When a copy of Disgaea 2: Dark Hero Days landed on my desk, I was excited to dive into the world that I spent so many hours with a few years earlier. The previous title was one of my first experiences with a tactical RPG, and had to be one of the most charming games on the PlayStation 2. For whatever reason, I skipped out on the sequel, so a chance to go back and right that wrong was one I couldn't ignore. That said, I'll admit that I was a bit worried about the port. The last game Nippon Ichi Software brought from the PS2 to the PSP was Mana Khemia: Student Alliance, which came complete with awful load times and a slew of framerate issues.
Thankfully, Disgaea 2: Dark Hero Days plays as well if not better on the handheld as it did on consoles, without any noticeable problems or changes. Visuals and audio may have taken a slight hit, but when they're all pixels to begin with it doesn't really matter. It honestly feels as though nothing was cut back at all, meaning that the PSP has found itself with an amazing tactical RPG just in time for the PSPgo's release.
The story follows Adell, the last human in a world that has had all of its inhabitants turned to monsters by the Overlord Zenon. His demonic, amoral mother decided that the only way to solve the problem is to sacrifice her other children to pull Zenon into their world so Adell could slay the God of All Overlords, but something goes wrong. For some reason, Rozalin, the Overlord's daughter, is brought over instead, and is forced to lead Adell to her father by the laws that bind the world. The idea of a mother sacrificing her children and a world being corrupted might sound dark and dreary, but NIS has done a wonderful job at keeping everything light, even in the face of true darkness. While it might not live up to the story of the first Disgaea (or, for that matter, the third), it's still an entertaining romp that should provide any interested parties with a story worth hearing. Even bad Disgaea writing is better than the writing in most RPGs released nowadays.
Throughout the story, the main party runs into Axel on several occasions. Axel is a former celebrity that has fallen from grace. Known as the Dark Hero, his time in the spotlight is over, and he is searching for a way to redeem his career. In the main story, he's little more than an occasional annoyance that only exists to move the story alone from time to time. However, if you're paying attention, you might have noticed that his name is in the title this time around. In the PSP port, there are four new missions to play that give players a chance to experience Axel's story, and help regain the fame that he desires. It's only a few missions, but any addition is a good one, and seeing the story from the other side is always entertaining.
Gameplay remains unchanged from the console port, but benefits from a few expanded features. To get everyone up to speed, Disgaea 2: Dark Hero Days is a tactical RPG, where players take turns fighting on a large grid. Each character can move and attack on their turn, all the while trying to find positions where they're able to complete powerful attacks, which sometimes require large, open spaces to execute. How Disgaea does it differently is with its sense of humor, which bleeds past the story and into the gameplay. Characters can lift and throw others, which can then lift and throw others, which can lift and throw others. This creates towers of characters, who are launched across the grid to more adventitious positions. There are also exploding demon penguins.
It's still a well put together tactical RPG that doesn't take itself too seriously, which leads to hilarious battles with ludicrous characters. Damage reaches the hundreds of thousands on an average battle, and half of the attacks the characters get early in the game look more epic and damaging than most characters' end game moves in another RPG. Additional features in the PSP version include new classes, monsters, and the before mentioned Dark Hero missions. Everything else, from the access to the Item World, the Dark Assembly, and the ability to replay missions to grind for items and experience, remains unchanged in the port.
I could go on and on about how entertaining Disgaea 2: Dark Hero Days is. However, seeing as the game was originally released in 2006, it seems a bit unnecessary. If you're a fan of tactical RPGs, there's no reason not to pick this game up, as it's one of the best on the system. If you're not, than you're missing out, and it might be worth eyeing up the first game to get ready for the sequel. One can only hope the PlayStation 3 sequel, Disgaea 3, will also get a similar treatment, because as far as I'm concerned the PSP is the new home of the Disgaea series.