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January 5, 2007
Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories - PS2 Review
Release Date Distributor Developer Players Rating Difficulty
23/11/2006THQNippon Ichi1MMedium
Save Size Sound Format Vibration 60Hz Mode 50Hz Border Widescreen

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Old school graphics, great gameplay.
A couple of years ago a marvellous game, with the unusual name of Disgaea: Hour of Darkness, hit shelves and, for the most part, went un-noticed here in Australia. Now, a little over 2 years later, we have in our hands the sequel Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories. We are all pretty big RPG fans here at and so when this title came along I was happy to give it a go. Being that I hadnít had a chance to play the original I have very little idea what to expect... What I found was a delightfully quirky title that is bound to keep RPG fans occupied for a ridiculously massive amount of time, but for the newcomer to the genre... well, more on that later.

Letís get one thing straight from the beginning. Great efforts have been made to make sure this game has one of those huge, in-depth and complicated plots that have been so famous among the RPG genre. Basically, you play Adell, who is the one remaining true human in the world. All other humans have fallen to a curse which makes them at least part demon, which has allowed Koei to go nuts with some of the character design. There are some very odd ones in here indeed. As can be expected, Adell sets out to help lift the curse and restore humanity to its former glory within the world of Veldime, starting by summoning the one who brought upon the world this curse, Overlord Zenon.

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There is plenty of humour!
Of course, itís never going to be that easy, and the summoning in fact skips Zenon and instead brings to Adell the overlordís daughter, Rozalin, who is now, due to the nature of the summon spell, bound to Adell to bring him to the overlord. Itís a fairly standard RPG plot basis, and throughout the game Rozalin and Adell predictably start to fall for each other. Okay, so as difficult as the story may be to follow at times, it isnít going to win any awards for originality, but itís a solid basis for the game. And so begins Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories.

The gameplay itself is broken up into many, many small missions, each with one very simple objective: to kill all enemies in the level. Naturally, this isnít always as easy as it may seem, with each of the enemies (and there are LOTS!) having their own weaknesses and so on, but there isnít much more to this. Itís simple, but it works very well. You never get tired of killing the enemies, and after all, isnít that what we play games for mostly nowadays?

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Now thats a shocking soul.
What is different though is the unique strategic turn-based nature used that made the first game such an enjoyable title. Rather than your party each attack ala Final Fantasy or Star Ocean, you move your characters around in the world space and can either attack with them individually, or team them up for more powerful strikes. You can even use one character to thrown another one to either move them further in a single turn or attack the enemy. Itís almost a bit like a mix between traditional turn-based RPGs and real-time strategies, and while it is quite hard to get the hang of, the style does mean that you can develop your own tactics and methods for getting through the world.

There are tons of ways you could take out each enemy. Will you chip away at their health with ranged attacks? Or perhaps you will get in close and attack with joint attacks? Or maybe you will even build a tower of your party members, making for one massive devastating attack? The possibilities are almost endless, and no one person is going to play the game the same way as another.

Players who had a chance to give the first Disgaea a go will know exactly what Iím talking about. And while there have been several minor additions to the battle system, these make little different. Fans will feel right at home with this release.

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More humour!
This does, however, bring us to the main problem plaguing the title. While the battle system is impressively in-depth and multi-tiered, someone who isnít used to it is going to feel quite disorientated for their first few hours of play. If you havenít played any other turn-based RPG, this definitely isnít the game to get you started. In a nutshell, Disgaea 2 really is for the hardcore RPG fans more so than anyone else.

That aside, there isnít a lot to complain about with the game. Much of the graphics and sound is recycled from the first title, but thatís probably to be expected with this style of game. And given that the majority of people wouldnít have had a chance to play the first one, itís not going to be a huge problem here anyway.

Perhaps the most noticeable thing about this title, and something you will have no doubt noticed from the surrounding screenshots, is that, like a few other RPGs we recently reviewed (see Atelier Iris 2), this isnít going to be a game you show off for its graphics. Made with the more old-school, nostalgia-inducing, 2D RPG look, with huge influences drawn from Japanese anime and manga, Disgaea 2 is quite a nice game to look at, but for completely different reasons to the usual. There are no beautiful Square-Enix styled CGI scenes here, no amazing character animations, and not even detailed environments. Instead, players will be reminded of the old SNES days, and even more likely, the popular free online RPGs available today.

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What the!?
Thatís not to say that Disgaea 2 looks bad, far from it in fact. Aside from having a quirky charm to it, there is a very light-hearted feel to the game overall. The story often makes fun of itself, characters are very purposefully stereotypical RPG characters, and for these reasons, and more, the graphic style is perfectly suited to it. There was never a moment whilst playing where we found ourselves wishing for more Disgaea 2 to be a technically-pimped-out work. It simply doesnít need it.

One particular graphical aspect that does deserve some attention is the cut-scenes, which are done in full anime style and fit with the in-game look perfectly. While the game isnít pushing any polygon records, we are still giving it a thumbs up graphically because it fits, and after all, whatís more important; a game that looks pretty, or a game that feels like it is a all-rounded great piece of work?

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Look Out! Ninja Pirates!
Needless to say, the audio continues in much the same vain to the graphics. All in-game effects are nicely recorded and fit in with the light-hearted feel of the story. Music is very fitting and quite easy on the ears. While you wonít be looking to download the soundtrack upon completing the game, there are no really annoying tracks either.

Most importantly, the voice acting for spoken sections of the plot are among some of the better that we have seen, or rather heard, in years. Again, there is definitely a huge influence from anime coming through here, and it suits the game to a T.

Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories is one of those unfortunate cases where the game almost certainly isnít going to sell as well as it should. This is largely due to the dated graphics style and the complicated battle system. However, hardcore fans of RPGs, or anyone who played the first and enjoyed it, are going to find a massive amount of very entertaining gameplay here. And who are we kidding Ė with the release date for a certain big-name RPG getting pushed back time and time again (we are of course talking about Final Fantasy XII), itís nice to have great games like this one to help soften the blow. Thumbs up for this one!

Review By: Michael Hutchesson

Order your copy now from Gameswarehouse (PAL version) or Amazon (NTSC Version).
GRAPHICSThey may look dated, but the game really wouldnít work any other way. Nostalgia anyone?
SOUNDA beautifully light-hearted sounding title, fitting 100% with the feel of the game. Some excellent voice-work too.
GAMEPLAYAddictive, deep and most importantly, lots of fun. Fairly complicated battle system will scare off some newcomers.
VALUENo joke, this game is HUGE. There is tons of content here, even after you finish the story.
OVERALLThis is one of the RPG highlights of the last few years, and while it may not look all that flash, it will keep you entertained for hours on end!

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