Disgaea 2: Dark Hero Days marks the fourth entry of the series onto a portable system. The game features a brief prequel starring the unlikely “Dark Hero,” Axel. A number of improvements were made to the battle system that were taken directly from Disgaea 3, the most recent title in the series.
As a connoisseur of Disgaea games, I feel well prepared to review my experiences with the game.
Story — Bait and Stab
I will mainly be discussing the story of the newly added chapters concerning Axel. This is because I assume most of my readers have played Disgaea 2 back on the PS2, or are capable of researching the events of Disgaea 2.
The minds behind Disgaea are notorious at drawing you in to a story with humor. Those familiar with Axel must know that he exists in his own world, where he is still floating high on a cloud of fame that dissipated long ago. His part of the game takes place before the events of Disgaea 2 where he and Director-san are constantly seeking out employment opportunities. Due to either his inflated ego or other bizarre misunderstandings, Axel has a hard time holding down any of these jobs. I found this side-story much funnier than most main Disgaea stories which made me feel that the creators really had fun with it.
Axel’s Mom: Be careful so that you don’t get hurt, itterasshai.
As always, the ulterior motive of drawing the player in with humor is to apply NIS’s trademark bittersweet sadness. Axel is aware on some level that his fame is gone, but his responsibilities to support his family keep him going despite his misfortunes. All the while he tries to hide from them the fact that he is washed up in the hopes that something will pan out. This formula of bait and stab, ladies and gentleman, is how you make a grown man weep into his PSP.
System — Reverse Osmosis
The updated battle system in Disgaea 3 had a number of improvements which helped streamline the use of monsters in heavily humanoid teams. These updates are the kind of thing fans of series can’t live without after having had a taste of them in Disgaea 3. Apparently NIS understood this and decided to carry these features over to Disgaea 2: Dark Hero Days. These improvements include Magichange as well as throw/receive. These features really help to distribute EXP among a team and help keep them mobile.
I would go so far to say that the Magichange system has been improved. There are no longer the “club” related restrictions that existed in Disgaea 3: any monster can leap into the arms of any humanoid regardless of race, creed, or gender. This made me much more likely to take advantage of the Magichange system which I found I barely used in Disgaea 3, mostly because my club maintenance was sloppy.
Another bonus for me is the satisfying level of difficulty the player will experience in Axel’s story. While this part of the game may be brief, you’ll find that considerable time will be spent preparing for the next chapter. Just to give you an idea of the difficulty, I fought a Majin on my second (non-tutorial) map. Tcchyea, now you see what I mean? Maps also seem to almost always have some geo-effect obstacle, although geo-blocks from Disgaea 3 were not carried over. I actually got a game over in the second chapter which I hadn’t experienced in a long time… Ahh, the thrill of video game demise.
Another awesome feature from Disgaea 3 that was carried over is the inclusion of level spheres in the item world. Megalomaniacs like myself formally had to rely on mystery room fortune tellers to achieve a level 200 weapon in Disgaea 2. Thankfully, there is now another option when it comes to creating earth-shattering weaponry.
Extras — There is always a back door
NIS knows that you poured hundreds of hours into Disgaea 2 when it came out on PS2. They also know what it takes to entice you into doing it all over again.
The first obvious extra is of course Axel’s story which is available upon clearing the main game. What’s that you say? You don’t feel like doing that over again? You just wanna get right to the point? Man, some people are so impatient. Well it turns out that there is a backdoor, like in The Matrix. It’s the same secret code for Etna mode and Asagi mode in Disgaea PSP and Prinny respectively. While having “start” selected hit ??????×. You should hear Axel speak if entered correctly. Isn’t that nice of NIS?
Two of my all-time favorite units were also added to the game that were not included in the original Disgaea 2. The first is the Death Saber (aka Saber Kitty). This little fellow first appeared in Phantom Brave and has been an integral part of my roster in every game since. The Death Saber is acquired early on when starting Axel’s chapter and there is even a slightly stronger, unique Death Saber unit who joins Axel on his exploits providing humorous commentary. The move-set of the little bugger is much more conventional than in past games.
The second unit is the female Samurai/Exorcist jobclass. The method for attaining this unit is a little different than the Death Saber. Only by having a save file from Disgaea PSP can you create her. Also, you don’t even need to fool around with the Dark Congress. The effects are instant, which is awesome.
If you don’t already have a save file from Disgaea PSP, I will e-mail a file to you if you donate at least a dollar to the site. See that? Backdoors.
Also, word on the street in Japan is there may be some DLC coming our way…
Conclusions — Ahem… Dood.
I think Disgaea 2: Dark Hero Days really deserves to be called Disgaea 2.5 or maybe Disgaea 2.6666… I can’t remember the last time I saw a port of a game that received so many relevant improvements and to so many different aspects of the game.
I can say without a doubt that this is the best portable Disgaea title to date, making it perhaps the best portable SRPG on either the PSP or Nintendo DS. If you consider yourself a fan of either the series or the genre I don’t think you’ll be disappointed adding this game to your collection.