Out today, the new game from Mega Man creator Keiji Inafune invites you to come to terms with the eventual end of your own life—and that of your friends. Soul Sacrifice revolves around a trapped sorcerer trying to amass enough power to defeat an evil magician who rules the world. The Vita exclusive is a many-layered thing, with magical artifacts, eldritch body art and crafted items that you'll use to battle the beasties of the game's fantasy universe.
Soul Sacrifice is a big game on a small system and, while I'm still working on having a full review up soon, the most interesting thing about the game is how it uses death. Sure, killing things is a commonplace activity in video games, but here it drives the gameplay mechanics at various levels of depth. Your mystical avatar isn't limited to just doing away with enemies in the game. He or she can also dispatch allies or even his or her own self in order to keep the fight against evil going. Here's a rundown of how passing away can be a good thing in Soul Sacrifice.
Sacrifice an Enemy
Each time you defeat an antagonist in combat, you're given the choice to either save their soul or sacrifice it. Choose the former option and the cat that was home to evil spirits walks away peacefully, leaving you with energy to bolster your health stats. If you sacrifice the critter, then you get juice for your offense. The nature of your character's energy balance determines whether you get the best out of certain items and skills. Killing minor fiends is the major way that you'll be gathering XP in the game, so get ready to answer a life-or-death question every time you overcome a foe.
Sacrifice an Ally
Like lots of co-op or multiplayer games, Soul Sacrifice has players reviving their partners when they screw things up in combat. If you decide to save them, they'll dust themselves off and keeping right on fighting as if nothing ever happened.
But if you sacrifice them, a powerful spell gets unleashed. That spell mutilates the ally's body so that black, spiny tendrils shoot out of it and destroy most everything on the map. Once that spell is cast, those partners will have shuffled off this mortal coil.
Harsh as this tactic may seem, you can reverse the back-stabbing by using the game's precious Lacrima resource. So, if you need their particular set of powers in your quest to take out a giant, oozing blob or grotesque harpy, they'll be there after you pay the price for reviving them.
There's two ways that self-murder happens in Soul Sacrifice. If you wind up clinging to in one of the big arenas, you can have an ally who's still alive sacrifice your soul to help beat an enemy. Or, you can choose death on your own. Either way, you'll become a spirit after you die. Spirits can watch and influence the action on screen by tapping on the glowing auras that surround enemy and ally. Tapping on the outline of a friendly character raises his attack strength while touching the part of the screen with an enemy lowers that creature's defense.
Death is omnipresent in Soul Sacrifice. Innocent people and the guilty alike will meet their ends at your hands. And, as grim as it is, death can be a tool like anything else. Soul Sacrifice makes turning the end of another being's life into an extension of your own—or vice versa—a lot more engaging than in most other video games. Kotaku will have a full review of Soul Sacrifice in the coming days.