For the last seven days, Disgaea 2: Dark Hero Days has been eliminating the tedium of my daily train commute. Hour-long rides pass by like mere minutes, as I’ve delved into the game’s wonderfully recursive realm. Today, I was interrupted by a fellow passenger who likely noticed the wide smile across my face. The grandmotherly woman politely asked, “What ARE you playing? It sure looks like you are having fun.”
While my enjoyment was evident, expressing its basis to this woman might be difficult. She might not see the amusement in the game’s para-Shakespearian examination of morality, nor enjoy the game’s plucky sense of humor, which was the basis for my smile. Fans of role playing-games, on the other hand, will likely savor the game’s narrative of a nefarious Overlord who transforms a populous of human into devious demons. Adell, the sole human survivor, attempts to remedy this dilemma my summoning the Overlord. When a mistake is made during the ritual, the Overlord’s pompous daughter, Rozalin, is inadvertently sent. The duo, bound by an obligatory, yet uneasy alliance, then set forth to locate Rozalin’s father. The two protagonists’ chemistry often recalls classic buddy movies, as the pair is forced to work together on their excursion through the netherworld.
What might be even more challenging to articulate to non-gamers is the sense of satisfaction derived from Disgaea 2. Beyond Adell and Rozalin, the player is free to create a legion of characters in the game’s Dark Assembly. Gamers pick from a variety of classes, name their apprentice, and finally adjust the newcomer’s stats to their liking. The ability to fuse humanoids and monsters, an addition to Disgaea 3, has been added, allowing for even more flexibility in your entourage.
Once a party has been created, a myriad of diversions await players. Players may serve rogue monsters with subpoenas, bringing wayward fiends to justice. Another option is the ability to create bills that will be debated before the Dark Assembly’s senate. One piece of legislation my character pushed was “Prinny Day”, requiring the use of the hallmark characters in battle. Gamers may leap into an object’s Item World- an alternate dimension inside every weapon, object, and even soda can. By delving into the realm, each object grows in strength, allowing players to maximize their stats. By speaking to the Dimension Guide, players will be chaperoned to the battle that advances the story.
Another source of Disgaea 2’s charm stems from its rewarding combat system. As a connoisseur of strategy games, I find the series’ battle system to be a near-perfect blend of intricacy and accessibility. The turn-based system is conceptually straightforward, allow players to move, attack, lift and throw, or use items. Yet after hundreds of fights, there is enough strategic depth to sustain a gamer’s interest. Make no mistake- the Disgaea series is about grinding; but the gratification of each battle eliminates the monotony.
Graphically, Dark Hero Day uses vibrant tones to paint its whimsical netherworld. From the town outskirts- teaming with overgrown meadows and crumbling cobblestones, to the Item World’s byzantine sophistication, Disgaea 2’s hand-drawn artwork is consistently brilliant. The title’s reliance on sprite-bases characters has its strengths; the title feels snappy, and the framerate is unswervingly fluid. There is also one weakness- when skirmishes inevitability develop into dogpiles in the middle of the battlefield, determining your red mage from an identical enemy red mage may be disorienting. While you can move the cursor over each character for a quick refresher, a visual aura (green for friendly, red for foes) would have allowed netherworld generals to quickly assess the ever-changing theatre of war. Disgaea’s signature melodies return, presenting frolicking songs which suitably complement the game’s narrative. The game’s flexibility even allows players to set the background music for the Item World.
PSP owners with the slightest appreciation for strategy role-playing games should seek out Disgaea 2: Dark Hero Days. The title’s boundless depth and gratifying battles are ideal for gamers on the go; I could easily see the game remaining unmoved from my portable’s UMD slot for months. Even those who have concluded Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories will find a reason to pick up this title. From the game’s additional chapters with former netherworld TV star Axel, to the inclusion of numerous new weapons and spells, Disgaea 2 presents much more that the typical PSP port. As the Prinnies might say, “What are you waiting for, dood?”