Title: Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories
Developed By: Nippon Ichi Software
Published By: Nippon Ichi Software America
Based On: A sequel to Disgaea: Hour of Darkness
Console: Playstation 3 (PS2 Classics Title)
Genre: Tactical RPG
Classification (US): This title has been classified as T for Teen by the ESRB, for Language, Mild Fantasy Violence and Mild Suggestive Themes
Review Conditions: North American Edition, Playstation Network Digital Copy
Special Thanks: Nippon Ichi Software America for providing a review copy of this title
In the lush world of Veldime, the curse that was placed upon the planet by Overlord Zenon is turning the people into demons, and transforming the world into a Netherworld. After 15 years of living as demons, the citizens of Holt Village are finally ready to perform a ritual to summon Overload Zenon. Now Adell, a young demon hunter, Rozalin, the daughter of the Overlord who was mistakenly summoned, and an assassin from another Netherworld, Etna, are all looking for Zenon.
While not the first Nippon Ichi Software game tactical RPG for me to play (That is a title held by Phantom Brave), when it comes to the companies prized video game series Makai Senki Disgaea (Disgaea in English), Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories was my introductory title to the franchise – and also the first main Disgaea game to be published by Nippon Ichi Software America. In 2009, Disgaea 2 received a PSP port with a wealth of new features including a whole new Axel-oriented storyline, gameplay improvements and new characters to boot.
BUT, perhaps you don’t own a Playstation Portable or Playstation Vita…. perhaps you prefer sitting in the comfort of your couch, a big TV screen and a trusty controller in your hand…. until now you have been out of luck unless you managed to track down a copy of the PS2 release. Last week, NIS America released the Playstation 2 version of the game on the Playstation 3 as a Playstation 2 Classic title. What does this mean for you as a gamer? For the cost of $9.99 you can get yourself a copy of the original game which besides looking a bit nicer on a larger TV screen is completely faithful to the original. Unfamiliar with the series? Read ahead in my review of Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories.
Moving from the Netherworld which Disgaea: Hour of Darkness took in, we come across a family living in the world of Veldime. Originally populated by humans, the residents fell foul of a curse by the evil Overlord Zenon, which resulted in them all turning into Demons, and whom are slowly becoming more and more demon like each day. 15 years later, the only human resident of the world “Adell” is tasked to defeat Overlord Zenon and free his family and everyone else from the curse. With “volunteer” sacrifices, his mother performs a summoning ritual, but instead of summoning the overlord she summons his daughter Rozalin.
While the two may not initially hit it off, bound by a contract Rozalin is left to take Adell to her father… and from there this leads them on a quest involving a talking (demon) frog, the “Beauty Queen” Etna, a dark overlord and two characters who are not necessarily pleased with their lack of role in the game.
Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories does not stray too far away from the usual Disgaea series formula of delivering storyline merged with comedy and witty writing. Unfortunately out of all the games it is probably my least favorite storyline in terms of events and progression, however that being said still provides interesting plot, a plethora of characters which are developed over thirteen episodes and the comical writing which sets itself apart from the pack….
Want to break the fourth wall? Sure!
Want to set out on a journey to defeat an overlord at Level 1? Sure!
Want to battle the previous games main character over his dissatisfaction at not being main character? Sure!.
If you have enjoyed any previously released installments you should feel right at home with this game. Aside from a number of alternate endings (Many of which simply involve killing the story short on subsequent playthroughs), the game also throws in a number of post-game stages which give small storylines focused around different characters not necessarily part of the main storyline – Asagi, Zetta, Kurtis etc.
As with all other non-HD Playstation 2 releases on the Playstation 3, Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories does not feature any improvements or alterations from the original visual style. This means that, as with the gameplay, you should not expect any of the improvements made in Disgaea 3/4 or even Disgaea 2: Dark Days to carry over into this release. However, you will be glad to know that the game does appear to look slightly better on newer model televisions than if you were to play with the Playstation 2 version – as seems to be the cast with most of the Playstation 2 Classics I have playtested in the past.
While some may call D2′s visuals dated, even at its time of original release, the design decisions (Most of which have carried over even to recent releases) suits the genre and what they attempt to deliver well. The character sprites are well designed and detailed, and for generic characters offers enough variety in design and colour so you won’t necessarily feel like you have assembled an army of the same three characters. Character portrait designs are also nicely detailed and while not animated adapt to the characters moods well through different facial emotions – as you would expect to see from most visual novels.
For the most part, each chapter in the game is comprised of a different themed set of standard levels – leaving the randomly generated levels to the item world. While they do not stand out as much as more recent releases, they do the job well and especially in the later levels have been designed to offer visual appeal and challenge – perhaps a bit more of the latter upon comparison.
The Disgaea series has always featured a “fun” and well suited compilation of music created by the mind and hands of Tenpei Sato, and Disgaea 2 is no exception. Featuring a set of new, old and remixed tracks from Hour of Darkness, there are tracks that are well suited for every scene – from a calm jingle for when you are in Holt Village, to a more serious tone when you are in a battle to a rather odd “Super Hero” jingle whenever you call for assistance from Kurtis, the 38th Defender of Earth. The title was also the first to feature an opening sequence with the song Sinful Rose which when coupled with the animation works like a charm.
Fans of Japanese dubbed voice acting will be glad to know that it has been retained in this release alongside the English dub. The quality of the dub does vary a bit, but voice acting by Shiloh Strong (Adell), Wendee Lee (Rozalin and Taro) and Michelle Ruff (Etna) was welcome – however special note must go to Dave Wittenberg as Tink – a character who may get on your nerve at times but Wittenberg pulls off his role very well.
Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories features a similar tactical RPG system to Hour of Darkness, however features the occasional tweak to improve upon the gameplay and provide a new degree of challenge. Split up into many individual battles, the game requires you to set out your party of storyline and custom characters against the enemies on the field, often with your sole purpose being to eliminate them and avoid being defeated from them or traps in the level design. The biggest factor that can alter the course of the battles is the Geo Panel / Geo Symbol system – which unless strategically removed can grant you or your enemy a number of positive or negative affects – from invincibility to instant kill.
When you factor in all the other typical tactical RPG systems – the lifting, the sizable character creation options, the equipment systems and the level 9,999 level cap you are provided with a very lengthy game that provides an ample amount of challenge and strategics potential. Given the design of the levels, I would say this is one of the more challenging Disgaea games for one to start off with. Returning Disgaea players will also feel at home with the return of the Dark Assembly (Where you use Mana and Bribes to encourage senators to vote your way) and the Item World (Where you level up your items through traversing randomly generated worlds).
The game throws in a few fun exclusive features as well… the most notable being the Court System where you can get subpoenas upon reaching certain milestones. Through the Item World service, you can enter the subpoena world, attend your court hearing and have a felony recorded against your character. While this may sound bad, don’t forget this is Disgaea where evil deeds are supposedly “Marks of Honor” and will earn yourself some nice bonuses including increased EXP gain and better senator affection in the Dark Assembly. Milestones that may result in a subpoena include [High Level] or [Defeated too many monsters]. It is a fun way of giving you something to do outside of the main story mode and earns you some benefits to boot.
In terms of more end-game content, the game provides an ample amount of modes to unlock. Upon obtaining enough Mana you can pass special requests through the Dark Assembly allowing you to unlock new characters from previous and non-existant games, the Land of Carnage which allows you to reply the story mode stages again only at a greatly increased difficulty and finally the D2 exclusive Dark World where you once again replay through the games stages with the menacing “Dark Sun” appearing high in the sky. In this mode you must stack your characters up and have them ascend to the sky (Sacrificing all their HP) to deal damage to it – until its defeat.
I have only briefly gone over the gameplay aspects of Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories, however I will say that especially for the low price of $9.99 and even without all the latest gameplay mechanics you will be getting quite a lot of gameplay and replayability for your money. While the storyline might not have been as enjoyable as other installments in the franchise, it makes up for it with some well designed visuals, strong track list and voice acting and providing some of the more challenging gameplay I have played through in the series.
I can happily recommend this Playstation 2 Classic.
Storyline/Character Development: B
Music/Voice Acting: A
Personal Opinion: A
Overall Score: A-