Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories is generally lighthearted and inviting in its art style, characters, and overall tone, but it actually has quite a few layers and some depth in its gameplay that newcomers to the series may be surprised. This is a strategy RPG with a good amount of content, and considering the fact that its recent PSN re-release is at a low price, those who are already fans of the genre or series will get some fun out of it.
The plot takes place in a fantasy world populated by humans, demons, and various other creatures. Adell, the only human left in the village, is angry about his family having a curse placed on them that is gradually transforming them into demons. A botched attempt to summon Zenon, the evil overlord responsible for the curse, ends up bringing Rozalin, his spoiled daughter, into Adell’s hometown. From here, it’s a journey to bring Rozalin home and also take down her father, despite her repeated claims that no mere human can take down so powerful a figure.
The game contains a snazzy anime opening video, but the rest of its’ presentation is a bit more subdued. Cutscenes either consist of the small 2D character sprites interacting, or bigger hand-drawn portraits showing different emotions as they converse. All of these are fully voice-acted, and while some of it is over the top and exaggerated, the fact that the game’s world itself is the same way makes it more forgivable.
The actual gameplay has many different components to it. The majority of the game is sset on various battlefields from a 3/4 isometric view, and has the player and the enemy AI taking turns choosing units to place on the battlefield, moving them about, and making use of their abilities to wipe out the opposing side. Characters mostly come in specific types that you’d expect to see in a game like this, such as melee-based warriors, projectile-based mages, and health-restoring healers.
Some of these are specific characters tied to the story, such as Adell and Rozalin, but the more generic types can be recruited in the main hub town between levels, using mana that characters build up over time in battle alongside experience to level themselves up. The town has numerous other functions, including stores, health-restoring hospitals, and the Dark Assembly, where players can spend mana to propose bills allowing for benefits such as better items being made available in stores.
The fact that players are allowed to replay each completed map as many times as they want will be a blessing for those who enjoy the rewards of level grinding and unlockables, since it means they can take a favorite character unit and train them as hard as they desire. It also means they’ll be able to recruit characters with better stats when they reach a certain amount of stored mana, giving further incentives besides the traditional experience points and money for items, weapons, and armor.
Battling itself is an interesting experience. Character placement is not only an important strategic element in terms of placing them close enough to enemies to attack, but the side they attack from also needs to be taken into consideration. An attack on the front side of an enemy will do average damage, but it will hurt more if you hit them from the left or right side, and even more if you attack from the rear.
Character teamwork is also something to remember. If characters are next to each other during an attack on a single enemy unit, there’s a random chance of them teaming up and pulling off flashy special moves to deal a lot more damage. Other features include the ability to lift and throw fellow characters if you want them closer to a specific location and can’t move them any further on their own, or build towers of characters lifting each other to share experience and mana rewarded for defeating an enemy.
The Disgaea series has been long-running with a dedicated fanbase for years now, and there’s a good reason for that: The games have a lot of substance and a quirky look and feel that’s different from more serious RPGs. Those who aren’t into enhancing and analyzing stats or planning out the path of attack probably won’t get intoDisgaea 2: Cursed Memories too much, but those who are will likely have a very good time.
This review is based on a PS3 copy of the game.