The planet Veldime was once a beautiful and peaceful place, at least until the powerful “God of all Overlords” Overlord Zenon arrived and placed it under a curse that started turning all of its human inhabitants into demons. As the only one who is immune to the curse, a young warrior named Adell decides he must summon Zenon and confront him, but when the summon spell goes wrong, he ends up with Zenon’s daughter Rozalin instead! Now bound together as reluctant allies, Adell and Rozalin must seek out Zenon before everyone Adell cares about is turned into a pack of heartless monsters.
Getting started with the game
The second instalment in the Disgaea series, and one of the newer titles in Nippon Ichi’s expanding catalogue of SRPGs, Disgaea 2 takes us back to a world of Netherworlds and Overlords for thirteen more episodes of demon hunting fun. As Disgaea 2’s game system is really a tweaked version of the one used in the original game, to save us all covering the same old ground I’m only going to point out how and where the game play has been altered. If you’re unfamiliar with Disgaea (in which case go and play it now) or you need a refresher, check out my original review.
The flow of game play remains the same as the original, with only the humorous episode previews now replaced for between episode news reports recapping recent in-game events. As with the first game, it is once again possible to skip pre-battle cutscenes, and in a welcome addition for those playing their second cycle via New Game+, the post-battle scenes can also be skipped. Once again, however, if you automatically press X instead of Triangle, you will find yourself carried into a scene with little choice but to sit through it
Holt Village: a new base map
As Adell, your game play hub is your home in Holt Village, where you can chat to NPCs and access vital services. It’s business as usual at the Netherworld Hospital, Dimensional Gatekeeper and Rosen Queen item shops, but the Item World and Dark Assembly have undergone some upgrades, whilst an all new post officer will deliver subpoenas to your door every time the newly created Dark Court decides you have committed a crime. I’ll describe all the changes in further detail in their own dedicated sections.
For the dedicated gamer, there is also the opportunity to unlock the “Dark World”, a shadow version of the game where enemies are harder and every level is affected by the Dark Sun, giving effects like “enemies are revived every turn”, “base panel is destroyed after three turns” or even “game over after three turns”. Alongside the secret levels of varying difficulty that can be unlocked via the Dark Assembly, this gives the game an inbuilt challenge mode more extensive than anything seen in Nippon Ichi games before.
The Dark Assembly continues to serve much the same purpose as it did in the first game, enabling characters to use the mana accumulated in battle to create new characters or address the assembly to present proposals ranging from unlocking secret areas to improving the shop inventory. There are, however, some significant differences in getting the senators to see your point of view. Bribing them has been raised into an art form, to the point where you can even obtain items specifically for offering to senators. Senators can also now be drunk or asleep; sleeping senators cannot vote, whilst drunken ones will often take offence at well meaning gifts. Happily, there are also items to induce or cure these statuses, although if a senator is in a particularly bad mood, he may well refuse to accept them.
Bribery is now also not limited to affecting an individual; senators now belong to factions, and bribing one member will cause the goodwill and influence of that entire faction to increase, whilst that of the opposition decreases. Fortunately, the bias is in the positive direction, so getting one faction to totally support you does not make their opposition loathe you.
When it comes to increasing your influence in other ways, promotion exams have been scrapped, putting the burden of making your voice heard on building up felonies in the Dark Court. Even so, it seems harder than before to get approvals passed; in my personal experience I’ve had practically all the senators glowing blue with approval, yet when the time comes to take the vote I’m still met with a chorus of “nay”s. Even persuading them by force seems harder, due to a rather high volume of powerful senators.
Creating Characters: now tweaked
Likewise, creating character has been altered slightly; whilst the basic procedure remains the same, the way to unlock new classes has altered. For the lowest tier of each class, you must either encounter them in battle (monster types) or fulfil specific requirements and then pass a bill at the Dark Assembly (humanoid types), however, to get higher tier variations, you must level up a character for the tier directly below. For example, no matter how much you level up a Gunner, you can only ever unlock a Sniper; if you want an Outlaw, you would have to level up a Sniper.
Although it existed in the original game, one thing I neglected to mention in my previous review was the process of reincarnating a character into a new class, forcing them to start again from level one, but letting them carry over some of their existing skills. Reincarnation always seemed like too much trouble in the first game, but I’ve warmed up to it a little more here, although it isn’t something you want to be doing to your best characters towards the end of the game. Story characters can also be reincarnated, but obviously they cannot change class- it just helps them to get a stat bonus you can use to improve their growth.
Those who have accumulated felonies also have the option of using reincarnation to atone for their sins, although for generic characters they have to reincarnate as a prinny for a time before they can return to normal. This is a nice nod to the purpose of prinnies, but it isn’t something you’ll necessarily ever want to do.
When a character creates another and becomes their “master”, they can use their apprentice’s skills by standing next to them in battle. Once their proficiency in the skill reaches level one or above (usually after ten uses), they permanently have the use of that skill- useful for giving a character abilities they wouldn’t normally have access to.
I’m innocent! No wait, I’m guilty as charged
As I’ve already mentioned several times, one of the innovations in Disgaea 2 is the Dark Court, a court of prinnies that takes you to account for your criminal actions. There are a number of crimes that your characters can be found guilty of, from having overly high stats to destroying too many Geo Symbols- and since this is a demon world, earning felonies is a mark of respect.
Unfortunately, the whole process of visiting the Dark Court is rather long and convoluted; first, you must accept a subpoena from the post officer, then you must go into the item world of the subpoena and battle down to a level where there is a gateway to the Court. At this point, any character (not just the one charged with the crime) can choose to enter the court and accept the felony. At any stage of the process, there is nothing to stop you from just giving up- in fact, aside from one point where you need to go to the Dark Court to fulfil a story requirement, this feature of the game can be entirely ignored with no ill effect.
Fighting your way to Zenon
Although the battle system for Disgaea 2 is largely the same as that of its predecessor, as to be expected from a sequel, there are a few alterations.
- Geo Panels now have some extra effects, such as Fusion (the opposite of Clone) and Encroach (inability to leave the coloured panels). Damage caused by Geo Panels changing colour now seems greatly increased for large chains, to the point where my best characters have died from it where Laharl and co. would have weathered it easily.
- Guns can now only shoot in a straight line, but to compensate they have a longer range. Bows can still shoot diagonally.
- Treasure chests now appear on maps, and if destroyed will reveal a bonus item, money or EXP. If an enemy is killed by a bow user, they may drop a treasure chest, whilst living enemies always seem to pursue chests quite aggressively.
- When throwing a character or Geo Symbol, they can be caught by another character, enabling a sort of “pass the parcel” system to occur. It is also possible to perform tower attacks with stacked characters.
- Support abilities now give EXP, which means healers and the like can level up without needing to attack and kill enemies. As you can imagine, this enables them to keep pace with the fighters and actually prove useful in battle.
- Certain Geo Panels can now move around, altering the squares their effect is given to- these panels may even attack and provoke a counter from enemies and allies. This adds an extra layer of strategy to dealing with Geo Panels.
- Elemental attributes and immunities are now more important, with many classes having distinct resistances and immunities to certain types of attack. Some attacks- such as Hurricane Slash- that were not elemental in the first game have now been elemental properties.
- Cellphones now enable you to call NPCs such as Kurtis, Axel and the Prism Rangers to assist you in battle.
Although it may just be due to my familiarity with the system through extensive playing of Disgaea 1, the second game certainly feels easier than the first; game over is much rarer and I was able to proceed through much of the game without any need for levelling up. Characters now level up more easily, and mages in particular really come into their own, to the point where my strongest generic characters were all magic users. In some levels, I was able to beat the entire stage simply by having my mages stand well back and snipe the enemy with spells whilst never moving into the range that would trigger a response- whilst this was more welcome than a tough melee battle, it also highlighted a flaw in the enemy AI in responding to long range attacks.
Compared to the first game, the range of characters seems more equally balanced- back in the old days, Laharl was the only character I could depend on, to the point where I had to quit the game if he got killed, even if I hadn’t yet reached game over. This time around, it is actually possible to rely on more than one character to finish off a stage- so even if Adell or my best mage dies early on, continuing to play does not seem such a hopeless waste of time.
All that being said, even though the game feels easier, it also seems to consciously compensate for that with some hard to deal with Geo Panel layouts. In one level, every turn after the eighth sees an “Ally Damage +20%” added to the field, to the point where most of the battle area has “Ally Damage +80%”, whilst another creates an “Enemy Boost x3″ over most of the field after a certain number of turns. Although it can be satisfying to clear this type of map, it just feels like a contrived way to add difficulty to a stage.
Finally, although this was possible in the first game, it has taken me all this time to realise a “neat” way of levelling up weak characters. If you are due to receive EXP via the bonus gauge at the end of the stage, simply bring out any weak characters you can dispatch right before the fighters deliver the final blow, and let them partake of some easy EXP without the need to go back and level them up. Using this tactic, I’ve managed to promote level one characters to level sixteen in a matter of moments.
Item World: More complex and just as annoying
As with Disgaea 1, inside each item lurks a fully formed random dungeon of multiple levels, which once again is made somewhat tedious by the uneven terrain. As before, you can battle through groups of ten levels in order to boost the item’s stats, but now there are a few changes (not least of which is that the stats will boost even if you leave early). The other innovations add extra value to visiting the Item World, and are for the most part kindly received.
- As well as having a dimensional gate that lets you skip to the next level, certain levels of the item world have a “mystery gate” that takes you to a small room containing treasure chests, random characters or shops selling rare items. These rooms also allow you to access the same menu as Holt Village (minus the ability to save), enabling you to mess around with items and equipment.
- Similarly, after every tenth level, instead of merely being prompted to return home, you get taken to Innocent Town, a small hub of NPCs and other services from Holt Village. As well as healing and being able to go back to Holt, you can enter the Item Assembly, a duplicate of the Dark Assembly which enables you to present bills related to the stats of the item you are in.
- On some levels, you may find yourself unfortunate enough to be attacked by Item Pirates, high level enemies who randomly arrive several turns into the battle. The pirates can offer good items and EXP, but it can also be irritating when they are so strong that you have to skip what would otherwise have been an easy level.
- Specialists now include “lovers”- copies of a particular character, who, when subdued, give a special bonus to that character.
Disgaea 2 has some interesting named characters with well developed back stories, but whilst it is overall more cohesive than the first game (which lost its original direction somewhat with the inclusion of the Earth arc), it does not really mark itself out as being distinctively superior. Early in the game, Adell comes across as an annoyingly heroic type, whilst returning character Etna seems little more than a parody of her former self and “Dark Hero” Axel is clearly a Mid-Boss wannabe without the charm. Even so, the usual humour is in place, and whilst it is none too sophisticated, it still amuses from time to time.
Effectively, Disgaea 2 is identical to 1 in this regard, with similar character designs (I actually prefer the Disgaea 1 designs for returning characters) and Tenpei Sato once again handling the music. Nonetheless, Rozalin deserves mention as having a particularly worthy character design- quite possibly the best glimpsed in any Disgaea game thus far.
European players are also lucky enough to get the Japanese audio this time around, something they had to do without in the first game. Even so, the English dub is reasonably strong, despite some annoyances such as Rozalin’s lacklustre delivery of the final scene.
Disgaea 1 and 2 are like two halves of the same whole; whilst I initially thought this couldn’t possibly measure up to the first, it instead complements it well by maintaining the core of what makes Disgaea great and experimenting with a few tweaks that have both positive and negative effects. If you enjoy SRPGs, there is no reason not to buy this game- as Manga said, “Play it, like it, love it”.
Extra: My Party
Arrows indicate that a character was reincarnated into a new class.
Adell (Demon Hunter): A close-range fist fighter, Adell starts off weak, but soon becomes strong, with a range of devastating multi-hit specials. His main weaknesses are that his unique attacks are all Fire element, whilst the ranges of his special attacks can be difficult to work with in close quarters, forcing one to rely on a basic attack instead.
Rozalin (Zenon’s Child): The first truly worthy gun user, Rozalin is not the strongest character by any means, but her attacks and specials are still powerful and generally non-elemental.
Fritz (Red Skull): My strongest character, Fritz doesn’t have Rozalin and Adellâ€™s HP, but his Fire magic is devastating, whilst he has also learned Wind and Ice from his mage apprentices. Once I unlock Prism Mage, Fritz will be reincarnated to even up his elemental abilities.
Yukimaru (Kunoichi): A sword-wielding ninja, Yukimaru is the weakest of the A-team, but she has the familiar sword attacks that Laharl once wielded, alongside some abilities of her own. Despite the disappointment of the once-deadly Hurricane Slash now being hampered by its Wind element attribute, Yukimaru is still a reliable physical fighter.
Tink (Dirty Frog): Although he is now far less useful than he once was, Tink is still a passable physical fighter (even more so considering he is a floating frog) with a useful multi-hit special. He can switch between two forms, although I keep him as blue since it has an impressive movement range. As a floating character, Tink can also reach places others characters may find it hard to get to.
Rita (Green Mage): My second strongest mage, Rita may not have Fritz’s skill, but she still packs a punch with Wind spells. Sadly, however, she does not have any spells from other elements.
Priscilla (Healer): My primary healer, Priscilla is mainly there to use her curative spells, but she is also a dab hand with a bow.
C-team: Could use some levelling up
Tim (Star Skull): A non-elemental mage, Tim has potential but his attacks are still weak.
Nagisa (Ice Mage): I seem to have bad luck with ice mages, and Nagisa is no exception. Her spells are much weaker than those of Fritz and Rita, and her low HP means she dies swiftly.
Wyatt (Gunner -> Sniper -> Outlaw): Dragging himself up the ranks, Wyatt refuses to let reincarnation set him back with his high HIT stat making him a solid backup for Rozalin when it comes to gunning down the enemy.
Grandpa (Druid): Although he has Star magic and the ability to mess around with Geo Panels, I actually use Grandpa as my second healer- he isn’t quite as good as Priscilla, but he is still better than nothing.
Pringer (Private Prinny): Prinnies are slightly stronger than they were in the first game (although disappointingly Prinny Dance now only hits once instead of four times), and so Pringer was useful for backup for a while, even though he now does negligible damage on stronger enemies.
Fanta (Captain Prinny): Basically an orange version of Pringer with negligibly better stat growth.
D-team: Deals minor damage
Cielo (White Dragon): His design is great, but despite his high looking stats, his attacks are always weak. Named after Romeo’s HORSE, since he bears a slight resemblance to it.
Hanako (Adell’s Sister): She was useful for the first couple of battles she participates, but is now weak and useless.
Taro (Rozy’s Slave): A novel character in that he drinks milk to power up; he has a multi-hit basic attack but all too often deals no damage with it.
Etna (Beauty Queen): Joins up after losing all her levels; progressing fairly well for her level but needs serious attention.
Ayu (Red Mage -> Star Mage): A passable Fire Mage who reincarnated as a Star Mage as part of the project to unlock Prism Mages. She has both Star and Fire magic, but they are both weak in her current state.
Iroha (Hanakage): A female ninja, I never use her for attacking, but she has a good throwing range that comes in handy in certain situations.
Ki (Cu Sith): A canine beast with Wind immunity, he is serviceable against weak generics but lacking in real situations.
Maya (Nekomata -> Cait Sith): As a Nekomata, she was bidding for a place in the C-team, but when I reincarnated her, she became weak and barely able to hold her own in D-team.
Zerik (Fighter): A male fighter who joined at the start of the game; semi-useful at first but now languishes on the bench.
Elda (Lady Fighter): A female version of Zerik; she wields a spear but never seemed especially useful.
Derren (Heavy Knight): My only axe-wielding character; hasn’t actually been used in proper combat yet.
Lui (Togabito -> Yasha): A sinner and fist-fighter; only used once or twice in the Item World. He was named after Meine Liebe’s best character because of his relative bishiness.
Aki (Ronin): The male version of my Sakura in the first game; supposed to be mastering bow skills but has only come out to fight once or twice.
Kitsune (Thief): I made towards the beginning of the game in the hopes of mastering the ability to steal, but she soon fell behind and got abandoned.
Elmya (Magic Knight): She has a nice design and some interesting magic sword abilities, but has yet to be used properly.
Ryver (Colonel Prinny): My third Prinny (this time purple); generally left alone since I have two other Prinnies already.