Publisher: NIS America
Developer: Nippon Ichi Software
Release Date: August 29, 2006
The release of the first Disgaea bred a cult-like following of fans who loved the game's style. Since that day, fans have been anxiously awaiting an off-the-wall RPG parody that matched Disgaea's humor. Nippon Ichi released a few strategy RPGs since then, but none tickled your fancy quite like Disgaea. The wait is over, as NIS has finally met the demands of Disgaea fans and made Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories.
While Cursed Memories is technically a sequel, only a few select characters make a return, leaving you with a brand new story. In the land of Veldime, a curse has befallen the residents, turning them all into demons – except for one. Adell is the only person who has not been transformed, so he is on a mission to defeat the demon who inflicted the curse, Overlord Zenon. When Adell's mother tries to summon the overlord, Zenon's daughter, Rosalin, is accidentally summoned. Thus, Adell and Rosalin must go on an adventure to find her father.
In Adell's journeys, there are obviously bumps in the road, which lead you to battles. Each level is selected by talking to the Dimension Guide, one of many characters in the central hub town of Holt. Once you arrive in battle, you pick which characters you want to use by pulling them out of the Base Panel and moving them however many spaces you want (within a character's limits). From there, you can attack an enemy, use a special move, or just defend.
If you attack an enemy by simply pressing the Attack command, you have an opportunity to do Team Attacks. These combos are done by placing allies either beside or behind the attacking character. By making a "T" shape, you can use up to four characters in a Team Attack. These usually do more damage, and you can still use your allies to attack. Moreover, if you attack from the side or the back, you will do more damage than if you attack head-on.
You can also use a Special, but any of these moves cannot be used for a Team Attack. Special attacks tend to cause more damage, but they also expend SP. Specials include healing and status-inducing moves, and can be leveled up so that they do more damage or cover a wider range.
Disgaea includes the ability to throw, which makes it rather different from other strategy RPGs. You can lift and throw any of your allies to get them across the map faster. You can also lift a bunch of characters in a stack in order to get a certain character across the whole board. In fact, enemies can be lifted as well, and if thrown on top of each other, their levels will be combined. This makes for very easy power-leveling once you start creating new characters.
The most unique feature of combat is probably the GeoEffect. In each stage, there are usually panels of different colors, and if a GeoSymbol is on one of these GeoPanels, then an effect is placed on each panel of that color. For example, if an Exp +50% GeoSymbol is on a red GeoPanel, whenever you're standing on a red panel, you will receive 50% more Exp than you normally would. The only way to cancel this effect is to destroy the GeoSymbol or lift and throw it off of a colored GeoPanel. All of these features – team attacks, specials, throwing, and GeoPanels – are what make Disgaea 2's combat so appealing.
Throughout the game, you acquire many story-related characters to use in combat, but you are not limited to using only those. When you address the Dark Assembly, you are given many options, including making new characters, getting better items in the shops, increasing movement or counter, and much more. Each request requires a set amount of Mana, which a character gains by defeating an enemy in battle. Some requests, like making a new character class, need the approval of the Senate, in which case you will have to enter the Dark Court.
In the Dark Court, you must win the approval of the Senators by bribing them with items in which they are interested. However, if they do not approve the request, you can either leave or "persuade by force." You then enter a battle with the Senators, with "nays" fighting against you and the "ayes" being neutral. Lose this battle, and it's game over; otherwise, the requested bill is passed.
In addition, you can be issued subpoenas for something as simple as "existing," but of course, since you're in a demon world, a felony is considered a good thing. So you must enter the Item World and traverse through the levels until you reach the Dark Court, where you need to convince them that you are guilty of said crime. Having a felony makes items less expensive and makes it easier for that certain character to pass bills in the Dark Court.
Speaking of the Item World, this is just one of the many crazy things that make Disgaea so unique. Just as you can level up your characters and attacks, you can also level up your items. All you have to do is enter that item's Item World and progress through the stages. However, you can only leave by either fighting it out until the 10th level, or by using an item called Mr. Gency Exit, but when you re-enter the item, you will start at the level at which you left off.
It should seem apparent by now that Disgaea 2 has an incredible amount of replay value. The main story will probably take you a maximum of 45-50 hours if you go straight through, but because of everything to do, you could log well over 100 hours. First of all, you can level up just about anything, make new characters (and reincarnate them into better characters), and unlock multiple endings. Additionally, a Dark World can be unlocked, which is a harder version of the regular levels. Lastly, once you beat the game, you can go through different cycles replaying the story, but keeping your money, non-story characters, and items. It is simply mind-boggling to think about the kind of playtime you can get from this game.
While everything else about this title is simply amazing, it's safe to say that the graphics and sound are only a little above average. The game has a great animated opening sequence, and the character models are great during dialogue, but in combat, the models and stages are pretty average. Also, the music is pretty catchy (you will find yourself humming it after a while), but it sounds practically the same throughout the whole game. No worries, though. The fine voice acting really gave a personality to all of Disgaea's characters, so any complaints are not enough to bring down this gem of a game.
The best part of Disgaea 2, other than the combat, is obviously the style that it's put forth. Almost every line of text is completely in jest. The dialogue between characters is at times ridiculous and clearly exploiting the clichés of the genre. In the beginning, someone asks why Adell is the only one unaffected by the curse, and, of course, the simple response is, "He's the main character." Every chapter, which plays out like an animé episode, will keep you laughing as the situations get more and more absurd.
Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories is one of those RPGs that can go unnoticed among all of the Square Enix offerings. Do yourself a favor and pick up this game and be happy that NIS did such an amazing job with localization. In fact, there are many references that would be considered exclusive to North American culture. It is proven that if you give Disgaea 2 a bit of your time, it can swallow up your life. Submit to its will. After all, enough copies need to be purchased to persuade Nippon Ichi into a trilogy ....