Please, God, Don't Let Me See Etna Naked

My co-writer may complain bitterly that I infected him with the shopping virus, but from my perspective, turnabout is fair play. I have spent the past month mostly ignoring any game that doesn’t have “Disgaea” in its title, and it’s all his fault.

I finished the main storyline of the first Disgaea game, and then switched to the second game. It’s time to talk about it a bit. But first, let me tell you a little something I’ve noticed about our web traffic. A few months ago I wrote a fairly in-depth and critical review of Persona 3 called Ferris Bueller’s Day Offing Himself. Tweaking the nose of the world a little bit, I gave the article the slug “Persona 3 Hentai”, because of a throwaway comment late in the review.

That article has inspired more comments than any other in recent memory. Much of that article is from people who disagree with my review. Nearly all of that traffic, including the comments from people telling me that the save system is perfectly reasonable because “You can [save the game] within 30 minutes if you run past the enemies[…]” comes from people who followed the cheesecake picture from a certain search engine’s image search.

[etna-hentai

Yes, I’m bad.

](http://wptest.tleaves.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/01 /normal__9b57b6373290b87eace1054f435b01e8_saha-makai.jpg “etna-hentai” )

So because of the immense amusement value provided by this steady stream of passers-by, let’s just take a moment to admire this cheesecake image of semi- protagonist Etna. There. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk a bit about Disgaea 2.

On a purely technical level, it is a “better game” than its progenitor (which I initially discussed last month). The same basic turn-based game mechanics from Disgaea: Hour of Darkness are carried forward, but everything has been supercharged to be even more ridiculous. Characters level up faster. There are more optional areas and “extra stages,” and new mechanics have been piled on top of the old ones. I’m nearly done with the main story, and it is already apparent to me that this only covers perhaps a tenth of what the game has to offer. You could play Disgaea 2 for a year and still not have time for anything else.

And yet…and yet. There’s something about Disgaea 2 that leaves me a bit cold compared to Hour of Darkness. I don’t like the story quite as much, or the characters, and somehow the additional brightness and sharpness of the rendering has the completely unintuitive side effect of making it harder for me to see what I’m doing. I don’t quite know how to quantify this: taken individually, each element of the game looks better. But when they’re all put on the screen at once, my eyes simply slide off of them, like a patient’s body rejecting an organ transplant. This might simply be because I had been playing Disgaea 1 for several weeks, but I’d think if that was the case I’d have adjusted by now. I haven’t. Parts of the game, particularly the “birthday cake levels” in the item world, are so unwatchable to me that I just want to finish them as quickly as possible, and then avoid ever having to see them again.

Counterbalancing this is a very attractive truth: Disgaea 2 is, in some ways, the anti-Fire Emblem. It’s a turn-based strategy game that very, very explicitly allows you to choose exactly how difficult your next battle or set of battles will be (Literally. Don’t think a given map is challenging enough? Visit the Dark Assembly and pass a “Stronger Enemies” bill.) Apart from the somewhat inconvenient save system – you can’t save while in a battle – they nailed nearly every aspect of what makes games of this type addictive. Fun character design, challenging strategic gameplay, and a seemingly limitless ability to increase R. It turns out I’m willing to forgive a lot (including the ugly visuals) in return for those virtues.

In conclusion: hey, Pete, you should totally buy that Hattori HD Damascus Santoku. Buy two. They’re worth it!