Games and food go together like World of Warcraft and Hot Pockets, so is it any surprise games about cooking exist? Japan, in all its wacky wisdom, has taken it a step further, birthing an RPG around the glorious quest of making the ultimate curry recipe. In Sorcery Saga: The Curse of the Great Curry God, you play the part of Pupuru, a magic academy student who is trying to help a friend’s curry restaurant stay afloat by creating the legendary curry. Helping her is a Wigglytuff lookalike with the appetite of Kirby, and they battle through dungeon after dungeon to collect only the most legendary ingredients.
Sorcery Saga is a rogue-like RPG. Dungeons are randomly generated, from floor design to creatures and treasure. Each time you enter a dungeon, you're seeing something different. Our dynamic duo also has their level reduced to 1 each and every time they leave a dungeon. This introduces the game's first flaw: the monotony of exploration. This is not Guided Fate Paradox where you have stats that stay levelled up, or Azure Dreams, where your monster allies don’t get debuffed. You have to redo hours of work every time you enter a new dungeon.
Without some kind of permanent levelling system, there has to be something to offset the grinding madness. Thankfully, your equipment does not de-level. However, the levelling of equipment is long and boring. Equipment needs to be found already levelled up in order to fuse with and level up your current gear. Luck is part of the fun of a rogue-like game, but the character’s stats never permanently evolve, and levelled-up equipment doesn’t make an appreciable gameplay or difficulty difference to warrant long hours of grinding.
In addition, the game rolls out its features at such an extremely slow pace, like the aforementioned gear levelling, that the game feels more like work than even a grind. A good RPG makes the player feel the need to hoard items due to an impending boss fight or scenario, not out of fear the item's window of usefulness will be wasted before its true purpose is unlocked five long dungeons later. This poor pacing of features cripples the initial enjoyment of the game and will turn off anyone not willing to grit their teeth to get through it.
But usually, story is what drives a game for me. Narrative is the lifeblood of an RPG, but I was finding myself bored with Curry God's story after the first chapter. The characters don’t have appealing, interesting personalities and there is no well-crafted tension or plot devices to get a person invested. With that said, it is a very light-hearted plot, which is more suitable for kids and pre-teens than an adult--like a 'gateway RPG,' if you will. I feel that the story is a bit lost in translation and is geared more towards kawaii-loving girls in Japan rather than western adults looking to save the world due to the story and character interactions. You would think your sidekick eating another character’s father would lead to a heated conversation about revenge and death, not declaring love at first sight with the protagonist.
Graphically, the game does not push PS Vita's limits. This wouldn't normally bother me, but framerate drops while walking through dungeons and overly long loading times are surprising in such a graphically light, environmentally contained game. This isn't the kind of cool, slow-motion-esque framerate drops you get in something like Dynasty Warriors. With simple, colorfully effective visuals, there's not much excuse for low framerate caused by walking one square tile. On the bright side, the anime cutouts used for dialogue sequences are drawn well and somewhat make up for the blocky character models used in the dungeons.
Being an anime-inspired type of game, one would expect Sorcery Saga to have a few fun musical tracks. In this way, the game doesn't disappoint, but it's a mixed bag that also contains uninspired, boring combat music. During certain dungeon events, like bosses or monster rooms, catchy anime music will tag in and take over from very mellow music better suited for towns than battle. I was always hoping to trigger those special events, even if it meant losing, because otherwise I wanted to mute the game and break out something else to listen to. Music felt like more like tea time with the cast of Time and Eternity than blood-pumping preparation for another level of monster hunting.
Sorcery Saga's light-hearted, void-of-consequence story lacks narrative impetus, which may turn off some RPG fans. Boring music, blocky animations, and a depthless levelling system makes combat dull for any but the most hardcore rogue-like devotees. Food-inspired hijinks and gameplay is a strong concept, but the original story needed to take a few lessons from other successful games in the same genre.
-The Final Word-
Only hardcore RPG fans will have the patience to grind through an admittedly ambitious game whose avant-garde approach forgets the basics of what makes an RPG fun.