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Developer: Nippon Ichi Software Publisher: Nippon Ichi Software Platform: PlayStation 3 Release Date: October 8, 2013 ESRB: T for Teen A download code was provided by the publisher for this review Disgaea has always been sort of an odd series for me. When I played Disgaea: Hour of Darkness all those years ago, I was enthralled, at the time thinking that this quirky little game might very well be one of the best games ever made. However, as time went on, and I began to lose interest in Nippon Ichi and its flagship series; Disgaea 2 failed to interest me, and the company's other SRPG offerings were not the most enjoyable experiences for me (with the exception being Soul Nomad & The World Eaters)... and eventually I paid only the smallest amount of attention to the newest Nippon Ichi announcements. So, when Nippon Ichi announced Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness, a direct sequel to the first Disgaea game, I took notice. A new game with some of my favorite... 'protagonists' ever, and with updated mechanics? Needless to say, I was pretty excited, but such a sequel has lofty goals it must reach in the eyes of fans. How bright does Disgaea D2 shine in its darkness? As stated above, Disgaea D2 continues the story of the original Disgaea starring Laharl, Etna, and Flonne. A few years have passed since the events of the original Disgaea, and Laharl has taken the position of Overlord of the Netherworld... but it seems that no one really noticed that, much to the young demon's frustration. He and his vassals begin to right this grievous wrong by erecting statues around the Netherworld to show the demons Laharl's greatness. Overall, the plot does well enough for itself, with a few overarching themes to add a cohesiveness to the separate episodes. While the story is full of humor, there are a few more serious moments to make the plot more meaningful, and these are done well enough to not really disrupt anything else in the game. Of course, there's also a bunch of different endings to uncover, though most of these are joke endings that you get from failing specific battles. Also, Disgaea D2 does something I did not expect, but is also something that is a credit to the game itself: There are a surprising small amount of cameos from the first game. Instead, this sequel relies on building a new cast of supporting characters that shine in a different way than the original's, and also dodge the bullet of how to actually incorporate those older characters into the new storyline. Many players also play the Disgaea games for its deep gameplay and mechanics, and Disgaea D2 will not disappoint fans in that regard. Lifting and throwing, Geo Panels and Effects, the Item Sea, and more are still in full force in this game, with all of the upgrades from previous iterations. Some maps even seem like puzzles with the Geo Effects, and the stage is less about killing all the enemies and more about surviving the overwhelming effects until you can remove the harmful Geo Spheres, and it's a very nice change of pace. Also, the Item Sea is as expansive as any other Item World is, complete with Pirate Ships you can navigate to get further within each item's sea. Two new gameplay mechanics make a debut in Disgaea D2 that add even more depth to your strategy, as well as even make it easier for your to grind and make it through the game. The first is that you can now Mount Monster units. Mounting a monster unit gives the rider and monster new abilities (which progress as the two units spend more time together) and other benefits. These new skills tend to be quite powerful (provided that both units are properly leveled), and it's a very viable strategy to have hurt or squishier units mount a monster unit, as only the monster will take damage from an attack. The other new mechanic is the Cheat Shop. There, you can tweak the amount of EXP or HL you get, or turn on and off multiple other modes. The Cheat Shop makes it incredibly easy to level up your units: Since you can change the amount of experience you get, and can up the monsters' levels, it makes it far easier than ever before to level (and even over-level) for the game's story. Many more options unlock after beating the main story as well, still making it a viable option for the post-game. Since grinding has always been a part of the series, seeing a mechanic that lowers the amount you have to grind to progress is a refreshing sight, especially if you're not fond of the Item Sea. The graphics and soundtrack are also great. All of the sprites are very well drawn and detailed, and look great even when up-close. The skill animations are of course over the top and great looking, as well. The soundtrack consists of some remixed tunes from the original Disgaea as well as some new tracks, and they fit well on the maps and in the cutscenes alike. However, this sequel isn't without its flaws. Unfortunately, Disgaea D2 has a few glitches that freeze up the game, most notable and common of which being when an enemy Witch uses a Fire spell. I've had the game lock up on me on multiple occasions, almost always in the middle of a skill activation, which led me to skipping battle animations when I didn't need to watch it for the skill library completion. It's also likely that the freezing up only happens in the digital version, and a fair amount of people never come across errors at all, though it can be frustrating when one of these freezes do happen. The other major problem is with the final boss battle itself. Whereas most of the game progresses its difficulty at a steady pace, the final boss itself is incredibly difficult, with a powerful Evility and a hard hitting attack with crazy range. It's a very tough battle to get through without an overleveled party (or some really great gear), and is a very difficult final hurdle to overcome. Is Disgaea D2 the sequel to the original that fans were expecting? Well, yes. We get to the main characters of the first Disgaea in a new game, with a good plot to work through. Also, the inclusion of mechanics old and new ensure a new experience for even the seasoned Disgaea veteran, and the usual over-abundance of post-game content will keep players occupied for hundreds of hours if they decide to tackle it. This is a Disgaea game through and through, and a worthy purchase for any Disgaea or SRPG fan. Pros: + Story is entertaining enough to keep you playing + Gameplay mechanics are deep and complex, but also simple enough to grasp the basics of + Cheat Shop makes it easy to grind, making the game more accessible to a new crowd Cons: - Glitches and freezing sometimes crop up, leading to frustration - Final boss is not challenging, but rather overpowered and cheap Overall Score: 9.0 (out of 10) Fantastic Despite a few hiccups, Disgaea D2 is a Strategy RPG that's well worth playing, and even a good starting point for those new to the series.