Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories is a Japanese tactical Role-Playing game initially released on the Playstation 2 back in 2006. Although not as widely known as other RPG’s from its native Japan such as Final Fantasy, it does similarly boast a large series of many games and spin-offs as well as an incredibly dedicated fan-base.
In fact, I found myself quite surprised to learn of the following it has amassed, as it is a series that until very recently, with a re-release for computers earlier this year, I had been completely unaware of. Going into this game I had no real preconceived notions of what the game would entail, with my only real frame of reference being a few screenshots I had seen online and also knowing that it did fit into the JRPG genre. With this, I was very intrigued to see what this game was all about.
To give a brief overview, the premise for the game revolves around an evil Overlord by the name of Zenon who has cursed humanity by turning them into demons. The protagonist of the tale Adelle sets out on a turn-based quest for the ages to restore normality to his hometown and bring his parents back to their human selves, with the aid of a ragtag group of your stereotypical JRPG characters. What I quickly discovered was that Disgaea 2 was a game that would very much divide players into the love it or hate it camp. The game is very unapologetic in what it is and the way it presents itself that I do believe very quickly you know how you are going to feel about this game within the first 20-30 minutes of play, something that unfortunately in this instance proved to be a bad thing for myself.
I initially found issue with the game’s overly long and tedious introduction cutscene in which it tries to explain the lore, the town it is set in and show you the characters of the game. Disgaea 2 certainly isn’t the only game to have issues with cutscenes and unfortunately it won’t be the last, but I feel that it does let the game down with the promise for so much story and exploration only to leave you bored and uninterested by the time you’re able to control your character. Which does bring me on to my next issue I had with the game (I know, off to a positive start). I found none of the characters to be unique or of any interest, which is concerning when I’m going to be spending 20, 30, even 40+ hours with them depending on whether I want to complete every possible quest I can with them. The characters, and in fact the story too, follows your typical JRPG tropes without much sign of originality. I do appreciate that the game does employ more broad humour than one may typically find within the genre, but I did feel that the jokes fell flat very often. This is a story I felt I could find in any other game of the genre, and told in a more unique and engaging way, which is a great downfall I feel this game has.
The main draw of the game and indeed the series is its battle systems. More tactical than that of Final Fantasy or Chrono Trigger, Disgaea 2 involves turn-based combat but with more of an emphasis on making more decisive choices. The first encounter, I was pained to discover, also included an overly long tutorial and introduction, that on my initial play I did skip like a man plagued by a stifling fear of sentences. This of course led to me being completely lost and clueless in how to get through even the introductory battle. Granted, I skipped the initial tutorial, so that is on me, but personally if the combat is not intuitive and easy to grasp from the get-go then I fail to see any reason why I should spend my time learning this when I just want to get straight in to the action. Fights that followed, although being unique in their use of humour within battle, had the same effect on me and left me finding very little reason to continue if this was one of the things most revered about the series.
However, despite all of this I do genuinely urge people to seek this game out. As I stated above this is very much a love it or hate it type game, and although I was very much in the latter camp I can definitely see the appeal of this game. In fact, on telling my friend that I was giving this game a bad review they almost seemed insulted, listing all of the strong points the game has: The humour, the battle mechanics, the story, all things that I found myself disliking. Perhaps I was impatient with the game, but personally I did find that the game lacked the excitement, originality and immediacy of interest that I need from games of this genre. I would give this game 4 out of 10 unfortunately, but this depressingly low score does also come with a recommendation that you should check the game out yourself. If tactical turn-based battle systems that require patient skill and quirky Japanese humour are your thing then you may have found yourself a new series to love. Unfortunately for me, I only found sleeping tablets in video game form.