Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness is the latest game in the long running Disgaea series. Not including several spinoffs and re-releases with added content, this is the 5th installment in the series. However, this is the first game that is actually a sequel to the original, with each prior game telling more or less its own story. Each game is set in the same weird multiverse setting, there would occasionally be cameos, but each new game focused on a new set of characters.
While I have enjoyed every game in the series, none of them really captured the magic of the first. I’m not entirely sure why I prefer the first game, it’s not in any way a technically better game than its successors. Having now played D2, I still really don’t know, but the magic of the first game is present here.
If you’ve never played a Disgaea game before, you can pretty much start anywhere in the series. There’s not really any prerequisite knowledge you’ll gain from any of the other games that you’ll need to be able to enjoy any of the other games in the series, even this one. Basically all you need to know is each game takes place in the Netherword, where demons live, play, and try to kill each other for fame, wealth, and power.
It’s a kind of bizarro world where the populous is rewarded for being violent, self-serving, and manipulative because sociopathic behavior is a virtue to which they aspire. Never mind, after writing that, I realize I should say that Disgaea talks place in a world much like our own where all of our less pleasant tendencies are brought out in to the open and idolized for being vice.
It’s from this that Disgaea derives much of its humor. The game’s stories are invariably morality tales where the game’s protagonist struggles with their impulse to do good while trying to do the wrong thing. In the end we all learn a valuable lesson about following our heart, and truth, and justice, and maybe some other stuff depending on the particular game.
The original Disgaea concerns the events following the death of The Overlord and his son’s rise to power as his successor. D2 follows several years after the events of the first game with the Overlord’s son still struggling to force his Overlordship upon the Netherworld. Laharl along with his vassals: the fallen angel Flonne and the less than faithful Etna, is challenged by the Krichevskoy Group, a group of advisors to the former Overlord who do not accept Laharl’s rule.
There’s also an angel named Sicily who claims to be Laharal’s little sister after arriving in the mail, and mysterious angelic flowers blooming all over the place, so Laharl and company set off to uncover the mystery and figure out what exactly is going on as a means to prove Laharl is a worthy successor to his father.
So much of what makes the story work is the execution. Most of the original game’s cast has returned with exception of Etna’s original voice actress. You are unlikely to notice her absence unless you played the original PS2 release of the first game. She was recast for all subsequent Etna appearances throughout the series.
That aside, the voice work in this game is excellent. Everything in a joke is about delivery. Disgaea is a Japanese game that constantly references video games and anime that are obscure at best for most western audiences.
Since it’s also a story that relies heavily on parodying video game conventions it runs the risk of becoming the very thing it’s making fun. This all considering if the humor gets lost in translation, but I’m quite convinced the voice talent could have the cast of Disgaea read obituaries and it would be at least a little bit funny.
Every time anyone speaks it’s amusing. D2’s story isn’t my favorite in the series, but the dialog and voice work is absolutely stellar. There’s a Japanese language option there if you really want it but you’re missing out.
On the game play front what’s here is a classic turn based RPG. You move individual characters on a grid and can have up to ten in a single battle. Battles are concluded when all of your enemies are defeated. Where Disgaea really sets itself apart is in its character customization, or rather all of the ways in which you can grow a particular character.
Any character can use any weapon or learn most of the game’s spells and abilities given enough time. Not only can any character be leveled into the thousands, but weapon affinities and skills are leveled independently.
You can even level equipment and items by battling through randomly generated dungeons. Higher level characters can be reincarnated with higher base stats, and then you can start over.
The game’s Dark Assembly feature allows you to exploit your status as Overlord to let you do everything from giving yourself stat boosts or changing your hair color to unlocking secret characters, side quest, or hidden bosses to test out your maxed out characters on. There’s also a Cheat Room that allows you to directly affect the balance of the game.
This is probably the most important aspect of the game, and one of the reasons Disgaea is so endearing. Not only can you grind out some ultra-strong characters, but there’s actually still a lot to do with that character once you have him or her more developed.
I’ve never played an RPG that required you to grind to max level in order to beat it. I often do grind because I enjoy it, because I’m weird like that. D2 isn’t so hardcore that it actually forces you to do insane things like level a character to level 9999. If you just want to play the game for the story and get out that’s an option. It isn’t a hard game though, it’s actually fairly accessible.
There’s just a lot of stuff you could do if you were so inclined. I had to play through this game very quickly to get you this review, it’s almost criminal to play a game like this in that fashion. I haven’t seen all there is to see in D2, but the original Disgaea kept me busy for almost half a year. From what I’ve seen this game has the potential to live up to that.
It’s been 10 years since I played the first Disgaea game. It’s a game I have a lot of fond memories of Disgaea because of the time of my life when I first played it and because of the exceptional quality of the game itself. Characters like Etna, Flonne, and Laharl stay with you for a while. They’ve always been present in the series, but it’s nice to spend some real quality time with them again.
If you’re a fan you can’t go wrong with this game. If you’ve been feeling burnt out on Disgaea, this game definitely rekindled my interest in the series. Any game where the quality of my review is stifled by my overwhelming urge to play that game is a great one.