For the past several years, Sony has continued to release a steady and long list of quality RPGs on their home consoles and portables. And the trend isn't slowing down. This past February, Sony held a Vita event showcasing several new RPG titles that would also be seeing a release outside of the traditional Japanese market. One of the first games to make it over to the US and European markets is the brand new title from Megaman creator Keiji Inafune, Soul Sacrifice.
Soul Sacrifice begins with the player taking control of a prisoner slave locked away in his cell. The slave comes to find out he is the prisoner of a powerful sorcerer known as Magusar and that the sorcerer is sacrificing the lives of the slaves for an unknown reason. When Magusar commands his demons to bring him another slave being held captive in an adjoining cell, the slave confesses to the player that he has acquired a powerful magic and uses it to defend himself from Magusar's demons. When the prisoner uses the magic to defeat the demons, it catches the attention of Magusar who appears and quickly kills the slave. After the chaos has ended, the player is introduced to a demonic book named Librom that is hiding under a pile of rubble in the adjoining cell. Librom explains to the player that he was the one responsible for teaching the dead slave the powerful magic in the hopes that one day he might find a slave strong enough to defeat Magusar. Unfortunately, Librom did not have enough time to fully teach the dead slave enough magic to challenge Magusar's power. From this point, Librom agrees to teach the player all of the powerful spells in his pages so that the player can escape his cell, defeat Magusar and free all of the prisoners.
Librom is central to the story and gameplay of Soul Sacrifice. The player learns that Librom was the journal of a once powerful sorcerer and that the stories of how the sorcerer became so powerful are recorded on the pages of the book. Librom has the ability to let other people re-live the life of the powerful sorcerer through a series of battles the demon hunter had in the past. As the player re-lives each demon battle, he learns the spells of the powerful sorcerer and gains more power. Once the player takes control of the character, the player can freely read through different sections of Librom selecting different campaign chapters and quests. The chapters and quests all range in difficulty to allow the player to work their way up from easier battles to more difficult battles depending on how strong the character is.
The story behind Soul Sacrifice is very engaging and is one of the highlights of the game. The main story branches out to several different chapters each with its own set of missions. As you play through different chapters, you encounter other sorcerers that can join you in your quests. Once you defeat a demon, you have the option to either save or sacrifice them. Saving them changes the demons back to human form and they will agree to join you. Sacrificing them will make your character stronger. Playing through the main campaign and all of the necessary side quests can easily give the player over 40+ hours of gameplay. Playing the side quests are not required to complete the game, but the game is so addicting that I found myself wanting to play through all of them just so that I could learn more spells and gain more power and allies.
The gameplay and combat mechanics are very well done. The player can select up to six different attacks and defenses that can be boosted and fused into stronger attacks from Libroms item screen. The player also has the ability to unleash powerful attacks known as Black Rites, which greatly damages all of the enemies on screen. Activating a Black Rite unleashes a devastating attack but sacrifices parts of the players body which will result in weakening the player as well. Graphically speaking, Soul Sacrifice looks beautiful on the Vita screen. The level designs and character models look great for a portable game. My one small complaint would be for a few more different maps to play on. The sound quality of the dialogue, battle sound effects and background music are all great and help add to the overall quality of the game.
Soul Sacrifice has a 4 player co-op battle system that allows you to play with up to 3 other people. Playing Soul Sacrifice solo allows you to choose 2 other NPC characters you encountered during the game. The NPCs do a fine enough job, but I did find playing with 3 other people made the game more satisfying. The online connection worked great. There was no lag and not once did I get dropped from a party room. Another great use of the online connection comes from the Vita's NEAR system. Much like with other Vita games like Uncharted Golden Abyss, Assassins Creed 3 Liberation and Unit 13 (just to name a few), activating NEAR on your Vita allows you to share weapons and items with other Vita gamers also playing Soul Sacrifice. On multiple occasions, the items I found through NEAR allowed me to create more powerful spells which helped me to advance further in the game.
Soul Sacrifice is definitely a must have experience for any Vita owner that enjoys either action/adventure games or RPG's. It has a fantastic story, fast paced action and an interesting strategy RPG element. The demon battles are challenging, but that just makes victory over them that much more satisfying. Soul Sacrifice definitely did not disappoint and can stand tall along side other great action/RPG games in the genre.