Disgaea 2: Dark Hero Days is a PSP port of Disgaea 2 for the PS2, and along with the expected changes in bringing over the title to a handheld, it also includes a new Axel mode story line. Are the new content and minor changes worth a purchase for previous Disgaea 2 owners? Yes, in my opinion, and not only for the additional Axel content, but also for the small changes that are present in the PS3 release of Disgaea 3. The PSP port also includes some of the battle speed changes that are almost custom-made for players who are looking to grind their way through the harder content.
If you're not familiar with the series, Disgaea is a strategy RPG of the highest caliber. It's one of the best in the genre, and it's well-known for its humor and outlandish story lines. The original probably did the best job with its overall humor and plot, which basically lampooned the genre. The humor and characters of the original really resonated with fans, which led into the series' popularity. Disgaea 2 dropped the ball a bit and went for a more straightforward, traditional RPG story. In this title, the main character Adell sets off to defeat the Overlord Zenon, who has taken over the land and transformed all the humans into demons, stripping them of their conscience and memories. Adell's family is affected, but somehow he misses out on the curse. Being the last human around, he inadvertently teams up with the overlord's daughter and sets out on his quest. Along the way, you'll run into an odd cast of characters, like the aforementioned Axel, Etna and her Prinny Squad, and even the original "hero" of the first title, Laharl.
Your entire squad isn't made up of personalities, though; when you begin, you're given control of a few defaults, such as a red mage, a fighter, etc. The available classes in the game are pretty basic and self-explanatory, and chances are that you've already encountered them in other SRPGs. Since the genre has recently been saturated with various titles and remakes — including Final Fantasy Tactics on PSP, the recent Valkyrie Profile DS release, and even a Shin Megami Tensei game making the rounds — it's hard to see Disgaea 2 as being much of an innovator. The trademark humor is still present, but aside from that, the main battle components aren't particularly fresh or exciting at this point.
In combat, you'll have a starting point on your grid-based map, and you can summon your available characters from there. After that, you can choose to move them around the map and set up attacks if enemy units are in range. One unique thing the game has going for it is the ability to pick up and throw other characters. If Adell isn't quite within range of that opposing thief unit, simply have Rozalin pick him up and throw him ahead three squares, plopping him right next to the enemy, and then have him attack. It doesn't sound like a big deal on paper, but in the game, it can quickly change a dire situation, and it'll be used to get you out of a number of tight spots. Another thing that Disgaea 2 has going for it is the ability to combo attack and even perform special chains if characters are standing adjacent to each other. Instead of setting up attacks and simply ending your turn, you can select the Execute command from the menu, allowing you to perform scheduled attacks in whatever order your set them up. If an enemy dies before a character gets to attack it, you're not stuck wasting a turn, and you can move or redirect that unused character however you want, which is pretty useful.
As for changes from the original version of the game, Dark Hero Days introduces a handful of new classes, one of which is unlockable if you have a Disgaea PSP save file present on your current memory card. There are also new team attacks, new weapon skills and the character paint shop feature that was available in Disgaea 3 (think of it as a palette swap). There's a decent group of new playable characters as well, including some DLC that uses a few familiar faces from other NIS titles. Another Disgaea 3 feature that makes the cut here is the ability to use Magic Change, which can turn your Monster class characters into usable weapons for the standard humanoids. You can also increase the battle speed, making the trademark grinding much easier and quicker to get through. The load times are pretty minimal, which was nice to see, so starting a battle and moving into the next only takes a few seconds. Backing out to the town after every fight for a quick save makes this a pretty ideal portable title, and it's something that you can easily sit down to play for a bus or train ride, or even during a break at work.
Visually, Dark Hero Days doesn't seem to lose anything in the switch to the smaller PSP screen. The sprites don't look squashed or disproportionate, which occurred in some PS2 ports in the past, and everything is still bright and colorful both on and off the battlefield. The music is still charming and engaging, and you can now check out tunes via a music player, so you can select music to play in the item worlds. The voice-over work isn't always consistent, but it is manageable in English and not particularly annoying. The overall dialogue is handled well, but there seem to be some localization errors that weren't fixed or changed from the PS2 iteration.
All in all, Disgaea 2: Dark Hero Days is a great strategy RPG, and while I still prefer the original title's story line and characters, there's nothing to really complain about when it comes to the gameplay. If you've missed out on it before, then it's certainly worth picking up for PSP. You're not missing out on content, and the additions make for a better experience than the original. Even if you've already dropped tons of hours into the first release, I think the game is worth revisiting as a handheld title, and it makes the transition without a single hiccup. Dark Hero Days is well worth picking up, and every PSP owner should have this title in his or her games library.Score: 8.0/10
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