Moral choice games are always difficult. Generally, if you don’t go all the way good or all the way bad, you miss out on something. What about a game where the lines between good and evil are blurred? Where murder is justice and salvation of possibly misunderstood humans is abominable. Soul Sacrifice takes a darker route than most games featuring moral choice, and it does it so very well. An amazing team comes together to deliver Soul Sacrifice, such as co-creator of Mega Man, Keiji Inafune and Yasunori Mitsuda, the composer of the music for Chrono Trigger.
Soul Sacrifice weaves an intricate and interesting tale of love, malice, friendship, sorrow, sacrifices, justice, evil, and the bonds of souls. Our story opens up looking through the eyes of a prisoner, an apparent sacrifice for an evil man, Magusar, who kills innocents. As henchmen come to take away the next victim held in an adjacent cage, the man unleashes magic that he claimed he learned from reading a special journal. Magusar then appears, and instantly kills the man, absorbing his soul. Magusar disappears, and in the rubble of the adjacent cage, we hear a voice. Sifting through debris, we come across a talking journal that claims he is the journal of a sorcerer who knows Magusar’s secrets, and if we read this magical journal, we can relive the experiences of that sorcerer through the journal. I will admit that at first, I was put off by this style of storytelling, but once I got a few missions in, it got really interesting and I couldn’t put it down. The story is very interesting, and depending on whether you save or sacrifice certain enemies, you can change certain dialogues. The story wraps itself up wonderfully, with no loose ends, and a satisfying end, regardless of how you make your final choice, although one ending is certainly better than another. The story is shown in stills with spoken dialogue as the pages are turned in the book. There are a few side stories also, and all of them are interesting and unexpectedly done well.
When you are out on missions, Soul Sacrifice plays as a third person action RPG, with a ton of customizable features. Your character is completely customizable, from their outfit, to their hair and face, to even their voice. You are then given six slots with which to equip “Offerings,” special items that allow you to cast magic. You can then map any offerings to the six slots (Circle, Triangle and Square buttons, then the R button to switch between) and use them in battle. There are many Offerings to collect, making for many spells, from melee attacks to ranged explosive spells to spells that will morph your body, summon golems, create shields and armor, and many, many more. With so many different spells to cast, you can build your character however you like to play. Your offerings have limited uses in battle unless you restore them on the field, however. You can then carve sigils into your arm, giving you bonuses for as long as they are equipped. Also available to use are Black Rites, forbidden magic that causes you to sacrifice parts of your body to perform incredibly deadly attacks, but then cause serious side effects until you remedy the situation. Another very important part of the game is the sacrificing/saving aspect. Every enemy you defeat transforms back into its original form, such as harmless rats or cats. You can then choose to save or sacrifice the enemy. Saving the foe will give you a defense boost and restore a little health, while sacrificing the foe will cause your attack power to rise and restore some power to your equipped offerings. While adventuring with allies (whether online or offline) you can also choose to save them by offering some of your health, reviving them, or sacrifice them, unleashing a very powerful spell. Choosing to go with strictly saving or sacrificing enemies will result in an unbalanced and potentially weak character. The missions in the game are strictly go to this small (albeit interesting) area and kill X amount of Y enemy, reminiscent of how Ragnarok Odyssey plays. When you unlock the optional side missions (designed for online play) there are a few missions that require you to find hidden items using the Mind’s Eye, a special ability allowing you to see things you can use in the environment, as well as seeing the health and weak points of enemies. There are a large number of those side missions that you can do either online with 3 other players, or solo with allies you may have acquired during the story.
Presentation and Music
Soul Sacrifice has a very dark tone. Dark colors and interesting environments littered with corpses, strange plants and bizarre creatures make up each area. The graphics are realistic and each spell looks amazing with flashy colors, and interesting movement of the character. What is especially interesting to note about the game are the monsters. The monsters are all horrific and terrifying, especially the boss monsters, known as Archfiends. There are giant birds with a skull for a face, and horrible vomiting cats with tons of skulls inside their mouth. Each enemy definitely makes you feel uneasy, especially as you see them transform back into their harmless original form. Soul Sacrifice definitely leaves a lasting impression on you when it comes to the presentation. The music for Soul Sacrifice is orchestra, composed by Yasunori Mitsuda, of Chrono Trigger fame. And it sure is beautiful. From ambient music, to almost operatic singing and sounds to intense fight music, every track fits the theme of whatever is currently happening. The characters all have wonderful voice acting, except the journal, Librom’s voice can kind of grate on ones nerves after a while, his voice just doesn’t seem to match the serious tone of the rest of the game. If you have the extra couple of dollars, the Japanese voices are done wonderfully as well, and Librom is not quite so annoying.
Soul Sacrifice clocks in at about 10-15 hours depending on how quickly you go through the story. However, the real meat of the game is all of the replayability, allowing you to go back and complete every mission looking for special item drops, grinding out levels, and experimenting with all the different spells. Also, there are side quests that can effectively double (and possibly more) the game’s length. Add online multiplayer, and you’ve got a game that you can keep coming back to time and again.
Why the Vita?
Soul Sacrifice is a killer app that the Vita needed, no doubt about it. Since Vita owners aren’t getting a Monster Hunter game that they crave, this will have to fill void, and it surely can, and then some. Soul Sacrifice only uses most Vita features as an afterthought, so as to stay out of the way of the excellently executed rest of the game. There are a few touchscreen prompts, as well as the ability to navigate menus with it. The back touchpad is only used as more of an Easter egg than anything, but the two stand out features specific to the Vita are the use of ad-hoc for multiplayer and the ability to upload acquired offerings to near, for other players to enjoy. While I could definitely see this title on a console, it does play very well on the Vita, and it looks gorgeous on the 5” OLED screen.
-Immersive, interesting and unique story.
-Completely customizable characters.
-Fun, fast paced gameplay with tons of unique abilities.
-Lengthy without being monotonous.
-Dark, interesting atmosphere that leaves a lasting impression.
-Beautiful orchestra style music.
-Somewhat annoying voice for one of the characters.
-Small areas causing for little exploration.
Soul Sacrifice is an excellent game that deserves to be in every Vita gamer’s collection. From an amazing story to enjoyable gameplay to wonderful music and environments, Soul Sacrifice is a must buy.