Friday 15 November 2013

Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories Review (PS2)

Nippon Ichi has unleashed some of the most obsessively addictive Playstation 2 titles the platform has ever seen. Tactical RPG’s of the highest standard and polished in every tiny detail seem to flow from the developer at will. Now the franchise that stated the European love affair with the team returns with what is possibly the most lavish title of them all, and yet it is also arguably the most accessible.

The wonderfully absurd story revolves around a curse placed on the realm ruled by the Overlord Zenon. Zenon has cursed all the inhabitants of the world and now they have all turned into monsters, except for our dashing hero Adell. Adell’s family (now monsters) try and summon the Demon lord to them but instead end up with his Daughter. From this point on the story goes completely insane as Adell sets off to find and kill the Overlord and lift the curse on the land.

On your journey you will encounter creatures and characters that only the wonderful scriptwriters at Nippon Ichi could possibly create. The story is absolutely ridiculous but in a truly wonderful way and there is so much personality in almost everyone you meet you can’t help but push forward to see what awaits. This game at times is hilarious; you have to wonder what sort of strange twisted genius came up with it.

The action follows pretty much the same flow as before with the player’s team being deployed on a map split into squares. The colour coded squares return- these can be used to create various effects by having different nodes dropped on them. Once destroyed these nodes then cause a chain reaction that will destroy all the coloured squares leading to massive combos.

Crucially and helpfully the way characters gain experience has slightly changed. Before characters gained experience by damaging and defeating enemies. This meant that healer characters and characters that use support magic had to be shoe horned into attacking positions and combo’s in order to stop them falling behind as the warriors in the party level up. Now as well as dealing damage characters gain experience from using skills, so support characters level up in a more natural way.

A number of other features have now been streamlined and improved. The Dark assembly where you must go to create new characters and pass new laws that allow new features is much easier to understand and use. Bonus awards from levels now contain more experience meaning there are far fewer level up walls in the title, which is one of the most welcome additions.

Entering the item world (where you battle through up to one hundred maps to level up items) is much the same as before. Only now it contains more features, such as space pirates, seedy bars, more item specialists and the demon court. The demon court is an interesting though not vital new addition. Here characters can go and be sentenced for crimes they have committed. With each crime the character builds up a criminal record and gains new items depending how bad they have been.

There are a number of new character classes and skills available allowing more customisation for players willing to dig into the near endless depths of the title. Players can create a large number of characters to use but as only a limited number can be placed on a map so it pays to keep groups small as anyone not used quickly falls behind in the levelling up stakes, meaning you have to replay levels to get them up to speed.

 The new option of killing and resurrecting your characters in a new class is interesting. The idea is that if you are lucky characters will keep some or all of their skills from their previous incarnation and now be able to gain the new abilities of the new character class. The game even tells you it is possible to create a character with every skill, should you have the time and the obsessive compulsive disorder to do so. However there is always the very real risk that character will forget some or all of their previous skills leaving you with a slightly stronger but unskilled reincarnation.

As far as tactical RPG’s go there is no company to rival the skill level and passion of Nippon Ichi. It is clear they really care about what they are producing and continually polish their titles to the smallest detail. Disgaea 2 is a little easier than the first game due to the welcome omission of so many frustrating level up walls but still contains stupid amounts of extra things to do which those with any kind of life outside of gaming will never see.

Though easier the game is still fairly long, probably setting in at around fifty hours. Putting a time estimate on how many hours you would need to put into the title to complete everything is both pointless and a little scary to imagine, but we dare say that someone out there in a very dimly lit room will be attempting it. Disgaea is a joy to behold, you can dip into it for a short time or lose several years of your life in a sessions and that is one of the many wonderful things about the title. It is both the most complex and most accessible title in the genre and a must for anyone who is looking for something a bit different, an epic adventure or a life long love.

Overall 9/10

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