Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories Review
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On 04/10/2013 at 12:00 PM by Julian Titus
His ATK modifier is OVER 9000?!
Fans of strategy RPGs with a lot of time on their hands. Knowing when to stop playing is also a must.
Friends, let me talk to you for a bit about addiction of a gaming nature. I’m sure you’ve experienced it before: that sense of falling into a game so completely that it takes over your brain and keeps you up until the wee hours of the morning. I’m here to talk about a recent addiction of mine, a game so devilishly devious in its seduction that you would be wise to stay away, even as I tell you that you should by all means play it. That game would be Disgaea 2, a PlayStation 2 game recently added to the PSN marketplace as a PS2 classic.
If you are at all familiar with the Nippon Ichi strategy games you already know what to expect with Disgaea 2. Charming character designs? Check. Witty sense of self-referential humor? Check. Prinnies making liberal use of the word “dood”? Check, check, and check! All of the elements that made the first Disgaea a cult classic are present here, with some tricky new additions. It’s so faithful to the original game, in fact, that it also contains the same problems I had the first time around.
When it comes to turn-based strategy RPGs, the Disgaea series is one of the best examples of the genre on consoles. Having up to 10 party members on the battlefield at one time opens up a ton of strategies, from scrubby team attacks to expert maneuvers that would make Sun Tzu proud. Manipulating the move and attack commands add an even deeper layer to the combat, and once things really click, victory can be immensely satisfying.
Besides finely crafted combat mechanics, Disgaea is all about numbers. Big numbers. Characters can reach the lofty level of 2000, and big team up attacks can put damage numbers well over the 100,000 mark. In reality, it’s a gimmick; the game could have been balanced in such a way where level 99 was the max, but seeing those bigger numbers pop up on the screen instills a feeling of glee within me that other games just can’t match.
Hold on, though—let’s pump the brakes for a second. Disgaea 2 is one of the most grind-heavy RPGs that you’re likely to ever grind in in even your grindiest nightmares. It’s downright grindtastic. You would think that a game that has a level cap of two thousand would have methods of getting to those fabled levels smoothly, but that’s not the case. Or it wasn’t the case for me, at any rate. The game doesn’t do a good job of teaching the finer points of the combat, and if there exist speedier ways of powering up I never learned them. As it stands, leveling up new characters is frustratingly slow.
This protracted leveling can be a problem, because new character classes unlock in this game at a speedy clip, and experimenting with any of these killer soldiers means grinding them from level 1 to whatever the rest of your party is. Equipping new characters with better gear helps them survive stronger enemies, but Disgaea 2 only doles out experience points to characters that either kill an enemy or are part of a team attack. However, since they’re lower level they aren’t likely to do much damage, so choosing them in a story battle makes little sense.
So, why can’t I stop playing? I went down a dangerous rabbit hole with this one. I would unlock a cool new character class, take them into battle after battle to level them up, only to unlock the next evolution of that class, which I would in turn take into battle after battle to level them up. It was a vicious cycle that consumed me; I was constantly leveling far past my bedtime. Combat is just so damn fun, and watching a piddly level 1 character suddenly catch up to the rest of the crew and unleash hell on enemies that were previously untouchable made me feel like a proud papa. Then you have the Item World: a set of progressively tougher random battles inside any item you choose, which serves the double purpose of leveling characters as well as the item itself. As much as I complained about having to start characters off at level 1 so often, I simply couldn’t stop.
Coming up for air after hours and hours of level grinding, item grinding, and, oh yeah, more level grinding rewarded me with a clever little story. Unlike the evil “Overlord-in-training” Laharl from the first game, the hero this time around is a human do-gooder named Adell. He prefers an honest fight, and backstabbing just isn’t his style. He’s joined by the demon princess Rozalin, daughter of the God of All Overlords that Adell wants to defeat once and for all. Their relationship is…complicated, but it makes for some great anime-inspired narrative that’s punctuated by some witty writing and thoroughly entertaining voice acting. Of course, if American voices aren’t your thing, Disgaea 2 has the Japanese vocal track as well.
Disgaea 2 still looks really nice, even when stretched out on an HD screen. Since the majority of the graphics are 2D sprites, there isn’t that sense of being very aware that you’re playing an SD game. I’ve always loved Takehito Harada’s character designs, and the limited amount of character animation does just enough to make his art pop off of the screen. In my darkest hours of addiction it was the Prinnies and Beauty Queen Etna that haunted me, beckoning me back to the game when all I really needed was sleep.
At $9.99, Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories offers a lot of game, especially if you have an addictive personality like I do. Even though the core game can be taken down in 40 or 50 hours, the lust for power that comes with level 2000 is strong, and knowing that there are enemies deep within the bowels of the game that can still be challenging at that level gets the adrenaline pumping.
Just be prepared for an intervention from your closest friends.