower of characters and either hurling them across the map or simply attacking from the elevated position. There are also special blocks on the board where players can gain power-ups such as invincibility; controlling these spaces first is key to some victories because if the computer gets a hold of them first you will be at a huge disadvantage.
There is certainly more than meets the eye to this sequel as well. In addition to the bulky single-player story, which should run most gamers upwards of 40+ hours, Nippon Ichi has given gamers plenty of reason to come back for more. Some characters can come back with different class attributes and the leveling system is insane. Just when you though your protagonist was the strongest they could possibly be you gain another level and some new skills to truly cement your level of bad-assness-if that is even a word. Levels go well past the hundreds and even to the thousands giving gamers more than enough chance to play through the game multiple times without maxing out your characters. There are also some minor political things you can toy around with in the world of Disgaea 2. New to this iteration is the Dark Court where characters can actually be convicted of certain crimes. Just like the previous title you can also pose treaties to the senate and even bribe judges to win their vote. All of this is very complex, but the menu system and help functions create a seamless interface that most gamers will have no trouble navigating.
The sights and sounds are also very well constructed. While the game is visually identical to its previous incarnation, the sprites and animation are very pleasing to the optic sensors. Watching spells cast onscreen taking up the entire battlefield is certainly a sight to behold. The voice-overs as I mentioned earlier are very well done, and Nippon has even thrown in the Japanese audio track for those aficionados out there that simply must have the original audio package. The score also does a nice job of setting the game’s unusually goofy and dramatic overtone.
When all is said and done Disgaea 2 is exactly what fans of the genre want. A solid SRPG that takes everything the original did right, tweak it, and throw in enough subtle nuances to make it feel fresh. While just about every facet of the story, game play, and combat system won’t win any awards for innovation, it will certainly win the hearts of gamers across the world that have fallen in love with the tactical RPG genre. Definitely recommended for fans of the series and genre alike.