Curtis Plays: Disgaea Dimensions 2: A Brighter Darkness
PSNStores Editor Plays, is a feature where one of us spends some time with a retail title and lets you know what we think. While this is still a site focused on Network titles, we do play other things from time to time.
Ten years after the original Disgaea is getting it’s first actual “sequel”. The Disgaea games much like Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest and others feature separate story lines between each new game in the series. While the stories and main characters are different Disgaea does find a way to fit in numerous cameos from Disgaea and other NIS games. Up until now each game has been standalone and simply built off each one with new tweaks to the combat as well as some added features. Despite new additions however Disgaea has stayed firmly planted in it’s ways sticking to what makes the fans love these games so much. To outsiders Disgaea might give the impression that not much has changed these past ten years while fans know that this is simply not the case. So Disgaea Dimensions 2 arrives today in the US as the first true sequel. It’s based right after the events of the original and brings Laharl, Etna, and Flonne back into the spotlight. While the online features available in Disgaea 4 are gone Dimensions 2 features several new additions that, to me, have made this the most fun I’ve ever had with Disgaea.
For starters Disgaea D2 picks up where the original left off. If you haven’t played that game I wouldn’t worry too much. This is a direct sequel but you’ll pick up on anything you need to know very quickly without ever feeling like you’re missing out on something. Laharl has assumed the position as the new overlord but is facing a pretty major problem. No one wants to recognize his new found title. (There’s even a group who are set out to dethrone Laharl.) So Laharl is forced to take things into his own hands and do whatever seems necessary to get those against him to change their minds. In addition there’s also a mystery to solve about a specific type of flower, one that shouldn’t bloom in the Netherworld, that’s appearing all over the place. The writing and characters throughout are as funny and silly as you’d expect from Disgaea. (Of course the short sequences in between chapters are as great as ever.) One new addition in D2 is now the characters will talk during battle when standing next to each other or before attacking the other. I liked this a lot as it tends to happen during boss fights and helps fill in some gaps between cutscenes. The story will likely take anywhere from 30-40 hours to finish and follows the typical structure from other Disgaea games. Themes of family flow throughout and in the situations where the story takes itself seriously things can get a bit cheesy as per usual. I really enjoyed the main campaign for D2 but personally still hold a soft spot for other Disgaea stories. It’s not bad (far from it) but I have enjoyed other Disgaea stories more.
The battle system is of course the important part of Disgaea and it’s as great as ever. If you’re unfamiliar Disgaea is an SRPG that allows you to control up to ten characters on the battle field. You’ll attack other monsters either alone, with special skills learned through leveling, in pairs if your likeability is high enough or you can team up with monster characters to use special mount skills. The skill animations are as absurd as ever (there’s a bomber-man inspired animation, one where Flonne imitates Godzilla, and of course plenty of animations which see the entire universe being destroyed) and loads of fun to watch. A key new change in D2 is the removal of magichange in favor of the new mount system. Before you could combine monster and human characters to create a weapon for the human character to use. Now you can use monsters as mounts and ride them around the battlefield. This enables the monster to soak up damage and of course unlocks specific abilities for use in battle. Opinions will probably split here but I found myself preferring the mount system and I used it far more than I ever used magichange.
Outside of combat is where some of the more notable changes have taken place. First when creating/reincarnating characters you can now grant an evility. Evilities give a special effect to each character and your options vary depending on class and monster type. My Laharl has an evility to increases his stats by 10% for every enemy unit defeated in battle. There are others that might allow your character to attack multiple times, defend a teammate from across the map or alter how much additional damage you deal depending on the position you’re attacking from. Continuing with customizing your characters is the addition of the demon dojo. The Demon Dojo lets you assign special training types to a character that will boost the rate at which a stat increases when leveling. So I might assign my Prinny to the punching bags to increase his experience rate while Etna is on the super treadmill to increase her speed rate. As you complete stages in the game these training types will level up allowing for more characters to train as well and the rate percentage will increase. I like these additions and I found myself going back to them quite a few times and trying out new evilities each time I reincarnated…but they have nothing on the cheat shop.
The cheat shop in Disgaea D2 allows for customization over a lot of key elements within the game. For example you can lower the increase of Mana, HL, Weapon Mastery, and Special Skill EXP in order to boost your experience rate to 300%. You’ll unlock higher caps as you play but you can raise and lower these in any way you see fit. Not only that but you also have control over enemy levels. This is of course where power leveling very quickly comes into play. There are certain maps very good for this sort of thing and by raising the enemy level you’ll find that taking a character from level 1 all the way into the thousands takes very little time at all. The cheat shop also allows you to turn off battle dialogue, support attacks and many other things. It’s not necessarily something you’ll get a lot of use out of during the story but post-game I found myself loving the cheat shop quite a bit.
As is the case with Disgaea there’s also the matter of passing bills in The Dark Assembly and diving into the Item World to level up your items. The Dark Assembly lets you take a bill to the Netherworld Senate in hopes that they’ll pass it. This could be anything from granting you a double jump in the hub world, giving triple experience on the next enemy killed, or opening up new areas to travel to. Before starting a vote you can bribe members of the senate that are leaning no in hopes to sway their vote. If this doesn’t work and the bill is shot down you can either bribe with money or you can fight the senate. The Item World is a series of randomly generated stages set within an item that you own. This can be a weapon or regular item and by finishing each stage you’ll level up the item to increase it’s stats. Within the item world you might come across pirates, innocents, and more. One slight difference is that you’ll now travel to each stage on a ship. You’ll start out with a small little boat but, as you defeat pirates, you’ll unlock new ships to use. I don’t believe there’s a big difference in what ship you use but I also haven’t gone too deep into the item world just yet. (There’s just been SO much else to do in the game.)
While Disgaea is now ten years old I didn’t start until about five years ago. In that time I’ve played a LOT of Disgaea. Up to this point I’ve typically finished the story, played around in the post-game a little, and moved on to something else. Seeing everything there is to see in Disgaea is a large investment of time. However it’s Disgaea D2 that I’m not sure I’m going to be able to move on from so easily. I’m already deep into the post-game and I don’t want to quit. This is the most fun I’ve ever had with a Disgaea game and to be quite honest I’m not sure there’s anything specific about this game that is the reason for that. This is a series that I’m still learning new things about with every time I pick it up and I’ve hit the point where I want to see everything. As niche as these games are there’s just nothing like them and it’s hard to put into words just how much I enjoy them. Not long before finishing the story in Disgaea D2 I finally promoted Bronson, a Gold Prinny, to Prinny God status. Seeing the notification on screen that Prinny God was unlocked made me absurdly excited. Diving into the cheat shop and altering enemy levels, learning the pros and cons of reincarnating, and just doing whatever I could to break the game in my favor has been so much fun. While some series might struggle to improve with each iteration Disgaea is at the top of it’s game with D2. I expected a really great Disgaea game and now, two weeks later, I’m writing about one of my favorite games of the year by far. It’s insane, absurd, crazy and a ridiculous time sink…but at the end of the day Disgaea is the only place I can dish out hundreds of millions of points of damage and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
New to Disgaea?
As an addition for those who haven’t played Disgaea I wanted to add some thoughts if you’re curious about giving the series a shot and are unsure on where to start. While this is a direct sequel to the original game I think Disgaea D2 is the perfect place to start. (You’re probably good with any of them but considering D2 is out today you might as well go with this.) Disgaea is generally really good about teaching newcomers the basics and giving you enough information to get through the game just fine. It’s not going to teach you about some of the deeper mechanics and that’s okay. Getting through the story mode isn’t going to require deep knowledge of it’s mechanics and generally the ten chapters are pretty easy to get through. Along the way you’ll learn a lot and once you finish the campaign you can either hang it up or be ready to invest a lot of time. It seems to me that most Disgaea fans generally agree that the post-game is where the real fun begins. That’s where you’re going to find some really tough encounters with enemies closing in on level 9999 as well as plenty of cameos to unlock and crazy bosses to fight.
My biggest suggestion is to interact with message boards at the official NISA Forums. There’s tons of people who are willing to help and plenty of guides written about this series over the past ten years. Most of which are still relevant to D2 in some ways. If you’re looking to just go through the campaign and have some fun with it you’re looking at something that isn’t any more of a commitment than your standard RPG. Getting into the post-game is where the grind and commitment comes in and that’s up to you if you’re up for it. Disgaea isn’t for everyone and it’ll take time to master a lot of it’s mechanics (I’m still learning) but it’s also one of the most fun and rewarding games I’ve played. I’d say if you’re interested check it out (if not this even Disgaea 3 on the Vita is an excellent choice) and don’t worry about playing with guides; they’re incredibly useful when you’re new to this stuff.