Graphics:
7.8
Gameplay:
8.5
Sound:
7.9
Control:
8.0
Replay Value:
9.0
Overall Rating:
8.2
Online Gameplay:
Not Rated
Publisher:
NIS America
Developer:
Nippon Ichi Software
Number Of Players:
1
Genre:
Strategy/RPG
Release Date:
October 8, 2013


Disgaea: Hour of Darkness was a runaway hit when it first launched over a decade ago. I still remember having to wait for the local GameStop to get restocked before I could get my copy. Since that time, numerous sequels and spinoffs have come to all PlayStation platforms and each one (with the exception of those crazy Prinny-based action/platformers) presented players with a massive amount of depth. Enhanced by off-the-wall humor, ridiculously time-consuming mechanics such as transmigration, and seemingly endless grinding, these titles were a hardcore strategy fan’s dream come true.

Now, NIS America has delivered a true sequel to the title that started it all. Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness features upgraded visuals, a few appreciated tweaks, and once again, enough depth and content to truly boggle the mind. On a graphical level, those cutesy sprites have never looked better, there’s more color and detail in the combat environments, and the special effects are flashier than ever. Laharl and Co. are wonderfully drawn as always, and if you’re a big fan of quirky Japanese artistry and animation, this is for you. However, compared to other products on the market today, the visual presentation won’t be considered impressive.

The sound is anchored by an over-the-top assembly of voice actors that have a boatload of cheesy moxie. One could call it somewhat amateur-ish and some might even call it annoying, but these heavily stereotyped characters with really bizarre senses of humor are part of what makes Disgea so unique. The soundtrack is decent but there isn’t enough variety in the available tracks; more pieces should’ve been implemented to spice up those long, complex battles. The effects are great, though, and you’ll want to execute the most difficult – yet most rewarding – maneuvers so you’ll be treated to the pleasing sounds of a mammoth assault. Again, it’s all very quirky, from top to bottom, and long-time followers know what to expect.

Larhal, Etna and Flonne are back and it’s time to pick up where we left off back in 2003. Laharl has managed to obtain his much-treasured title of netherworld overlord but unfortunately, his problems are only just beginning. Some demons that were loyal to Laharl’s father flat-out refuse to follow the son, and they’re causing trouble. Then there’s Laharl’s previously unknown sister, Sicily, who has apparently mailed herself to the netherworld to take the throne away from her brother. Then, for some reason, the netherworld gets transformed into an Eden-like paradise and at the same time, Laharl gets turned into a girl. …yep, sounds like a Disgaea storyline.

There’s nothing dramatic or even remotely serious about this narrative, which is perfect for the franchise. It’s just plain silly throughout and that’s good, because we want the focus to remain squarely on the gameplay. And oh boy , do we get gameplay…lots and lots of it, to the point where you could spend the rest of your natural life grinding and leveling, building a nigh-on invincible demon army, all the while ignoring the majority of the plot-advancing missions. It doesn’t help that A Brighter Darkness is much more open right from the start, as there are multiple ways to power up your characters, abilities and equipment.

The combat also remains a pure turn-based affair (thankfully), as you will carefully maneuver your party members and select actions before turning the board over to the enemy. The addition of team-based attacks that can include up to four allies makes things much more interesting, and you can even throw allies, enemies and other objects if the situation calls for it. These features have been implemented in past Disgea titles, but they all weren’t included in Hour of Darkness . Other new additions include mounted attacks (the monster moves and takes damage while the human unleashes skills) and follow-up attacks that hinge on a character’s affinity statistic.