I'm a big fan of the Vita. I have Soul Sacrifice fully-paid on pre-order. I was so excited to play the game, I even converted a spare memory card into one that could be used to download the demo from the Japanese PSN store. I played the first three levels of that demo, loved it, and like many of you I was eager to download the English demo when it came out on the PSN store.
And it's a really terrible demo.
Why? The demo is not really a demo. Rather, it is the first chapter of the game. You wouldn't know that by looking at the demo's icon, since it says "Demo". The PSN store listing mentions nothing regarding the fact that the demo is, in fact, the first chapter of the full game. The only reason why I was aware it was the first chapter was because the designer, Keiji Inafune, made it known on the Playstation Blog (found here: http://blog.us.playstation.... Otherwise, I would have just assumed it was a demo like any other game demo.
The demo introduces you to the evil sorcerer, the magical book, and the threat of eventual destruction. After the first few battles, you also unlock the unexpectedly enthralling Lore section, which lets you read Grimm-style fables explaining the history of the game's regions and foes. It's actually quite a hefty demo, offering several battles (which can be replayed as often as you like), a dozen different spells, and even several multiplayer battles to engage in jolly co-operation with friends via ad hoc or online lobby. Additionally, once you've beaten the bulk of the solo battles, you'll open up the option to craft new spells using the components of weaker spells, gouge magical sigils into your skin to boost various stats, and assign super-powered Black Rites that deal incredible damage at the cost of marring your body. You also will begin to unlock AI companions that can fight with you.
All of this sounds amazing, right?
Well, it is. The game is fantastic. I already knew I was buying the game (hence the pre-order), but after my fifth battle, I thought to myself "Gee, if someone was coming into this demo without any prior idea of what the game was about, they'd probably never buy the game".
What I mean is that the demo doesn't let you get to the meat of the action like a demo should. It will take about 30 minutes (more, if you read the Lore entries like I did) to get to the point where you've unlocked the multiplayer and customization options. To get there, you have to fight through incredibly quick battles while seeing no glimpse of the game's hidden depth. The game does, in fact, have quite a great deal of depth, but you wouldn't know that if you made your judgement based on the first few battles.
Something that sticks out like a sore thumb is that the initial batch of battles are very short. As long as you've played...any third-person action game ever, you will be able to easily beat the first three battles in about 90 seconds each. Yes. 90. Seconds. Each. It takes longer to actually listen to the mission intros and load the mission than it takes to fight them. BUT! This applies only to the first few missions. As you progress, the missions gain a more respectable length, but if you don't get to this point (due to a short attention span or misguided disappointment), then you'll never see the bigger bosses or tougher missions just a few moments away.
It's cool that your progress carries over to the full game, but you wouldn't know that unless you'd looked it up online. Once again, there is no mention anywhere that your progress can be imported into the retail release of Soul Sacrifice. Perhaps this would have been a good thing to mention.
The fact that the multiplayer and the customization were both locked behind a half-hour of tutorial missions is another huge blunder. Again, unless you read the demo description on the PSN store, you might not have even learned that Soul Sacrifice supports 4-player co-op either ad hoc or online. The customization has a lot to offer, but your options at first are choosing between a few spells and choosing how your character appears. Everything else is unlocked after beating more missions.
Let me be clear: Soul Sacrifice is shaping up to be a fantastic game. I love the combat, I love the art style, I love the background lore, I love the customization, I love the enemies. I love the fact that (if the Japanese version is any indication) Sony will be supporting the game with dozens more free downloadable enemies to slaughter. HOWEVER, unless you've been following this game closely, you might be sorely disappointed by what the demo seems to leave out. In this way, the demo may actually chase away more people than it attracts. I appreciate Keiji Inafune's benevolence in letting us import our progress into the full game, but perhaps the demo should have consisted of a big, epic battle right away to give you a taste of what the game can offer. Instead, we were (unbeknownst to many of the demo's downloaders, I'm sure) given the first chapter of the game, complete with boring tutorials and slow startup.
If you try the demo, be mindful of the things I mentioned. I'd hate for the game to lose appeal due to a bad "demo".