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Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories
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Disgaea 2, the sequel to the cult classic Disgaea, is a different sort of RPG altogether from the typical mainstream RPG games.  Like the original Disgaea, Cursed Memories is a strategy RPG, with grid based battles and an isometric view.  Many players will be reminded of Final Fantasy Tactics.  However players looking for an experience like Final Fantasy Tactics should look elsewhere.  Disgaea 2 is in no way like those super serious RPGs ala Tactics.  Disgaea is all about humor but is more satisfying than most RPGs that go for quirky.
 
Disgaea 2 is a huge game.  It's quite possible to put well over one hundred hours into it.  However this is not because it's a deep game.  Quite the contrary, the main story is actually short and mundane.  Disgaea 2 just has way too much stuff to do.  Disgaea 2's core gameplay centers around two ideas--the senate and the item world.  The senate is a body of demons that vote on certain proposals you or one of your soldiers submit.  Proposals vary from creating a new soldier type to having more expensive items in the shops.  Things are never easy for you in the netherworld.  Depending on the type of proposal, there will be a certain percentage of senators who will likely vote yes or no.  You can get more senators on your side by bribing them or by racking up more felonies.  Felonies can be earned after a certain point in the story by fulfilling a certain "crime", i.e. having too much attack points or tossing too many prinnies, getting a subpoena, and visiting the court gate.  Felonies are a good thing as they influence the senators and increase the experience gain rate.  This brings us to the item world.  Every single item in the entire game, from the weapons to the shop items, has a hidden dungeon within that is randomly generated every time.  This can be a good element or a bad element.  It's good for dungeon lovers who want a fresh experience every time.  The bad news is that this element has the potential to scare off RPG newbies or casual gamers.  The dungeons in the item world are somewhat challenging, and you're only allowed to escape after every ten levels or if you have the exit item stocked(which you can only get by beating every enemy every tenth level).  For the life of me, I can't figure out why any player would want to risk the lives of his or her soldiers to level up a weapon or armor that'll be obsolete by the time the characters are strong enough for that dungeon.  This video game element is wonderfully complex, as you have the chance to collect the "innocents" that live in the items much like Pokemon.  But other RPGs have item strengthening and customization routines that are much more user friendly.  Plus, who would want to level up a stick of gum?  The only times the item world makes sense are to jump into subpoenas to rack up felonies and leveling up your most powerful equipment.
 
Disgaea 2 has a battle system that sort of resembles Final Fantasy Tactics.  The battles play in that same isometric grid pattern.  Each character is allowed one attack and one movement.  Unlike Final Fantasy Tactics, Disgaea 2 doesn't have a charge time bar.  What it does have, however, are the ability to pick up and throw and the ability to tag team against an enemy.  These two neat gameplay elements open up a new level of strategy.  Need to get a character somewhere fast?  Pick him up and throw him.  Create a bucket brigade or create a tower of people for extra distance.  Tag teaming reminds me of many fighting games, and this is done when one or more allies stands next to one of your attacking characters.  Another thing that separates this game from Final Fantasy Tactics is, thankfully, the maps are sometimes huge, especially when compared with Tactics' rather cramped grids.  However, unlike Shining Force, in which superior use of your forces was encouraged, Disgaea 2 is more about level grinding.  But what level grinding it is.  Unlike most other RPGs, the characters in Disgaea 2 can reach a maximum level of 9,999 with stats capable of reaching the hundreds of thousands, plus maxed out equipment.  Never before has an RPG glorified such power and absurd heights.  I'm almost half reminded of the fighters in Dragon Ball Z walking around challenging stronger and stronger opponents to fights.  And unlike most other RPGs, the levels in Disgaea 2 come at a fairly speedy rate.  The game also allows your characters to reincarnate themselves back to level one, but at a much stronger potential.  The best players will be able to figure out how to milk out level 1000 in the space of minutes.
 
Disgaea 2 is obviously for hardcore RPG fans, as many players will find its curious mix of item world diving, legendary and innocent collecting, and power levelling to be nothing but trudging.  Those playing for story will surely be disappointed with its straightforwardness.  However, many will also fall in love with the game's characters, sense of humor, and sheer spontaneity.  Things happen out of the blue for no particular reason, and it almost seems as if the game was poking fun at the genre's typical cliches.  Everybody always talks in "levels" and "status".  One enemy is deliberately called "Mid Boss" and one particular lines goes "I feel like I'm just being dragged all over the place."  Clearly loving jabs at the RPG genre.  It's this tongue-in-cheek attitude that makes this game recommended and gives it a flavor that's lighthearted and yet somehow different from the typical fluffy RPG types.
 
Grade: Great

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