Asobee: Dark Souls – Episode 02

In the second episode of our Dark Souls Let’s Play, we explore New Londo Ruins — but not before checking out Valley of Drakes and a bit of Blightown. After a solid attempt to communicate with ghosts, we decide to turn our sights back to Undead Burg. Wouldn’t ya know it, we even use those “worthless” binoculars!

We don’t have any dilemma for you guys to weigh in on this week, so just kick back and enjoy!

Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness Review

Disgaea D2 is the first direct sequel to a Disgaea game — in this case Disgaea: Hour of Darkness.  When I played the original (some ten years ago — my, how time flies) it was a turning point for me as a gamer.  I realized that a JRPG story could be light, funny, yet bittersweet.  I felt the thrill of becoming incrementally stronger and eventually overcoming insanely powerful enemies.  For these reasons (and more I won’t bore you with) I was worried about Disgaea D2 reopening these isolated, perfect memories and, well… wrecking up the place.  After spending quality time with the game, I’m relieved to say that Disgaea D2 enhances both my precious memories and the franchise as a whole.

Story — Yuie.  Yuie, everywhere.

Each story in a Disgaea title is primarily character driven.  The actual events that unfold generally pale in comparison to the secrets, emotions, and telling actions of the characters that fill the game’s ranks.  Disgaea D2 keeps this trend going, by taking the series’ most established characters — Laharl, Flonne, and Etna — and introducing new and unknown elements of their background.

Early in the game, the aspiring Overlord of the Underworld, Laharl learns that he may have a long-lost sister…  who is also an angel.  Angels and demons have dramatically different values — one devotes their existence to love and order, the other power and chaos.  I assume I don’t need to explain which is which (unless you’re a sociopath).

This realization leads to Laharl allowing his (possible) sister to follow him and his rag-tag band of demons around the Underworld.  Along the way, I saw the would-be Overlord slowly warm to his sister, eventually assuming a big-brother role, proving he is more than just a power-hungry maniac.  Seeing character norms broken always makes me smile.

Similar elements of Etna and Flonne’s backgrounds are also introduced, shining a light on what makes them tick.  In fairness, this formula is nothing new to the Disgaea series, but this is the first time revisiting established characters in a meaningful way, so I’ll let it slide.

System — I was born in a pirate ship

I want to meet the person who opened up the Disgaea engine and tweaked the ever-living heck out of Disgaea D2, because they knocked it out of the park.  Sure, it was probably a team of people, but I’d much rather believe it was a lone genius who has become one with strategy RPGs — like the architect from the Matrix.

Team attacks are as powerful as they should be, given that up to four units can participate if in close proximity.  This encouraged me to take advantage of a new affinity system that makes units who stick together in battle perform better together.  A streamlined master/student system allowed me to turn my entire team into warriors, healers, and stat-buffers.  The revamped Item Sea (not world anymore; sorry, geologists) turned slogging through floor after floor into a more enjoyable tower-defense play style — and offered some real-estate free of geo-panel effects.  Multiple evilities allowed me to customize my team, hone them, and come up with fun team combinations.  The list goes on.


The updated Item Sea makes Pirate Ship selection more important than ever

More so than ever, Disgaea D2 offers customization and streamlining.  This had me spending less time fiddling with the mundane so I could spend more time becoming stronger, diving deeper into the story, Item Sea, and sidequests.

Presentation — Super Idol Asagi

This is always the category where Disgaea titles lose points when placed under the eye of scrutiny.  I will say that this installment did introduce some new sprites: a female Armor Knight, a male Angel, and a few monster units returning from before the series’ recent graphical overhaul.  There were also re-imagined sprites for both Laharl (as a female) and Flonne (as a cos-player).  This little bit of change went a long way towards making me explore characters I normally wouldn’t.

Now for some complaints.  The opening movie (above) is very choppy — why can’t anime-style videos look halfway decent in video games?  Is it because they’re cheaply made or is it technical limitations?  It also seems to get cut off abruptly in the actual game.

I played a digital version of Disgaea D2, which was graciously given to me by NIS America.  Sadly, the game has frozen on me over a dozen times.  There seems to be no rhyme or reason to what causes the freezing, and I’ve lost quite a bit of time due to this issue. It’s never a good feeling to worry that the game you’re playing could stop running at any moment.

Conclusion — Refinement

Disgaea D2 refined gameplay down to its purest state, resulting in some of the most solid SRPG gameplay I’ve ever experienced.  A number of much-needed tweaks regarding party maintenance take the confusion out of creating a frighteningly powerful army of your favorite units.  Finally, the story revisits beloved characters with all the laughs and poignant moments we’ve come to expect.  My memories and I couldn’t be happier about how this sequel was handled.

Asobee: Dark Souls – Episode 01

It’s finally here!  The first episode of our Dark Souls Let’s Play!  For this episode we create our character and escape from the Northern Undead Asylum.  After scoping out the different ways to proceed through Lordran, we ask you guys to help guide us!

If you’re a Dark Souls veteran and want to skip the information on character creation (and get right to the gameplay), go right to 16:18 where the action begins.

We ask for your input on how to advance at around 1:22:00 — let us know if we should keep going through the Undead Burg or backtrack to New Londo Ruins!

Drakengard 3 Confirmed For North American Release in 2014

Today Square Enix (via the Playstation Blog) confirmed that Drakengard 3 will be coming to North America next year. Check out the above debut trailer to increase your hype levels approximately ten-fold.  I love the character designs!  Also, the game’s overall appearance looks more solid than I thought after my first impression back in March.

You may recall that Drakengard 3 will be a sequel to the original Drakengard and will feature a female main character named Zero with a flower for an eye.  Oh, and she gets more powerful as she becomes bathed in the blood of her enemies:

Still hope she’s had all the necessary shots because that’s totes a biohazard.

PSA: Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness Out Now! Here’s Why It’s Awesome.

Disgaea D2 came out yesterday.  I’ve been playing it for a little over a week and am super impressed with some tweaks to the classic Disgaea formula — tweaks definitely made by individuals who understand the game’s hardcore audience (ahem, this guy).

I realize I haven’t covered this game much leading up to its release.  This was a mistake –I was suffering Disgaea fatigue after Disgaea 4 didn’t really click for me.  Disgaea D2 has renewed my passion for whacking large numbers out of cute sprites so I’m going to share with you some of my favorite changes in Disgaea D2:

  • You can select which character you control when exploring the Overlord’s Castle.  I walk around as my Thief!
    • You may also designate up to two different characters to follow you around (or choose to have no one follow you).
  • At character creation you can select from three different personalities for your unit, which will determine both their voice and Evility.
    • Each generic character (both human and demon) have a total of three different Evilities/Personalities.  That’s a ton of different Evilities!
    • You can change these settings later if you prefer to mix and match
    • Story characters have set Evilities
  • You can select your character’s color palette at creation, and more are unlocked with each subsequent rank (i.e. unlocking the second rank of Thief will unlock an additional color)
    • Story characters have different color options, but I don’t think there is a way to unlock more (DLC maybe?)
  • Rarity values are gone!  Weapons and armor can still be Common, Rare, and Legendary, but you can get a same-rarity bonus without having to match the actual numerical rarity.  If only you knew how much time I spent getting matching rarity Yoshitusnes and Super Robo. Suits in the first Disgaea
  • The Student/Master relationship is easier to control than ever, meaning getting the desired skill on a unit is SO EASY.
    • You no longer need to use mana to level up skills — they becomes stronger by simply using them repeatedly.
    • Weapons Mastery is once again based on usage (more attacks = better mastery). This means your character’s standard attacks aren’t useless like they were in Disgaea 4.
  • The Thief no longer needs to use stealing hands to steal.  Stealing is now an actual skill that levels up, increasing the stealing range.
  • There is no longer an Item Warehouse — all items can be accessed when in battle or in the Item Sea.
  • But my FAVORITE change?  Easy.  Female Laharl:

So yeah, long story short: tons of customization combined with a welcomed return to form make Disgaea D2 a ton of fun.  Look forward to a complete review in the near future!