Hey there, folks, remember when I featured anime on this blog? No? Well, that’s fantastic since neither do I! So let’s talk about this cool game you should totally check out instead!
My Playstation Vita has done me some good. I own more games on it than I can count and if not only for Vita games themselves, there’s also a not-so-bad library of PS1 and PSP games to pick from. For what it’s worth, it’s a purchase I don’t regret and I wish I could say the same for my 3DS, which had a Monster Hunter game with no online mode and another one too bloated with monsters I had already fought and apart from that, was rather useless to me. Nowadays, however, there are not many reasons to buy a Vita. Trillion is flawed but quite charming yet now also available on PC. Ys Memories of Celceta might be the weakest Ys full-party game but it served me well… yet now it’s also on PC. And so is Hotaru no Nikki, a little game that resonated much more with me than I would have expected and while I strongly suggest to play it on Vita instead as its touchscreen feature adds to the experience in more ways than one… it is, technically, also on PC. Whatever you seek, chances are good a PC or PS4 will cover it. Almost every game I can think of is on either of these systems.
Yet Soul Sacrifice Delta isn’t. It’s the sole exclusive that comes to my mind that I wouldn’t want to miss out on. It’s to the Vita what Bloodborne is to the PS4. And since Bloodborne is worth writing about (which I won’t, people have done so elsewhere plentiful), so is Soul Sacrifice Delta.
First of all, let me clear up that Soul Sacrifice Delta is an upgraded version of the original Soul Sacrifice, think Monster Hunter’s G/Freedom/Ultimate versions compared to their originals. As such, you should, under no circumstance, buy the original Soul Sacrifice as it is the inferior version. Delta is also so much superior that even if you do own the original, it’s in your best interest to play Delta anyway. I know I have.
Soul Sacrifice Delta tells the story of… well, for the first few brief minutes, you. The world is at the brink of collapse, plagued with monsters and human sin and you are stuck inside a floating prison of Magusar’s – he’s the one bad overlord who rules them all, sure to kill you sooner or later as he did with many others. Luckily for you, you encounter Librom, a monstrous talking book set to use you to save the world from Magusar. To do so, you must read Librom as it tells the tale of an unnamed sorcerer’s journey through hardships like no others, a story of comradeship and tragedy and as you experience his life through your very consciousness, you become a vessel for strength, replaying that sorcerer’s adventures as he anticipates the end of the world, fighting for a better life, meeting countless people – alongside his partner and best friend Magusar.
As you slowly uncover what made Magusar this way and meet many other people – a barely functioning teenager raised by a monster, a seemingly greedy piece of shit actually bent on saving the poor, a werewolf not sure if he is a killer or not, a pacifist living the life of a killer – the story is told through illustrated book pages whereas the gameplay brings you to various arenas wherein you fight boss monsters of all kind, the inspiration from Monster Hunter with this as a competitor to said franchise switching from PSP to 3DS is a very, very obvious one. Yet Soul Sacrifice Delta isn’t a mere copy but does its own things – you don’t craft armor, you level up as you beat monsters (former humans or animals) and decide to either save them, sacrifice them or leave things to fate, oftentimes also recruiting them, with your arm absorbing the souls of those you chose not to save, leading you on a path of self-destruction. The stats you gain depend on the choices to make, therefore taking an influence on your playstyle and later on, with weapon-empowering sigils to max, also your choice of spells.
Needless to say, to those who tread a hopeless world of misery, which choice they make plays a huge role in what they believe in: Take Avalon, a cult based on mercilessly slaughtering those who have converted to monsters. Then there’s Sanctiarium, a religion bringing salvation to them all instead despite the huge relapse rate. Not to mention Grim, a third party, set to leave it to fate instead. These three competing factions make what sorcerers believe in. Yet on the battlefield, the choice is always yours.
And no matter whether it’s your turn to decimate foes, be it monsters or other sorcerers, your tools in combat are varied and you can pick six of them each, these spells include summoning golems, slashing away at enemies with a fast-paced sword, shooting your own blood, magnifying your arm to crush skulls, becoming a giant rolling bolder, growing healing trees out of the ground, throwing shuriken, creating elevating platforms, magic to stop the flow of time and the list goes on. This even goes as far as directly involving the concept of sacrificing your own body parts by f.i. tearing out your eyes or spine. These are one-time per quest only actions, severly limiting your gameplay as compensation for destroying your body in an all-out attack so you best use them wisely.
I’d also like to stress that the writing in this thing is legit, especially with Delta’s additional plot elements kicking in, extending the small scale of the original to a grand one through inclusion of a time loop, meant to forever repeat your tragedy with Magusar – the so-called “Eternal Recursion”. This is surprisingly well-integrated, especially since one would expect a time loop add-on to do more harm than good to an already finished story but the element in question integrates naturally and adds several layers of depth to the story as it expands it. Contrary to the original game, just telling the story of you and Magusar, Delta places additional emphasis on the world the two of them inhabit and how the three factions rule over all and follow their own ambitions in an all-out war about a clash of values.
Also, for the folks among you who care deeply about backstories and world building, I’ve got some good news for you: As monsters are born from negative emotions rising from tragedy, they all have their particular story to tell and if you really care about lore and the likes, they’re all there. Small monsters, big monsters, bizarre areas, how all of these came to be are things both written down and illustrated. Hey, you’re reading a book, remember? There’s even an encyclopedia of tragic sidestories!
With all that said, I’d rather not say that there aren’t any weakpoints since even though there aren’t many, they certainly do amount to something: The combat itself is very creative with its spells and overall decent but is also somewhat lacking in terms of weight and monsters with good attack moves and neat tells to them feel like a rarity as they are more reminiscent of the primitivity of first gen Monster Hunter or Toukiden or Freedom Wars. And with the lack of proper armor crafting (on the upside, you can set your exterior based on unlockables yourself, on the downside, all you craft for are sigils and levels, progress that’s rather abstract to see only in numbers rather than physical appearance), there isn’t really much of an alluring grinding loop for better equipment to fight stronger monsters that give even stronger equipment than before present.
Conclusively, you’ll play this game until the very end since hey, it’s good stuff and knows how to pull you in & along but there is little incentive to bother with anything post-game-related, especially since the online mode is probably dead by this point. But regardless, it’s one of my favorite games so I recommend every Vita owner to give it a try.
At the end of the day, I strongly doubt Soul Sacrifice Delta will ever receive a sequel. Which is a shame. Especially since Keiji Inafune needs something to clear his name with after his Mighty No.9 disaster. But maybe it’s also for the better. It’s a self-contained story that tells all it needed to tell. The overall package is very much complete and I can’t say that for a lot of other things out there.
So for what it’s worth, I don’t think I’ll cover another Vita game here. But this one I simply had to write about.
Final Verdict: Very Good.