Upon its initial release, SCE Japan’s Soul Sacrifice earned a name for itself as one of the Vita’s most unique and intriguing exclusives. A mix of dark fantasy, unashamed gore and baroque Gothicism, Keiji Inafune’s mature action RPG won a legion of fans in both the East and West. The almost immediate news that he had pitched a sequel to Sony was met with excitement among the game’s burgeoning community, and now a year on we have Soul Sacrifice Delta, part-sequel, part-definitive edition, offering the full original adventure with heaps of new content thrown in.
The broad strokes of Soul Sacrifice’s story remain intact: you awake in a filthy, gore-strewn cell and, after watching a fellow inmate get obliterated by your captor, the Sorcerer Magusar, you discover a sentient book called the Librom. Inside the pages of the Librom lie gateways into the past, and by interacting with it you supplant the body of the book’s former owner as Magusar’s companion in “Phantom Quests”, which you must relive in order to absorb enough knowledge and power to eventually challenge Magusar yourself. As the framework for a series of arena-based dust-ups it’s perfect, putting the individual nature of each quest in context with the narrative universe.
Soul Sacrifice is a relentlessly dark game, too. The world teeters on the brink of annihilation, and indeed appears to have been saved from destruction several times by an ancient artifact known as the Chalice, a grail that will grant any wish as long as the asker’s desire is powerful enough. The corrupting influence of desire and avarice is a prevalent theme in the plot, because when desire turns to greed and lust, the individual is corrupted and becomes a monster. In turn, these abominations are hunted with extreme prejudice by the Order of Avalon, a sect of sorcerers who derive their magic from often horrific sacrifice.
The main narrative sees you relive a series of quests alongside Magusar, eventually confronting him in the past before returning to your own body in your cell and preparing to face your now almost-invincible nemesis, but outside of that you can undertake hundreds of other quest-lines to farm for soul shards and Offerings. Previously you could only follow the path of Avalon, but Soul Sacrifice Delta introduces two other factions in the form of Sanctuarium (a sect diametrically opposed to Avalon’s indiscriminate murder) and Grim, who follow the teachings of an ancient sage and believe that Sorcerers have no right to meddle in the fates of the cursed. The most important change this brings is that now, depending on your faction, how you treat a vanquished foe earns varying rewards.
Following Avalon replenishes your offerings through Sacrifice, whereas Sanctuarium favours Salvation – but Grim allows you to hold both triggers and leave it up to Fate to decide. It’s another layer on the impressive risk/reward system that already asks that you weigh up every sacrifice with what you need most at the time. Additionally, Grim and Sanctuarium come with their own quest-lines, (in Soul Sacrifice, called Pacts), and introduce even more unique, eccentric Sorcerers for you to fight alongside. The new customisable right arm allows you to assume the look of your allies, too, for instance sporting Carnatux’s gold-encrusted arm, or Radux’s gnarled tree-branch.
If you fancy a further challenge, a new mode known as Alice’s Eternal Maze presents an endurance test of sorts, as you attempt to survive for as many battles as possible for greater and greater rewards. New enemies riff off of classic fairytales, such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Cinderella and Red Riding Hood, enhancing the fantastical quality of the world, and a new merchant hub allows you to buy raiment in exchange for Offerings or criteria-fulfilment, as well as letting you purchase rumours that can be applied before a fight to increase experience gain or weaken certain bosses.
The Offering system is almost the same, as seemingly mundane items are sacrificed to create magical weapons and armour, but a handful of new Offerings mixes things up, and you can now create combos by, for example, casting a blanket of fire upon the ground and then summoning a weapon above it to imbue the weapon with fire. In solo games this is handy, whereas in co-op multiplayer it brings a genuine tactical element to the fore as you combine your spells with those of your allies.
Little details like being able to alter the top, bottom and hood of your outfit separately and being able to combine spell effects help Soul Sacrifice Delta stand head and shoulders above the original, aided by the sheer amount of extra content and some truly memorable new enemies. The integration of new story elements and factions with the original narrative is so seamless that you’ll forget the factions weren’t present before, and the challenge offered by the Eternal Maze just tops it off. While it hasn’t had a graphical overhaul, the improved textures and framerate are noticeable, and the rich colours of the new environments – all reds, golds and greens – pop on the Vita’s small screen.
VERDICT: This is a fantastic edition of one of the Vita’s best exclusives and only heightens anticipation for a possible full sequel. If SCE Japan continue to support Soul Sacrifice Delta with free content as they did with the vanilla game, it has the potential to run and run. If you found the original repetitious or unexciting, Delta won’t change your mind, but for fans of the first release this beautifully grim and wonderfully dark fantasy is one of the best action games available on the Vita.
SUPERB. This is the mark of greatness, only awarded to games that engage us from start to finish. Titles that score 9/10 will have very few problems or negative issues, and will deliver high quality and value for money across all aspects of their design.
Review code provided by publisher.