When I heard that a sequel to the original Disgaea was being released I was beside myself with excitement; I was a huge fan of the first and had a really good feeling about the second, even after Phantom Brave gave all Nippon Ichi fans reasons to worry. In Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories you play as Adell, the bizarrely dressed sole human in a Netherworld that is under the control of a malevolent overlord named Zenon. As the game begins you (actually, your mother) are attempting to summon Zenon so you can fight him and restore humanity back to the way it was, because the longer you wait, the foggier everyone’s memory becomes. During the summoning something goes awry and you end up stuck with Zenon’s prissy daughter, Rozalin. Being overly chivalric you decide to take her back to Zenon, and the adventure begins. Along the way you encounter Etna, who is also out for Zenon’s head, and if you’re lucky you’ll run into Laharl, Flonne, and lots of other characters from the original Disgaea along the way.
On the whole the plot is pretty cute and engrossing, perhaps not as wonderful as the original Disgaea since Adell and Rozalin can be slightly annoying at times, but once Etna shows up things get a lot more entertaining. It’s a huge improvement over Phantom Brave’s utterly horrible plot, so I have to give it that. There are a lot of bonus stages and accompanying scenes to unlock that adds a lot to the game, especially for fans of the first installment, and on the whole I think Disgaea 2 really does Disgaea justice as a sequel. The character art is just as good as the first game, and the sprites have experienced a huge jump in quality. Similar improvements have been made to the Senate, Item World, and the experience system. One critique is that some of the moves have really terrible cut scenes to go with them that are poorly animated and/or take forever, but on the whole it’s fun to watch the battles. The monsters in this game are so much better than in the original game it’s insane and there are a lot of new human classes to unlock, though I do miss the Angel class quite a bit, I have to admit it really wouldn’t make sense in the context of the new game.
As far as gender roles are concerned I don’t have a lot of complaints, having finished the game I’m actually pretty satisfied with how they handled everything. The characters are balanced in the battle system and in character development both genders are portrayed with an equal amount of lighthearted mockery: Adell is the chivalric-to-a-fault male archetype whereas Etna is the domineering virago female archetype, and Rozalin and Laharl are perfect spoiled brat foils.
The biggest improvement over the original game is the replay value of Disgaea 2, you could literally play it for hundreds of hours and still have new, interesting, and engaging things to do. Unlike with Phantom Brave, you don’t need the strategy guide for Disgaea 2, unless you want to unlock just about everything or spend a lot of time on the new game plus feature (Cycle2). On the whole, if you’re intelligent enough to want to play a turn based strategy RPG then the battle system with be a no brainer, but at the same time it will keep you thinking (especially in Item World). The plot perhaps doesn’t quite live up to that of its predecessor, but it’s really quite good on its own, and the standard ending is a million times better than that of the previous Disgaea (which I thought was a disaster). On the whole, it’s more than worth picking up, even if you’ve never played the original Disgaea, and that’s saying something.