In 2003, “Disgaea: Hour of Darkness” hit U.S. shores with little fanfare. But with innovative gameplay, a nearly infinite shelf life and saucy anime-esque humor, it became a cult favorite of the underserved strategy role-playing game audience and put NIS on the video game map.

Finally, the sequel is here. And the first thing “Disgaea” fans will notice is that it looks familiar – a bit too familiar.

The main hero is Adell, a straitlaced youth trying to save his family from the curse of Overlord Zenon. The curse has turned his family and others in his world into demons, and is slowly sapping their memories and humanity. Somehow, Adell escaped this fate.

There's the typical strategy RPG stuff. You assemble a party of nearly three dozen classes, including warriors, magicians, zombies and dragons. Then you lead your party against a horde of enemies.

Then there's the stuff unique to “Disgaea.” While the main game is fun, the true joy is building your characters' stats. Power-leveling is your only chance at completing the optional side quests.

So why only a B grade? The story and characters just don't have the magic of the first game. Still, “Disgaea 2” is an incredible value for your gaming dollar. Hardcore RPG players will love it; it might be an acquired taste for others. Even so, it's not that hard to learn. Pick up the 640-page strategy guide and see for yourself.

Grade: B