What once was big is now small, and just as big.
Ahhh, Disgaea. Before I started writing for GR, I had bought and was working my way through the first incarnation of Disgaea for the PSP. So being able to do a write-up for this one is a beautiful, beautiful thing... which has kept me from getting enough sleep for days. And I already own this game on the PS2!
[image1]For those of you who might not have played it before, couldn't find it for the PS2 (even with the semi-recent re-releases), or worse yet, never heard of it, Disgaea 2 revolves around the main character Adell, the last human in a world taken over by a Demon Overlord who has turned everybody else into a demon half-breed. Adell's family tried to summon the champion of the damned, but was treated instead to Rozalin, the spoiled little daughter of said-champion. And weird enough, she's bound by the summon to Adell until his death! How's that for a spell gone wrong?
Along the way to returning his family and friends to normal, Adell and company have to fight through hoards of baddies, from orcs and flaming devil-canines to mostly-nekkid plant people and Prinny squads. (Oh, and the Power Prism Rangers for the win!)
For the most part, the fighting is straight-forward. It's a simple tactical RPG, but with a few different modes with their own perks. The main story mode is all well and good, with the straight-up shot of grid-based combat, but what keeps a player upgrading and powering up is called the Item World: a plow-through approach to combat that has you fighting wave after wave, stage after stage, to see just how deep you can go. And every completed stage means a level upgrade to whatever item you've chosen to dive into. Last time around, it was almost an extension of the story's play, but this time the random dungeons also include diversions in the form of Mystery Rooms.
[image2]Some Mystery Rooms take you away to buy new potions and equipment mid-world, and give you a bit of breathing room. Some of them can have you buying equipment from a group of shopkeepers, then fighting said-shopkeepers. Which is really, really bad when you're level 20-something fighting a troop of peddlers that range from level 500 to 5000!
NIS American and Nippon-Ichi love to make their work stylized and beautifully animated, and this is another fine example. Each sprite on the screen is neither too large nor too small, and when the story zooms in on a character, you can tell just how much detail went into their creation; it really is similar to watching a polished cartoon. The outfits, the horns, the way they run, and the way they strike - everything is as perfect as possible. The only thing that's funny-looking about them is when the camera pans around - they're clearly not in full 3D, which isn't a problem but a touch that could have been done more cleanly.
The written dialogue for characters is witty and interesting, filled with both slang and the occasional accent (it's nice to see writers take pride in their work) to accompany the sarcasm and jokes throughout. But one downside is that it sometimes feels too forced. The items are amusing enough of the time, but when every one of them has a little blurb attached to them (like a pair of gloves named “Daddy's Fist”, complete with tagline “I'm not angry, I'm just upset.”), it gets old. While it was cute in the first Disgaea, only some items had funny blurbs, utilized just to where it was funny and not annoying. Even so, it's nice to find a game with a “serious” sense of humor.
[image3]However, It doesn't bring enough new to the series to make it stand out over the original. A new storyline is good and a few adjustments to the Item World is awesome, but even the staggering amount of characters available for creation and the mass of items to find, upgrade, and collect is, well, recycled. The sprites only seem updated a smidgen; otherwise, they're the same as before. The new figures floating around the screen are beautiful, but its visuals are only somewhere between those of Persona 3 and 4. It's still pretty, don't get me wrong, but I expected a bit more from NIS America on this one.
But alas, here I am playing it again... do I really need to put in another hundred hours into a level-up simulator with a nearly endless challenge, a warehouse filled with weaponry and items, all just to find that ever-so-distant legendary item that will kill everything it touches with a flick of the wrist?
Yes. Yes I do, dammit! Back to the grind, dood!