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Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness
Hands-On Preview
"Disgaea's combat remains fun by retaining its difficult nature, forcing you to keep a sharp mind."

After putting several hours into the final build of Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness, one phrase keeps coming to mind: "Boy, this sure is some Disgaea." That isn't necessarily a bad thing, but the game does feel shockingly similar to 2003's Disgaea: Hour of Darkness. Luckily, it can be just as fun as that original game.

Laharl, Flonne, and Etna all return as leading characters for this entry as they go on the most whirlwind of PR campaigns to remind the Netherworld who's really in charge. The story doesn't take itself too seriously, which ends up as a good thing. The game seems like it's a stab at a comedic RPG, and though many jokes fall flat, I can't help but find myself enjoying the light-hearted nature of it all.

Disgaea D2 breaks itself into episodes, and each episode gives access to a group of maps. The gameplay is exactly what you might expect out of a strategy RPG, boiling down to basic tactics such as maintaining strategic positioning of your units. Interestingly, characters can develop relationships on the battlefield.  Keeping units near each other on maps can prompt conversations and have characters join up for attacks. This feeds into improving the relationships themselves, which will supposedly lead to better benefits down the line, although I have yet to see any fruits of this labor. It does add a worthwhile side objective to every encounter, however.

I'm also spending a lot of time with some of the side activities. Item worlds make their return, providing hours of optional content, though I've hardly found them necessary in my time with the game. Creating characters in the Dark Assembly has proved itself the truly deep distraction. You pick a base character or monster class, and can customize them in a myriad of ways. You choose a few of their stats, pick a name, a color palette, and even their own personality. Adding my own custom characters to the party has gone a long way towards keeping me engaged with leveling.

The game is far more colorful than past Disgaea games, and better for it. The gorgeous HD art absolutely shines in the brighter environments. Characters are still represented as 2D sprites, but they look positively razor sharp. It's great it all looks so good, because in true Disgaea fashion you'll be seeing the maps often. I've logged about seven or eight hours of playtime, and half of that has been spent replaying levels and grinding. It's nothing surprising for the series, but it does get in the way when you simply want to advance.

I'm enjoying my time with the newest Disgaea. While little of it is unexpected, combat remains fun by retaining its difficult nature, forcing you to keep a sharp mind. Seeing the original trio of Laharl, Etna, and Flonne back together has been wonderfully nostalgic. I'm intrigued to see what else the title has to offer as I get deeper into the experience.

You can look forward to my full review around the game's October 8th release date.

E3 2013 Preview
"NIS fans will be right at home with this new entry."

After taking the Disgaea world truly into high definition with Disgaea 4, Etna, Laharl, and Flonne have finally joined the party with Disgaea D2, coming this fall for PlayStation 3. While the changes aren't sweeping — after all, Disgaea fans know exactly what they're getting into with each entry of the series — there are still systems to be tweaked, color schemes to be changed, and new leveling systems to master. That's exactly what Disgaea D2 provides, so NIS fans will be right at home with this new entry.

Immediately noticeable with Disgaea D2 is the modified color scheme — things aren't nearly as dank and dark as the underworld might seem. Lots of the new environments are outdoors, with greens and blues covering large swaths of the screen. But why the change? Laharl isn't getting his props as overlord of the underworld, so he's gone on a campaign to make sure that everyone far and wide knows that he's the big bad boss.

On his journey, Laharl will be able to keep his party customized via the Master/Pupil System. Both teacher and student will share statistics and skills with each other, providing bonuses to both. All of the Disgaea standby systems return for customization, including the senate, item worlds, and others. New is the Prinny Dojo, which provides a limited number of stat increases which can be assigned across the party. Pin the leagues of equipment and skills that can be gained and your adventurers will certainly be yours and yours alone.

Inside battle, things have changed slightly. Sure, huge towers of characters remain and the basic structure remains intact, but the Magichange system has been stripped. Instead, human characters can piggyback onto their monster allies, giving a bonus with the monster as the "core" unit. It shifts the focus from buffing the standard classes and provides more freedom with changing around units — unlike the Magichange system which stuck you with your monstrous weaponry 'til the end of the battle. Also added are conversations that can appear during battle — no longer is story relegated to the downtime between missions.

Disgaea D2 isn't too far out in North America, slated for release this fall. Fans should be right at home with Laharl and company, though the changes should make things fresh enough for stalwarts and newcomers alike. As NIS's franchise cornerstone, you know that there's going to be quality in the Prinny.


© 2013 NIS America, Nippon Ichi Software. All rights reserved.




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