Laharl, Etna, and Flonne are back in this sequel — even though there’s already a sequel — to the PlayStation 2’s Disgaea: Hour of Darkness!
Let’s get this out in the open right now: I love the Disgaea series. Those games have a special place in my heart. (Disclosure: Back in 2009, I chose Disagea 2 as my Game of the Year.) When I saw the chance to review this game for Brutal Gamer, I pounced!
I love the Disgaea games, but I don’t follow news about the series. When I first say the title, I thought Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness, was a remake of the original Disgaea: Hour of Darkness, which was released from the PlayStation 2 back in 2003. This is not the case. Disgaea D2 is actually a sequel to that game, existing somewhere between the Hour of Darkness and the series’ “true” sequel, Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories, released in 2006. Disgaea D2 stands for, according to the Japanese release, Disgaea Dimension 2 – a brand new standalone game, featuring the cast of characters from the original game: Laharl, Etna, and Flonne.
Being a huge fan of the first two games of the series, and having played the games mostly on the PlayStation 2, the PSP, and the Nintendo DS, catching up with Laharl and Co., for me, was a tremendous leap forward. For one, everything has a much nicer resolution. The character detail and animation is crisp and sharp, and very much look like a normal television cartoon program. The level’s details still have that grid-based isometric style to it, but the visual fidelity has also be given a huge uplift as well. The environments feel more “natural” and less like a battle zone.
While I love Disgaea, it unfortunately suffers from a lot of the really annoying anime tropes that make watching 95% of Japanese animation feel like a chore. The characters have a propensity to be overly dramatic both in expression and dialogue. It’s like nails on the chalkboard for me. Disgaea D2 is filled with these cringe-worthy interactions, but with this release it’s both a blessing and a curse. I had to turn down the volume of the game’s opening, because characters’ voiceovers were annoying and whiny sounding (I get that enough from my 4- and 6-year-old — I don’t need it in my video games). I thought that I would need to keep the television remote handy, to adjust the volume going forward, but once the game began and I started walking around, none of the character’s dialogue was actually spoken. While I was thankful to not have mute the dialogue, I found the lack of game speech to be inconsistent and frankly, old-fashioned. Back in the day, this was acceptable, as audio and video clips took up valuable game space on a single CD, but with today’s modern technology, and the ridiculous data capacity on a blu-ray disc, it felt a little lazy, to be perfectly honest.
The game itself was absolutely enjoyable! I loved everything about it, and remembered why I loved playing these games so much. As you progress through the game, you can go back to any previous mission, and play it over and over again, grinding out the experience and boosting your characters’ levels.
All of the familiar tactics are featured in Disgaea D2, like advantageous attacked from behind and enemy or from the aide, or from a distance to avoid retaliation. D2 also allows for character attack combinations. Geo Panels are back, spaces on the battlefield, when stepped upon can improve a players status or handicap them, allowing for some interested tide-turning moments in battle.
I don’t recall playing a Disgaea game that offered character creation to the same that Disgaea D2 does. In fact, I’m pretty sure I had to convert enemies through battle (ala Gotta Catch ‘Em All Pokemon-style) to add them to my team. However, in Disgaea D2, there is a really nice character creation and customization option.
I love, love, love Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness! It takes all of the best features and options from all of the Disgaea games and puts them in one awesome package, and reunites the cast of the original game in a brand new sequel — despite the fact that there already is a “proper” Disgaea sequel. I highly recommend this game to anybody who loves turn-based, tactical strategy games like Tactics Ogre, Final Fantasy Tactics, and Jeanne d’Arc and enjoyed any of the Disgaea games. For more serious tactics gamers, Disgaea D2 may rub them the wrong way if they’re not ready for, or don’t appreciate, the anime stereotypes of melodramatic and often annoying characters.
Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness is available for both download on the PlayStation Network store or from your local retailer in a disc-based format, for $49.99.