Strategy-RPGs are becoming rarer and rarer these days, which is truly saddening for an old-school RPG gamer like myself. There have been many fantastic titles released over the years, but one developer and one series in particular have always managed to deliver relevant, charming and entertaining games. I’m talking of course, about Nippon Ichi Software and their fantastic game series, Disgaea.
The Disgaea franchise has 11 games in total (if you include the Prinny and Makai Kingdom spinoffs) and has more than proven itself to be the finest strategy-RPG franchise around, with each game continuing the ongoing saga of Laharl, the fledgling overlord of the Netherworld (although there are multiple netherworlds in Disgaea). Over the years the game’s have remained popular for their in-depth strategy, flawless class-based combat, unusual stories and rewarding gameplay. ‘Disgaea: D2’ (Disgaea: Dimension 2) is the latest in the series, and while Laharl might be going crazy from all his problems, Disgaea D2 has none.
If you’re new to Disgaea, alow me to introduce you to it. Disgaea is a strategy or tactical JRPG, where players build an army of monsters and characters in order to complete variou missions. These missions usually involve killing the entire enemy force, and while that might sound repetetive, trust me, they aren’t.
Initially, players assume the role of Laharl, the son of the great Overlord, King Krichevskoy, who has come into power after his father’s death. The problem here is that Laharl is a scrawny, brash and inexperienced demon, who has to constantly defend his position of overlord from other would-be overlords, assassins and monsters. Hell, he even has to defend himself against his followers and friends.
The story is quite entertaining, largely due to its bizarre characters and twisted sense of humour. Laharl himself is like an evil version of the popular character Naruto, as he is a cocky airhead who always manages to pull himself out of a messy situation with plucky optimism. Etna, a demon who served as Vassal to Laharl’s father, aids Laharl in his quests, though she is always willing to have fun at his expense. Flonne, the third protagonist is a fallen angel, who is happy, loving but a little naive to how things work in the netherworld. She often presents an honest and positive approach to any dire situation, which is often met with nasty responses from Laharl.
The game begins in Laharl’s castle, which also serves as the main quest hub. In the castle, you can purchase new equipment, train your soldiers, enter missions as well as many other things. You can even obtain perks and other miscellaneous things by passing a bill through senate, which is a pretty entertaining way to earn extra experience or train a new unit. The missions are the heart of the gameplay in Disgaea, and each mission has a number of different features that add some variety to the game. Some missions contain “Geo-panels” which add an area of effect to the ground itself. Some will lower your defense, others will offer extra experience or other effects. You can also pick up Geo crystals (the source of the geo-panels’ powers) and throw them, causing different effects and damage.
In addition to the geo-panels, you also have evilities, which are basically character perks. Some characters might have extra defense against magic of a certain type, some monsters might take less damage from humans, etc. Evilities offer a little extra strategy to the game, and give you an advantage or disadvantage depending on who you are fighting. Once you defeat a certain monster, it is usually unlocked for use in your army. You also begin with a limited variety of humanoid units, and levelling them up unlocks other unit types. For example, levelling up a male soldier and a male warrior to level 10 will unlock a ninja. Unlocking different unit types not only allows you to create a diverse army, it also helps see the strengths and weaknesses of different units as you play. You can also unlock secret characters though a variety of means, such as Prier from La Pucelle Tactics (another NIS game).
If that’s not enough, you also have frendships between your units, which cause a nuber of cool support actions on the battlefield. If two units are standing next to each other, they may attack the same enemy at the same time, dealing extra damage. I managed to get four units to be best friends, and all four of them attacked a unit at the same time, causing me to shout out “whoa!”. Boosting the friendship between different units will help you defeat the toughest enemies, as will knowing which units to bring into battle, and the evilities of your units.
All of these different factors may sound like a lot to learn at once, but you are eased into it thanks to different tutorial levels that are spaced apart. Once you unlock a new ability or feature, you are able to read up on it in the castle, and it usually has a mission to help you learn how to properly use it in battle.
The Disgaea series has quite possibly the best replay value out of any video games series ever. Not only does it offer a ton of content and missions, but you are also able to replay the game once you finish it, and your units’ experience and skills carry over. It is actually possible to get to level 99 with each character. Think of it as going prestige, like in Call of Duty, though instead of being pointless, it makes the game even more fun.
It would be unfair of me to review Disgaea without mentioning how gorgeous the game looks. Every single character is hand-drawn, and of ridiculously high quality. If you’re a fan of cute characters, Japanese anime or 2D games, you are going to fall in love with Disgaea. It is quite a beautiful game, and full of charm.
- Countless hours of rewarding and fun gameplay
- In-depth, but highly accessible
- Gorgeous hand-drawn animation.
- May seem daunting to newcomers.
Disgaea D2 is easily the best Japanese Strategy RPG I have ever played. It’s even better than Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions, because it is so accessible and so much fun, without being unforgivingly difficult. If you’re looking for an addictive and rewarding RPG game that doesn’t take itself to seriously, pick up Disgaea D2, it’s a must-have on the PS3.
Score – 9.5/10