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SummaryIt can be fun but it's overall a disappoint
The GoodDisgaea 2, for those who don't know, it a tactical-RPG released for the Playstation 2 by an obscure Japanese company whose name I can't remember. Despite its creators being obscure, the game got translated into Shakespeare's language and released worldwide. Also, this game is obviously the sequel of another tactical-RPG, Disgaea (also on PS2), and I dindn't play it, so I cannot compare this game with its predecessor. Although it's definitely not a very popular game, the few people that know about it seems to say it is a masterpiece. This convicted me to buy the game when I found a copy for a decent price, and well this sure isn't an ordinary game.
Disgaea 2 takes place in a "dark netherworld" or something like that, but in fact the game is anime/cartoonish and is not serious AT ALL. The game is completely crazy/foolish to the bone, even Mario games are more serious than this. I guess this is fun for a short while, but also annoying sometimes. The game features cool characters. You take control of Adell, a standard hero who wants to always keep his promises (but then why does he make promises at all ?), and Rozalin who is the spoiled daughter of the main antagonist of the game. Everyone has been turned into monsters or half-monsters except Adell and you basically want to kick the ass of the main antagonist to turn them back to human.
Along the way Adell's bother and sister, Tardo and Hanako respectively join you, they are half monsters, they are very cute and very strong, probably the stronger non-mage characters in the game and are the only characters who weren't too annoying in the story. There is a couple of other minor story-wise characters that joins, but if you want any more people you have to make them. You can create characters of a set of classes, give them names, etc... like in old PC games. The game have a LARGE set of names in memory tough. Every single enemy has a name, and those are real names from various languages (English, French, Italian, Japanese, etc...). In fact chances are that you'll even found an enemy who shares your name ! And if you're going to have a baby and want to find a name for him, this could be useful.
The point that is most significant to how good or bad a game is is the gameplay. It the play system is perfect, then there is not much reason to dislike the game. If the play system is horrible, it's hard to play the game even if the rest looks good. Thanks god the gameplay in Disgaea 2 is good. It manages to be more addictive than most tactical RPGs around, thanks to a few innovations in the battle system.
A great innovation is the geo-panels. The panels are sometimes colored, and if a geo-symbol is placed on a panel of a color, it can affect all panels of that color in a good or bad way. For example it can give stats bonuses or penalties, heal or damage anyone who is standing on panels, increase power of elemental magic, or have much weirder effects like teleporting people. Multiple effects can happen at once. It's possible to move or destroy the symbols to move/cancel their effect. Those geo-panels seems a little annoying, but in fact they added a lot of fun and strategy to the game. It's hard to explain, but that's basically what saves the game from being dull.
Another innovation is combo attacks. If a good guy use a normal attack, he can join with his friend if they stand on a neighbour panel, and they can do impressive combos, up to 4 characters at once ! Enemies could also do that but thanks god they rarely does.
The third major innovation is the lift/throw system. You can (literally) lift allies, and then throw them on another panel, without wasting the turn of the guy being lifted/thrown. You can lift someone who already lift someone else, and create "towers" of people. To be honest, the possibilities of this system are just crazy, as you can reach enormous distances in one turn, trow people above a hole and things like that. I must admit I didn't use this system to the fullest why playing through the game.
Aside of those 3 big innovations among the traditional tactical-RPG, the gameplay is solid and what you'd expect. Some weapon like spears and bow can attack for longer ranges, and as in most tactical RPGs, magic can attack from very far away and do massive damage to many foes at once, and since there is no need to save MP for long dungeons as in traditional RPGs, mages are just so much better than anything else. I just had all my best characters mages, something I never do in regular RPGs as then I don't want to be screwed when I run out of MP.
You get some very good voice acting both during battle and story scenes. It's good that while fighting you'll hear something coming from the mouth of your units, that does rarely sound like words, but I like it that way. Healers randomly says "Lord" or "Ha", mages randomly says "Yiaa" or "Wind", but they can attack or cast a Ice spell and say "Wind", which is stupid but for some reason it's very charming.
The BadUnfortunately, I don't find game as good as pretty much everyone claimed. The gameplay is good, but menu interface can be very annoying sometimes, it's very easy to mess up in commands. And why do you have to input commands and then select "execute" ? Why don't they execute commands immediately ? Also there is no way to know which characters have already acted and not.
The game come packaged with a CD soundtrack, which is good considering I had to pay a lot to get the soundtrack of some games (Final Fantasy IX comes to mind). Unfortunately, the music found in Disgaea 2 is really, really bad. It's either very cheap techno that sound like the Megadrive/Genesis, or simply very cheap jazz with no melody. The tracks who have melody have a bad melody played by the only musical instrument I dislike : the violin, and the "melodies" are inharmonious all the way along. Fortunately, I can remember ONE good song from the game, that was a sad melody played with a ocarina or something like that, and the melody was decent. Too bad you only hear it in a narrow place you don't stand here for long. It basically is the only decent track I found in the whole soundtrack.
The sound effects are bad as well. When you move the cursor an annoying noise come out of the speaker, and you hear it again and again during battles. Sound effects during battles are unvaried for most not realistic and muffled (for some reason the sound effects for spells are better tough). The only good thing about the sound is the acting.
I usually don't really care about graphics in games. Here the graphics are in 3D isometric (2.5D as some says), and that would be a good thing because I like 3D isometric games. However, the graphics really look like they are out of an early PS1 game or so, and that is NOT good. I can understand not all games have Final Fantasy X's quality to their graphics, but still I don't expect it to look like a 1997 game. The sprites looks decent and fun, but rotate horribly. The backgrounds however are really weird, unrealistic and looks misplaced. The animation during battle is really not good looking for a PS2 game. The graphics are a bit similar to Final Fantasy Tactics but it came out ten years before this game ! And I know what I am talking, Atelier Iris Eternal Mana managed to have 2.5D graphics on the PS2 but still looking clear, modern and lifelike.
The story in the game is completely annoying and predictable, and is pure crap. Basically all characters are constantly acting with that "I'm in a videogame" mood without ever trying to be natural, which is horrible. A lot of things in the game are ripped from existing games. For example there is a toad who speaks french which is a BLAND COPY of Jean from Breath of Fire II. What I dislike about this game is that it has a lot of what I'd call misplaced fun. The game is basically trying hard to become fun, but that really looks retarded and misplaced. Do you think penguins that says "many years" when they attacks and explode when they are thrown are fun (as the box seems to imply) ? Honestly, it's fun for about one second, but then it becomes annoying. And it's like that all the way along. They even had the sex symbol on PEGI rating, probably because a few stupid jokes they didn't want to remove !
And the worst of all is the presence of a bad guy named Axel. He's supposed to be a guy who were popular and is now a "has been" (exactly like Michael Jackson). All he says is SO annoying (like "I want to be popular and be showed on TV" ad nauseum) and you fight him no less than 5 times. He deserves to be the most annoying guy I ever saw in any video game, even surpassing Seymour from Final Fantasy X (at least he was a challenge). His only presence make the game much worse than what it could have been without him.
Now I'll say the final and worst flaw of Disgaea 2. The game starts easy, and then becomes difficult as expected. When a map is difficult because you need strategy I don't mind because this is the point of a t-RPG. But then you reach a point where enemies are just insane, and can kill your guys in one blow or so. This basically forces you to revisit stages and level up your characters. Towards the end you're just forced to re-visit all stages and spend countless hours of annoying level-up in order to stand a chance. After very tedious work, I'm able to make my best characters level 60-70, and I can finally made it to the last boss.... Which wipes out those ultra-levelled characters in ONE BLOW ! The only way to stand a chance against him would again to spend 5-6 hours doing the old stages again and again to reach level 90-100 and beat him. But leveling up is not the point of t-RPGs ! On regular RPGs at least you can read the newspaper while pressing the X button and that does the trick. But here you're forced to actually move your unit, input commands via the annoying menu interface, etc, etc... I've wasted enough time leveling up to made it to the final boss, I don't want to waste even more time to level up to beat him to see a cheap and crappy ending like all the rest of the story, while I could play another game and have fun instead !
The box claims there is 100+ hours of gameplay, but even with a lot of annoying level-up I add up to 28 hours, but without it I guess the game would be beatable in about 15-20 hours. By the way I've heard you're allowed to level up to LV 9999, but it was already SO annoying leveling up to 60, I don't want to experience 166 times that crap again ! What were they thinking ?
By the way I also have a big technical complain ! When I start my game, as I have a PAL version of the game a PAL version of the PS2 and a PAL TV normally everything is alright. But I get a grey shaking image instead of an opening FMG, and that is BAD ! Developers don't care about PAL regions AT ALL ! This is another case of racism against Europeans from video game developers ! (now seriously games are 2 times more expensive here than in the US, half of them are released at all and they don't even work well)
The Bottom LineDisgaea 2 is definitely not an ordinary game, but for the most part in a bad way. I cannot say the game is complete crap, as I enjoyed some humor in it and the battle system is definitely good. However, I don't pay the price of a PS2 game to have Megadrive/Genesis quality music with early PS1 graphics. With the bad menu interface, terribly storyline and annoying level ups, I guess it's really not worth it. The game is not completely bad, but you should just as well play a better game. If you are both a big fan of "easy-going-on not serious manga/anime" game and a big fan of t-RPGs at the same time, you *may* be interested in the game, but in the end it's really hard to recommend playing it. I honestly don't know why this game got so much good reviews around.
So yeah, gameplay is what is the most significant in a game... But just as Dragon Quest VIII managed to have boring gameplay, but have everything else so good that in the end it's still an enjoyable game, Disgaea 2 does the exact opposite : It manages to have a good battle system, but everything else so badly done that in the end the game isn't worth playing.
If you come here looking for a "easy-going-on not serious manga/anime" style RPG, I'd really recommend Atelier Iris Eternal Mana instead, it also comes with 2.5D graphics, but it just have way better graphics, MUCH MUCH better music and overall has lot more charm and fun, so I'd recommend it instead.