Release Date: January 30, 2017 (Originally February 23, 2006)
I love to level grind in every RPG I play. Even if the game isn’t that difficult and I could play straight through it, I just get a rush from being able to stomp all over everything by being a higher level than my opponents. The Disgaea series understands people like me and made an entire game around encouraging people to level grind to their heart’s content. While I’ve been playing the first entry in the series for almost a decade, this was my first foray into the second game, and it has some big shoes to fill.
While I wouldn’t normally address graphics first in a review, as they are rarely something that affects my review score much, since many people may play this game after experiencing the recent remaster of the first game, I want to make sure I say that, yes, the graphics are rough. The game came out in 2006 initially for the PS2 and it wasn’t a pretty game at the time, much less twelve years later. Don’t expect the game to look like the remaster or the more recent entries in the series, but realize that the sound design is still excellent, with catchy music and a strong voice acting cast, and that the character and environment models do get a certain charm to them as time goes on. With that out of the way, let’s talk about the story!
Disgaea stories are always simple, but effective, in order to get the player into the endless level-grinding as quickly as possible. In this entry, the story follows Adell, a young man whose entire town has been taken over by an overlord of the netherworld, and his journey to defeat the overlord and prevent his family and friends from turning into demons. Along the way, he meets Rozalin, the daughter of the overlord with some complicated feelings towards her father, and they continue their journey together, meeting many obstacles and new faces along the way.
While the story isn’t enormously complicated or engrossing, it does its part well and I found myself invested until the end of the game. The game’s dark sense of humor also adds to the fun, as I frequently wanted to keep playing just to get to the next joke. Normally, Disgaea characters are unique and interesting, but I found that none of them lived up to the standards set in the first title or JRPGs in general, as characters with good development are usually a strength to the genre. Instead, the characters were just there to progress the plot and allow us to get to the real meat of the experience: Grinding for hours.
Explaining the gameplay of Disgaea 2 is complicated, as there are a lot of moving parts. The central gimmick of Disgaea 2 is that it is a tactical RPG where characters level up to 9999, which makes this game an absolute dream for anyone who loves to grind endlessly away to create the strongest possible characters. As someone who probably loves level-grinding more than story content in my RPG experiences, I can promise that this is absolutely addicting and leads to a lot of nights spent playing the same level hundreds of times to max out stats.
If leveling up to level 9999 sounds like child’s play, there is no need to worry, because that is far from the only feature in this game. There are blocks that create status effects on certain panels in a given map, unlockable character classes, an ability to reset a character to level one with additional stat bonuses, the creation or capturing of enemy monsters, and every single item has its own randomized dungeon in it that can be run through for stat boosts. If this sounds like a lot to take in, that’s because it is. A fault of the Disgaea series is that it doesn’t handhold overly well and will expect players to pick up the mechanics on their own. While that may sound daunting at first, experimentation is the key to success, and don’t be ashamed to look up guides from those who already figured a mechanic out. Learning curves usually leave me running away as fast as I can, but for this game, I buckled down and figured it out, and I don’t regret it.
With any PC port of an older title, reporting on the quality of the PC version of the game is necessary, and there are definitely some problems here. Most glaringly, the control scheme for keyboard and mouse is awful by default. Thankfully, rebinding is available here, so with a little extra work, the game can work just fine. For what it’s worth, I played by using the spacebar as the accept and select button, the E button to open up the command menu, and WASD to move the cursor around to select characters, move, and target. I would have ideally liked to use the mouse to do selections, as that makes logical sense to me in a tactical RPG, but I could never make the mouse function as consistently as the WASD, so I ended up unplugging my mouse entirely while playing this game.
As a more minor nitpick, this game is specifically a ported version of the PSP remake of the game, which came with a bunch of additional DLC characters that could be fought and then recruited. The problem is, in the PSP version, these additional characters were level 100 and therefore could not be used until the late-game. In the port, however, these characters are scaled to the level of the chapter the player is completing. While this may sound nice, it’s not done very well. While the battles may have been scaled down, the rewards for completing the battle were not. This leads to getting thousands of experience points and a lot of high-end gear, which makes the entire first third of the game too easy and imbalanced. In general, I wouldn’t recommend using the DLC characters until later in the game, if at all.
Overall, I found Disgaea 2 to be an enjoyable game, albeit one that has a clear niche audience that needs to be able to appreciate its eccentricities. Those who have played the first game will feel right at home here, but to those who haven’t, I would recommend going back and playing the first one, as it has a remaster available and eases the player in a little better than this entry does. Still, if you want to start with this entry, I don’t believe there’s any reason not to, as I thoroughly enjoyed my time with this game and can’t wait to play more of the series in the future.
Final Score: 7/10