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Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories: Underworld Strategy
Company: NIS America

It is hard to make a hit game and even harder if the chosen genre isnít one of the more popular ones. Still, developers try and some succeed. For instance, who would have thought that a Strategy RPG featuring outlandish demons, angelic assassins and exploding penguins would turn into a hit? After their success with Disgaea, NIS is hoping to strike gold twice with the gameís proper sequel, Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories.

Compared to the first game, Disgaea 2 follows a slightly more mature and darker storyline. You play as Adell, a human whose entire village is transformed into demons courtesy of the Overlord Zenon. Adell isnít one to take things sitting down, so he sets out to change things. In a strange twist of fate, Adell is joined by the overlordís own daughter, Rozalin, in his quest. Even with the gameís change in tone, the humor that made Disgaea is still intact, as are the exploding penguins.

In fact, nearly everything that made Disgaea such a great game is back for the sequel. Battles involve slowly advancing a small army around a grid-based level. Each of your soldiers have their own moves and attacks that can be used to take down opposing forces. As you add troop types, youíll also add new abilities like ranged and magic attacks, building up your available tactics. You can also perform non-conventional tactics like throwing enemies, hopefully into the middle of an army ready for battle.

Multi-colored geo-panels also make a return. These panels, which grant special bonuses to whoever is standing on them, can be just as much of a liability as they are an asset. Standing on the panels leaves you open to damage if the panel is ever destroyed. Pyramids are also found on the field and, when destroyed, will do the same to the panels. Combined with the throwing mechanic, this adds a completely new dimension to tactics.

Like Jedi, your soldiers can be assigned students who will help them grow by awarding them with bonus experience points. Another benefit to the relationship is that if they are attacking together, they can unleash powerful combos.

Also making a return is the Dark Assembly, a collection of demons who act as the Underworldís Senate. In order to gain new troops (or really anything), you must first get their approval. And, like real world politics, maneuvering around the Dark Assembly isnít easy and involves things like bribes, booze and if worse comes to worse, bomb threats. Anyone still doubting that Cursed Memories wonít be as off-the-wall as the first can stop now.

A new addition is the Dark Court that passes judgement on any crimes you commit. Crimes are as illogical as anything else in the game and include anything from using too many of a certain attack or inappropriate weapons. After you are found guilty, you are rewarded for your crimes. Of course, it is possible to be found innocent, in which case one of your soldiers will have to serve jail time. Yeah, it doesnít make much sense to me either, but when it comes to all things Disgaea, you just have to take it as it is.

As with the first game, the beauty of Disgaea 2 isnít its depth, but rather how simple the game is to get into. Sure thereís a certain level of complexity that goes along with Strategy RPGs (or strategy games in general), yet unlike other games in the genre, Disgaea 2 never feels like it is trying to be difficult and makes every effort to keep things on a relatively simple level, while at the same time offering optional complexity for those looking for it. And, once you get into the game, it is really hard to stop.

Based on a preview build, Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories is shaping up to be everything fans of the original could have hoped for. Best of all, the game isnít that far from release, so fans wonít have long to wait.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker
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