Ramble Ral – Disgaea D2

(Articles in the Ramble Ral section are presented “as is” with minor editing. For more information please see its section page. They will probably contain spoilers for the game in question)

I completed Disgaea D2’s main game. I don’t plan on doing any more of it, seeing as how I know NI will probably churn out an improved handheld port. Here are some WORDS on it. Spoiler Warning.

Not going to talk much about the gameplay. It’s Disgaea. I never did get around to playing 3 or 4 though, so for the purpose of this wall of text, I will pretend this is a mechanical sequel to 2.

Most of the changes are “quality of life” ones and NI went out of their way to remove a lot of “Argh I accidentally X now my save file is ruined!!!” things. For example, you can just manually reshuffle Master and Apprentice settings to any characters rather than having it determined by which character created them.

Because of this, it’s actually trivially easy to ensure that all your characters have every single healing and buff spells in the game. And attack spells for your clerics.

Which brings me to the new weapon: Books, an alternate weapon introduced for Caster units. I don’t get its use, really. You trade the range/AOE increase of a staff to your spells in favor of built-in INT weapon attacks. A good cleric weapon? Well, like I said, trivially easy to inherit all the spells you ever want, and if I’m going to use spells I’m DEFINITELY going to prefer the extra range of a staff. Male Clerics do get an ability to treat books as staves for this purpose though… and that’s it.

You can also inherit weapon abilities this way. It kind of favors specializing in a few weapon types rather than spreading out.

Tower mechanics get a huge boost in this game with the introduction of new “Tower” skills that depend on how many characters you stack. Some examples include moving your tower like a slinky switching the top and bottom characters or tossing only the top character which at maximum level can reach ridiculous lengths like 18 squares away.

In D2, tower attacks were kind of a gimmicky way to train up weaker units but in DD2 I actually think it’s kind of an over-centralizing mechanic. The aforementioned Tower Toss trivializes a lot of stages where the gimmick is “There’s a geopanel at the end of the stage which is giving all the enemy boosts and you need to destroy it ASAP” and towers are really good at melting single target bosses. Towers do have weaknesses, such as against swarms of enemies and they actually require some forethought because there are some nuances to using the new abilities and screwing up will probably cause you to lose but it feels like despite a lot of units having special passives (evilities), I don’t use them in favour of abusing towers.

So in that regards, at least it’s not Pair Up in FE:A.

Monsters seem gimped in this one. A shame, they were really good in D2.

The new “mount” mechanic is the big advertising point of this game but surprise surprise: just like with every SRPG mechanic where you have to give up 2 unit slots for 1 “big unit”, it’s almost never worth it. Heck, I think the only reason I used it was that trying to manipulate 10 units was really annoying, and this gives me an excuse to cut down on how many units I had to move per turn.

The main game takes about 20 hours to complete. I ended up overleveled from the main game from playing normally, with only a little bit of “grind” I did for fun (30 minutes total of item world). That being said, don’t expect it to be a super cakewalk even if you do because some stages still require you to figure out geopanel puzzles or be at a disadvantage. The last boss has an annoying gimmick passive that seems to be made just to counter powergaming: he passively steals your stats if he’s near your units.

I’m disappointed with the “unique” characters in this game. There’s a grand total of 1 new one. Everyone else is basically a recolored generic.

Next up: The Story: DUN DUN DA

Disgaea D2 P2: The Plot:
So I really didn’t have high hopes going into this one. Disgaea 1 is basically 10 years old now and its characters have been throughly milked by just about every NI game in between.

A tl;dr version of what I’m going to say is that while not horrendous, DD2 shows all the signs of an unintended sequel where no sequel hooks or plot elements are left unresolved in the original game and thus events materialize out of the air just to create a plot. This is coupled with a lot of elements that really make it read more like D1 fanfiction rather than an “official” continuation of the plot.

Connecting the game into the timeline is so wonky: I presume it takes place between D1 and D2. At the start of DD2 and apparently only a short moment after the end of D1, the demons still do not accept Laharl as the new Overlord, and in fact there is an old loyalist group trying to undermine his rule. Oh, I’m sorry, was saving you people from not one but TWO different invasions not enough? And what were those guys doing during the entire D1 takes place even though the entire Netherworld was being threatened? It’s like watching a Disney direct to video sequel to one of their animated features.

Also, Laharl and crew seem to have reverted back to level 1. “That happens in most RPG sequels, Davzz” you say, but the thing is that Disgaea usually tends to be pretty good at giving reasons for that or actually portraying characters at their power level when they show up in other games. Or sometimes the characters just haven’t seen combat in a very long time and they’re drafted men or something (e.g Fire Emblem 1/3).

Here, I guess Laharl, Etna and Flonne just decided to spend a few weeks eating McDonalds every day and whacking themselves on the head with mallets until they’re so stupid they have to give themselves battle tutorials all over again (generally speaking: this is what “Tidus”-like characters are for so that returning characters can show newbies the rope).

Speaking of said characters, as the trend of forced sequels go, we have characters living out their original arcs over again. Despite the events of D1, Laharl still starts off DD2 as a giant Deutsch whose only separation from Rance is that he hasn’t developed a taste for women yet, but then arbitrary flips the “I’m nice now” switch halfway through the game with no real justification. It’s like he’s stuck in eternal stasis because his constant reappearance as a cameo has basically “solidified” his jerk personality into fan perception (see also: Cloud Strife post-FF7).

A lot of parts in the plot feels like they’re trying way too hard to recreate events from D1 for nostalgia. Here’s a description of the 2nd chapter:

You chase a new Angel character through an ice-themed battlefield, and at the end she summons a dragon as a support in her fight.

I mean, come on, really? I’m surprised Revolver Ocelot didn’t pop out of the screen to tell me that this is part of the D3 VR simulation plan to mold Laharl into the new King Krichevskoy.

When they aren’t trying to appeal for nostalgia, most of the events in DD2 are either conceptually weak in a “fanfic” sort of way, or just tends to drop the ball on execution.

For example, the one new original “unique” character in the game that gets the spotlight in the marketing for the game is Sicily, and she basically comes off feeling like just about every “what if I combined Laharl and Flonne to create a NEW CHARACTER” fanfic concept.

Also she says ONII-CHAN a lot so I hope you enjoy hearing that.

Another “hyped up in marketing but dropped the ball” part is chapter 4:Laharl turning into a woman. Ignoring the fact that it’s 20 years too late to jump on Ranma 1/2’s bandwagon, Laharl handles the situation in the chillest way possible of “not caring at all and going about his life because it’ll probably fix itself up tomorrow anyway.” And well, it does. He literally just wakes up the next morning fully cured after a text transition when the filler chapter is over with no effort on his part or any future repercussions. Really, I think the most annoyance he gets out of it is that it slightly annoys him that he can’t piss standing up.

Some more cheesy fanfic writing elements: (spoilers)There are not one, but TWO “I am a new character who never existed before now, but I am your long lost ANEKI/IMOUTO” plot threads in the game. What the hell is this, a soap opera? It’s done for dramatic purpose too, not comedy, which makes it even lamer.

Stuff gets introduced, have weak pay-offs or go no-where: the game.

Also: for whatever reason, Gordon and his crew are not returning characters in this game. It would seem like if there’s one game that would bring them back, it would be an actual sequel to Disgaea 1. Maybe they’re not that popular in Japan. Then again, considering the way the returning characters are handled, maybe it’s good that I’m spared a “Captain Gordon is a big dumb jerk but then he learns not to be a jerk!” retread.

My final verdict is that DD2’s plot isn’t a complete destruction and betrayal of a universe in the same way Starcraft 2 basically took a wrecking ball to it’s predecessor, but for a “10th anniversary revival!” game, the writing’s really sloppy. I think the game would honestly work better if they simply remade Disgaea 1 with the engine rather than trying to force a new plot in this way… heck, they’re probably going to do that anyway, because NI loves money.

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