When Disgaea: Hour of Darkness made its appearance on western shores, it brought a with it a radical shake up of the tactical role-playing genre. The ultimate goal was not to complete the humorous story, this was just the icing on the cake. No, the aim of the game was to make the most ridiculously overpowered characters possible. Not only was this play style supported, it was actively encouraged due to maps that gave large amounts of experience for little investments of time. The post game required characters to be built up this way, otherwise the player had no hope of defeating them. While Disgaea spawned several sequels featuring Laharl as a playable character, Disgaea D2 is the first time the series has revisited his story.
Picking up ten years after the events of Disgaea, Laharl is back to causing mischief. Although he is the true overlord of the Netherworld, the population seem largely unaware of who he is. Setting out to spread word of his authority to the public, Laharl and his vassels encounter a group of demons loyal to the previous overlord. From there the plot moves to the appearance of Laharl’s long lost angel sister and an invasion of flowers from Celestia that threatens to destroy the demon filled netherworld. The story has its funny moments, but lacks the over the top feel of the previous game. There are a few in-jokes that players of the first game will understand (such as why Laharl hates busty women), but fortunately they are not presented in a way that will make new players feel left out.
Gameplay is where the series has always shined, and Disgaea D2 is no exception. Many features added in later games have been removed in an effort to get back to basics. The features that have made it in have been refined rather than expanded upon. A great example of this would be the item world, a staple of every game in the series. Dark assembly bills no longer need to be passed during trips through an item, instead each item has a limited capacity for improvement that players can suggest from the item world menu. In some cases this removes the amount of luck that used to be required to build up an item effectively. Random events in the dungeon can still affect how an item grows, but these are out of the players control and just feel like a bonus when they are encountered.
Its the small changed that have the largest affect on the flow of the game. Units no longer need to reincarnate to take advantage of an improved version of the class and can instead be ‘promoted’. Mages choose an elemental affinity that decides which spells they have access to. More expensive items for the shop can only be opened up as the player progresses through the story. Another change is the way evilities are selected. Upon creation or reincarnation, a unit has a choice of three depending on their class that will change slightly how the class plays. This is true for monster classes as well, and some evilities can affect every unit on the map. This, along with the new mounting system that replaces magichange, can make monster allies surprisingly useful compared to older games in the series.
A new feature that needs pointing out is the cheat shop, a method of changing the game balance to suit the player. Mechanics like experience gained and money received from combat can be adjusted to achieve the players goals. Need more XP? Lower the amount of mana acquired from killing an by removing percentage points in the cheat shop, and instead add them to the percent of experience gained from killing an enemy. Like other features in the game, more options open as the player progresses through the chapters of the story, including maximum amount of points that can be put into any one category.
Disgaea 4 was the first game in the series to make use of full HD sprites, but was let down by the environments and effects somewhat. Disgaea D2 has gone some ways to address this, but some effect animations still zoom in on sprites enough to make them look pixelated against the otherwise clean animations. The sounds and effects contain a lot of reused material from older games, but still can be quite catchy at times. Not all the actors used to voice the original could be brought back this time around, and much like the PSP version of the game, new voice actors were sourced that sounded as much like the originals as possible.
Fans of the series will find that Disgaea D2 has tried to encourage players to play through the story at least once before making all-powerful by slowing down the rate at which power can be gained early on in the game. Methods for character progression are more similar to the original than the more recent offerings in the series. Newcomers to the series may feel some of the story and jokes fly over their heads without knowledge of the first game, but anyone who played the original will enjoy this outing.