Disgaea is a franchise that holds a special place in the hearts of many. For 10 years developer Nippon Ichi Software has been contributing to the hardcore tactics JRPG market and, for the most part, with resounding success. However when Disgaea first graced the shelves back in 2003 (2004 in Europe) it brought with it a cast of characters that many-a-fan would miss dearly over the coming years. The tale of the Demon Overlords’ son Laharl and his merry band of misfits deservedly became a shining example of the series’ best narrative work. Despite some great work in the many spin-off’s, remakes and sequels, as the years past fans began to wonder if Laharl and his friends would ever return for another adventure. However fear not as Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness is upon us and its more than just a 10 year anniversary celebration. The old trio have finally returned and they have brought with them arguably the bestDisgaea game so far.
Unsurprisingly, this tale finds Laharl once again not being taken seriously as the new Demon Overlord by his peers. This in turn means he must once again set out to claim the respect he feels he deserves. Much like any other Disgaea title, the story here is more about the interplay between interesting and amusing characters than the actual narrative itself. In this aspect Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness succeeds on several levels. Its humour is both self aware and refreshingly original meaning those new to the franchise will grow to love these characters and veterans will be privy to some inside jokes gleaned from their past. It’s an interesting challenge to make a title this anticipated in the minds of fans accessible to new players, without toning anything down but somehow Nippon Ichi Software have managed to do just that.
However I should point out that A Brighter Darkness is not a more accessible title for those who are new to the genre, but more an accessible one for those who are new to the franchise. Much like all of its predecessors, Disgaea D2 is still very much at the hardcore end of the tactics RPG genre, boasting many hundreds of hours of potential game play and arguably the deepest systems the franchise has seen so far.
Disgaea has always been known for its easy to learn, difficult to master combat and level systems and this latest instalment is no different. Many of these mechanics will be familiar to fans of the series, however there are a few welcome new editions. By far the most radical is the ability to mount creatures during battle. Weather you use this to get to higher ground or fortify your position, this new feature undoubtedly adds yet another layer to the already insanely deep combat. It is clear that the intention has never been to overhaul the systems in place since the very first Disgaea appeared 10 years ago, but simply to expand and add to them. Unlike some of the other titles in the series that expanded in the wrong areas, A Brighter Darkness gets this right realising that for the most part if it isn’t broke, then don’t fix it
But for all of the positives to come out of keeping elements from its lineage, one factor of the franchise does unfortunately leads us to one of Disgaea D2‘s few flaws. For a while now it has been clear to any long-term fan that many of the games sprites have been reused from older entries in the series. Don’t get me wrong, I love the art style on show here and the colour pallet goes a long way to making it feel fresh, however it would be nice to see a full HD upgrade of many of the games visual components. This is not just true of the characters either. Many of the games backgrounds cause screen tearing and other visual issues when played on a modern HDTV due to their resolution constraints. Despite this entry more than others being a throwback to the series’ roots, it is a bit of a shame that the distinctive art style is not quite exploited to its full potential in this installment. However, this is a very minor criticism and one that will in no way spoil your experience over the many hundreds of hours you are sure to lose to this latest tale in the long running franchise.
Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness is a return to form in almost every aspect for the series. Its unashamedly deep combat and level systems gleaned and improved from the franchises past coupled with the return of the trio that started it all is the perfect way to celebrate 10 years of great Disgaea games. Despite a few visual issues there is little to complain about here and fans of the series, or just those looking for a good tactics JRPG, should stop reading this and purchase this immediately.