Disgaea is one of the largest strategy RPG franchises to still be an active presence in gaming today. While perhaps not the greatest example of the genre and not the most balanced, it's loved for its sense of humor and extensive gameplay. The prolific series has also been aided by linked titles such as Phantom Brave, Zettai Hero Project, and the upcoming The Guided Fate: Paradox. However, none of the series' protagonists has been as well-regarded as the first, Laharl. Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness returns the series to Laharl after he's tried to take back the main character role for several games. Behind closed doors, NIS showed off the Japanese version and the start of the English translation, focusing on what's new and what's different this time around. The beta loading screen featured the ability to slap the spinning Prinny until he exploded.
D2 takes place after the first Disgaea and deals with Laharl — albeit one from a slightly different alternate dimension than the one from the previous games. Laharl finished out the first Disgaea by becoming Overlord of the Netherworld, but he has to deal with some problems — not the least of which are the possibly traitorous Etna and the happy-go-lucky angel, Flonne. There's plenty of new incoming chaos to make matters worse, including a large cast and an incident where he becomes a busty female for a few missions. At least he gets full-length pants now. The series' traditional cameos and crossovers are still in place, but the developers specifically observed that there would be more new cast members than cameos this time around.
The entire cast is now rendered in HD sprites, which were seen (but optional) in Disgaea 4, but the game otherwise isn't significantly graphically updated and sticks to the series' classic sprite-based core. Most of the core combat mechanics are also the same. Players and enemies still take turns moving around and beating each other up for your amusement, the levels still go ludicrously high, and the damage still goes into counts that are high enough to require custom coding if you play long enough.
However, several new systems were also on display. The Demon Dojo allows players to assign characters to get grindable stat boosts — with secrets. In the master/pupil system, players can now specify who is the pupil, with the master gaining stat boosts and the pupil gaining skills and proficiencies. Magichange has been replaced with characters being able to ride other characters piggyback, enabling new moves like a new version of Prinny Bomber that has a 30-second Bomberman parody animation. Players can throw piggyback riders off of carriers to end the piggyback ride. Last, but not least, maps on the scenario select screen now include 3-D previews.
The Disgaea series has traditionally focused on its fans, and this hasn't been stronger in a long time than it is with Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness. The shirtless bratty overlord returns to action this fall, and with D2, it looks like the series is as comedic and strategic as ever.
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