The latest offering in the Disgaea series has finally made its way to North American PS3s, after its initial March 2013 launch in Japan and September 2013 launch in the UK. Fans of the franchise probably already know that Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness is set after the events of the PS2 title Disgaea: Hour of Darkness. Familiar characters like Laharl; Etna; Flonne; Sicily; and of course, a slew of Prinnies round out the selection of available characters in your initial party, among others.
It’s hard to say if games like this, tactical RPGs for the most part, are an acquired taste or simply get better and more enjoyable the more you play them. The only problem is, and this is arguable within various circles of gamers, you really need to devote a large amount of hours to a Disgaea game to both appreciate it, and get the full experience that the developers intended. You can get a good feel for Disgaea D2 after the 50 hour mark, but can easily lose 100 or more hours, if you really get into it.
At its core, the premise of D2 remains simple, and presents itself well in the tactical RPG family. You select and control the members in your party, and base your gameplay decisions on movement around an isometric grid that varies between characters and how you make your moves. In typical RPG fashion, you take turns planning and executing your moves, then the AI enemies will react or make their own moves, and you fight until someone is victorious.
A new character creator, skill transfer system, and the ability to ride monsters and perform special moves with them all highlight what makes D2 new and special. Veterans of the Disgaea games will be happy that the Dark Assemly, Geopanels, and the Item World are back as you remember them. Beyond that, the basics still exist, with a grading system following battles that rate you based on your performance. The better the grade, the better the bonuses you can expect after each encounter.
Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness looks great, and can easily compare to, and even outshine, other anime-style SRPG available. The cut-scenes are HD quality, the action on-screen is beautiful, and even the backgrounds in each environment really come alive as you explore them. The voice acting also follows suit with high quality performances that you would expect with any popular anime films.
While the camera angles and zoom controls are pretty flexible, there are quite a few instances where there is possibly too much happening on the screen at one time, and it becomes somewhat cumbersome to get a good view of what you’re looking at and where your party and the enemies are currently positioned. You may even find yourself moving the camera around quite a bit until you can get a good angle of who or what you’re trying to look at. This isn’t anything new to the series, but if you’re not used to it, it could hinder your experience.
The default controls can also feel a little too sensitive at times. Although you have an infinite amount of time to select characters and your choices, attempting to move the cursor on screen often results in having to move it back and forth and trying to get it positioned close enough to get your desired result. Again, nothing new to the series or even the genre, but it could make for a difficult time for the amount hours needed to complete just the main storyline.
The only other disappointing fact about D2 is that it is single player only. It certainly feels like a multiplayer option, even if only cooperative, could have been implemented really well and allowed for you to take on the Disgaea universe with a few of your closest SRPG friends. Then again, a competitive multplayer mode against human opponents would have made for interesting match-ups, depending on just how each player chose to upgrade their party along their own journey.
Overall, Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness has everything you could, and should, expect from another entry in the series. Longtime fans should definitely add this one to their collection, and strategy RPG fans, in general, should make this a must buy. For the rest of you, even if you’ve never ventured into the strategy RPG world, this really isn’t a bad place to start.
Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness is rated T (Teen) by the ESRB for Alcohol Reference, Fantasy Violence, Language, Partial Nudity, Suggestive Themes.