Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness
Developer: Nippon Ichi Software
Publisher: Nippon Ichi Software
Release Date: October 8, 2013
MSRP: $49.99 [Buy]
A Brighter Darkness picks up right where the original Disgaea left off, with Demon Lord Laharl plotting to somehow convince the citizens of the Netherworld that he's the true Overlord, not just some old schmuck. He's sick of living in his father's shadow -- the late King Krichevskoy is old news. It's time to get the people to actually respect him. His first order of business is gathering a Prinny squad (with Etna's help) to erect statues in his honor all across the Netherworld. It seems like an innocent enough gesture, until absolute bedlam breaks out.
Celestial Flowers are sprouting everywhere in the Netherworld, changing the atmosphere and arousing the ire of the Krichevskoy Faction, a group of demons targeting Laharl for his supposed role in the appearance of the flowers. According to them, the flowers are a sort of heavenly retaliation for Laharl's actions in the original Disgaea. It's all-out war, and it's up to you to help Laharl clear his name and earn respect while digging into this multifaceted and addictive fantasy world.
Combat is largely unchanged from the general Disgaea formula. All the action revolves around a grid-based system that takes on different properties depending on the stage. When you engage in battle you deploy units to the map, assign spots for them, and alternate between offense and defense. It's fairly standard fare, but Disgaea is known for being, like Jem, truly outrageous. You'll face off against giant purple dinosaurs, pull off some truly insane attacks, and even level to 9999. It's the same kind of over-the-top action fans have come to expect over the years, and A Brighter Darkness certainly doesn't disappoint. While the core mechanics of the strategy RPG shine through amid all the craziness, however, there are more than a few aspects unique to Disgaea that make it a special experience.
Geo Effects, environmental effects that target units positioned on specific squares, are prominent this time around. Character customization has been expanded far beyond what was available in the original Disgaea: Hour of Darkness, with players now able to assign special passive abilities to their user-created unit: "Evilities." These abilities range from Paladin-like protection to buffs that grant additional attack power when active. There are plenty to experiment with, and though they made their debut in Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice, being able to pick and choose some for your own custom character is a boon. You can also have monsters act as shields or mounts for human characters, which lends a specific sort of weight to every unit on the field.
I found the Cheat Shop to be the most intriguing addition, however, when the normal level grind began to feel like a bit much. There, you can adjust attributes to your satisfaction in order to increase how much money you receive or how many experience points are allotted when felling enemies. With these sliders, you can completely tip the scales in your favor if you so choose. You can enjoy the game at a normal, comfortable pace without ever hitting up this infinitely useful "shop," but its perks turn the game into much more than the slog it can feel like early on. The Demon Dojo is similarly beneficial, allowing you to train party members much more quickly than normal. It's easy to appreciate the fact that the game can ultimately be played how you choose: you have the tools at your disposal to make it chaotic and frenetic, or you can slow things down and let them play out at a more languid pace.
A slick interface, high-definition models and cut scenes, and a spot-on script work in tandem to keep things up to the level of excellence we've come to expect from Disgaea, and the characters themselves (including some fresh faces) are as charming as ever. When you're not plotting your next move, you'll likely be doubled over with laughter. It's rare that video games exhibit such a rare eye for comedic timing, but this script nails it. The dub is fantastic as well; Laharl still exudes that same plucky confidence, and over the course of the game you start to feel a little of it yourself.
Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness is another awesome addition to the long-running franchise, and one that fans and newcomers alike will be able to appreciate. The humor may be light and breezy, but the combat is everything but. Journey to the Netherworld and join the cause to establish Laharl as the one true Overlord, dood! There's probably a cookie in it for you somewhere.
9 -- Superb (9s are a hallmark of excellence. There may be flaws, but they are negligible and won't cause massive damage to what is a supreme title.)
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