Contributed by CJ
One of the true joys of games critique is delving into titles I may normally not look at; titles to which I might have pre-conceived ideas, or have played something similar and disliked. In this case, I’m really not that hot at isometric strategy stuff.
Years back I played the highly revered Final Fantasy Tactics: War Of The Lions and didn’t get on that well with it. I adored the art style, cutscenes, everything except the game – and I oh-so-wanted-to-love-the-game – but I really wasn’t good at it at all.
Looking back, it’s the itch of such dichotomy which screams the desire to master such a title. The sort of reward the leaves people on their knees and dribbling giggliciously at Monster Hunter, a charge I know I’m going to have to run with when I take on Armored Core: Verdict Day soon. Instead of chipping away at War Of The Lions and finding a love of playing to match the sumptuous art design, I moved on to other titles. The fault Squarely mine.
It puts me in mind of the accessibility of games these days. In younger years I might have to do a few weeks of paper rounds – and buying nothing else in the meantime – to afford a game, otherwise relying on Birthday and Xmas to yield vivacious new booty.
Focus on the space inbetween and you’d find an ickle me hungry and merciless to discover each and every nuance, getting better, gaming more and hammering on way beyond many a modern day blockade. It’s an aspect, as gamers in general, I feel we’ve lost and something I personally I really want to get back to.
Many journalists like their convenient slices of 4-10 hour titles, so they can move on to the next, eschewing any need to glean every ounce of joy from the experience before hand. Taking time, truly besting the title and embracing every nuance those behind a title have packed in parked in favour of the rush towards embargo lifting deadline.
I can understand why they have to, but it’s also the reason I’m losing myself in so many fan based YouTube channels, Tumblrs and the suchlike rather than the big sites.
Having been consumed by the delicious multi-year compulsion that’s been my surrender to Dark Souls, I’m interested to see if I can get as much of other experiences as I have with From’s classic, as well as giving a nod back to the motivations of my younger self as well.
Enter Disgaea DS2: A Brighter Darkness.
Years back a friend of mine called Simon was obsessed by the first game, and would regale me with wonderfully enthusiastic tales of his obsession with it, with the concept of dungeons inside weapons in particular staying in my mind. As he spoke he looked away, as if looking at an unseen screen, his gaze glazing, to be enchanted by sparkle stars as those memories ignited. Even my Twin Humanities waifu Patrick was similarly gushing when he spoke of the amount of fun he’d had with the PSP version.
As for the new PS3 game, my first impressions weren’t that great at all. An opening in-engine cut-scene had a slapstick feel that made me uncomfortable more than anything – purely in that I didn’t feel the sense of humour on show. That said, I loved the character designs, with the screen bursting with the most vivacious colours. Lingering thoughts suggesting that this just wasn’t going to be my cuppa joe.
Thankfully, I was to be proved wrong.
The game centers around a young demon named Laharl. His father, the enigmatic overlord Krichevskoy is no more, with our boy believing it’s his birthright to park his bum cheeks firmly in the throne where Daddy once grooved.
Stickler is that many .. well, most .. in the dark realm remain loyal to Krichevskoy and his legacy. Such beasts are appalled by Laharl’s declaration and snotty ponticating – and in turn seek to destroy him.
From there you enter a series of isometric screens, controlling Laharl, his friends and a series of hip-talking penguins, as you seek to prove yourself as the new King of the Realm.
At the centre of the group is a love triangle between the wannabe Heir to all that is dark and was Poppa’s, Prinny Squad Leader Etna and Angel trainee Flonne. You can then add to the group by creating your own characters, cast in all manner of guises, with the standard name creation bringing forth some stonking names.
I was fully prepared to brand these folks after friends, characters from books, you name it – but how do you best naming a mage Safari James, or a fighter called Rage Kage?! Not only stonking names, but those giggles personalise Disgaea D2 even more – little, individual smiles that resonate as it’s very own.
The gaming area gives you a certain amount of squares each character is able to travel during each given round, before the enemy gets their turn. There is a way to extend the amount of squares you can travel – and then some again – but a secret I’d rather see any new player uncover.
It made me laugh quite a bit and was one of the first times early on where I stopped looking at the game with a wary air of waiting to be impressed, and instead a cheeky little smile grew in its place.
A hint of potential which the title continued to follow through with the more I played.
As you press on each new area can be affected by Geo Symbols. These are coloured crystals embedded in the ground, each casting their own hue over a swatch of squares.
These panels can boost enemy attack, do the same to your own, else wash their area with the likes of poison, or shush a mage with silence.
Destroy a Geo Symbol on a panel that isn’t its own, and a chain reaction kicks in, boosting the bonus gauge. Get rid of the lot of them and a termination bonus follows.
It’s a system I’m still getting my head around, and have yet to exploit fully, but one which screams replayability and going for higher and higher scores as knowledge and experience grows.
Bonuses are further boosted by gathering characters around an enemy, and, as the end of the round ensues, multiple ganking ensues. All this leads to leveling, a rise in abilities and becoming more and more confident, even cocky within the risks taken and the machinations you put in place.
Rock in a bit of grinding amidst the above and you’ll soon find Laharl and the gang becoming really rather formidable indeed.
Between each of these levels the Demon Realm opens up, allowing you places to heal and get prizes, as well as increasing armour, weapons and accessories ready for the battles to come.
Disgaea D2 perplexes me. It threw me a loop. It didn’t seem like my thing. Then made me smile, drew me in with great gameplay and cool quirks – and that smile grew wider.
As I tried more and more stuff, some of those bits and pieces came good, some didn’t, but in the meantime I grew very, very addicted. It’s a superb game to relax and play, forget the world and lose yourself in. The more you invest, the more you’ll get out of it. A game more than worthy of the investment.
As I said earlier, there’s sometimes a snide leer towards games of longevity and depth, most often by those in a position of entitlement. For many gamers their time may well be attuned to rinsing an experience quickly and moving on to the next. I get that, and all gamers are different.
But if you do fancy a slice of the old school, a certain something that you’ll find yourself coming back to, a cheeky monkey that tickles the mind in the time spent apart – I think there’s a place for Disgaea D2 in your collection.
+Wonderfully colourful look.
+Quirky in-game humour.
+Fun to play, but oh my the fun of re-playing.
+Draws you in slowly, but becomes wonderfully compulsive.
- Instruction manual smells like a biscuit glazed with glue.
– I can’t think of which biscuit.
– I think the glue might be that PVA stuff you put on your hands at school as a blighter and then piddled off.
Whilst it’s not a game I might have immediately played, or thought would be up my street, has found itself spinning in my PS3 in place of many a ‘bigger’ name or more highly publicised title.
Should the above have piqued your interest and this yumsome little enigma has you curious, I reckon you might find yourself adoring it just as much as I have. There’s tons to go at, and the funky stuff amidst that may well have you grinning like a loon.