Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness Review
Ten years after the release of Disgaea: Hour of Darkness for the PS2, the series is the benchmark for tactical RPGs with its beguiling cute characters, crazy humour, insane stats and rock hard difficulty.
It’s never been bettered since its first iteration though.
To celebrate developer Nippon Ichi’s 20th anniversary, Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness brings us the direct sequel to the unsurpassed original with beloved characters Laharl, Etna and Flonne whipping up a storm in the Netherworld once again.
Being the chess of video games, Nippon Ichi has never messed around too much with the strategic role playing mechanics that see you fighting your way through grid-based map after map, fighting all manner of enemies with a carefully sculpted team of fighters, mages, healers and monsters.
Each of the last three titles has made small modifications and additions to the previous versions, with even the tiniest of changes creating a cascade of new combat and customisation opportunities and an additional couple of hundred hours of gameplay.
Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness – Visuals Old and New
Each game has its merits but Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness eschews many of the visual and game mechanic advances to fall in line with the original title’s look and combat style.
It’s still a high-definition wonderland but it’s markedly more basic in its map designs and in the look of your home base of King Krichevskoy’s castle, which Laharl claimed in Hour of Darkness when he took the title of Overlord by force.
This time round Laharl has to prove himself worthy of the title as it turns out an Overlord needs more skills than just the ability to smash everyone in battle.
You’ll have to think a little more strategically than usual since Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness is all about working together with your allies… to smash everyone in battle.
Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness – Battle Mechanics
You now have a relationship status to build with your allies, which will affect combo and support moves you can do in battle when standing side by side with those who like you.
Build a good relationship between two characters and you’ll be able to counter and counter-counter attacks, defend nearby allies from damage and carry out new combos.
However your enemies will also have close-ties, which open a Pandora’s box of possible attacks if you’re not able to separate them. Human characters can now mount monster allies, who’ll take damage for you and offer special mounted attacks.
Geo effects can apply certain conditions to areas of the grid that work for and against you and can be manipulated and changed if you have the tactical wherewithal.
For veteran players there’s much fun to be had in the granular changes to gameplay and for the newcomer these concepts are drip fed slowly enough to make sense.
Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness – Customisation
Outside of combat, customisation options have been beefed up with each character you create having a choice of ‘Evilites’ you can assign them with sizeable effects on their abilities.
A master/student system allows one class to learn the abilities of another, which can mean having a fighter on your team who can also heal themselves when necessary.
The training dojo helps improve stats, and in the Dark Assembly you unlock new classes and monsters, new shop items and change your next battles conditions through a voting system.
There are even cheat sliders that trade off battle gains and enemy difficulty. As always you can level up items and weapons by entering them and fighting your way through fiendishly difficult maps.
Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness is the same grindfest that every Disgaea game has been but Nippon Ichi has changed enough to keep fans of the series happy.
Any tweaks to the basic mechanics make for a completely different experience but it’s in their clever choice of tweaks that this cohesive focus on teamwork has emerged.
Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness feels fresh but still manages to pay the required fan service with a story that reminds us why we loved Laharl and his cronies so much.
Is it better than Hour of Darkness? Not quite, but it recaptures the magic well and you could play it for months and still find new strategies and ways to play.
Version tested: PS3