Sunday, December 29, 2013

Sorcery Saga: Curse of the Great Curry God (Vita) Review

Sorcery Saga: Curse of the Great Curry God is a cutesy mystery dungeon style game where players must guide Pururu through several dungeons in order to obtain the ingredients for the powerful and mysterious legendary magic curry.  It also has a long and silly title, which is a good fit for the plot, as you will read below.

Cut scenes in the game have nice anime images, but the game itself is 3D with super-deformed (big heads, small bodies) models.  The different dungeons, while having randomly generated floors, look different from each other and look kinda cool.  I actually really like the character artwork for the cut-scenes.  While the game is only in Japanese, there is a lot of spoken dialogue.  Most story lines are fully voiced, plus a few lines for the different places you visit in town.  There's even a bit for the non-sequitur scenes in the library.  The music is pretty decent too.  My two favorites are the boss theme and the song that plays when you encounter a "monster house" (a room that spawns a lot of monsters near you).

The story of the game is really silly, and revolves around Pupuru, a girl who gets kicked out of mage school and decides to instead assemble the ingredients to the legendary magic curry.  Why is she doing this?  Because her friend owns a curry shop that is getting run out of business by the giant mega-corp curry store and its mean leader.  So, she hopes that serving legendary curry will bring business back.  Along the way, she meets a few... shall we say strange... characters.  There's the wannabe heroic trio that bumbles their jobs, the evil magician who gets repeatedly mistaken for a pervert and even an demonic overlord who falls in love with her at first site.  The story, while not serious, is actually pretty funny and I enjoyed it.  The dialogue is good, and I laughed at many scenes, especially those with Zeo, the "perverted" mage.  The story bits are interspersed well in each dungeon, with a scene occurring every 3-10 floors, depending on total dungeon length.  There's even special items that when collected, unlock a non-sequitur scene in the library.

Sorcery Saga is a  mystery dungeon style game, so floors are randomly made when you enter them, and each dungeon has several floors each.  Items and enemies are randomly placed around the floor, too.  Also, dying will have you lose all your items, money and return you to town.  Yeah, it's harsh, but that's the nature of the game.  Any experience you gain in the dungeon is lost when you exit.  You'll still want to kill what enemies you can, since you level up quickly and it is very helpful to your survival.  The other trademark of a mystery dungeon style game is that it is turn based, so whenever you take your turn, all other enemies also do.  Between each turn, you have as much time as you want to decide what to do or look at your inventory.

Before you enter a dungeon, however, you must traverse the forests.  The forest before each story dungeon is set at three floors and the map is always the same.  I'm not too crazy about this feature, since it basically adds three floors to any dungeon, making it longer and adding more things to fill up your bag.  It might not seem like much, but when going down 20 or 40 floors, the extra makes it that much longer.  Dungeon lengths themselves are a bit much for a portable game, but thankfully the Vita's suspend function makes it seem less so.  Also, while on the subject of items, your bag fills up quickly.  There are ways to deal with it, but being able to hold more would have been nice.

Following Pururu around is the mysterious Kuu creature.  It will eat just about anything, and is mostly used to dump your unwanted items.  It does help in combat, but likes to get in the way, or get itself killed, limiting its usefulness.  You have to at least keep Kuu alive if you want to go to the next floor, so you can't just ignore it.  The upside is that it learns skills as it levels up, and a few of them are really useful.  One will auto-identify all items you pick up, while another will allow you to fuse items for free, once per floor.  My favorite is Kuu Case, which effectively gives you another 8 slots of inventory.  On the other side of the coin, there are a few skills that really hurt you, especially "So Hungry", where Kuu will eat any items it walks over.  Yes, it will even auto eat the ones that damage it, or outright kill him.  The skills it learns at level up are random, and it can hold 4 at a time.  Kuu's level is also reset when you leave the dungeon, and its skills are lost, too.  You will learn to put up with Kuu because you have to, but it tends to be more trouble than its worth.

You can have up to eight skills equipped, and each one has it own set of uses per dungeon, which I liked.  Your learn new skills by reading books, and many of the skills can be powered up by reading another of the same book.  I kept a few magic spells and physical attacks on my list, and rounded it out with a few support, namely, the appraisal skill.  It's really handy to find out if the unidentified item you picked up is even worth lugging around.  Normal attacks are just done with the X Button, but the weapon equipped can effect it in fun ways, all because of "seals".  Seals are basically passive skills that you can put on a piece of equipment.  For weapons, you can attack two or three panels in a line in front of you, or a column of three in front of you.  You can apply different elements or status effects to your attacks.  Some are super useful, and can easily be placed on any weapon you want to use.

Since you don't keep your level upon exiting the dungeon, the best way to make yourself stronger is by strengthening equipment.  There are two ways to do this: using it and fusing it.  Using it is self explanatory, and will change its name and make it stronger plus it increases the number of slots it has for extra seals.  Fusing is a bit more complicated.  You can increase the rank of a weapon by fusing it with a weapon that has a rank (ie: +2), and the ranks are added together.  You can only get this benefit if the items are of the same type, like two staves or two shields.  Skills can be transferred between types, as long as the items can actually grant that ability.  The tutorial explained it, but I didn't realize at first that you only increase the rank if you fuse items that have a rank.  Once I got that down, I was making better items in no time.  I really like this part of the game.  Sure, it could be deeper, or allow me to replace abilities I no longer want, but with some time, effort, and luck, you can make some really powerful pieces of equipment and smash your way through the bosses.

The enemies you encounter are only half of the dangers you face.  Many do things that are just plain mean.  There are fish maids that destroy items lying around (by "cleaning" them), enemies that steal your stuff and even ones that change or destroy things in your inventory.  It can get annoying to have a rare item get completely ruined because a monster came up and just destroyed it for no reason.  The other half of the dangers are the trapped chests and some of the items.  Chest traps can range from the mild, like dropping you down a floor or damaging you, to the severe, like dropping the rank of your equipped items by 3.  Ouch.  Some items you find literally have no positive uses.  Here's my favorite: there's a scroll that makes you lose all your current money.  Why would you even put that in a game?  Throwing it at the enemy does almost no damage, so I have no idea what you would want to use it for.  Overall, my biggest complaint with the game is just how mean some of that stuff is.

The game itself is a little short, as there are only 5 real dungeons to explore in the story.  They get long quickly, and beating the game will unlock some more to dive into.  Even so, it can take a few trips through the dungeons, depending on if you get good drops, get into trouble, or even get defeated in them.  If you are so inclined, there are also books that collect all the different items and monsters you encounter, and weapons and shields must be used to unlock higher versions, so repeated trips will be necessary to fill them out.  You can also unlock costume pieces for Pururu by completing dungeons many times each.  Considering the dungeons are random each time you enter them, repeated trips are not near as boring as it might sound.  If you want to do a lot in the game, there is lots to do.  If you just want to complete the story, it can take anywhere from 10-30 hours.  Although, the in-game clock will not stop if you put the game in sleep mode.  Not a deal breaker, but always a pet peeve of mine.  While I played a lot, I'm sure I haven't played the game for the equivalent of 8 days... yet.

Some trophies are acquired from making your way through the story, and the higher ones will have you fill out the monster and item books, which can take a good chunk of time and effort.  There's even some for being defeated... so you at least get something for losing your stuff.  The hardest trophies on the list are mostly just time consuming, not actually difficult.  There are a few DLC costumes for the game, but be warned that you only have access to them while you are connected to the internet.

Sorcery Saga is a fun game, although it can be really mean.  It adds some new mechanics to the genre, like the forest maps and Kuu, but they are a mixed bag.  Making items is fun, the story is humorous, and the characters are likable.  All in all, a fun game that can be played in bursts, but is best left for when you have a chunk of time set aside to traverse the dungeons.  I frequently found myself going back to play it for a few minutes, only to sit there for an hour dungeon diving and looting.

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