When Disgaea 3 first appeared on the PlayStation 3 in 2008, its bewildering combat and torturous dialogue left many fans of strategic role-playing cold, while its old-fashioned presentation and pixelated visuals looked puny alongside the system’s showboating triple-A titles. But on the PS Vita this latest instalment in the decade-old strategy series makes perfect sense and, in many ways, is the perfect traveling companion.
Thrusting players into countless tactical battles – and with a deep combat system that's simple to get to grips with, but takes months to truly master – even the most casual swashbuckler will unwittingly lose days of their life to the charms of Disgaea 3. And as the turn-based skirmishes are sublimely compelling and the dungeon-crawling immensely addictive, tedious bus journeys and long Post Office queues can disappear in a flash of magical weapons and dazzling spells, meaning that Disgaea will doubtless be held responsible for many missed train stops now that the strategic action can be taken wherever you go.
Combat aside, the game's stylish visuals – which looked crude and antiquated on the PS3 – are perfectly suited to the PS Vita’s screen, and help bring the story's eccentric characters and hilarious story to life. And as the PS Vita edition contains all the downloadable content from the PS3 outing, clever touch controls that make the combat smoother, and a smattering of new elements stolen from Disgaea 4, it’s by far the deepest and most rewarding strategy game on Sony’s new handheld, and worth a shot even if you were disappointed by 2008’s home console version.
A word of warning, though – if you’re bamboozled by otaku culture and hostile towards shouty, long-winded Japanese dialogue that rarely goes anywhere and slows the action to a crawl, Disgaea’s lengthy cut-scenes and pre-fight ramblings are sure to drive you nuts.
Reviewed by David McComb