Thursday, January 5, 2017

Review #361: Disgaea 2 - Cursed Memories

 New characters, more mechanics, same old Disgaea, more tedium!
 Remember Disgaea? That quirky, crazy convoluted, ridiculous SRPG  that made itself a spot in many a gamer's heart? It's back! A lot has remained the same, but a lot has changed as well.

 While you might spot Etna in the game's cover, and she does indeed become a playable character in the latter chapters, Disgaea 2's story centers around Adell and Rozalin. Adell wants to defeat overlord Zennon and end his curse on humans, which turned them into demons. A summoning ritual gone wrong later and Rozalin, Zennon's daughter, is summoned in his stead. Now Adell will escort Rozalin back to his father.... and then defeat him! The game is peppered with generic animu feel-good scenes about friendship yadda yadda, but it did manage to get a couple of laughs out of me. There's also a few surprising, smart plot twists. All that said, if you ask me, I preferred Disgaea 1 and 3's story and characters over Disgaea 2's. Adell, Rozalin and co. just aren't as interesting as characters, and I didn't see myself laughing as much as I did with previous iterations.
 Explaining how Disgaea works is no small undertaking. It's a turn based strategy RPG. During each battle, both you and the enemies get turns in which to move every unit. You can take up to 10 units out of your base panel(You can even return them back, and swap them for other units! As long as your units don't die, you can keep swapping them), and every turn you get you can move every unit and produce various kinds of strategies. One of the most interesting aspects about Disgaea is how much stuff you can do during your turn, since your turn doesn't end until you end it. You can shuffle the same unit around in order to avoid AoE from friendly allies, or you can move said unit around in order to have it partake in multiple combo attacks! As long as a unit doesn't do anything else besides moving, you can move it as far as its range allows during your turn.

 And there's a lot you can do. Besides attacking, using items or defending, units can also use special attacks tied to whichever weapon they are equipped with. Being in adjacent tiles to up to three other friendly units allows you to use hilarious combo attacks. Then there's Disgaea's trademark mechanic: Lifting. You can lift allies or enemies and throw them around, you can even make towers with many units lifting other units! And then attack with said tower! There's a lot to wrap your head around, and I've only covered the surface. There're also Geo Panels, pyramids that can be place on colored panels and thus imbue all the same-colored panels with its attribute, like, maybe 'Heal 20%' every turn, or even 'Enemy Boost x50'!! There truly is a lot to take in with Disgaea, and you will need to learn everything if you aim to reach level 9999 and fight the bonus bosses!
 I'll try to go over some of the most important things you can do while outside battle, namely, the Senate and the Item world. While in your hub you can opt to enter the Senate, this is where you can have your character create new units or go into a vote in order to allow for more expensive items in stores, unlock bonus maps or other niceties. The Senate may not always vie your way, in which case you can opt to try to fight them or bribe them. Honestly, it was kinda cute in the first game, but in this one... it felt like a bit of a chore, particularly having to go to the Senate over and over again in order to allow me to buy new weapons at the store, since equipment grow outdated very fast.

 .... Or you can try to min-max its stats by going into the Item World. Talking to another NPC will let you enter an Item's item world, a random 100-floor dungeon of increasing difficulty, the deeper you go, the stronger your weapon will get, and defeating certain, special enemies will raise particular stats of the item. In case you haven't noticed already, if you really want to get most of the game... get ready, because it's gonna be a huge time sink. And it can get pretty tedious.
 The game's 13 chapters don't escalate very well as far as enemy levels are concerned, so you will probably need to grind for levels on previous maps at least a couple of times. They changed the way unlocking classes work, for the worst, as well. It's no longer enough to just take a Warrior to level 100 in order to unlock the best version of the class, now you must create(Or reincarnate your unit) one unit of every 'rank' and raise him 10 levels over the previous landmark in order to unlock the next rank. Basically, take your Rank 1 Warrior to level 10 to unlock Rank 2, then reincarnate your Rank 1 into a Rank 2 or create a new Rank 2 Warrior and get him to level 20, and so on. Honestly, it's really boring, and it only serves to waste your time, particularly the first time through the game, when you simply want to get to the end and not have to go back to grind for levels.

 Disgaea 2 - Cursed Memories is not a bad game by any means, but even simply getting through the story mode required more repetition and time that I wanted to sink in the game. But if you are into convoluted games, with a ton of post game content, Disgaea 2 is right up your alley.
 7.5 out of 10

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