Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories - PS2 - Review
Very rarely do strategy/RPGs possess the power to entrance players from the moment they begin. Only once a generation is an RPG so hilarious that it makes having a specific award necessary to reward its accomplishment. Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories will come out looking like another anime-based adventure attempting to cash in on the legacy set more than a decade ago by Lunar: The Silver Star Story.
In reality it is a unique masterpiece that achieves instant entrancement. Players will be overwhelmed with laughter, fall in love with the cast, and be extremely anxious to find out what happens next. Meanwhile, in between the scenes of hilarity, you’ll be captivated by the game’s strategic battle system and its wonderful grid-based arenas.
Rolling on the Floor
“What does he want with our kids? He won’t get much money by selling them, so what’s the point?”—Adell’s mother.
There’s nothing like a family who cares. Adell’s family cares a little too much…about their own well-being! If you’ve been following our coverage of the game, then you already know that Adell is the aspiring hero of the adventure. A vengeful curse turns his family into demons. Next thing he knows Mom is making ridiculous requests, hoping that if Adell listens he can remove the curse. Dad, on the other hand, is busy trying to cope with the talking pimple sticking out of his chest. It’s growing daily and, like all things in this world, is very evil.
Much hilarity ensues by the strange turn of events, with laugh-out-loud dialogue in almost every scene. These characters are different, likable, and very well voiced. There are a few annoyances here and there, but that’s something no RPG has been able to escape. Even so, they can’t detract from what the game pulls off – a great, fictitious tale with villains that are as important (and as hilarious) as the heroes.
The Disgaea Difference
Disgaea 2 is a turn-based strategy RPG with a grid-based movement system. If you’ve been consumed by Fire Emblem, Advance Wars, or another one of Nippon Ichi’s strategy/RPGs (such as Makai Kingdom), this is the perfect game to ensure you don’t leave the house for the next few weeks. You’ll get a solid 25 - 30 hours out of it just by rushing through to the end. Should you choose to participate in the side quests and explore the depths of the Dark Assembly (and you most certainly should), the game easily exceeds the 50-hour mark.
Fifty hours is an awfully long time to spend with a game. However, you won’t notice the hours when you’re deep in a battle. You won’t realize how much time has gone by as you contemplate the creation of a new character. Five hours feels like 30 minutes, which is precisely why the game falls into that “scarily addictive” category that Fire Emblem belongs to.
Battles are lengthy and clever but rarely feel slow. While most RPGs have a town exploration element, Disagea 2 allows you to pick a location and instantly jump into combat. Story segments are shown before and after, and while I do not recommend skipping these segments, that option is available for those who wish to do so.
In battle, each square on the grid counts as one space. Hand-to-hand warriors tend to have a much greater moving distance (more squares) than spell-casters. Strong characters can lift and throw anyone, including enemies. This enables you to push your allies deeper into the battlefield than they could on their own – a key strategic element that must be utilized often.
Prinnies, a frequently encountered penguin-like enemy, explode on impact after being thrown. Throwing them can be quite advantageous, so long as you don’t mind losing a ton of EXP (easy kills are not rewarded). On the other hand, if you choose to throw an ally, it’ll push his or her reach even further. Spell-casters can do their job and take out large droves of enemies in one swift blast. Prior to being thrown, a Blue Mage may not have been close enough for her spell to reach the enemy.
While she’s taking out enemies from afar, the sword-, axe-, and spear-wielders take on something else (such as an enemy that’s impervious to a particular magic spell).
Allies may also be thrown over gaps and on different terrain. This is an element the Fire Emblem series has not explored. The purpose is to once again increase your reach – enemies might be cowering in fear, keeping you from winning the battle. You may also have to cross a gap to take out one of the Geo pieces, a gem-shaped device that turns colored spaces into a deadly and/or beneficial environment. Its effects, good or bad, will affect the color of the space where it resides. The geo could be placed on a red square all the way in the back of the area. Land on a red space and you’ll be affected.
Geo effects include: attack +/-, defense +/-, no lifting, no entry (cannot cross or enter space), silence (no spells), 50% EXP (more experience for killing enemies while standing on that space), and so on.
Disgaea is a little puzzling when you encounter Geos like no entry and no lifting. Both can prevent you from killing every enemy on the battlefield. Likewise, invincibility is only beneficial when you’re the one standing on the space. If that same space has no lifting applied, you won’t be able to throw the enemy to a more vulnerable location.
Thus, you have to figure out which Geos to take out, and how to lure an enemy away from its safety zone when that’s not possible. Geos have a life meter (HP) just like everything else in the game, starting low and growing as the game progresses. Most can be taken out in one strike. Before executing your finest move, take a good look at the board. Are all the Geos placed on the same color? Or are has each one been placed on a different color?
If they’re all on the same color, killing one kills them all. This triggers a chain effect that depletes all the colored spaces. The chain goes around the area several times to meet the maximum number of Geos destroyed. Every chain inflicts damage on anyone who’s standing on the affected colors. This could potentially mean more pain for your enemies as well as your allies. No matter what, it most certainly means more EXP.
Every level has an EXP scale of 1-9. The higher the number, the more bonuses you get at the end of the battle (bonus EXP, extra cash, new weapons, etc.). You boost the scale by killing enemies, destroying Geos, and triggering chains.
In addition to EXP, killing enemies also boosts your Mana. Characters earn Mana individually based on the number of enemies they’ve killed. Disgaea uses it much differently from other RPGs. In this adventure, SP (special points) works as traditional MP, letting you cast spells and unleash dozens of special moves.
Some Assembly Required
In Disgaea 2, Mana is another form of currency. By entering a place called the Dark Assembly, players may exchange the Mana each character has earned for a number of cool game-changing effects. Create new playable allies: mages (fire, ice, wind, or star/lightning), thieves, ninjas, old warriors, and clones of almost every monster encountered in battle. These are just a few of the dozens of characters that can be created.
With the goal of having your cake and eating it too, characters may be reincarnated as something new. Reincarnation drops your HP, attack power, and other statistics down to level 1. Why bother? If your inheritance rate is high enough, you may be able to keep your old abilities. Abilities from different species do not seem to be compatible. However, if you reincarnate within the same species, perhaps as a character more powerful than when he or she was created, you could inherit your old abilities and be able to learn the new abilities of your new character. It sounds confusing but is actually one of the easiest things you can do in the Dark Assembly.
The hardest and most rewarding thing you can do is go before the senate with a bill you wish to be passed. What it comes down to is this: if half or more of the senators voting are not initially in your favor, chances are you will not win the vote. There is a way to win, but it depends on the conscience of the senators voting. Are they legit, or will they take bribes?
Senators are chosen at random, and though “Senator Lawful” is a dead giveaway, it’s not always easy to tell who will and who won’t take a bribe. Nonetheless, you have to give it a shot. But before you start handing out your inventory’s finest items (which is how you win their approval: by giving away swords, armor, and other equipment), take several minutes to analyze each senator’s desires.
I grabbed a notepad and made a chart – took about 15 minutes – noting what each senator wanted, who wanted which item the most, etc. If an item was in great demand, it went to the senator that hated my character the most. I thought that if I gave those who “loathe” my characters the best items, their vote would eventually turn to “love.” The latter pretty much guarantees they’ll vote in my favor, so long as they aren’t drunk or fall asleep.
There are dozens of reasons to go before the senate, including the opportunity to improve your local equipment and item retailers’ selections. You could improve your mobility in battle (increase the number of squares you can move along the grid), add new characters to the creation list, or open up new battle possibilities. Though very time-consuming and in need of extreme concentration, this is one of the game’s most unique and most rewarding features. No matter how much time it took to get what I wanted, it was always worth going back a second (and third, fourth, fifth, etc.) time.
Review Scoring Details for Disgaea 2
The best strategy/RPG since the last Fire Emblem, Disgaea 2 is a wonderful mix of magic, combat-based puzzles, and brute force.
Standard (and not too spectacular) 3D battlefields, 2D characters, and colorful magic spells.
Disgaea 2’s soundtrack is good but highly repetitive. Its quirky themes tend to tire after a while. While other RPGs have succeeded in this area, very few have demonstrated above-average voice acting. Disgaea 2 comes through with appropriate, over-the-top acting that adds character to the characters.
A clever, challenging RPG that uses its battle system to distribute puzzles. Very original and enjoyable.
Gameplay, puzzles, characters, dialogue, voice acting – everything that matters is top-notch. The Dark Assembly is an entirely original side feature that merges hilarity with strategy and deep concentration.
Anyone who’s played Fire Emblem or the original Disgaea must know by now that this is a must-own strategy/RPG. Those who are not so lucky and those who have not been clearly informed must be told: at the dawn of the fall gaming season, there is no other title that is more worthy of your time.
Even those who dislike the genre shouldn’t hesitate to proceed. All it takes is one game to change your mind. Disgaea 2 is that game. It’s more than a classic or a collector’s item. It’s a role-playing masterpiece that you’ll want to have in your collection for years to come. Unlike the rest, this one is entertaining enough to play through more than once. You won’t come back just for the comedy – the gameplay is filled with vigor and is equally as satisfying as the story.