Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness Review (PS3)
NIS America is well known (or perhaps not) for bringing very niche and culturally influenced Japanese titles to our golden shores. While Disgaea may be a much more well known series than some of their other releases, it still fits into that category of going under a lot of gamers’ radar (I know it certainly did for me). Is it deserving of being passed over, though, or should American gamers start paying a little bit more attention?
For those not familiar with the Disgaea series or that particular cultural influence that is present in much of the anime based media, it can be quite weird and shocking. As someone who is primarily familiar with “Americanized” anime, many elements of Disgaea D2’s narrative went right over my head. I found some portions to be hilarious, while others left me wondering what in the
Hell Netherworld I was playing. I can’t speak to how it would be to those who are typically fans of this genre, but for me it was curiously intriguing with each new chapter providing a fun and often times very odd segment to the overall story arc.
The character sprites look extremely vibrant and stunning, but in contrast the environments seem to be lacking. This is a good and bad thing. Crowding the already crowded and battle screens with a distracting environment would hurt the game, however, some of the lackluster arenas of battle can really stand out in a bad way. However, the simplified visuals do show that this game isn’t hiding behind its graphics. Disgaea D2 wants to focus on it’s core experience, which is the turn based strategy gameplay.
Disgaea D2 is a game that is easy to learn but hard to master. The gameplay is a traditional grid based strategy RPG, with up to 10 player characters that can be dispatched onto the battlefield to fight for you. Basic movement, attacks, spells, etc. are clearly explained within the first few battles to let the player get their head on straight. Advanced elements are shown, but the truly expert ways of using these features and tactics come from hours of experimentation and experience. The battle difficulty quickly ramps up to requiring more well thought out strategies and character placement that a simple run-and-gun attack method (of which I am a huge fan). Both player and enemy characters have Evilities, which are class based abilities that can make all the difference in how a battle plays out. Increased stats for every friendly in a group could mean that you want to group up your characters, but likewise the enemy may have similar buffs based on their Evility that you will need to look out for. The game doesn’t throw these at you too early, but they definitely play a role in the majority of encounters that you will face.
Outside of battle, there are even more options for customizing the way that you play. These are nearly limitless and no two players of Disgaea D2 will have the exact same experience due to the many tweaks that can be made to every aspect of the game. As the game progresses, so do the ways in which you can alter your experience, meaning that the diverging path of endless options becomes exponentially more so, so much that it is almost too much to handle. Control freaks will love having absolute reign over every inch of their own experience, but players who enjoying being guided may find that the customizability becomes overwhelming after a time. Fortunately the way that these features are introduced help to guide the more wary player in, until they are so deep in their own customization that they don’t even know how they got there.
Speaking of endless, the replayability is nearly without limit as well. Beyond the main story there are numerous ways to continue your quest to level 9999, with secret bosses, item worlds within each item, and the Land of Carnage, which is just about as difficult as the name makes it sound. And yes, I did say level 9999, which is a staple of the Disgaea games. Anyone looking to get the most out of this game will certainly have a lot on their hands as they wile away the hours going for everything that Disgaea D2 has to offer.
Disgaea D2 has its own fair share of flaws, but fans of the genre, not to mention the series, will find much to enjoy when they get their hands on it. It might even draw in some fresh fans to the series as the early accessibility to newcomers offers a welcome gateway for those who may be unfamiliar with or intimidated by the genre.
This is an undeniably expansive strategy RPG with more options, characters, and tweaks than most gamers will know what to do with. I wanted to like it for all of the depth that it has, but I personally found each subsequent battle to be more of a chore than a joy. Yet I kept coming back for more. Time away would have me rethinking strategies, methods, and customizations and I found myself wanting try new things or make another pass at the last battle that I had failed. For as much as the tedium of a crowded turn based strategy game pushed me away, the intrigue of what I could do with the vast arsenal of options that I was provided kept pulling me back.