Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories was released for the PlayStation 2 in America on August 29th, 2006. The game is the sequel to Nippon Ichi’s most popular and critically acclaimed hit, the original Disgaea: Hour of Darkness.
“Darkness is back. Overlord Zenon has cursed the land, and now, Veldime is transforming into a nasty Netherworld. Memories are sterilized, bodies demonized, the world is falling into chaos. The only one unaffected is a young man, Adell. He stands up to fight the curse, but things never go as planned. The haughty daughter of Zenon, a filthy little frog, lovable demon siblings and a washed-up rock star!? No one can ever predict what goes on in the world of Disgaea. And of course, other Overlords refuse to sit still watching…”
System: PlayStation 2
Also On: None
Release Dates: USA August 31st, 2004 – EU February 4th, 2005 – JAP: January 2nd, 2004 (August 3rd, 2006 for the “Best for the Family version)
Genre: Strategy (Tactical) RPG
Players: Single Player Only
Save: USA August 29, 2006 – EUR November 3rd, 2006 – AUS October 27th, 2006 – JAP February 23rd, 2006
Developer: Nippon Ichi
Publisher: NIS America (Nippon Ichi America)
Rating: T for Teen because of: Language, Mild Fantasy Violence, Mild Suggestive Themes
The first question on everyone’s mind: Is this Part II of the Disgaea story? Quite simply, no. The stories stand alone like a Final Fantasy game but exist in the same Universe. There are a few cameo appearances, but the story moves along fine if the player doesn’t know them. While the mechanics of the game are a direct sequel, the story is quite unique to itself. Many Disgaea fans were disappointed, because the story doesn’t have the same feel or flavor. It is funny and silly, but not at all like the first Disgaea was. Instead of taking place in a Netherworld, things take place in a normal world which is slowly being corrupted into a Netherworld.
The main character and the ever-present team of unlikely allies set out to make things right again. In fact, calling them unlikely allies is an incredible understatement. Most of the characters should be enemies if not for the many strange sets of circumstances that brings them together. The story seems to maintain a more serious tone throughout the game and loses the kooky “I’m the bad guy” feel from the previous story. As a result, the story stands up just fine as a story on its own, but many fans of the previous Disgaea will feel that it doesn’t measure up when compared to the original.
This game is a mechanical sequel to Disgaea so most of the elements and themes from Disgaea have been repeated and improved upon. Like most Strategy RPGs, play takes place on a grid map. Each character takes up one square. Characters move around attacking each other until one team is left. The goal is to be that team. Every time. A simple premise, assuming losers in deadly battles will not have much effect on future events.
Ok, seriously, most of the basic elements are repeats from any other Strategy RPG. Play is turn based, meaning one team moves and then the other team. Elevation and directional facing of characters is important because attacks from the rear or above are more effective. There are three elements (fire, ice and wind) and each character will have a weakness to one and strength to another.
As enemies are defeated, characters will gain experience and levels making them stronger. There are a number of weapon types, and as characters use a weapon their skill with that weapon will increase as well, making the weapon more effective and bringing special skills. Using skills will also increase the skill level making the skill more powerful. All of this adds up to mean that characters which are used frequently will be more effective in battle. So far this is all the same as Disgaea. Disgaea 2 brings a few upgrades to the entire system, such as characters gaining experience from healing allies. This means a cleric doesn’t fall behind the rest of a party in level just for doing his job in a battle.
Geo Symbols give special properties to all of the panels on the map sharing a certain color. The effects range from damaging units, cloning them, or making them invincible. Players must pay close attention to them, as their effects can be very powerful and may have a huge effect on the outcome of a map and some of the Geo Symbols move this time. Destroying a Geo Symbol will cause all the panels of the color it sits on to become the color of the Geo Symbol. The process will damage any units sitting on the panels that change color. If several Geo Symbols are destroyed, a chain will occur. Geo Chains give a huge bonus to the Bonus Gauge (a list of prizes given for clearing a map, including items, money and experience) and using a Null Symbol to remove all of the panels will give an even larger bonus.
Speaking of the Bonus Gauge, it is also increased by simple attacks, counter attacks and especially Combo Attacks. Combo Attacks occur when multiple characters attack the same unit consecutively. Each attack after the first becomes increasingly stronger and harder to dodge. Any time a character uses a regular attack on an adjacent unit; there is a chance they will bring allies next to them into a Team Attack. Team Attacks increase the number on a Combo Attack and doesn’t require the usage of the ally’s action for the turn.
On the topic of attacking, the previous Lift-and-throw technique from the previous game (allowing characters to move over distance with ease) has a new feature. Stacked characters can now perform a Tower Attack for increased destruction as well.
The Dark Assembly is back and has received quite a facelift. Acting like an evil Congress, the Dark Assembly must approve certain bills that will benefit players. Bills include everything from increasing a character’s movement to granting access to a special level, adding a type of item to the shops or making a new type of unit available for creation. Bills are proposed to the Assembly by spending a character’s Mana (points awarded for defeating enemies). There are few things more important to a Corrupted Congress than these: Bribery, Violence and Clout. Anyone can pay enough to propose a Bill to the Dark Assembly, but to get that Bill approved requires that it receives the majority of the Senators’ votes. Stronger Senators have a stronger vote. None of these Senators really care about the characters who are proposing them. A little bribery will fix that.
You can also give Senators any manor of knickknacks and unused items. If they are given an item they want, they will be more likely to approve the bill. If a bill isn’t passed, players have an opportunity to change those Senators’ minds with violence. If the opposing Senators are beaten into submission, the Bill will receive approval. Approval by force will cause the defeated Senators to like the Player even less and make subsequent Bills that much more difficult to pass so it must be done with care. The Dark Assembly is also broken into Parties. Each party has an opposing side and bribing a member of one Party will be looked on unfavorably by their enemy. Players can use cell phones to call in a favor to one of the Parties and the entire Party will be more likely to vote in favor of the next Bill. Occasionally a Legendary Senator will show up and use a special effect to wildly sway a vote.
Items collected can be powered up by going into the Item World. In the Item World a player battles through a random dungeon within an item to increase its level (either by clearing the level of enemies or running to the exit panel). Players can also defeat and collect Specialists within the items to boost a certain stat of the item or give some kind of bonus (such as increasing a character’s experience gain). Players can use a special item called “Mr. Gency’s Exit” to leave the Item World at any time. Every tenth floor there is an Innocent Town where players can heal units, pass a Bill to strengthen the item a bit more (in the item’s own Dark Assembly) or change the item’s name. There are a few other new features in the Item World as well. Once in a while a mystery portal will appear. The portal will take the player to a room where any number of things may be found. Merchants selling items that cannot normally be purchased, units may be healed or attacked, or the item may be given an extra level! Another new feature is the addition of Pirates in the Item World. A Band of Pirates might appear and attack the team on any level. Each type of Pirate carries a Treasure Map that you can subsequently get by defeating the Pirate. Collecting all of the maps will open up a special level.
One new feature to the series is Felonies. In a corrupt world, a Felony is a badge of honor and being notorious is a status symbol. Characters can commit any number of crimes, such as having too high Attack, too many murders (defeated enemies) or Geo Vandalism (destroying Geo Symbols). After a crime is committed, characters receive the Subpoena for it from the Post Officer. The Subpoena has a Specialist called a Bailiff on it. The Bailiff will open a Court Gate in the Item World (the floor number is the same as the level of the Bailiff) which will take the character to the Dark Court. There the character will be awarded the felonies (sometimes more than one) along with prizes or money. Felonies make the character more powerful in the Dark Assembly (making it easier to pass Bills). They increase the rate characters gain experience and improve sale prices at shops. Certain special post-game battles can only be opened when the requisite number of Felonies are obtained.
Felonies sound really nice for an up and coming demon to possess, but they have a very strong downside in the Dark World. “Wait,” you say, “There’s a Dark World?” Indeed, there is. With some careful searching and a little fight, the gate to the Dark World can be opened. Once the gate is available, meeting certain conditions on a map will grant access to its Dark World counterpart. The map will be the same in the Dark World, but the challenge is new. Different and stronger enemies will be present, as well as new events caused by the Dark Sun. Each turn, the Dark Sun will follow a list of events ranging from resurrecting enemies to killing allies (and just about anything in between to make life harder on a player). The Dark Sun can be destroyed, but not by characters with Felonies (you can fight fire with fire, but not evil with more evil, it seems).
Now it may seem that Felonies might not always be such a good thing to have. So there is a way to remove them. Characters can transmigrate to atone for sins and remove the Felonies but not their bonuses. How nice is that?
Like most Nippon Ichi games, the level of characters can reach all the way to 9,999. Also, characters can be reincarnated which sets the character back to level 1 but with stronger base stats. As the character levels again, the small increase in the base stats is multiplied over each level making for huge differences at higher levels. While it might seem alarming to return to level 1 at first, it is much faster to return a character to a level than it was to get them there in the first place. In the regular game, players will probably not reach level 100 but the post-game gives players a great deal of possibility.
So how does the game rank on a scale from 1 to 10?
FUN FACTOR – 8.0
The game has a fun and quirky story on its own, but the story is in no way a sequel (not even very similar in feel) to the previous Disgaea. This can often be a deterrent to fans of the first Disgaea. The mechanics of the game, however, are a sequel to the first Disgaea and improve on and expand the previous game in every way. The mechanics of the game can get number heavy for players who pay attention to them, but don’t need to be understood. This means the game is accessible to anyone, with or without an engineering degree. The game has lots to do and is open to any play style, giving a great deal of customizability to the players. Any gamer who can enjoy a Strategy RPG with a good dose of silliness will find a good time with this one.
Graphics – 8.0
Graphics for this game are on par with most games in the genre and are much improved on from the first Disgaea. Characters are hand drawn 2D sprites displayed on a 3D map. While beautiful for what they are, many players expect games to push the limits of a system’s graphical capabilities. Few games in the genre will ever be accused of doing that. For players who expect games should be rendered in 3D, this category will probably score about a 3 instead. Players who love board games and old-school RPGs will feel right at home with this game.
Audio – 9.0
The music in this game is beautiful and is always appropriate for setting the tone and mood of the areas. Dialogue is voiced over, and can be set to English or the original Japanese voices. The voices are well done in both languages. Also, the sound effects are perfectly suited to the actions happening onscreen. Over all, there may be room for improvement, but the audio in the game is nice and does everything it is expected to.
Ingenuity – 7
While the game play here is almost a direct copy of a previous game, that game play was re-developed and improved on in almost every facet. Nippon Ichi delivers an old favorite to their fans in a whole new way. Truly not the most ingenuity added to a genre, but perhaps the most found in a sequel.
Replay Value – 8
The replay value of this game exceeds that of normal RPGs by a great deal. The New Game+ feature allows players to easily reach the multiple endings, and rewards them for doing so. The many post-game levels also give players something to strive for after the regular story is beaten. Also the extreme leveling ability gives hardcore gamers an unusually impressive maxed character to strive for. This game takes the post-game features of Disgaea and greatly expands the length of available play for anyone who isn’t quite ready to put the controller down after the final boss is beaten.
The same appeal factor from the First Disgaea holds true here. The graphics may be found to be subpar compared to other genres, but humor and game play are top notch. This is simply a typical Strategy RPG with a twist. Fans of the genre or RPGs in general should see if the style appeals to them. A word of warning to Disgaea fans: the story is not Disgaea 1 and should not be directly compared (let it stand on its own), but everything else has gone far beyond what the first did. Happy Gaming.