Review: Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories (Sony Playstation 3)

Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories
Developer: Nippon Ichi
Publisher: Nippon Ichi
Genre: SRPG
Release Date (On PSN): 01/21/2013/ (Originally): 08/29/2006

So this is interesting. On January 28th, Ryan over at Nippon Ichi emailed me a review code for Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories and asked if I’d please review it. Most publishers don’t send out review codes for PSX or PS2 classics, so this caught me by surprise. More so because, I originally reviewed Disgaea 2 when it first came out in 2006 and not only found it enjoyable enough, but our whole staff voted it the Best Tactical RPG of 2006. Then in 2009, when Nippon Ichi released a PSP version of the game with extra bells and whistles, Aileen reviewed that version and was equally positive towards it. So considering we’ve reviewed this game twice before, one has to ask what else can we do with the review copy? Aren’t we squeezing blood from a stone.

Well, interesting story. I first took down the main story of Disgaea 2 back in 2006. However a year later, I had moved to the Washington D.C. Metro area, only to find out the people previously in the home I was to be renting had NOT actually moved out yet, but they decided they were staying for another month and too bad to the landlords and myself. That meant I ended up spend that month in a room with my three rabbits and whatever stuff didn’t get stuck in storage while things were…dealt with. I ended up haphazardly grabbing Disgaea 2 and played through it again, including a lot of the post game stuff when I wasn’t at work or clubbing or exploring my new home. I found that on a second playthrough, I liked the game a lot more than I had the first time. While not as good as the first game, I found I liked that the characters and story grew on me. So perhaps the same thing would happen the third time. Well, it didn’t. I still enjoyed the game, but I do feel Disgaea 4 and Disgaea 1 are the better games, but I do prefer Disgaea 2 to Disgaea 3. With a price tag of only ten dollars any JRPG or SRPG fan worth their salt should have already downloaded this by now. It’s a fun game that can last you hundreds of hours. This PS2 Classic is an insanely great deal no matter how you look at it so DOWNLOAD IT ALREADY.

So we’re going to do something different. You already know this is an award winning awesome SRPG that you should buy, but I have a review copy so we need to do something with it. It’s only fair. So we’re going to get into Professor Peabody’s WAYBACK MACHINE and we’re going to look back at that 2006 review and see how my feelings on the game have changed since 2006. After all, that was written during my first playthrough and now seven years later I’ve finished my third. My original review snippets will be in italics and my new commentary with be….well, just like this. Now, this is a bit existential, but I’m an existential kind of guy. So let’s see how this goes, shall we? At least it’ll be different, right?

The original Disgaea received a massive amount of praise from us here at Inside Pulse when it came out. It won our 2003 GOTY award (along with many others) and was unanimously considered hands down the best game of the year. That’s a hard legacy to live up to. Chuck Platt gave it a 8.5 in his review, but for me it would have received a 7, which is still impressive considering how cheap and stingy I am considered to be with scores.

Hey! I remember when we used scores. A 7/10 is a GOOD score by the way, not average as some sites have groomed their sheep to believe. Last I checked. The average on a 0-10 scale is 5. However, the horrible way most sites “grade” games and how it’s permanently damage the industry is a whole other conversation for another time.

Next came Phantom Brave which may not have had the characters or story Disgaea did, but it did feature highly innovative gameplay that made up for the lack of plot. This too received a 7 from me back in September of 2004.

Phantom Brave is a game that didn’t hold up as well for me, neither on the Wii nor the PSP. Neither the story nor gameplay did it for me.

After that came Makai Kingdom which introduced us to Zetta and Pram, who were as loveable (and evil) as Laharl and Etna. As well, it gave us some of the most innovative, addicting and revolutionary gameplay the genre had ever seen. If anything, the biggest flaw of Makai Kingdom was that there was simply so much to see, do, make and kill that it was overwhelming. From a technical and/or innovative standpoint however, Makai Kingdom is arguably the best SRPG ever made. MK received a 7.5 from me in August 2005.

I should point out that when I said “best SRPG ever made,” I meant “most engrossing and deepest. If you had to put me on the spot for the BEST SRPG, I’d probably choose Shining Force 2.

Which is where Disgaea 2 comes in. Not only is it a follow up to the most popular Nippon Ichi game to hit stateside, but it’s also a throwback to the original gameplay of Disgaea as well. Good bye Phantom Brave movement system. Good bye all the crazy shit introduced in Makai Kingdom. The question is whether or not Disgaea 2 is a quickly thrown together game (developed in only ten months) in an attempt to cash in on crazy Disgaea fanboys, or if it truly does stand on its own as a quality game that lives up to the Nippon Ichi pedigree starting as far back as Rhapsody.

Technically, Nippon Ichi had released seven games prior to Rhapsody, but it’s their first game that truly put them on the map stateside. Part of me does wish NIS had kept the gridless aspect of their two previous RPGs, but the fans spoke collectively and they wanted D2 to be pretty similar to the first so that’s what they got.

Let’s Review

1. Story

Compared to all the other Nippon Ichi games I’ve played since 1999, Disgaea 2’s plot is very much a paint by numbers story and so cliche,it’s disappointing. Sure it’s got the great trademark dark humour and wit that one would find in any of their games, but that’s the only thing saving the plot from being “Generic RPG #789189276589054368.”

You know, As much as the story has grown on me. The above statement I made all those years ago is pretty accurate. Aside from the (it doesn’t count as a spoiler if the game is six and a half years old!) reveal about Rozalin at the end, this was a fairly standard “Boy meets evil girl and due to love, she does a face turn.” Plot. It’s well told, but it is paint by numbers.

Your protagonist is Adell, the only human left in a world cursed by demonic overlord Zenon. Every other fleshbag has been turned into a demon. Adell is the typical honourable but vengeance seeking bad ass one finds in an RPG. In fact I’m surprised in retrospect his dialogue didn’t consist of “……….” Adell’s family tries a summoning spell to bring Zenon to their village so they can destroy him. However, something goes awry and they instead summon his daughter Rozalin. Rozalin is a demon to be sure, but inside lurks a heart of gold that shown disdain for fighting and war. Of course there’s sexual tension between the two characters.

The Adell/Rozalin characters reminded me of a lesser version of Ryudo and Millenia from Grandia 2. There’s a similar relationship going on, although the Grandia characters were more fleshed out personality wise, and had a greater story to tell. Adell & Rozalin also pale in comparison to the flat out insanity Laharl and Etna gave us (although both do appear in the game and can eventually be playable).

Damn. Now I want to play Grandia 2. It’s been forever. I do agree that Grandia 2 did this story better and that A&R were nowhere as memorable as L&E. Again though, the characters and story have grown on me since my original playthrough, so I don’t think I’d be this harsh if I was writing this for the first time in 2013.

The rest of the game is pretty much a failed attempt to recapture the zeitgeist that was the original Disgaea. Instead of Mid-Boss, you have Axel the C-level celebrity for example. The other cast members are as mediocre. Adell’s family is supposed to be amusing but rarely is, and you can tell NIS is stretching for comedic bits when they make the Demon Frog…have a French accent. Oh ho ho ho.

As much as I hate to say this, story wise, Disgaea 2 is Nippon Ichi’s worst game yet. It’s bland, repetitive, and is such a stark contrast from the other highly original plots NI is known for. If it wasn’t for the excellent writing and dark comedy placed into the game’s mechanics with things like the Dark Assembly, I would probably be a lot more scathing here than I would otherwise.

If the plot is any indication of whether or not D2 is a quick “make a buck” job from Nippon Ichi, things aren’t looking good.

Story Rating: 5/10

Ouch. Man I was pretty hard on the story here. Of course, this was my #115th review and my 493rd (I’ve been doing this too long) went live Monday so perhaps I’ve mellowed with age. At the same time, the story of D2 really did pale compared to other games I reviewed around the same time like Barrow Hill, Pokemon Mystery Dungeon and Shadow Hearts 3 so perhaps I was hard on it because well, storywise it was one of the weaker from the summer of ’06. Also, by the beginning of 2013 I can definitely say there are Nippon Ichi games with worse story, many of which were developed by Hitmaker. We don’t do scores these days, but if I had to, I’d probably pump this up to 6.5 as it was an enjoyable but utterly unoriginal tale.

2. Graphics

Okay, the graphics for D2 are mediocre, it’s true, but this is very common for SRPG’s. The focus of this subcategory of RPG’s are plot and, and the graphics are usually secondary. This holds true for Nippon Ichi’s latest offering. The opening Anime cinematic is wonderful. It’s also the best the game ever looks. At times the characters, levels, and even attacks are quite pixilated and jagged. The outside maps/levels are bland and not as detailed as previous NI games. Inside levels like castles are well done however.

Character designs are blasé as well. I am really not a fan of any of Adell’s family design-wise, including Adell himself. They just turn me off. Even Zenon is pretty much the opposite of awe-insipiring. This is a real shame as Makai Kingdom featured so many great Overlord designs. Pretty much the only new character design I liked was Rozalin, and to be fair, I think she’s my favorite female Nippon Ichi character design-wise.

Overall, Disgaea 2 achieves mediocrity again. Where the plot was a heavy handed disappointment, the graphics score was pretty much a given considering the genre in question.

Graphics Rating: 5/10

Wow. Harsh. Although what I said was true. Disgaea 2 was not a pretty game even by 2006’s standards. It was a well made game, but rarely do you see a SPRG that makes you ooh and aww at the graphics. I also agree that I was not a fan of the character designs in this game save for Rozalin. Most of them just didn’t do it for me and Adell just looks downright stupid, even today. I’d probably stick with my 5/10 here as the game was mediocre to look at.

3. Sound

Here we go! I can start being nice. Like all Nippon Ichi games, Disgaea 2 has an EXCELLENT soundtrack with very catchy music. I even picked up the soundtrack to the game, which is very rare for me. I’ll find myself humming some of the tunes even days after I’ve put the game down. I had a business trip for nine to ten days a while back. Even though I did not have access to my PS2. I still had D2 songs in my head! Rock on Tenpei Sato!

The voice acting is also top notch. Again though, characters from other games are a shadow of their previous selves due to different voice actors. Although this might be a slight spoiler, I was very disappointed with the actor who replaced Crispin Freeman as a certain BADASS FREAKING OVERLORD. The same holds for other familiar characters that have new voices for their words. Every one is a noticeable step down in quality. That doesn’t mean it’s bad (with the sole exceptions of Adell’s mom and Tink who actually read asides or say “Ho Ho Ho” instead of you know, LAUGHING.); just that Disgaea 2 is simply a shadow of earlier, better Nippon Ichi games in almost every way. If you haven’t played the other games or aren’t as familiar with them, you’ll find the voice acting GREAT. You really will.

Sound Rating: 8/10

Again, I’m surprised to say it, but I do think the 2006 version of myself got it right here. The soundtrack and voice acting are great in this game…just not as great as previous NI releases.

4. Control and Gameplay

Let’s get one thing straight. I am not going to compare this game to Phantom Brave or Makai Kingdom in terms of gameplay because it simply isn’t fair. The gameplay of both is so wildly different (yet they’re still SRPG’s. Go Figure.), that it would be a disservice to D2.

D2 is a change from where Nippon Ichi had been going over the last few years with their S-RPG’s. We’re back to a grid formula in which your characters can move, make an action, move then make an action, or make an action then move. Unlike older S-RPG’s, order of moves is not determined by agility or speed or some other similar concept. Rather it is turn based. All your characters go, then all your opponents go. This is common for NI games though, and so it should be no surprise to those used to their games. Other than that it’s typical SRPG fare. You kill things, you get items, you get XP, you get money, you buy things, and repeat for 100 or so hours.

This isn’t all there is to D2 however. You’ve got returning concepts like interacting with the item world and the Dark Assembly, the latter which acts as an Infernal Senate passing bills and generally consisting of the same corrupt drunken oafs one finds in Earth’s career politicians. They’ve also stolen a bit from Phantom Brave where each chapter features hidden items in your town to collect.

There’s no bugs in the game that I’ve found, and no slowdown either, even during special attacks. It’s just simply well made tactical gameplay. Although the plot is nowhere near the levels of excellence I have come to expect from Nippon Ichi, the gameplay is still what you WOULD expect with their track record: PERFECTION.

Control and Gameplay Rating: 10/10

Yes, gameplay is definitely where Disgaea 2 shines. I find myself wishing the other games had Dark Court and felonies one could wrack up in this game. I don’t think I’d go as far as to call the gameplay “Perfection” this time around. It’s exceptionally well done and I do think it shines, but as we’ve seen with say. Disgaea 4, things got even better.

5. Replayability

Heh. It’s always hard to take this category serious with a Nippon Ichi game. There are ten or so potential endings, and the ability to get your characters up to level 9999. You can reincarnate them and give them new classes and powers. You can spend literally dozens of hours is a SINGLE item world. You can murder the Dark Assembly. You can find hidden worlds and characters and so much more.

You could buy a single Nippon Ichi game and never need to buy another game for another six months. That’s how in-depth these are. Play, enjoy, love. D2 can’t help but earn another perfect score here.

Replayability Rating: 10/10

This is pretty accurate here as well. For gamer on a very tight budget, Nippon Ichi SRPGS are the best bang for your buck in the industry. There’s no other company or series that even comes close to giving you this much replay value.

6. Balance

Where the original Disgaea and its siblings actual provide you with a challenge, I couldn’t help but find D2 to be overwhelmingly easy. This could be due to the throwback gameplay wise to pre PB/MK style, but I never had a single challenge in any of the battles I participated in. I came, I saw, I slaughtered. Even when enemies were several levels higher than me. The AI just isn’t up to snuff here and it’s far too easy to get powerful items early on from even low levels in an item world that will let you massacre your opponents in the main game. Even the final battle in the game was a breeze in which not a single character died. This is probably the least challenging final battle in an SRPG since Shining Force: the Legacy of Great Intention and the ease in which Dark Dragon can be dispatched.

That’s not you say you can’t make a challenge for yourself if you want to, say like attacking the Dark Assembly when you’re level 20 or less. This however is crappy balance in the exact opposite extreme and will ensure you get slaughtered.

Wow, you can definitely tell I had only finished the core game and only dabbled in the post game with that statement. Yes, the core story battles are pretty easy compared to previous and later Nippon Ichi releases. Disgaea 2 definitely is the easiest SRPG Nippon Ichi ever put out. However, the post game involves a lot of grinding min/max’ing, and reincarnating until your eyes cross. So what I wrote in 2006 is accurate as long as you don’t stray off the main path.

Even neat little changes to the game from the original Disgaea do nothing more than make the game extremely easy. The item world is now loaded with bonuses and even hospitals to make your stay that much easier.

Okay, this is true too. Like I said, the game is a lot easier than every other Nippon Ichi games. However this DOES make it far more inviting than the first Disgaea game. It’s easier for newcomers to get through without being slaughtered. Because of this, D2 would be the game in the series I’d give to newcomers or younger gamers to hook them.

Disgaea 2 just isn’t a hard game. It fact, it’s almost as easy to beat as Rhapsody. Okay, it’s like if Rhapsody had an extra 0 added on to the time it takes to complete the game, but it is that easy. A good example of this is to play the Baal battles in each Nippon Ichi game where they are available and notice how much freaking easier it is to do it in D2 than in earlier games.

Disappointing as I was in the mood for a challenge and instead got a cakewalk.

Balance Rating: 4/10

2013 me thinks 2006 me exaggerated on the “easy as Rhapsody” bit. Again, I think I might have been a bit dour towards the game simply because it was sandwiched between several games that blew me away. I’d raise the Balance up to a 6.5 honestly. The core story wasn’t hard, but you do have to work for the post game wins.

7. Originality

This is definitely DS’s worst scoring area. There’s nothing really original about the game save for the Subpoenas and the Item World changes. Everything else is cliché or a hand me down from earlier Nippon Ichi games. Hell, D2 needs the D1 character cameos to even survive. Without them, it would just crash and burn. This is definitely a game living off the first one’s legacy and if it was a stand alone without the Disgaea name? Well…it wouldn’t. Let’s just leave it at that.

I do still feel that forcing Etna into the main storyline for most of the game does show that Nippon Ichi didn’t have confidence that D2 could stand on its own. I love Etna but I think she did more harm than good here, as from her entry onto the team, that’s who the players focus on instead of the core two protagonists. It’s hard not to with Etna though. This was definitely a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” moment for NIS. It’s also true that aside from a few slight changes, this was a carbon copy in terms of gameplay. Yes, that was the point of D2, but it also deserves the abysmal score I gave the game in this category back in 2006.

Usually Nippon Ichi games show a great deal of creativity and innovation. There’s always something new and fun about them. Disgaea 2? It just doesn’t, and this fact is pretty disheartening. It’s more of the same old, same old, and although the same old is still good for what it is, it’s just not original.

Originality Rating: 3/10

I still stand by this. Disgaea 2 is a fun game, but I can’t imagine anyone calling it original.

8. Addictiveness

As much as I’ve given this game a lot of shit of the last few pages. I won’t deny that it is FUN TO PLAY. And really, isn’t that what’s most important about a video game? I had a lot of fun with it and whittled away seventy hours playing it before I wrote this damn review. I really love tactical RPG’s though. I think I’m the only person alive who has beaten Brigandine with all playable characters.

Of course I was in high school or college when I did the Brigandine thing. Now I’m thirty-five and I’m lucky to have any time to play video games these days.

With so many characters to make, items to journey into, and an enjoyable, if not amazing, main story to play through, you’ll be spending a lot of time in front of your TV thanks to this game, especially if this is your first Nippon Ichi game. Otherwise you might be a little disappointed.

The downside is that the game is so long and there’s so much to do, that much like Makai Kingdom or Phantom Brave, you might just get bored and move on to something less time consuming and more rewarding. It takes a certain type of obsessive nut to get all one can out of Disgaea 2. Other gamers just might not have the patience for it all.

Addictiveness Rating: 6/10

So, again I have to say even seven years later, most of the review rings true. It does take a certain mindset to get all that you can out of a Nippon Ichi game. The average gamer will give up on all the extra content long before they hit the halfway point. Too much of a good thing I suppose. Either that or there are so many good games out there Nippon Ichi titles tend to create a backlog and eventually it is time to move on.

9. Appeal Factor

SRPG’s fans will gladly pick up this game as there has been a drought of these recently. Disgaea fanboys will buy several copies of this game hoping to sell the others on Ebay for $100 a pop ala what happened with the original and will no doubt send me poorly written and profanity laden emails about what an awful review this is because I don’t rate games on a scale from “Excellent” to “Jiz my pants with delight.” Nippon Ichi fans will all pick this up because they make good games, but will, as many have already shared with me, agree with my feelings that the game is decent, but a noticeable step down in quality from their other titles.

D2 will be fun for a majority of gamers. The first question is how long will they actually play it? The second is how many gamers will pick the title up hoping for replay value first and foremost?

Appeal Factor: 6/10

It’s interesting to see how much of this still holds up seven years later. People DID try to sell D2 at exorbitant prices on the second hand market and it failed miserably (which is a good thing). Nippon Ichi fans did blindly pick this up and most were satisfied. Most that I know do prefer the first and fourth game in the series to this one however, so while Disgaea 2 was a good game, Nippon Ichi definitely had (and would) put out better.

10. Miscellaneous

There are no extras to the game save for hidden neat stuff in the actual game. There’s also the Disgaea anime trailer, but it was so bad the less said about it, the better.

In all, D2 is a decently made game. It’s not good and it’s certainly not great, but it will certainly fill your need for an SRPG. I’m rather disappointed by the game because it pales so easily compared to Nippon Ichi’s previous stateside releases. It’s definitely the worst of the 6 (Rhapsody, La Pucelle, Disgaea, Phantom Brave, Makai Kingdom, D2) that Americans can play. Worst doesn’t designate Nightmare of Druaga bad however. That’s like saying American foie gras is the worst of all the different nations that make it. It’s still good. There’s just a noticeable decrease in quality when put up against other nation’s products. Disagea 2 is American foie gras. It’s worth buying and is a lot of fun in certain key ways, but would I recommend it over any other Nippon Ichi title, or even a lot of other SRPG’s like Tactics Ogre or Shining Force 2? Oh god no.
Miscellaneous Rating: 6/10

I will say that I’d move D2 up the list of those six. Taking just those aforementioned games I’d rank them like this: Disgaea, Makai Kingdom, Rhapsody, D2, Phantom Brave, La Pucelle. I do 100% agree with the last comment in the review. Shining Force 2 or Tactics Ogre over Disgaea 2 any day. D2 is a good game, but those are amongst the top five in the genre.

The Scores
Story: 5/10
Graphics: 5/10
Sound: 8/10
Control & Gameplay: 10/10
Replayability: 10/10
Balance: 4/10
Originality: 3/10
Addictiveness: 6/10
Appeal Factor: 6/10
Miscellaneous: 6/10
Total Score 63/100
Final Score: 6.5 (Enjoyable Game)

I think in retrospect, I’d be a little kinder to the game and give it the following:

The Scores
Story: 6.5/10
Graphics: 5/10
Sound: 8/10
Control & Gameplay: 10/10
Replayability: 10/10
Balance: 6.5/10
Originality: 3/10
Addictiveness: 6/10
Appeal Factor: 6/10
Miscellaneous: 7/10
Total Score 68/100
Final Score: 7.0 (GOOD Game)

Eh. Half a point higher is half a point higher, right? It’s aged better than expected.

Short Attention Span Summary:

Look, if you like SPRGS or Disagea at all, you’re going to buy this game. And you know what? You’ll have fun with it. You’ll like the game. I did. That doesn’t mean it’s not a weaker version of the original and a step down from what Nippon Ichi (or Atlus for them) has put out over the last five-six years in the states. I can mildly recommend it, but there’s no way it’s GOTY material. It’s just the crux of it all. Decent game, but it lacks the usual level of Nippon Ichi brilliance. Alas.

Yeah, I think I’d agree with the SASS there. Disgaea 2 is a wonderful game for diehard SRPG fans and it’s a purchase they won’t regret. It’s not the best game in Nippon Ichi’s arsenal though but it has aged better than say, Phantom Brave.

So there we go. It was fun to look back on Disgaea 2 as it had been several years since I had played it. For only ten dollars, year this is a steal. Go buy it.



, , , ,




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *