Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories PlayStation 2
Published by Koei
Developed by Nippon Ichi
Release Date: Out Now
Walking into a game shop at this time of year is quite a head-spinning event. Everywhere you’ll see new releases, which always seem to arrive by the lorry load at this time of year, and to make matters worse we seem to have a glut of platforms this year with the Xbox 360, GBA, PC, DS, PlayStation 2 all receiving new titles in abundance. To make matters worse here in the UK we are less than four weeks away from the launch of the Wii and if you’re in the US, you’re less than a week away from the launches of the PlayStation 3 and the Wii. In short it’s a nightmare deciding what games to buy and what games to leave until next year. It’s into this seasonal pandemonium that Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories, the sequel to one of the best games we’ve played, is released here in the UK. Unlike most of the titles released at this time of year it oozes with both charm and quality and is quite simply ‘A grade’ material.
Disgaea: Hour of Darkness followed the rise of Laharl as he battled to be become Overlord of the Netherworld. Offering a superbly humorous story and 100+ hours of game play; Disgaea: Hour of Darkness was quite simply the ultimate grid-based strategy RPG. After the release of Disgaea the game’s developers, Nippon Ichi, created two more strategy RPG titles namely Phantom Brave and Makai Kingdom: Chronicles of the Sacred Tome. Both games were great strategy RPG’s but didn’t quite live up to the standard of Disgaea and neither was grid-based. Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories sees a welcome return to the grid-based system and in truth it’s the best strategy RPG since the original release of Disgaea.
The central characters in Disgaea 2 are a young man called Adell and a young Princess named Rozalin. The Overlord Zenon has placed a curse on everyone and turned them into demons. Miraculously only Adell manages to escape this curse although the rest of his family is not so lucky. Adell’s mother, who is a somewhat skilled summoner, decides to summon Zenon so that Adell can challenge him and hopefully get the curse removed. Unfortunately the summoning goes wrong and instead of Zenon being summoned they get his daughter, Rozalin, instead. Under the terms of the summoning it’s up to Adell to take Rozalin hostage but this is something he’s reluctant to do. Instead he gets Rozalin to lead him to her father. Initially Rozalin plans to kill Adell but as the two set off on their travels and subsequent adventures she begins to develop a fondness for both Adell and his family.
In terms of how the game plays and how it looks Disgaea 2 is very similar to Disgaea, which is certainly no bad thing. There are some subtle differences here and there. For instance healers will now gain experience for healing; a small adjustment which I feel actually makes developing healing characters much more enjoyable. Disgaea 2 also does a better job with its tutorial levels, although if you’ve played Disgaea then you can simply skip the instructional part of these. Disgaea fans will also notice that animations for certain magic attacks have been toned down somewhat to what they were in Disgaea. Giga Ice for instance isn’t half as time consuming (or as dramatic looking) as it was in Disgaea. You can even turn off the fighting animations for both your attacks and your enemies. This might seem like a silly thing to do but it really helps speed things up (battles whiz by much faster with the animations turned off) when you’re going back through the levels to level-up your characters. Male Clerics have been taken out of the game too.
Other new features include the Cell Phone item that allows you to do a variety of things such as calling in a Prism Ranger to assist you in battle. Once the Dark World has been unlocked you’ll play a variety of battles there and at times you’ll have to deal with the effects of the Dark Sun. To combat this there is now an Ascend action whereby you build a tower with your characters with the topmost character ascending into the Dark Sun in an attempt to defeat it and stop the effects of the Dark Sun during the battle. There is also a Dark Court system. Essentially you’ll earn subpoenas in the game and you have to enter the Item World (as in Disgaea each item has its own world with 100 levels to battle through) of a subpoena and go to the floor where the Bailiff is. The character that enters the Bailiff’s floor first will earn a felony which is a badge of honour in Disgaea 2. Having a criminal record actually makes it easier to gain favour with the Dark Assembly and their favour is essential for passing bills that can make the game more interesting. Felonies can also affect your battles in the Dark World (that feature the Dark Sun) in a variety of ways.
Disgaea 2 is just as deaf gamer friendly as Disgaea. All of the game’s dialogues are subtitled meaning you’ll be able to follow the entertaining and often humorous storyline. All tutorial messages are displayed in text so you’ll be able to quickly learn the ropes if you haven’t played Disgaea before (these instructions can be skipped if you’d rather not learn the basics). The only speech you’re going to miss out on are the exclamations that the characters give when making an attack. Whilst this is a little disappointing it’s certainly not a problem. I have to say the game manual is better this time around (although the Disgaea manual was OK) and explains any questions you might have and explains any icons you may see in the game.
Disgaea: Hour of Darkness is a hard act to follow but I feel Nippon Ichi have done a great job with Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories. Some new additions and improvements have been made to the highly successful Disgaea formula and on the whole it’s another top drawer strategy RPG from Nippon Ichi. Some may feel the graphics could still be better but you can’t deny that the game looks charming, if not technically excellent. Personally I preferred the characters in Disgaea to those in Disgaea 2 but with the tweaks that have been made it’s fair to say that Disgaea 2 is the better experience. If you’re a strategy RPG fan then Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories is quite simply the PlayStation 2 game of 2006 and it’s an experience that shouldn’t be missed.
For PlayStation 2 owning strategy RPG fans there is no better game than Disgaea 2. It's one of those games where hours seem like minutes and even at 2am in the morning it's difficulty to pull yourself away from it. It's quite simply the best PlayStation 2 game we've played all year.