Review: Disgaea 2: Dark Hero Days

There’s no denying that Laharl is one of the coolest characters when it comes to the world of Disgaea. Or is it Etna? Or Pleinair? In any case, the Disgaea series is known for some of its more colorful characters, especially the recognizable flame-haired Etna. Imagine the surprise when Disgaea 2 introduced Adell and Rozalin, completely different protagonists that didn’t seem to fit in so well the original game’s attitude. With that, a new can of worms was opened, one that fans were eager to jump right into despite initial hestiancy. More Disgaea? Yes please! How could anyone pass that up? Disgaea 2 was released a few years ago now, but that very same experience has been brought to the ultra-portable PSP in the form of Disgaea 2: Dark Hero Days. It packs all of the frustratingly hard gameplay, spunky characters, and brand-new story chapters into a package you can take along with you anywhere you want to escape to a world where Overlords run rampant and magical quests abound, with great finesse. This is a port you can be proud of.

Enter a world where the evil overlord Zenon has placed all humans under his diabolical control. Everyone has been turned into amoral, unfeeling demons without any remorse for their actions. The plucky young boy Adell seems to be the only human in the world unaffected by Zenon’s curse. As stories like these often go, Adell becomes one of the only individuals fit to take down a threat such as Zenon. Unfortunately, an attempt at summoning forth Zenon brings forth his prima donna of a daughter, Rozalin. Strangely enough, with Rozalin’s help, Adell sets out on an epic journey to locate the overlord and set things straight.

Of course, “setting things straight” means partaking in a multitude of battles with tons of fanciful creatures. Yes, as in so many strategy RPGs before it, most of your time spent in Disgaea 2 is with grids and flashing squares. While the gameplay is inherently similar to the original, there are a few variations on a theme here that will force you to adapt your playstyle and to kick things up a notch. You can summon units via one central panel and you can still assign them to different spaces. Every strat-RPG mechanic you’re probably familiar with applies here. With that said, there are subtle differences that seem to draw from titles such as La Pucelle: Tactics. For example, you must take into account spaces on the board known as Geo Panels. They can be destroyed and will allow for thunderous combos that will eventually award you hefty after-combat bonuses. You can also pick up and throw your teammates.

Yes, you can throw party members. How cool is that?

There’s a wealth of strategy involved in Disgaea 2 that the tutorials do a fantastic job of explaining. And you’ll most certainly need to partake in the tutorials, as this is no Bleach: The 3rd Phantom. This is intricate, unforgiving, austere strategy that requires thinking, time, and patience. Without all three of those things you might as well put the game down and walk away. Only serious players need apply here. With that said, prepare for the potential of some very confusing battles. You’ll need to sink a good amount of time in this game in order to get the most of it. I could go on for pages and pages discussing different strategies in battle in depth, but you can absolutely see for yourself if you pick up this little gem. Of note in Dark Hero Days, you can now change monsters into weapons rather than simply relying on them as allies. This feature was originally available in Disgaea 3 on the PlayStation 3 but has since migrated to the updated port of the previous entry into the series.

Of course, you won’t only be battling within the vast amount of grid worlds. Like its predecessor, Disgaea 2 allows you to traipse through the Item World as well as handy hub world in which you can rest up, drop cash on new equipment, and even propose new legislature in the Dark Assembly to tip the odds in yuor favor. The Dark Assembly is a simply ingenious tool that can aid you in your quest significantly if you happen to get the right bills passed. The more powerful the bill’s request, the more trouble you’re going to have getting it approved. Bribing the members of the Assembly is acceptable, just like in the real world (and I wish I were kidding about that part). It’s a cute and quirky addition to a game that defines the word “unique.” So much goes on in the little world of tainted humand and vicious demons. It’s admirable.

Of course, Disgaea 2 wouldn’t be the same without some adorable, full-color sprites and environments. Gorgeous, vibrant hues make characters pop and the animations are second to none. And as for the dialogue? Just try not to giggle at some of Rozalin’s pretentious comments…or let your blood boil over. The game oozes with such charm and personality that it’s tough to go back to games with more somber tones after playing through something as silly and as whimsical as this. If you’re not digging the English voice cast (which did a great job dubbing the characters), then just switch over to the Japanese audio track. It’s a feature that more games should offer, not just a few, as bad voice acting can make or break a particularly awesome experience and I really appreciated the option here.

Though it should take you upwards of a good 40 hours to complete the main storyline (and easily much more if you choose to play the game the way it was intended), there’s extra content to check out on top of the regular levels included in the original PlayStation 2 edition. You can choose to play as Axel, another character within the mythos, in additional story sequences that feature brand new adventures to embark on to keep things fresh for repeat visitors to the land of Disgaea 2 or to extend first-time players’ enjoyment. There’s no way you should simply breeze through it!

Disgaea 2: Dark Hero Days is a commendable port to one of the greatest handhelds for strategy RPGs. Sure, the DS has got it going on, but when it comes to crisp graphics, colorful characters, and hilarious storylines, you can’t beat the PSP ports of the Disgaea games. With extra content, the punch of the original game, and plenty of deep strategic customization to go around, you should most certainly pick this up if you call yourself a fan of the genre. What are you waiting for? Go now! Rozalin commands it!

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