Mount That Pinny and Defeat Your Foes in Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness!
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 3.
Tactical RPGs tend to draw a very specific crowd. These types of gamers who enjoy a chess-like challenge, with a deeper, character-driven storyline to provide a solid reason to keep pressing onward. Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness is a sequel to Disgaea: Hour of Darkness released almost a decade ago, and has a much heavier focus on the strategy elements that made the series famous. With the help of NIS America, Nippon Ichi Software resurrects this classic game and brings the Disgaea series back to its roots.
Our journey begins in the Netherworld, a dark and dangerous place where all types of demons reside. Once ruled by the powerful Overlord Krichevskoy, the Netherworld was plunged into a time of chaos upon his death, as several demons attempted to claim the throne for themselves and be named Overlord. One such claim came from Laharl, the only son of the dearly departed Overlord Krichevskoy. Laharl believed this title was his birthright, and with the help of his vassal Etna, Angel Trainee Flonne (from the contrasting Angelic land of Celestia), and several minions, he struck down all who opposed him. It seemed all had been won when he finally sat on the throne and laid claim to being the Overlord of Netherworld. But with Laharl being so young and untested, several would continue to oppose him, even after he took the throne. Can Laharl prove his worth and finally be accepted as the one true Overlord? You’ll have to play to find out!
One thing that’s cheesy and wonderful at the same time is when an art style remains true to its form. The opening video introduces the main characters in the game with a classic anime battle sequence music video, complete with a Japanese musical score, plenty of seizure-inducing explosions, and intimidating bosses. Once you get into the game, the tone changes to uncover a more relaxed, simpler game imagery. The characters, monsters, and even set designs are miniaturized and less realistic, taking on an anime style that’s a bit more cartoony. The sets are all laid out relatively the same way, with grassy knolls or stony walkways that resemble classic SNES adventure games (like Legend of Zelda, or even Super Mario).
Set up as a very linear game, the only free-roaming you’ll be doing is in Laharl’s Castle, which acts as a main hub for all Items, improvements, and interactions with other Characters. If you want to go into the Netherworld and start fighting, you’ll have to speak to the gatekeeper Meaver, who will allow you to choose from a list of locations you’ve unlocked. Each location is a battle, and choosing to travel there will put you instantly into a fight. The first time you enter each location there will be a short dialog scene, where you’ll interact with the enemies on some level (such as them destroying one of your statues, or trying to take you down a peg as Overlord). Once you’ve seen the opening scene to a battle, returning to the location does not make you repeat the dialog. This is a real blessing f you’re easily dissuaded by monotony, because you’ll already be playing these same battles over and over again in an attempt to level up and beat the new content you’ve unlocked, furthering the storyline. If you want to relive these scenes, however, you can always go speak with Memoria in the library, who contains video clips of any parts of the story you’ve unlocked. Grinding or not, players may notice that there are some points (especially during combo action sequences), where the game will completely freeze the PlayStation, so make sure to save as often as possible or you risk having to do everything over again!
Each battle is a turn-based system, where you can dispatch and control any party members, with no limit to how many of them can be on the field at once. Move each character within range of the enemy, and attack them – easy as pie! While there are more complicated ways you can defeat your enemies (like Lifting and Throwing a character closer to an enemy, mounting dispatched monsters to create powerful attacks, or creating combo attacks by two or more characters fighting the same target while standing side by side), much of your time will be spent using the basic Attack function, or Special Skills (limited, beefed-up attacks) to take down your enemies.
One of the best elements of the game is what you can do with Mana. As each character fights, they gain Mana, which is then used as a form of currency to request things from the Dark Assembly, like Creating a New Character, or unlocking more expensive gear to purchase and beef up your teammates. If what you request is more advanced, you’ll actually have to pass it through the Dark Assembly via a vote – like creating a character that starts off with superior stats. The Dark Assembly will be made up of demons who will all get to vote, but not before you have a chance to sway their opinions by giving them items in your inventory. You can bribe them with Items, money (HL), or even (if necessary) by force. If your request is denied, you can either leave with your head hanging low, or force them to b by beating them up in a battle sequence (exactly as you would out in the field). If you win, they will change their vote, but be careful as they are pretty powerful monsters, and lower level characters won’t even stand a chance.
Character creation is a great way to spend your Mana, and lets you choose between monsters or humans that can be used in the battlefield, and can also be customized to your liking. Feel like creating a Thief with blue hair who is skilled with a bow? The character creation will allow you to do just that, with up to 114 characters at your disposal! Your characters can also sign up for Training in the Castle, which will allow them to level up a specific attribute faster (like Hit Points, or Defense rating) while in battle. You can also level up newer characters you’ve created by making them Apprentices, and assigning them a Master (usually in the form of the main characters Laharl, Flonne, and Etna). There are so many ways to build up an entire army you can use on the battlefield, and create an overwhelming presence, you’ll find it hard to lose! Hard work pays off in this game, and while grinding may not be your thing, the more you grind, the more unbeatable you’ll become!
If music is your thing, there are plenty of songs to choose from in this game. In fact, as you play, you can unlock new tracks and set your favourites as a main track through a creepy butterfly named Paparazzi in the library of your Castle. From zany little buzzing tunes, to slow methodic emotional scores, or even fast-paced epic adventure tunes, there is no lack of content here for your ears to enjoy! The sound effects themselves are the same swishes and bonks that you’d expect from a tactical RPG, and while most of the dialog is text-based, the characters do have their own voices that shout out during the battle, or talk during cutscenes. After a while, little rants like “time to die” coming from every Prinny (penguin-like monsters with bat wings) you dispatch tend to get slightly irritating, as many of the voice actors tend to have very exaggerated voices. It’s hard to take a game with the same characters and have multiple forms of audible reactions from them, especially when putting so many hours into playing the same battles, and A Brighter Darkness tries hard to combat this (and usually succeeds) with its long list of musical themes.
The dialog in the game is filled with lighthearted fun, and the characters will often bicker with each other, or display their completely polarized personalities through their narcissism or self-inflicted abuse as a reaction to different situations. Etna is a sexually-charged narcissist, who enjoys being adored for her beautiful scantily-clad body, while Flonne is a Prinny-hugging, friendship-loving Angel who wants everyone to get along and be happy. It’s a non-stop contrast display between all the main characters, who tend to provide input any chance they can during cutscenes, much to the frustration or offense of Laharl.
The only oddities you’ll see is the inconsistency with the world and the characters’ reactions. For example, Flonne tries to grow a Celestia flower in her garden at the Castle. Etna and Laharl show up and leave giant craters in her garden. She gets super upset because they destroyed her work, and now her Celestia flowers won’t grow, to which they point out in the Netherworld, Celestia plants don’t grow anyway. Flonne hangs her head and walks back to the throne room with Laharl and Etna, and as they leave a single flower pops up in the garden. It’s a neat foreshadowing that will make more sense as you continue on in the storyline, but what is bothersome while free roaming around the Castle (since you can go back to visit this garden) is that there is absolutely no reaction from the characters that a Celestia flower is now growing in a Netherworld garden. You can walk right up to it, try to interact, but nothing happens. Even if the characters see it and brush it off, it would make more sense than having them aimlessly walk over it as if something that was seen as impossible happening in their garden wasn’t a big deal. There are a few inconsistencies in the storyline that would have been easily rectified with one or two more lines of dialog. Nevertheless, each character has his/her own reason for sticking around, and his/her own unique flavour that is sure to give players a lot of soft chuckles in their living rooms while they play through the game.
For a less serious, tactical RPG with a good old-fashioned anime art style, and a lighthearted set of antiheroes, Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness doesn’t disappoint. Players will not only grow attached to the lead characters, but will find themselves creating customized fighters that can quickly become their new favourites. Any type of strategy is doable with so many options and ways to play the game, that no two players will play the same game! Returning players will definitely feel the nostalgia of playing with Laharl, and experiencing his rise to begin undisputed Overlord, with enough challenge to fine-tune their strategies from the previous title, Hour of Darkness. For new players, the game does a great job of catching them up with the previous storyline, and makes it feel as if this is the first game of the series, with the ability to play the game without requiring the use of some of the more complicated strategies.
However you choose to play it, Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness is a great way to pass the time during the rainy autumn days this year, and is sure to keep tactical players interested for quite a while!
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