Take a young hero on a quest to save his family, a demonic sidekick and a advanced battle system and you have a instant classic RPG. It may be a little hard to find but playing along with Adell and Rozalin can be one of the most rewarding experiences a gamer can find. Plus be the cause of many a sleepless night.
Platform: Playstation 2
Disgaea: Hour of Darkness was considered as one of the best turn-based strategy role-playing games of all time in both Japan and the US and one of the games added to the long list of games that causes countless sleepless nights.
Unfortunately, here in Australia Disgea was released with next to no fanfare and very few copies available through stores. Only those lucky few who either imported or found copies locally had the chance to experience Disgaea's addictive and engrossing gameplay, not-so-stereotypical demonic heroes, humorous plot and…exploding penguins.
On the bright side the sequel, Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories was eventually released here and was a little bit easier to track down a copy. While it's true that you will still find it hard to get your hands on a copy at your local EB Games store, I would recommend you to try looking around in marketplaces and independent video game stores instead, your chances to finding a copy are a bit higher.
Disgaea 2's story takes place in the world of Veldime where its inhabitants have been cursed and transformed into demons by Overlord Zenon, also known as the God of all Overlords. One exception was a human boy named Adell who for some reason wasn't affected by the curse at all. To make matters worse, the curse gradually strips the human-turned monsters of their memories and conscience therefore turning them into monsters completely.
You call that good mothering?To save his family and everyone else in Veldime, Adell swore to defeat Overlord Zenon to break the curse. However things didn't go as planned when Adell's mother tried to do a summoning ritual to bring Overlord Zenon to them. The ritual failed and they summoned Rozalin, the daughter of Overlord Zenon.
Rozalin is a stuck-up princess who has never been outside of her mansion walls and cannot decide if she should kill Adell for opposing her father or be impressed of his dedication to his family… something that she has been denied due to her insulated upbringing. She then proceeds to strike a deal with Adell that if she takes him to Overlord Zenon, she will be released from the magical binding contract to him, created from the summoning ritual.
And this where the plot takes off. Along the way you'll meet other characters who will join your cause, have their own agendas or just try to stab you in the back when the time is right.
The gameplay of Disgaea 2 consists of a turn-based strategy similar to Final Fantasy Tactics or the Advance Wars series. The battles takes place in ¾ view over a grid map where you move your characters like chess pieces and attack enemies if they're within range. Placing your characters together can trigger team attacks or you can throw characters to stack them up and deliver devastating combos. There are also magic spells and special skills your characters can learn so they can either heal them, protect them or just allow them to dish out more painful punishments.
Two important things you will notice on most of the maps are Geo Panels and Geo Symbols. Geo Panels are the coloured square panels on the map which will add certain effects to whoever's on the panel such as increased attack/defense power, healing or negative effects like disabling magic spells or special skills Geo Symbols are pyramid-shaped objects that contains the effects put into the Geo Panels. There are a variety of things you can do with the shapes, including moving them, destroying them for a variety of effects which will have positive or negative effects on anyone currents standing on corresponding panels at the same time. Knowing how to use Geo Panels and Geo Symbols can dramatically affect the outcome of the battle.
Battles aside, Veldime also serves as the game hub where you can buy items or heal your characters (heal them enough times and you recieve free items that can increase you character stats!). There's also the Dark Assembly, the government of Disgaea where you can create new characters for your team, pass bills to add better stuff to buy in shops, unlock new stages or to enhance your characters or enemies.
There is also the chance where your proposal will be outvoted against you, which is why you can bribe the politicians to vote in your favour (just like the real world). If bribery is not to your liking, you can always opt to force a proposal through via sheer force. As in literally fight everyone in the Dark Assembly just to make pass your proposal.
If you want to take a break from the main storyline, you can head off to the Item World. This is a world that exists within your items and you battle enemies to strengthen the item, level up your characters or find items that are even better then the current items you own. Each trip is a unique one, as each trip is randomly generated. As the game goes on you can even be convicted of various crimes which provide in-game bonuses, as well as discover new challenges and worlds to discover, even after the main game's plot is completed.
Unlike many PS2 games, Disgaea 2 didn't go for the nice, cool and realistic 3D graphics but opted for 2D sprites with simple 3D background graphics instead. This makes the game look more like something you'll normally see for previous-gen game consoles like the Super Nintendo or the Playstation. In Disgaea 2's case, this isn't much of a problem seeing how the game was designed with the anime feel to it, characters, environment, cutscenes, even the opening sequence with its own theme song (just like every anime we've watched before). If you find your way to it, you may even come across the Disgaea Anime trailer as one of its secrets.
The controls are simple enough, most functions are controlled through menu selections so there are no fancy button combinations to memorize and the button layouts are simple and easy to access. The only minor gripe I have is the camera control where you can only choose certain specific angles instead of one where you can turn all 360 degrees. This issue won't bother you most of the time but there are quite a few levels in the game that have very complex map layouts or land formations that always obstruct your view, making it hard to see where your characters are or what panels you can go to or what enemies await you.
The first time you pop the disc in you will be treated to a nicely made opening sequence accompanied with the theme song “Sinful Rose” it only serves to set the bar for the addictive soundtrack that accompanies your adventure. Although quite a few music pieces in Disgaea 2 are either remixed or recycled from Disgaea: Hour of Darkness, those who played it will recognise the first game's music and probably enjoy it for the nostalgia value. But seeing how the first Disgaea was such a hard game to find in this country, it'll be the first time the majority of Australian gamers to hear the music.
Disgaea 2 also allows you the option of switching the voice-overs between English and Japanese, perfect for the majority of anime fans out there who always prefer listening in Japanese instead (although the English voices are quite decent).
No Prinnies were hurt in the process of making this game...
For a game you can find within the $60 - $70 price range, Disgaea 2 has tons of replayability that gives you more for your money and you will end up staying up late for many nights just to unlock everything. There's multiple endings to the game and you can replay the game again and again to increase the levels of your characters which unlike most RPG games, can go up to level 9999 and stats that are near limitless. (this is vital if you're taking on the large amount of insanely powerful optional bosses). There are many cameo appearances of previous Nippon Ichi game characters such as Laharl and Flonne from Disgaea: Hour of Darkness returning as optional bosses. As a juicy little bonus, a CD Soundtrack containing the music of Disgaea 2 is included along with the game.
While it may not be suited to some people due to the fact that this game requires to be played for countless hours to fully appreciate its contents, Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories is still a worthy game of the PS2 collection and well worth investing your money on, especially for anime fans, Strategy/RPG game players or those who just have a thing for games that eats up countless hours of your life just to get everything in it.
+ Great Plot, Deep Gameplay, Replayability, Bonus Soundtrack.