I'm torn. I love SRPGs, and I believe Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness is a fine example of the genre. While it's mechanically solid and hilariously written, it does have a game-crashing flaw, which diminishes its quality. Otherwise, I have no doubt that Disgaea D2 would fit in any SRPG fan's collection.
I’ll preface by saying this: I’ve never played a Disgaea game before this one. While I’m aware this is a sequel to the first game, I can’t tell you what has changed with its mechanics or story. I'm just a fan of SRPGs who has always had a fleeting interest in the Disgaea franchise.
As a rookie, I will say this: Disgaea D2 is inclusive. The game spells out the history of the first game, bringing new players up to speed. Laharl must deal with the aftermath of the previous game’s events, and he has trouble winning followers because he’s an insufferable prick, relying on brute force to win over followers. He constantly lives in the shadow of his father, the previous Overlord, and he has to win over or kill his old man’s remaining followers. Eventually, the situation explodes when the Angels start to intervene. Disgaea D2 clearly told me what I needed, and I never consulted a Let’s Play or Wiki for the previous game: Disgaea: An Afternoon of Darkness.
Disgaea D2 has a sense of humor, and even its most serious moments the characters bicker with one another. The voice acting did grate my nerves, however, and I began to read the dialogue quickly so that I could quickly silence the actors’ dialogue. The game’s episodic nature can also throws in seemingly random events, such as when Laharl chases off a demonic pop-star, which would work better as a side quest for items or optional character development. Even with these minor gripes, I thought the rather deplorable characters were endearing, and I looked forward to their next ridiculous situation.
When I first booted Disgaea D2, I felt intimidated. The game presents its tutorials all at once, bombarding me with information. Essentially, it plays out like in the same turn-based SRGP that fans SRPGs are used to. Disgaea quickly throws multiple strategies at you, bombarding with info on using geo effects, throwing players, mounting creatures, character likability and combos. It also didn’t help that I noticed four decimal places, leading up to a maximum level of 1,000. I knew this would be a deep game, and I feared for my time.
Once I started to actually experiment them, I shook my fears and realized Disgaea D2 is an excellent SRPG. While I first thought I would never need some of the strategies, I soon changed the tide of battle simply by trying something new—and if that didn’t work, I could always grind. I soon discovered which characters to line up so that they could create devastating combos, which of my characters were more likely to defend the other, and how to use geo effects to my advantage. Matching the varying strategies, the attacks animations are vibrant, varied and silly--it never felt repetitious.
While Disgaea D2 in dauntingly deep, it also streamlines some of the many quirks found in the likes of Final Fantasy Tactics. It does so by allowing players to correct their moves. It works like this: Laharl’s team is free to plan each unit’s moves before they execute their plan; once they’ve completed their actions, the enemy takes their turn. In the standard menu, I could perform actions like moving, throwing or attacking. By pressing the circle, I could reverse any move. It’s not until I pressed triangle to bring up another menu, which allows me to order characters whom I inputted commands to execute their moves.
The only thing that isn’t streamlined is the camera. I would often have to turn the camera so that the environments didn’t obscure my vision; however, I rarely felt satisfied with the best angle. While I could turn the camera 360 degrees with the shoulder buttons, I would have preferred a bit more control so that I could get the perfect view of the battlefield.
Outside of the story, Laharl and (sort of?) friends can explore the castle, which serves as the HUD. From here, Laharl can speak with the patrons in the castle, purchase weapons and armor from the store, train members of his party at the gym, and call upon the dark assembly for supplies. All of these are geared towards giving you advantages in battle, although they might try to screw you over—none of the members on the Dark Assembly, for instance, seem particularly fond of Laharl, and I had to bribe them in order to gain more experience or get a better discount. The castle also comes with the item world. You can select an item, and you’ll be transported to a world of randomly generated battlefields. Here, you can fight off boss monsters and get more loot. Combined with the maximum level of 1,000, players could spend more time than necessary playing Disgaea D2.
I originally would have awarded Disgaea D2 an 80 or 85—the mark of a great game. Then I discovered a reoccurring bug that crashes the game when characters cast spells. While the bug isn’t too frequent, it does happen a few more times than I’m comfortable with. If Disgaea D2 offered auto-save, I might have tolerated the bug. Disgaea D2 only has manual saves, so I lost plenty of progress because I was careless. I should point out that I’m playing the digital copy, and I have no idea if this is present in the physical disc.
Despite this mishap, Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness is a good game. You’ll find plenty to do in the story and the Item World, and it’s rich in strategy-enhancing factors. I can’t award the game its full potential thanks to the bug; however, Disgaea fans and SRPG fans can rest assured that this is a deeply satisfying game.
This review is based on a digitally downloaded review copy of the game for the PlayStation 3 provided by Nippon Ichi Software.