Sorcery Saga: The Curse of the Great Curry God Vita
If you haven’t looked into to this new Vita release, then you’re probably wondering what the hell this video game could be about. There’s no doubt that it’s a unique name, but simply trying to dissect the meaning behind it won’t tell you what type of game it is. I can tell you, and it’s probably one thing you would guess right, is that the game is from Japan, brought across here by Rising Star Games, a publisher that shines in bringing lesser known and quirky games to our shore. So with their new release firmly sitting on store shelves and on the PlayStation Store, I’ll solve the question you are dying to ask. Exactly what the hell is Sorcery Saga: The Curse of the Great Curry God?
The story is about a young girl called Pupuru, who just adores her local restaurant’s curry menu, so much so that it’s like an unholy addiction for her. During her Magic Academy examination, poor Pupuru ends up getting suspended when she doesn’t return from the challenge with the correct item. What she does find is a very special book that explains what ingredients you need to make the ultimate curry. She doesn’t think that much of it at first, but when Smile Curry, her favourite curry house, is threatened with closure after a curry mega chain opens up across the road from it, she gets the urge to do something about this problem. The owner of this McDonald’s-like food chain is one stuck-up fool who laughs in the face of anyone trying to rival him. This pisses off Pupuru, to the point she goes on a quest to find all the ingredients and cook this so called ultimate curry, hoping that it will save the curry house and get its customers back from that sneaky business man of cheap curry.
There is nothing serious going on with the game’s story. It’s a very light-hearted affair that will put smiles on your face with its cutie anime presentation and goofiness. In fact, this is actually quite a refreshing change compared to all the typical stories about saving the world from mass destruction (cue Persona 3 battle music). All this girl is doing is trying her best to save her local curry house – a sign of pure dedication to what she loves. The characters are crazy, such as Gigadis, the stalker who wants Pupuru to be his wife, yet he’s already engaged to someone else, or the trio of wannabe heroes who think Pupuru is a villain, so they race her to be the first to gather the ultimate curry materials. It’s full of pointless, but amusing banter that will make you chuckle. Of course, it also means there’s a few Moé tropes that crop up from time to time, so you have to at least be able to stomach those to get the most enjoyment out of this eccentric story.
As for the game itself, this is a roguelike mixed with lengthy talking scenes. Sorcery Saga plays very similar to last year’s The Guided Fate Paradox that was published by Nippon Ichi Software USA. The term roguelike has grown in popularity over recent years, thanks to the boom in indie games using the concept, but the genre has been going for decades. Roguelikes are often highlighted for their difficulty, featuring random level generation and some sort of handicapped death that puts the player at a disadvantage for dying. Sorcery Saga follows these rules closely with its gameplay – you will die (lots – it’s inevitable) as you try clear its dungeons.
The gameplay for Sorcery Saga is based on tiled-grid movement – for every square you move, the enemy will also move a square with intent of getting closer to poor Pupuru to end her hunt for curry goodness. The combat works in a similar manner, turn-based attacks when the enemies are within range – you hit, they hit. Weapons and items are randomly dropped from enemies or found scattered around the dungeons, either just laid out on the floor or sealed in chests. All the dungeons are randomly generated, so you shouldn’t have the same layout twice, making it harder to plot a blueprint and work out a path that will let you bypass the enemy, but at least you can visibly see where you have been, thanks to the on-screen map.
While Sorcery Saga takes all the roguelike concepts, it also blends in a little of its own distinctiveness into the mix. Pupuru has a sidekick by the name of Kuu, a small animal that looks like the evil bro of the Pokémon, Chansey. This AI controlled partner explores the dungeons with little Pupuru, acting as a friend that will help attack enemies close by. Players need to keep an eye on Kuu, because unlike Pupuru, Kuu doesn’t get his health back when walking around the dungeon, in fact, it slowly goes down, and if Kuu dies, then you lose the ability to have him attack (that extra damage helps). Kuu can also be an annoying brat, because when his health his low, he begins to complain and shouts for enemies to come after you. It remains me of kids in a toy store screaming out for something at their parents and having a hissy fit when mummy says no.
To keep Kuu happy, you must feed him any items you have in your inventory. Feeding Kuu will often come with some sort of stat changing effect, but he can also take damage or become weaker depending on the item; feeding him enough times will level him up and unlock additional moves. Kuu is basically a walking bin, where players just throw in all their unwanted goods, since Pupuru can only handle up to three pages of items, so rather than throw them away, it’s best to feed items to Kuu, giving them at least some use. I wish there was a way to feed him more efficiently than having to throw an item at him one at a time. I often had groups of items I wanted to get rid of, and doing it this way just prolongs the time wasted feeding him. Kuu is a handy sidekick when he isn’t complaining about being hungry or getting stuck because the AI forgot how to follow you.
Keeping with the theme of curry, Pupuru can take dropped ingredients to Smile Curry and the owner will teach Pupuru how to cook a curry using them. Curries can be cooked in the dungeon and then eaten to give Pupuru a buff, or feed it to little Kuu to give him the benefits of the curry. These curries are like small power ups that are useful to stay alive in this treacherous curry hunt, but you must eat them on the floor you produced the food, as transcending to the next level will cause the curry to become spoiled.
All these benefits mentioned above must be mastered, or you can say goodbye to life and enjoy countless deaths at the hands of devious little enemies. Due to the nature of the genre, and the game’s progression system that causes Pupuru and Kuu to return to level one every time they enter a dungeon, keeping an eye on your health and enemy placement on the map has never been more crucial. A death in a dungeon will kick you back to town and reset Pupuru and Kuu to level one and take away all your items and equipment, putting you back to square one. This can be such a painful experience, especially after managing to upgrade your equipment to a decent specification, which takes finding items and using money to combine them together with the game’s crafting system. I can’t stress how important it is that this game is more about gear management than level. It’s crucial that you give yourself an estimation of how well you might do, as you can use portals on specific levels to whisk yourself back to town. Sure, you’ll be level one again, but you’ll have all your items and gear intact, a much lesser evil than losing them all from a death.
But then the occasional sense of hopelessness crops in when one enemy comes and has some way to downgrade your weapon (this can go as low as -99). Suddenly all your hard work seems like it was a waste, then frustration crops in and before you know it, you’re dead, from what seems was down to pure luck. It’s one of those heartless experiences that come with the genre. It will test one’s patience, that’s for sure, but there is a huge reward when you successfully return and overcome that wall and move on. One thing that doesn’t ever vanish is magic. These are learnt by reading books that drop as loot. Once you go back home and read the books, they become permanently added to your inventory, so before you go on your journey back to a dungeon, you just equip the magic abilities, such as thunder, fire and ice, that you want to take with you.
The game’s presentation is built with an adorable, cute art style and plenty of bright colours. The graphics aren’t the most standout on the system, as they are fairly straight-forward, looking more like higher resolution PSP models than some of the titles we have seen run on Vita. What’s even more baffling is that the game can become extremely sluggish from time to time, dropping its frame rate in half in some areas of the game. This is something that the game shouldn’t’ suffer from, since it’s not exactly pushing many polygons or effects, so I can’t understand why this bizarre thing happens. The soundtrack is catchy and goofy, certainly a lot of fun to listen to during the times the game pulls no punches in murdering you, and the voice acting is all Japanese, with no English dub in sight. The tone of the voice acting is certainly hyperbole, making sure that we know what emotions are being embodied across during the many story-based scenes.
Sorcery Saga: The Curse of the Great Curry God is a title that manages to get across the understanding of a roguelike in a rather simple manner. While its concept might come across as a baby version of the genre, what lies beneath the cute visuals is a punishing game that won’t let you off easily. If you’re used to your games being Kormas and Pasandas, then Sorcery Saga probably isn’t for you, but if you are daring, and like to go for those Vindaloos and Tindaloos, then the hardcore nature of Sorcery Saga will probably make you smile and grimace, just like a good, hot curry should. With all the learning and dying in this game, you should prepare to curry.