Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories Review

Your world is taken by darkness and turned into a netherworld, and it’s denizens have been turned into demons and monsters, all under the rule of the Overlord Zenon. You are Adell, the only human left in this demon-infested land. If you want to stop everyone from losing their mind and turning into mindless monsters, and you want to bring back peace and lift the curse from the land of Veldime, then you’ll have to find and defeat the Overlord before it’s too late.

Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories

Developed by Nippon Ichi Software/ Published by Nis America

Available on the PS2, PS3 and PSP. Reviewed on the PS3 (PS2 Classics).

Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories is a turn-based strategy RPG developed by Nippon Ichi Software and published by Nis America. It’s the not-so sequel (doesn’t continue the plot of its predecessor) of Disgaea: Hour of Darkness, the very popular strategy RPG released back in 2003. Will Disgaea 2 be as good as its predecessor or will if fall short of greatness?

It all starts in your home town Holt, as Adell is preparing do start a summoning ritual with his mom to summon the Overlord Zenon to your side so you can defeat him, only to have it backfire. Instead of summoning the evil antagonist, you summon his spoiled daughter Princess Rozalin. While Adell’s mother plans to keep Rozalin as a hostage, our hero decides he will return Rozalin to her dad and defeat him. This will be done whether the princess likes it or not, since she’s now bound to Adell due to the summoning ritual.

Mom! Are you sure this ritual will work?
Mom! Are you sure this ritual will work?

The town of Holt serves as your hub. Here players can buy weapons, armor, and items, heal team members, enter assembly or item worlds, and finally use a teleporter to get you anywhere you need. The assembly is essentially the government of Veldime, and it’s where you go when you need something done, like creating or deleting a character, ordering more items for stores, getting discounts for said stores, and even having characters resurrected. Item worlds are stages you create from items you own so you can grind some levels and get even better loot.

To make progress in the game, players need to areas and complete different stages, each one containing a small segment of story. The story, which is not great but charming (especially with the funny and witty dialogue that keeps you grinning), does a great job at keeping people immersed in the experience.

United attacks will devastate enemies!
United attacks will devastate enemies!

The meat of the game is of course the battle system. Disgaea 2 uses a grid-style turn-based battle system. If you’ve played any other turn-based strategy games you’ll feel right at home. You start by sending out your characters through a portal and deciding where to move them and having them attack if enemies are close by. But unlike other turn-based RPG’s, you’ll have to assign everyone of your teams moves and actions before the turn plays out. You have your typical actions like attack and defend, and special abilities and items, but then unorthodox mechanics, like the ability to lift and throw allies. Ff an enemy is out of your reach, you can grab someone friendly next to you and throw them next to an enemy so they can attack them, which adds a whole new layer of depth to the combat. Then there’s the Geo Symbols, which are blocks that hold special properties and can affect characters standing on colored panels influenced by the symbols either negatively or positively. There are also team attacks in the form of united attacks and combo attacks.

A bit exaggerated, but it will do the job. Death to my enemies!
A bit exaggerated, but it will do the job. Death to my enemies!

As you keep battling, characters gain the chance to learn new skills,especially if they have high proficiency with the weapon they are using. The less proficiency a character has with a weapon, the longer it will take to learn a new skill, so it’s always something to keep in mind.

Players also have access to different classes, adding more depth and balance to battles. You start out with 6 basic classes: the Male and Female Fighter, Mages, Skulls, who are another type of magic user, Thieves, and healers. As you progress  throughout the game you’ll then gain access to stronger and more varied classes for up to a total of 17 classes. There are also monsters you can add to your party, which come with their own skills. With so many customization and party options, there’s really a lot of depth and replay value in this game.

The graphics in Disgaea 2 goes back to a 32-bit era, with sprites that are similar to those of PS1 games except a bit more colorful and smoother. The graphic style may be a turn-off to some, but I really enjoyed it. Special attacks are colorful and shiny, and I really liked the attack animations. The character design and art style is where the game really shines, though. I really like Takehito Harada’s here, and while there are some questionable designs here and there, it’s solid nonetheless. The character portraits and monsters are beautifully designed and very colorful,and add a lot of charm to the game. The backgrounds and environments, however, don’t look all that great, and many are really bland and dull.

Woah, Hold it! You're talking to Overlord Etna!
Woah, Hold it! You’re talking to Overlord Etna!

I really liked the music in Disgaea 2. There are a lot of nice songs, and while nothing really stood out, there wasn’t a song that I found annoying or boring. Sadly I can’t say the same about the sound effects, which are basic and common, and the menu sounds are all really outdated and irratating. Good thing you can turn them off in the options menu.

The game features some nice voice acting. The main characters voices are good and handled with care, and while there’s occasionally grating voices here and there, it’s generally enjoyable. Voice acting also occurs in battle – with characters shouting skill names or  one liners before doing special attack – and really adds to cool factor.

Together we stand! We shall "grind" our enemies!
Together we stand! We shall “grind” our enemies!

What I don’t like about these types of games is that they can get ‘grindy’, even if the battle system is fun. Long battles can be particular long and monotonous,  especially at later levels where you will need to grind for levels, items and money. You’ll find yourself spending a lot of time doing this during the length of the game, which can be a real turn-off for some gamers. Thankfully you don’t have to do get to level 200(!) to complete the story and enjoy the game.

All and all, Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories is a good experience. There’s some bad sound and design here and there, and a lot of battles can get boring or frustrating due to the grinding, but the game is a solid strategy RPG and a blast to play. If you didn’t catch the original release back in 2006 on the PS2, now’s the perfect chance to get into the action.


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Joshua Gonzalez

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