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Friday, December 20, 2013

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

Review by Clark A.

Sorcery Saga: Curse of the Great Curry God is a revival of a niche series in a niche genre, boasting otaku appeal and being released during a slow period. It’s not going to set the North American charts on fire with that approach but it certainly set my heart ablaze far more than I anticipated. While not the most technically sound title, it turned out to offer the rawest fun I’ve had on the Vita.

Curse of the Great Curry God won me over with its quirky charm straight from the opening cutscenes. What starts off as protagonist Pupuru’s attempt to pass an exam by inputting random answers turns into a tale of protecting a mom and pop shop from the curry equivalent of McDonald’s. From then on she receives assistance from and competes against an eccentric batch of characters ranging from lustful demon prince to gibberish-spouting glutton to misunderstood pervert and ambivalent curry aura reader. This is easily the best comedic script I’ve seen this year as it disperses absurdity, puns, and many other types of humour quite evenly even when going through the motions.

Needless to say, it’s a rather capricious tale that has no trouble standing out from serious, sword-touting JRPG fare and instead takes pride in its oddball approach. The story is made all the more riveting through immaculate presentation, particularly the polished character designs. Despite the use of otaku JRPG-standard 2D portraits, each character oozes personality thanks to the amusing localization and solid voice acting. Rarely have I been utterly sold on a cast of characters so swiftly.

Only slightly less odd than the story is how approachable the game turned out to be, particularly for a roguelike. Dungeons are still chock-full of those peculiar quirks that people who are not familiar with roguelikes will consider detrimental such as hidden tiles and trap laden treasure chests, but they’re considerably downplayed here. When these mechanics do emerge, they feel like ways to keep randomized dungeons stirring and suspenseful rather than artificially inflate challenge just for the sake of it. Well, unless you happen to lose the weaponry you spent many hours working to develop thanks to a wayward mistake and death, but there are at least ways to salvage yourself from these scenarios.

Aside from the rare moment of soul-crushing despair, the overall game design maintains a certain uncharacteristic even-handedness for the genre. Pupuru levels up in traditional fashion but reverts to her unlevelled state upon death or completion of a dungeon. That makes character growth contingent on your portfolio of magic abilities, curry recipes, and equipment. Since every dungeon is a new beginning (in the sense that your base form always starts fragile), each excursion renders you actively engaged and invested in that particular run.

That investment plays a vital role in making Sorcery Saga so compelling. As is usually the rule, you’ll lose your items and money upon death so you’ll be naturally inclined to get as far as possible. You’re penalised for failing but your core assets can be easily protected. There are even ways to protect your expendables but they often come at the cost of your time investment in that run and character growth. It’s a formula that cleverly balances two extremist approaches to the genre.

Some will detest the use of the player’s time as a bargaining chip but it’s evident that it was a conscious design choice. It also helps that Pupuru’s quest isn’t painstakingly dragged out, sitting in at a comfortable 20 hours or so and still offering sufficient post-game exploits for those seeking a meatier feast.

I’d also argue the only true “wasted” time comes as a side effect of Pupuru’s furry pal, Kuu. It’s a shame too as he is a worthwhile asset in many scenarios. In addition to fending off enemies for her, he offers a wide array of abilities that rely on luck of the draw. Depending on what you get he may allow you to transport items back to town, gain elemental attacks, or turn into a powerhouse. Unfortunately, he’s also something of a glutton and a potential burden as he requires constant feeding. This wouldn’t be such an issue if navigating menus was slightly faster and more intuitive or he was just a tad less ravenous. Alas, he just makes exploration more of an errand than it needs to be.

But broadly speaking, Curse of the Great Curry God is so gripping that it overpowers even the occasional monotony. Even if Kuu’s unpleasant tendencies can drag the pacing at times, the game rarely feels as repetitive as many dungeon crawlers. Besides, you can always take solace in knowing there’s more A-grade banter awaiting you at the end.

Sorcery Saga: Curse of the Great Curry God is decidedly similar to the contentious grub its title references. Some will find the spicy luck-based injustices too much to swallow and the sprinklings of otaku humour won’t necessarily do much for the uninitiated. In the context of similar dishes though, Sorcery Saga does its job darn well, offering a motivating narrative and addictive gameplay to boot. If you’re a fan of the genre and themes, it’s hard not to fall in love.



- Clark A
Technical Editor
Miiverse: Midori
Email me at: clarka@digitallydownloaded.net


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