Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness – PS3
Publisher: NIS America
Developer: NIS America
Release Date: Oct 8, 2013
Genre: Strategy, RPG
Reviewed by Jason Flick

Review Score: 4.5 of 5

It’s been ten long years since Disgaea fans got their first look at the visages of the iconic characters of Laharl, Etna and Flonne in Disgaea: Hour of Darkness. Since then they have showed up in several Nippon Ichi Software titles, including every Disgaea title, though never as the main character out side of a few remakes. Well fans of the arrogant self-centered Laharl, mischievous demon vassal Etna and the ever kind Fallen Angel Flonne, get to take control of them once again in the newly released direct sequel Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness for PlayStation 3.

Disgaea D2 (Dimension 2) takes place after the events of Hour of Darkness and Laharl is crowned the Overlord of his Netherworld as he takes his father’s place. Unfortunately for Laharl, the demons of his realm don’t respect him or consider him fit for the role of Overlord. Laharl does the only thing that he thinks will gain him respect…have statues built of him and placed all over his realm by Etna and her Prinny squad. Yup, great plan dude.

Things only get worse for Laharl and Co. as a group of demons called the Krichevskoy Faction try to usurp him and find someone fitting. The first to show his face is Grosso, a gold gargoyle, who promptly starts destroying the statues. As players progress through the story they will also encounter the literally growing problem of Celestial Flowers multiplying in the Netherworld causing unexpected changes to the land and its inhabitants including a few surprises for our protagonists as Laharl fights to save his Netherworld and his spot as Overlord.

Disgaea D2 for those new to the series is a extremely deep tactical Role Playing Game that has remained fundamentally the same at its core over the years while changing things up here and there. Players start out in a central hub area which is Laharl’s castle and everywhere and everything you do revolves around it. At first you only have access to a zombie that will tell you anything you want to know about weapons and your gatemaster who will let you choice where you want to go to progress the story. There are other shops that open up at certain intervals most of which are in the first episode like the weapons and item shops.

Combat in Disgaea D2 is done on multilevel isometric battlefields in a turn-based fashion. Unlike traditional RPGs, you select your character then choose where to move them, if to attack or not or use items. Just doing that though isn’t enough as you have to activate each command to execute them all at once or individually for a more strategic approach. Strategy plays a huge part in Disgaea D2 as every character like Laharl, Etna and Flonne have their strengths and weaknesses. For example Etna is really proficient with axes and staves while Laharl is aptly proficient in every weapon type in the game save for staves and guns. The “unholy trinity” also has the added bonus of being able to move around the battlefield the farthest of any playable character. Playing this game with only the main characters however is complete suicide and will keep you from using the added Monster Mount ability.

There are two main types of playable characters: humanoids and monsters in the game and the two can interact with each other to greater aid you in battle. You can create new disposable…I mean loyal allies by using the Dark Assembly to craft and create every little facet of these creatures from a ever expanding list of archetypes. You be able to create humanoids like the Male Warrior, choosing their weapon proficiencies and elemental alignments as well as Monsters like the iconic exploding demon penguins known as Prinnies. When a player gains the ability to Monster Mount(or ride) a Prinny for example the monster takes the damage for the humanoid while a Humanoid like Laharl attacks an enemy. This replaces the widely liked Magichange feature started in Disgaea 3 which I actually kind of miss. Disgaea D2 also brings a new “Likability” feature to the mix which will make collaboration attacks more powerful the more a character likes you which is actually really helpful.

One of my favorite things about Disgaea D2 and the series as a whole is how insanely deep the gameplay mechanics really are. In battle you have items called Geo Blocks that cause stat bonuses for either your enemies or your team. Throwing these blocks on to the same colored grid panels and then destroying them change their color or nullify their effects. They also damage all characters on the affected squares so it takes a little bit of strategy to keep your teammates from taking damage from them too. If your teammates are defeated they are unusable until you can revive them outside of battle at the cost of HL(pronounced HELL), the in-game currency. The problem that I ran into is that with multiple characters defeated is that I found myself grinding previous fights to be able to afford reviving them or on an even grander scale to get better gear.

The newly added Cheat System, this is a game about demons after all, allows you to change the ratio on how much money or XP you want to receive which is awesome when your strapped for money in the game. You can even make the enemies stronger for more a challenge via the Cheat System as well instead of voting to make them harder in the Dark Assembly like before. The Dark Assembly still has plenty of use though as you can still vote to get better gear in shops for instance. The Item World also returns in Disgaea D2 with smaller level maps allowing for quicker navigation and fights to get your favorite items to be better than ever before. Disgaea D2 is just teeming with new features like the Devil Dojo which allows you to raise individual stats of a character by training them. There’s even DLC already slated for Disgaea D2 thanks to a quick look at the game’s list of mostly hidden trophy list.

I could talk about Disgaea D2’s complexity all day long but its all for naught if the interface and menus are a complete mess. Luckily that has never been the case with a Disgaea title and Disgaea D2 is no exception. The menus are extremely functional and clean from a technical and graphical standpoint. Camera controls also feel a lot more fluid and responsive though Disgaea D2 still suffers from the not being able to see the action when the camera auto switches and blocks your view thanks to the multilevel battlefields. Disgaea D2 is also the first Disgaea game that I’ve seen that used HD sprites for the characters both on and off the battlefield. That’s always been an issue for me and I’m glad to see that the developers stepped up their game in this area. The environments once again look really good though still show instances of jagged lines. I also really loved the anime intro and the really clean hand-drawn story driven conversation stills that the series is known for.

Literally speaking about things the series is known for, the voice acting for Disgaea D2 is absolutely on point with all its zaniness and cultural jokes. What I really like about Disgaea D2 is that it retains most of the original English voice cast members from the first ever Disgaea except for Etna’s actor. The same actors have been doing the Laharl, Etna and Flonne for the past 10 years and its totally shows in the chemistry of the characters. For those that enjoy it you can play Disgaea D2 completely with the included Japanese voice track, which is another staple of the franchise. The music in Disgaea D2 for the most part is decent though not something extraordinary as most of the music is only heard while in the hub world and the anime intro.

Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness once again is proof that people are willing to sink hundreds of hours into a game repeatedly and without a second though. Disgaea D2 offers players a lot of new features showcased in an interesting extension of the original that started it all. The story made me chuckle at times, made me love/hate its deep gameplay mechanics and want to reach God status with its 9,999 level cap. Disgaea fans should absolutely check out Disgaea D2: A Brighter Future for PlayStation 3. Get cracking dude, the Netherworld won’t save itself.