LAS VEGAS — Though Sony was primarily showing off its mobile wares such as the new Xperia Z smartphone, it hasn’t forgotten about its PlayStation Vita handheld systems. Several games were on display at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), including “Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2” and “Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time” (also slated for PlayStation 3). But the one standout title is “Soul Sacrifice,” a game in which you’ll have to make some rash decisions as you fight monsters and to stay alive.
“Sacrifice” is the latest effort from Keiji Inafune, who previously worked with Capcom on the classic “Mega Man” franchise. But this is a dramatic departure, putting you in the role of a slave who’s serving under a cruel and dangerous sorcerer. Just before you’re about to be sacrificed, a demon suddenly appears, giving you a chance to learn from past encounters with said sorcerer, thus providing you with the experience and power necessary to fight back.
But where most action games take a “run forth and destroy all enemies” tactic, “Soul Sacrifice” is more nuanced. Throughout the game, you’ll be given the option to either keep your current skills intact and continue running at usual strength, or “sacrifice” items to gain access to new magical abilities. These “sacrificial” items can vary — sometimes you’ll give up something on your person, like an arm or a leg. Other times, you may sacrifice — or choose to save — an ally, deciding whether they’re going to serve you any purpose later on in the game.
There’s incentive to keeping them alive. Even though you won’t be stronger, you’ll have their assistance as you battle enemies. However, if you do decide to kill them, you’ll be capable of unleashing powerful spells. Either way, you’ll gain strength, good or bad, as you eventually turn the tables on your captor.
“Soul Sacrifice” bears some resemblance to Capcom’s “Monster Hunter” games, giving you free reign in a variety of stages as you slay beasts and eventually move on to the next area. You’ll also be able to refill your skills in certain points of each stage.
Graphics are another standout aspect of “Sacrifice.” It’s a highly detailed game, probably the best we’ve seen for the Vita to date, with gorgeous landscapes and well-animated monsters with plenty of menacing flair. Fortunately, you’ve got the means to fend them off, whether you perform quick slashes or a powerful strike, or unleash one of your magic spells — provided you have the power to back it up.
“Soul Sacrifice” will be available for the PlayStation Vita in spring 2013.