In many ways, I don’t understand why Disgaea is fun. It shouldn’t be. Spending half an hour revisiting the tutorial map so that my brawler can learn some ice magic from his Ice Mage pupil (you know, just in case) shouldn’t be fun. Yet somehow it is, despite being repetitive and ultimately pointless. (He hates ice, doesn’t do much damage with it, can’t use it much and is fast enough so that he can normally get into range of an enemy for a direct attack.)

So that was about half an hour of the six hours I’ve spent on the game so far. Apart from that I’ve taught my cleric some fire magic, taught Laharl to heal, gone into Item World a couple of times to get some specialists out of rare gum, created a few characters and, oh yes, finished the first chapter in the story.

I think the appeal of Disgaea lies in the team. It’s not about getting to the end of the story, but about creating and moulding characters to reflect your vision. It’s a reversal of the RPG norm, where you level and customise your team to enable you to get through the story. Here you go through the story to help you level and customise your team.

Or maybe the appeal lies in something more direct, in the way that battles are always fun, with the puzzle-type levels that often populate SPRGs kept to a minimum so that you always have tactical freedom.

Let’s not forget, also, that the player decides how difficult these battles are. The focus on levelling means that you can decide where to go, what level enemies to face and therefore how hard you want the game to be.

It’s less of a traditional RPG and more of a tactical, character-building sandbox, where choice and customisation are far more important than the (fairly funny but emotionally unengaging) story. It’s not a Final Fantasy style game trying to be an epic movie, it’s just trying to be a bedroom floor littered with toy soldiers.

So here we are, with the sorely underrated PSP playing host to three great SRPGs in as many months. Jeanne D’Arc’s got the looks. Final Fantasy Tactics has the brains. And Disgaea’s got the soul.

Go team!