It’s been a good three years since the last Disgaea came out, and after sinking hundreds of hours in to it, I’ve grown a might bored. I can only handle killing Baal so many times before I need something new. Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories offers just that, a few new additions, a few new characters, a new story, and new classes, and a sequel stigma that it just cannot shake. For what it’s worth, this is almost the same game you played back in 2003, the same game I review three years ago and loved. If this really were the same game then it managed to withstand the test of time since I enjoy this game greatly, but I just wish for a little bit more, something that NIS should have been able to deliver after having me wait three years for this sequel.
Disgaea 2 follows the story of a young man named Adell, who is the only human left in the town of Veldime which has fallen under the curse of the overlord Zenon. This curse robs people of their conscience, memories, and humanity. With time running short Adell and his family attempt to summon Zenon but wind up with his daughter, Rozalin who has lived her entire life in the lap of luxury, unaware of the things going on outside her home. With this little screw up Adell is now charged with getting Rozalin home to her father. The story itself has its fair share of comedy and drama, has a few old friends from other NIS titles and features nine endings to find.
If you’re looking for slick detailed graphics then either you don’t know what Disgaea is or who Nippon Ichi is, or you just really haven’t been paying attention. 2-D sprites, now and forever (I hope not), this game has 2-D sprites coming out of every ounce of its existence. This would be all well and good if they looked nice, like say Guilty Gear or even Stella Deus, but sadly they do not; they are short, stubby and look like they have been zoomed in on, kind of like when you stretch a wall paper in Windows. The character design on the other hand is wonderful, each of the characters has a unique look which really adds to the overall style that this game oozes. The game also manages to cram a lot of these sprites on screen as you can be fighting up to thirty enemies at a time. Couple that with massive spell effects and an absolute lack of slowdown and you’ll quickly forget why the game looks the way it does.
The audio master behind the first Disgaea, Tenpei Sato is back for Cursed Memories and he did a mighty fine job in remixing a few tracks from the previous Disgaea including an 8-bit rendition of Lord Laharl’s Hymn. The rest of the original music stands as a hybrid between techno, synthesized classical (that’s quite honestly the best description I can muster), and a little bit of swing type music. A lot of the music suites the mood of this game perfectly, giving specific characters theme songs to accentuate their importance in the Disgaea world, it’s also highly energetic which I think works out well for this game, because for all the sobering moments this title offers there are twice as many nuggets of comedy. The game also features an English audio track and a Japanese audio track for those who like a choice in their voice actors.
For those that have played the previous Disgaea go ahead and skip down about oh… two paragraphs while I go over the basics of the main game play and battle system. Now for the uninitiated, Disgaea 2 is a strategy RPG and features battles that occur on a large grid surface, and the map will never be the same, unless you’re replaying through some of the story stages. Once a battle has begun you send out your characters from the Base Panel. Think of it as a safe haven for your allies, and if someone is not hacking it out there on the battlefield you can bring back the slacker and swap him or her for someone else. After removing a character from the base panel, you select where you want them to go and what to do. The character will not immediately carry out your attack plan though, that will occur once you select “Execute” from the menu. After you’ve completed your intended moves you can then end your turn. Resetting your characters is also a snap for when you make a misjudged placement, just don’t forget that you’ll have to queue up all your characters again if you were going for a big combo.
Combination attacks are a huge factor in your quest to find and defeat overlord Zenon. By arranging your characters so that there is a character behind, to the left of, and to the right of your attacker you have a percentage chance to perform a combination attack involving all of those characters. Those characters that joined in on the combo attack will still have their moves to make as well, so essentially you’re getting four attacks for the price of one. This only goes for regular attacks, so save the special moves for those who aren’t within direct contact of the target. For each attack in the combination there is also bonus damage and a boost to the bonus gauge which will award you with items at the end of a fight depending on the bonus level.
There is plenty to do when you’re not participating in battle. For example the Dark Assembly has returned from the last game. Through the Dark Assembly it is possible to create new characters or reincarnate old ones, giving them a much better growth rate per level, for example, a character that has been resurrected will gain more HP or strength than a character that is leveling up at the same pace that has not been resurrected. It pays off to do this with magicians as it will give you all spells that can be learned, without all the magicians taking up spots on the battlefield. You can also petition for better equipment, stronger enemies, or for war funds to pay for the expensive equipment. If you’re feeling really gutsy you can petition to have members of you party added to the senators list. And if the council of senators isn’t willing to give you what you want you can always use force which at times can be dangerous, but a lot more fun.
Opposite the Dark Assembly is the Dark Court, where sinful members of your party are charged with felonies and awarded accordingly. The Prinnies of the Dark Court take great pride on the felonies they hand out, but to get there you first have to go through a few levels in the Item World. The Item World is where you go to level up the stuff in your inventory, giving it better statistics like increased attack power or defense. You can also find hidden rooms in the Item World that will give you a chance to revive all your characters or buy items that are exclusively for sale in the Item World. There is also a heavy focus on Geo-Panels in the Item World. Geo-Panels place a status effect on colored squares on the map. These can range from silence to reverse damage. They add a nice spice to battle and I would have like to have seen them utilized more in the main story battles like in the original Disgaea. The Item World is really an end-game focus so don’t think you’ve got to spend time there in order to progress, it’s mostly a diversion.
For all the good that Disgaea 2 does, it certainly does very little wrong. The only problem that it really has is that there is nothing terribly new here, which keeps it from receiving higher marks with me. A lot of the game play is recycled from the first game which can be a major turn off to those who saw this game and were expecting something new. The game play is solid and fun but after three years it’s hard to think of this title as fresh and exciting. If it wasn’t for the story of this game I would have an even harsher review before you today. But as it stands Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories is a great game that could have been legendary if the developers had opted to put in more original content rather than simply tweak all of the existing stuff and call it a day.
A sequel that the Disgaea faithful have been waiting for. For everyone else, it's just another Nippon Ichi Strategy RPG