Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness marks the first true sequel to the groundbreaking strategy RPG for the PlayStation 2. The original Disgaea: Hour of Darkness flipped the traditionally slow-paced strategy RPG genre on its head with its frantic combat and absurd levels of customization. With all the new changes and tweaks, Nippon Ichi Software has given this latest entry in the critically acclaimed Disgaea series, assuming the title of Overlord will be quite the challenge. Is Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness worth another trip down into the Netherworld, or is Laharl’s legacy doomed to end?
A continuation of Laharl’s lineage
The very first Disgaea title focused around the son of late Overlord King Krichevskoy, Laharl, after a two year slumber following the Overlord’s death. As Laharl, players had to work their way up from simply being a prince of the netherworld all the way up to regaining the title of Overlord Laharl, despite objections from many. Disgaea D2 follows up shortly afterwards with Overlord Laharl already established, although hardly anyone beyond minion Etna, rogue angel Flonne, and an army of explosive penguin-like Prinnies support his tyrannical rule. Starting from the lowest levels in the netherworld, Laharl progresses through the story, forcing his opposition into submission as they usually unwillingly accept to support his rule as Overlord of the Netherworld. While there is an establishing story to guide players along the way, it ultimately takes a back seat to the sheer absurdity of tactical gameplay.
The heart of any good strategy role-playing game is its strategy. Whether it’s smaller methodical skirmishes ala Front Mission or Fire Emblem, or full-on war scenarios in Ogre Battle, it’s ultimately up to the player to act as the tactician leading the front lines. The key difference between Disgaea and these games is just how much control and customization the player has over his army. With most other RPG’s on the market, the player is presented with a number of established archetypes for characters in their ranks, be it swordsman, archers, casters, et cetera. With the Disgaea series, and specifically Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness, those conventions can be almost completely dismissed.
Individual characters can be tweaked and swapped around at any level. Advance along the lines of an archer and want to go for something more up close and personal? Reincarnate your character and give them a new life at level 1, while keeping a certain percentage of stats and improvements based upon the Mana currency invested. Any skills early on in a character’s life can infinitely be passed down through further reincarnations. The use of Mana, a sort of experience point gained by defeating enemies, is the primary tool used to customize characters. Creating another character for Laharl’s army also uses Mana, where the unit that expended their hard earned points can act as a mentor to the new character (which can be switched about at will later on). Skills learned by a new party member can be transferred up to a mentor, making it an almost essential mechanic to aide in giving a mage access to any spell they desire with the right mentoring setup.
In addition to the typical mentoring system found in the Disgaea series is a new mechanic in a location known as the Demon Dojo. At this dojo are a number of strength-building activities that allow you to customize a character’s growth. Each activity grants a boon to a particular stat during level up with new and improved activities opening up as you progress through the story.
Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness also features a new mount system that bring a new use to the monsters that previously seemed like a burden in a party. The Magichange mechanic that turns a monster into a weapon usable by humanoid characters from a previous entry was a nice touch, but they were rarely utilized to their full potential. With the mounting capabilities, monsters have a whole new approach to party formation. By mounting up with a friendly monster, players can saddle up and take full advantage of their strengths and extra health. Leveling up a new human party member can be a breeze, as partnering them up with a monster lets them use the monster’s health and mobility as their own while being able to use their own skills and attacks. The best part is that both parties gain full experience and mana while doing so, so it’s a win-win for those that like throwing in extra monsters in their party. Roaming around the item world can be much easier while throwing fireballs from the back of a venomous moth.