Buy Disgaea 2
Initially, last year's release of Disgaea on the PC was celebrated. It may have been several generations too late if you're using consoles as your time marker, but this was still considered one of the best strategy RPGs to hit the market. It was humorous due to its setting and characters, and it brought loads of fresh mechanics that got people excited about the genre again. Once it was released, however, that excitement died down due to numerous port issues and crashes. That was fixed via patching, and the game's goodwill came back in time. With the announcement of Disgaea 2 for the PC, people were excited but cautious of what to expect. The good news is that most of those fears can be put to rest.
Like many of the Disgaea games, the plot is very different from the first game, as it doesn't tie in with that title at all. Fifteen years ago, the demon overlord Zenon came to the land of Veldime and cursed the population to transform humans into monsters. Though it started out as a cosmetic change, the people's psyches slowly evolved to favor demonic activities. The only person who wasn't affected is a boy named Adell. In a desire to become human again, his mother performed a summoning ritual so her son could defeat Zenon and lift the curse. Unfortunately, the spell was bungled, and Zenon's daughter Rozalin was summoned instead. Bound by the contract of the summoning, Rozalin must stick with Adell as he tries to defeat Zenon and send Rozalin home.
Truthfully, the story is pretty clichéd. Some classic tropes of the genre appear, and you can usually predict where the story will go. The characters remain endearing, which is an important part of any RPG, and you do care what happens to them. Furthermore, the humor of the series is in full effect, with dialogue that still elicits laughs and characters who can pull off that humor. That's really the main draw of the title, and fans will be happy that it remains intact.
Fans will also be happy that the litany of combat mechanics introduced in the first game are still present. The core remains the same. You take turns positioning your party on the boards and setting up their actions before carrying them out. Each character has a set range for their actions and a predetermined number of spaces they can move to during each turn. While each character comes with a certain set of skills and actions, they can also team up to execute combo moves that deal damage bonuses if the percentages line up in their favor. The ability to throw allies also makes a return, as you can use it to help comrades get to places they can't reach on their own or, in the case of the Prinnies, use them as living weapons against foes.
Then there's the Geo Panel system, which allows the environment to affect characters with damage increases, defense buffs, and the chance to get hurt if you change a panel while others are standing on the selected colors. Finally, the bonus rewards system returns to provide bonus items based on actions performed in battle.
In combat, a new element is the tower attack, which takes advantage of the ability to stack party members on top of each other to no end. While you were able to stack characters in the first game, this title lets you use the stack as an optional attack, since you can throw it at an enemy and every character in the stack can unleash hits. It's comical to see, but the attack stack is beneficial for those who need to level up characters as quickly as possible. Equally comical and useful is the phone mechanic, which lets you call for help when necessary, such as temporary party members, in the form of a pizza delivery person.
You can do numerous things in and outside of combat. Again, everything that worked in the original game is still present here. Similar to the bonus rewards system for combat, getting healed at clinics nets bonus items. Stores of all types randomly change their assortment of wares with each visit, so the selection is never stagnant. The Dark Congress returns with the ability to create more party members out of thin air and have new items appear in shops, a move that becomes easier if you bribe senators to vote in your favor. It works a little differently now, since the types of characters that can be created are governed by mana acquired on the field instead of their overall XP level, but otherwise, it is the same as in the original game.
Similarly, the Item World returns with a few changes. The premise is the same in that you travel inside the item and go deeper into its dungeons to obtain rarer items and power up the item itself. This time around, you can get a safe point every 10 levels to replenish your strength. There are also item pirates that randomly attack the party and are meant as a balance, since they're sometimes much harder than the bosses.
The only new non-combat feature is the Dark Court, which works the opposite of how you'd expect a normal judicial court to act. Throughout the game, you'll serve subpoenas for all of your actions, whether it's amassing a large body count or leveling up too quickly. While you can ignore it, you can also go into the world and fight your way to the bailiff. Get proven innocent, and you're punished with status decreases or, if things go really badly, you're reincarnated as a Prinny. Get proven guilty, and not only will you get a felony marker, but you'll also get stat boosts, including favor in the Dark Congress when you want to build up more characters.
If all of the above mechanics sound like they make Disgaea 2 very complicated, rest assured that it isn't the case. You can beat the game without mastering a number of these things, though it's much easier if you take the time to learn everything. The game offers tons to do beyond the main quest. Side-quests are abundant, and grinding can seem endless since the character levels go way beyond the hundreds. You even have the ability to reincarnate characters into different classes, giving you a seemingly endless amount of things to do beyond going in with a New Game+.
Much like the original game's PC port, Disgaea 2 on the PC gets the Dark Hero Days expansion. Axel mode is by far the most substantial addition, as it gives you a large and difficult side-quest with the demon rock star and action hero Axel as your main protagonist. The lineup of creatable monsters and playable characters also gets expanded, including three characters (Dark Éclair, Gig and Miabeland) who weren't available outside of Japan. Enhanced versions of some spells are also included, along with some mechanics from the third game, including Item World Level Spheres and the Magichange and Pass & Toss systems. Finally, staples of the portable versions —enhanced battle speed and music shops — are also present.
Though it isn't perfect, the porting effort is much better now. Keyboard and mouse controls feel more intuitive, and while it doesn't feel as authentic as using a controller, it still works fine. Speaking of which, the game now sports controller prompts once it detects its use, and the title switches seamlessly between the control schemes if you want to experiment with both. Disgaea 2 is certainly more stable compared to before, and there are no crashes in sight. In short, it's doing well for such an old console game that isn't a remaster.
For a game that released in the standard-definition PS2 era, the graphics aren't that bad. You're still going to see some pretty bad tiling for the ground environments when you view them up close in cut scenes, and the textures for the buildings look rather muddy. The character sprites also look muddy, but at least that can be changed if you turn off the filtering option. The rest of the game moves smoothly otherwise, but the real improvements comes from the few polygons and particle effects, both of which look very sharp.
Sound-wise, Disgaea 2 sounds just as good as it did when it originally released. The music maintains a certain whimsy that's definitely appreciated since it goes along with the humor so well. The effects are good, even though they sometimes lack the punch you'd hear in other games. The vocal performances are excellent, and although you can select either the Japanese or English audio track, you won't mind hearing either one. About the only audio flaw detected is some minor stuttering during full motion video cut scenes, but since those are relegated to the opening title cinematic and the trailer for the Disgaea anime series, you'll be hard-pressed to notice it at all.
After all these years, Disgaea 2 is still an excellent strategy RPG. The mechanics are very tight despite advances having been made in subsequent sequels and spin-offs, and it doesn't get old over the long period of time you'll want to spend with the game. The story remains engaging, and the characters and humor have withstood the test of time. Best of all, the PC version doesn't have a majority of the issues that plagued the console original. If you've never had the pleasure of playing this before and you don't own any PlayStation systems, Disgaea 2 is certainly worth checking out on the PC.
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