|Dev: Nippon Ichi Software|
|Release: October 8, 2013|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Alcohol Reference, Fantasy Violence, Language, Partial Nudity, Suggestive Themes|
by Travis Huber
Disgaea fans have been buzzing about this title ever since its announcement. When you read the forums and see the chatter surrounding this title, it makes you realize that there is still a huge following for this series. Sadly, most Japanese RPGs don’t do very well in Western markets these days. Gamers tend to trade in a solid story and brain-straining strategic combat for a more polished and flashy style of gaming. But truthfully, most JRPGs bring a lot to the table.
Fans of the Disgaea series have often wondered what happened to Laharl, Etna, and Flonne after the events of Disgaea–the things that brought them to the events of Disgaea 2. So the team at Nippon Ichi Software heard their fans’ cries and granted their wish. Disgaea D2 (or Dimension 2) picks up very nearly immediately after the events of the first installment. It begins like any other game…with a fallen angel planting flowers in a garden in the Netherworld.
Pretty much launching you straight into the action, D2 sets the stage very quickly--letting the player know what this game is all about. Prince Laharl’s father is dead, and he is trying to prove himself worthy to take the throne, even if most of the demons in the Netherworld disagree. Etna and Flonne are still by your side as you work your way into the role of an unworthy prince trying to make his way. But your foes, namely the Krichevskoy Faction, are trying to usurp the title of Overlord from you and put someone they feel is worthy on the throne.
D2 sticks to the tried-and-true formula of a staging area (this time in the Overlord’s castle) branching off via portals to the levels where you do combat and advance the story. Laharl and company venture out from the castle to do battle with hordes of demons that believe him to be weak and not quite up to snuff as being the Overlord of the Netherworld. Laharl at times…well, actually, all the time, tends to be a little too hot-headed for whatever situation is going on at the moment and charges headlong into the fray without really thinking about what he’s doing. Then it’s up to Flonne and Etna to save him–all so he can take the glory for their deeds.
The combat system in this game is quite the departure from common, more Western-styles of RPGs. It is engineered like a really clever game of chess every time you go into battle. Rather than having real-time control over the motions of each of your characters (you can have ten on the board at any given time), D2 has an easy-to-use menu used to control both the action and pacing of the combat sequences. This system gives you the option of charging into battle and hammering through the level as quickly as you can or taking a more contemplative approach to combat. The system is setup so that you move your characters into position (their ability to move, and how far, is dictated by their XP level) and then issue them their orders. The advantage to this is that you can position your party, issue their orders, and then, once everything is in place, execute all their actions at once. You can also activate each character’s actions one at a time.
Apart from an excellent and well-thought-out combat system, the game never feels stagnant as you roll through the levels of play. Through the story points that unfurl either from the action of the level itself, or the cutscenes in between levels and acts, you always get a healthy dose of quirky Japanese comedy with your demons and magic. One of the best parts about the cutscenes between acts is that they are told through a mock TV show where Etna, not Laharl, is the main protagonist. It tells of HER exploits and how she should be the Overlord when Laharl dies (which he protests loudly as she tells the tale). There were several times that the scenarios played out by Etna’s show were funny enough that I actually laughed out loud. The story points told by the cutscenes and in-game action help to break up some of the longer strings of battles that could otherwise get a little monotonous.
Visually, this game is a little disappointing. I played it on PlayStation 3, and sadly, the game looks like it could’ve just as easily been a PS2 release. The animation sequences are very last-gen, and the game graphics themselves are nothing short of bland. I found this to be altogether tragic, as the rest of the game is quite enjoyable. The textures are not much more defined than that of the last releases of Disgaea on PS2, and the absence of backgrounds altogether is more than a little disheartening. And even more tragic than that, when you go into the Item World to level up your items and characters, it has more in common with Q*bert than it does with a solid JRPG. Graphics are the major weak point of D2. Had there been a few more improvements over the former installments of this series, this game could’ve been one of the best entries yet.