Soul Sacrifice, or “Keiji Inafune’s nightmarish fantasy” as it might as well have been called, promised to bring the wrath of 1000 demons to your software-starved PlayStation Vita. The creator of the colorful blue bomber has turned Gothic teenager with Soul Sacrifice, creating a game with a narrative so dark that it’s wonderful in its own poetically evil way.
In Soul Sacrifice, you play as a prisoner of the mad sorcerer Magusar after the world has come to an end. While there, Librom, a sentient book that possesses the knowledge of sorcery, comes into your possession and shares with you the knowledge and strength of sorcerers.
The story that’s held within Librom’s pages chronicles the memories of a sorcerer that was a great friend of Magusar before he went crazy, and through “Phantom Quests,” you will learn of their fate and how the world came to an end. Librom serves as a method to tell a dark story that I really enjoyed. Watching the game’s characters go from mildly crazy to absolutely insane was particularly fascinating.
In an interesting twist seldom seen in videogames, you can challenge the game’s end boss, Magusar, at any time. However, your chance of success is quite low until late in the game as Magusar lives up to his end boss title.
Soul Sacrifice is all about choice. Every monster and archfiend you defeat can be either sacrificed or saved. And as the game’s title commends, sacrificing is met with praise while saving is shunned by Avalon, the sorcerers’ guild the main character is linked to. Sacrificing may prove difficult for players that lack a strong heart, as the choice to sacrifice or save the monsters appears when they show their true form, be it a cat, crow or human being. The game does not shy away from its use of blood should you choose to sacrifice, with fountains of blood gushing out of friends and monsters alike.
The choice you make when deciding to sacrifice or save a soul affects your magic and life levels respectively and in turn the appearance of your arm. A higher sacrifice level gives you a darker arm while saving monsters gives you a divine arm. This functioned as an addictive sign of progression that kept me wanting to see how my arm would grow.
Offerings, which are items that you utilize to gain magical powers, are your means of attack and come in various shapes and sizes along with different elements. Each element is strong against one and weak against another. Offerings have a limited use before they break but can be recharged mid-combat by searching your environment. This splits combat into attacking and staying away to recoup magic abilities, and in turn lends to an interesting battle mechanic.
The archfiends are Soul Sacrifice’s main attraction. Similar to the hulking monsters of Monster Hunter, the archfiends take a lot of hits to bring down and doing it alone is no easy task. Archfiends have weak points which can be destroyed to receive additional strong offerings as mission completion rewards.
Missions are nice and short, lasting anywhere between a few seconds up to usually no more than ten minutes, making it a great game to play on the go. Unfortunately though the enclosed environments that you’ll play through do start to feel repetitive in presentation.
The few areas that are offered in Soul Sacrifice look wonderful and are very imaginative in design. However, you will quickly notice how blocky the floor textures are, which constantly detracted me from the game whenever I noticed it.
Soul Sacrifice also includes a multiplayer mode for up to four players through WiFi or Ad Hoc. Online play is streamlined with quick messages that can be easily sent to others in the midst of combat. Fighting with other players works much better than fighting with NPC allies as the latter will often get themselves killed. Attempting to save your AI partners at crucial times during a boss fight may eventually lead to your undoing. This can become frustrating when you’re fighting an archfiend that’s near death. Luckily, if you don’t want to sacrifice some of your health to save them, you can always sacrifice their life for a strong sacrificial attack. However, be wary: this works both ways.
Soul Sacrifice is quite the departure for the creator of Mega Man, with a Gothic style that is more intriguing than it is off-putting. And despite some rough edges, Soul Sacrifice is unique enough to make it a worthwhile experience, especially on the game-starved Vita.