Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Disgaea 2: Dark Hero Days

Hey, Space Monkees.

Where exactly doe you come to that moment where you come to sudden realization of "my God, this game I just bought is not fun, and I really don't want to play it anymore"?  When is it?  Is it when you realize that the storyline is going nowhere?  Is it when you learn to hate the battle system?  Or is it something else entirely?  I've already chronicled my slow descent into dislike for a game with my ten-part "Dissidia Log", so you should have some experience into when I'm ready to throw the game away and move on to something else.  Unfortunately, my latest purchase, "Disgaea 2:  Dark Hero Days" for the PSP, definitely is one of those games.

My first discussion point comes right at the title.  What the heck is a "Disgaea"?  Or who is Disgaea?  Where is Disgaea?  I played about a third of the game before abandoning it, and I never ever heard the word.  It can't be just a cool-sounding meaningless title like "Final Fantasy" or "Grand Theft Auto", because there isn't anything remotely cool about the word "Disgaea".  It doesn't even run off the tongue the right way.  Is it a Japanese term of some kind?  Or maybe its a combination of the prefix "dis-" meaning "negative or opposite" and "Gaea", the ancient Greek goddess of the Earth (AKA:  mother nature).  So it would mean "female personification of the opposite of the natural order".  What does that have to do with anything I've seen in this game?

But perhaps before I go into my opinion of the game, I should explain why I bought this game in the first place.  It certainly wasn't because I played "Disgaea 1".  Actually I've never heard of any of these games beyond one short X-play review of this one.  As I recall they were particularly fond of one line of dialogue:  "Napoleon Boner-part".  And that's in the game, so I can't be disappointed.  The real reason is that several of my buddies from the dark netherworld of the Final Fantasy Wiki were absolutely obsessed with these games.  They even started a wiki:  imaginatively named "the Disgaea Wiki".  (Oh and it gives no help as to what "Disgaea" means either.)  Its like going to dinner with a friend and asking what they would recommend on the menu, you can't help but order what they mention.  So I figured, since these guys love the games so much, I figure I should give it a shot.  A bit of research later and I find its a strategy RPG.  That's fine, I've had times good and bad with that brand of video game.  Some are excellent ("Final Fantasy Tactics") others are just okay ("Jeanne d'Arc").  But they always give an epic political storyline mixed in with strategic gameplay, and usually are a lot of fun.  I decided to try these Disgaea games.  Unfortunately I couldn't find a portable version of "Disgaea 1", so I skipped on to "Disgaea 2", figuring that it probably didn't matter which one I started with.

And as it turned out, it didn't matter at all.  I don't know if Disgaea games are just anthologies like the Final Fantasy series, or what, but nothing in "Disgaea 2" at all hinted that there was a game before this one.  Okay, at the start of the game, the Earth has been conquered by demons and everybody has been transformed.  That might have happened in the first game, I don't know.  But your main hero, an idiot named Adell with a giant silly necktie, definitely had nothing to do with any of it.  He's out to save his parents and his little siblings from being demons by killing the Demon Lord Zenon.  And boy, he will not let you forget it.  So along the way, you'll encounter all sorts of strange weirdos and naturally they join your party.  One of which is the Demon Lord's daughter, a pair of bouncing boobies on a 2D sprite named Rozalin.  And of course she falls in love with the hero, its federally mandated that the daughters of villains must always fall in love with the hero and turn to the good side.

It looks all standard RPG-fair, until you realize one important thing.  Why the heck should I care?  The demonized Earth isn't all that different from the regular Earth, only with sillier creatures.  Demon Lord Zenon, who the game wants you to defeat, doesn't actually do much of anything.  You don't even see much of him.  He spends the entire game plotting something or other, and never actually doing anything particularly evil.  There is nothing to protect in this game!  There's no evil to vanquish!  I have absolutely no idea why I'm playing!  I mean, couldn't you at least give me a "the princess has been kidnapped, rescue her" plotline?  Yeah, I get that this game isn't trying to take itself seriously (it is funny at times, though most of the jokes just aren't that good), but still, can't you give me something?  Never in my life have I played a game with such a pointless storyline.

Okay, here's the sad truth:  RPGs just aren't all that fun to play.  Unless you're making it a fast-paced action affair like "Kingdom Hearts", you aren't going to be able to have the game run by gameplay alone.  You need something more:  an epic storyline, a vast feeling of adventure, a huge world to explore with tons of things to do.  "Disgaea 2" has nothing of that.  You spend the entire game in the same hub-world with, which is just a town.  Yeah, you leave for battles, but you never have a sense of scale or adventure.  SPRGs are a level beyond the typical turn-based RPG snore fest, but it still isn't enough for you to build your entire game on that alone.  "Disgaea 2" knows that, which is why a good deal of it is endless meandering conversations between either sprites or static portraits, all with barely passable voice acting.  But there's nothing interesting happening here!  I just stopped watching the cutscenes very early on, because I was just completely bored with them.

Sometimes the game can be clever and funny, like with the exploding zombie penguins that call everybody "dood!".  I liked those guys.  You also get to fight the Power Rangers at one point, but they're very easy so its all pointless.  There is some black humor, though not enough really.  Other characters are just annoying.  For example, Prince Naveen from "the Princess and the Frog" returns in this game as a sex-addicted frog that floats in the air and is easily defeated by every foe on the map.  Most of the time though, the game is less funny and more simply annoying.  Its so desperate to be funny, yet so rarely provokes laughs.

Gameplay-wise, "Disgaea 2" attempts to try something new with the SRPG format, but it just isn't enough to keep me going.  Every battlefield is filled with magic colored squares that give a certain effect.  Some will boost stats, some will sap HP, and some will make you completely invincible.  At first this got me very excited, because it would add a level of puzzle solving to the battles.  But ultimately it didn't really manage to do much of anything.  All it meant in the end was that I had to position my forces in odd sections sometimes and destroy certain objects to advance.  The battles, ultimately, were no different than any other SRPG I've played.  Though actually there is one place where they were different:  range.  Ranged units in "Disgaea 2" have the saddest, most pitiful range I have ever seen.  It makes them basically worthless, because they'll never be able to fight from the distance you'd want.  That's a shallow complaint, I know, but it really made the battles infuriating to me.  Death is not permanent, which can be a good thing, but it also removes the feeling of strategy since you can be as sloppy as you want and there are next-to-no consequences.

Oh, and offensive magic is worthless.  Remember that.

Another thing that I didn't like about this game was its art style.  The artwork is okay, if not even brilliant at times (I rather like Taro's artwork, which is why you can see him up at the top).  But one thing that I find disturbing is just how many characters are little lolicon girls wearing very little over non-existent breasts.  Okay, I'm not going to out and call the creators of this game pedophiles, but it does freak me out.  I mean what is going on here?  I could go back to my old excuse of "its Japan, what do you expect?" but here its very worrying.  Should I call the police?  Should the World Court be notified about this?  Even if this was all unintentional or at the very least, a repressed desire that the developers will never act upon, it still makes me feel dirty for playing this game.  Like, I don't want people to see the box cover art or anything.  I feel like the FBI is going to confiscate it from me as "kiddie porn" - and then I'll never be allowed to play with my baby brother again or get a real job!  "Digaea 2", why are you so desperate to ruin my life???  I'm ruining it already perfectly fine without you!

Seriously, the lolicon stuff is quite simply a distracting artistic choice, and seriously weird.

So ultimately, I have to say, I thoroughly did not enjoy playing "Disgaea 2".  I made it all the way to the sixth chapter and I finally had to give up.  Maybe I simply picked the black sheep out of the series.  Maybe the other games were better.  I'll check.  [Five minute break.]  Nope!  They're all just as pointless.  Perhaps I could have liked this game if the storyline made me at all compelled or interested.  But it didn't, so I didn't like it.  This is a game that's going to GameStop in exchange for what little cash I can get back for it.  I really don't want people (or the FBI) getting the wrong idea about me if they see things like this.

15 comments:

  1. Sadly I never played these games nor do I think I ever will.

    Waiting for your FFXIII blog Blue. D: I wanna know what you think about the game. I love it so far.

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  2. Now i'm actually almost disappointed, BH. Disgaea(That's the universe the three games are in, btw) 2 was the black sheep of the Disgaea family. Adell was just plain stupid, Rozalin got on my nerves and you do know that Hanako is about 8 years old, so you shouldn't really expect any boobs from her. You should play Disgaea: Hour of Darkness, the first game, which is far superior. It also received a PSP port("Disgaea: Afternoon of Darkness") and a DS port("Disgaea DS"). And Etna, whom you linked a pic of, has a huge flat-chest-complex, so you shouldn't laugh at her, same thing with Flonne - but certainly not Jennifer. I can't really explain Lady Fighter though... The first game puts you in charge of an egoistic demon prince, Etna and an angel who were to assassinate Laharl's father who died two years prior to the game, as well as a failed superhero, his sidekick and her robot. In D2 the main cast consists of a lame guy who tries to be Cloud Strife or something but fails badly, and an annoying princess. Playing Disgaea 2 before Disgaea 1 is like reading Harry Potter 7 without reading any of the others.

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  3. And the last link is a pic of the badass demon prince of the first game, don't make fun of him or he'll rain meteors on you or something. That guy is so powerful it's scary. And not even i could play through both Disgaea 1 and Disgaea 3 in five minutes!

    And offensive magic is pointless if you don't have any Staff Weapon Mastery, at higher levels Magic Damage can be multiplied and target almost any formations.

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  4. Strange. This game sounds a bit like the Tactics Advance games (Final Fantasy, of course). In those games, death is rarely a concern, and the storylines of both games are a bit weak. I had fun with them, but if you didn't like this game, you may not like them either.

    On the subject of FFXIII, I'm not at a point yet where I'm genuinely enjoying the game. Right now, imagine Chrono Trigger in 3D or FFX2 without the random battles or the total stupidity and you have FFXIII. It's okay, but not great. I've only been playing for about 2 hours, though; I sure hope it gets more interesting.

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  5. Yeah, Disgaea is not a fun series. A friend of mine was once over at my house and after running to the kitchen to cook up some food, I returned to the living room to see that he was playing his DS. I asked him what he was playing and he said "Disgaea. It's the best game ever, you've got to try it!" So I did. I played a new game for an hour or two and then loaded his game to see if it got any better. It didn't, and so I decided that that was the end of the Disgaea games for me. (I might try out that PSP game about those penguin monsters though.)

    Have you ever played the Persona games, BlueHighwind? I personally have not, but I hear they have very engaging stories.

    Also, I know it's annoying, but I have to comment on the Grand Theft Auto thing. I'm sure you know that Grand Theft Auto is when you steal a car. In the first two games of the series, most of the missions in GTA were basically "Go steal a car (you couldn't even walk on foot until the second game), go steal a gun, go shoot this other car, then go to a payphone. Repeat."

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  6. I totally agree with your friend, Drake. He was playing Disgaea DS. One of the best games ever.

    It's a little sad that you have to play for hours, more than "an hour of two" before the game gets any good. And if you load his game it doesn't get any better since you won't have any idea of what's going on. Like watching the middle part of a movie.

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  7. So if what I'm hearing is correct: "Disgaea 2" was terrible, but the other games are good? I checked the plots of those two (that's what that five minute break was), and they seem just as pointless. Nope, I'm done with this series. It had its shot, it blew it.

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  8. It sounds to me that you had it's shot and blew it. Disgaea isn's like Final Fantasy where you could pick a random title and start a new story, I'm just at Chapter 3 in the PS2 Version(Cursed Memories), and i've already picked up a heckload of references to Disgaea 1.

    Random fun facts: Did you notice that the Heavy Knight class looks like Auron?

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  9. I'm not blaming you for not liking Disgaea, but you could at least start at the beginning and give the first game a chance.

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  10. Disgaea...reminds me of this FF fanfic I used to read bout some dread locked Jamaican dude who goes around taking over every ff world, and eventually branches outside to series such as KH, Fire Emblem, etc. Ya, don't look at me.

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  11. I like the storylines of Disgaea for exactly the reason why you don't like them: because they're wacky, and twisted, and there's nothing else like them on the market. Hour of Darkness' story may sound simplistic, but it is well executed.

    There's a big reveal for Overlord Zenon, but I'll leave that alone.

    Certainly the game isn't for everyone. I feel that the judgement you've made on the gameplay is incorrect, though: there's a lot of depth to the series. Nor is it a good idea to compare Disgaea to the wildly different Final Fantasy Tactics.

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  12. If anything Disgaea is an acquired taste. By the time I was playing the 3rd in the series I became disenchanted with the series's massive amount of grind, making perfect items and duping them with slow progress (tedious). After this sordid love affair I just said screw it and cried myself to sleep while reading Nietzsche.
    But I liked the first and that's all I need, probably because of nostalgia though.

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  13. Yuany, the only reason why I even play SRPGs is because FFT was THAT good. When I look for one, FFT is the gold standard by which all, for good or bad, will have to be judged. And it isn't like Disgaea failed on any real level (though the Demon Senate system can go die), its just that the game didn't give me any good reason to keep on playing. I wish there was something to protect that I cared about, but there just wasn't. Maybe that's the point - parodying the standard RPG plot. But a deconstruction still needs to fulfill the same emotional effects that the original did.

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  14. FFT was based on Tactics Ogre series. If you would play a game that strongly resembled the original FF Tactics, you should pick up the remake of Let us cling together for PSP, or the original in the Playstation.

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  15. CthulululululululululululululugoddofmadnesssFebruary 1, 2011 at 12:15 AM

    1) Disgaea 2 IS shit
    2) Disgaea 1 is NOT.
    3) Disgaea1: Really funny comedy
    4) Disgaea2: NOT FUNNY.
    5Disgaea 1: your a demon prnice who is thouroughly, completley, evil. A total lbastard. and i honestly think in someways, slightly similar to the way you came off in some of your early walkthroughs.
    6: Disgaea 2: your playing as a fucking homo human bitchboy.

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