Disgaea D2 Preview: Meeting up with old friends

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It’s been ten years since we learned backing miscreant overlords was fun in Disgaea: Hour of Darkness for the PlayStation 2. To celebrate, NIS is continuing the story and NIS America is bringing Disgaea D2 to PS3s on October 8, 2013. While that’s quite a while away for the most people, I’ve had the pleasure of sampling Laharl, Etna and Flonne’s latest adventures now. It’s been interesting to revisit the title, like coming back to check up on old friends.

Disgaea D2 picks up sometime after the original game, with Laharl firmly ensconsed as the overlord, Flonne set up as a fallen angel, and Etna offering her always dubious help. It begins with Flonne attempting to grow some flowers from Celestia in Laharl’s castle’s garden, but with Laharl and Etna destroying them by bringing stars down from the sky. The two explain that the flowers would never be able to grow there, due to the nature of the Netherworld, then head off to begin important business. As they leave with Flonne, a single flower grows. It’s interesting, but no one notices.

The first chapter acts as a tutorial, and a refresher for anyone who has or hasn’t played Disgaea before. While Laharl is the overlord after the events of Disgaea, Disgaea D2 shows that no one really recognizes his authority. Which means he tasks Etna with going out to place (unflattering) statues of him around the Netherworld, so his subjects will know he’s in charge. Except no one seems to really care for him, and one of his former advisors even says he’s unfit to succeed his father. Naturally, Laharl, Flonne and Etna set out to prove Laharl’s the man.

In terms of battles, Disgaea D2 follows the Disgaea standards. It’s a turn-based, strategic affair, with characters moving along a grid on the battlefield. Ally characters move within range of an enemy, at which point they can attack or use a special skill. Characters attacking the same enemy can engage in a combo. There can sometimes be various levels of elevation or blockades, which mean characters will have to lift and throw each other to reach new places. Geopanels return as well, which means there can be colored spaces on the field that can take on properties if Geocubes are placed on them. Attacking a colored Geocube on Geopanels of a differing color can make them shift colors, damaging all units on the panels when it happens.

These early Disgaea D2 tutorials introduce a few new gameplay mechanics. One of the first is the notion of mounts. If a humanoid and a monster character team up, the humanoid character can ride the monster. If the relationship between the two characters is good, there are even special mounted skills that can be unleashed. Mounting a monster can sometimes increase movement range, while building relationships and offering new skill abilities.

The whole relationship thing is new to Disgaea D2 as well. If characters fight alongside each other and work together long enough, their relationship will improve. That means that the characters will start to help one another on the map. For example, I had Etna create a Monk character, during character creation. The two would work alongside each other and, because they were close, Etna helped with a follow-up attack when the Monk was assaulting an enemy, even though Etna didn’t appear to be in normal range of the foe. I’ve also noticed situations where Laharl, Flonne and Etna would talk to each other during the tutorial maps, though I wasn’t sure if this was related to the relationship building.

Character creation is slightly different in Disgaea D2 as well. They’re relatively minor changes, but matter quite a bit. Players can choose the color of a created character, and the character’s personality. The personality will influence the character’s special ability. In the case of a mage, it may make certain spells more formidable. It’s a nice little bonus, to make each character a little more special. Again, players can spend more points to make characters a little better during the creation period, and characters will have evilities.

Now, I don’t want to get too spoilery, since Disgaea D2‘s release is a bit away, but I do want to bring up the Master-Apprentice relationship as well. All characters can mentor or become apprenticed to other party members. This allows them to use the skills of their masters. If the skills are used enough times, the apprentice can even learn them. Any character can be a master or apprentice, which again allows for more customization than other Disgaea titles.

Finally, there’s the cheat system. I wasn’t able to dabble too much in this in Disgaea D2‘s introductory levels, but there’s a Cheat Shop outside Laharl’s castle that allows players to cheat. Players can tweak things, giving themselves more experience, more skill experience, more money or more points to spend in the Dark Assembly. The catch is, if you change the game to, say, give characters 105% experience from every battle, then another of the four values must be adjusted accordingly. In the first tutorial chapter, only a 5% difference is allowed. As the game proceeds, that can be increased and decreased more. So, if I wanted 110% more money from battles, I may have to take 95% experience and 95% money from battles to make that happen.

I’ve spent about 5 hours with Disgaea D2 so far, and I’m interested to see where the story goes next. If it sounds appealing to you as well, you can stop by GamerTell next week for our review, and grab your own copy of Disgaea D2 for your PS3 on October 8, 2013 for $49.99.

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  • The Game Scouts

    I love Disgaea, this is great!!