We all know what a new Disgaea game on Vita means - a deluge of insane combo attacks, exploding Prinnies, and pescetarian vampires packed nicely and neatly on the handheld's beautiful OLED screen.
Like previous iterations Disgaea 4: A Promise Revisited blends colorful, stylized animations with addictive, initially overwhelming turn-based isometric strategy gameplay.
Swords and spells are your bread and butter, then there's a mixture of environmental interactions and hazards that add even more complexity to the game.
But despite its steep learning curve Disgaea 4 proves itself to be a stellar handheld SRPG.
The Politics of the Netherworld
This installment follows the misadventures of Tyrant (now Prinny Instructor) Valvatorez and his scheming werewolf servant Fenrich as they travel from Hades to the edge of imagination and beyond.
There's a rich sense of humour running through the game as well. It's not afraid to parody or poke fun, with everything from Tsundere to Deus Ex Machina, taking a bashing from Disgaea's scathing wit.
The game tells a tale of Demons, Angels, Gods, and anthropomorphic penguins. The "Corrupternment" is a metaphor for the inefficiencies of government, and is the source of a lot of the humour in the game too.
The game's "Cam-Pain" system is a character customisation field where Senators are aligned to maximize combat efficiency on a grid.
Appointing Cabinet members and positioning people next to landmarks such as the "Blight House" can prove instrumental to your success. And when the Senate is in session, bills for characters and equipment can be proposed. You get access to a "Cheat Sheet" as well to help fiddle with some gameplay mechanics.
You can even send your Senators to participate in other players's hearings. As a result, the possible customisations are effectively endless.
War in the pocket
After playing the Disgaea series both on console and handheld, I've come to the conclusion that the game truly thrives on the Vita.
The Vita's crisp visuals bring the endearing sprites to life as they fly around the screen leaving countless explosions in their wake. The grind for experience and equipment is almost hypnotic.
There is a very steep learning curve, which will most likely prove to be a barrier for entry for many people. The problem with so many options and extras is that it can be almost impossible to process them initially, even with tutorial stages guiding you through the basic mechanics.
However, there is a distinct satisfaction in turning such complex commands into muscle memory as you advance from fumbling with your attack ranges to mastering combo attacks.
The Vita version manages to make the game more accessible to a broader audience. The presence of the "Cheat Sheet" and "Character Promotion" options in particular keep you from feeling at the mercy of the game's difficulty. These let you take more control over your character's progression through the game.
Gone are the days when it was necessary to "reincarnate" your character to Level 1 just to get the next job class. Sure, this may diminish the "hardcore" difficulty of the game, but it allows a broader scope of people to play it at their own comfort level.
Its value truly shines post-game, after the main storyline is done. You have the option of replaying the game again with your levels intact, embarking on extra episodes. Or you can trawl the Item World, building Pirate Ships to send out over the network to other players.
It's almost daunting to think about how much there is to do in Disgaea 4: A Promise Revisited, but that means it's a game you can come back to again and again.