What would you do if a big chain curry restaurant opened up in town threatening to take over your family owned curry business? You’d pursue the legendary magical curry recipe, of course – which is exactly what protagonist Pupuru and her fuzzy sidekick Kuu get up to in Sorcery Saga: Curse of the Great Curry God. In order to save Smile Curry, the abovementioned characters’ favourite eatery, they must embark on a journey full of twists and turns in order to protect the popular bistro. Despite the bizarre plot, the dialogue and personalities encountered in this curious PlayStation Vita exclusive are often absolutely hilarious, and they help to maintain the silly flow of the narrative.
Typical of the roguelike sub-genre, much of the gameplay revolves around a tiled grid. Every action that you take as Papuru has an impact on the world around you, meaning that moving forward one block can result in enemies stepping closer to you. If you take damage, you can restore your HP by moving around – however, your accomplice Kuu will lose health with every step that you take. As a result, you must feed him items, which will not only restore his vitality, but also provide him with the experience to level up and utilise temporary stat buffs.
If you happen to let Kuu run out of energy, he’ll start screaming, prompting enemies all over the map to converge on your location. Worse still, if you die while the character is incapacitated, you’ll lose everything in your inventory, as well as your equipped weapon and shield. It’s important to ensure that your accomplice is alive, then, because you’ll retain all of your items when he’s not out cold. This dynamic really adds a tactical challenge to the gameplay.
Each dungeon consists of multiple floors of enemies, chests, and random items which eventually lead to a boss battle on the final floor. Slaughtering foes will level you up, but you’ll only retain your level in that particular dungeon. That means that if you go back to the hub town or die, you’ll go straight back to your starting place. The real dilemma begins when you start to reach dungeons with layouts as large as 100 floors. There will be situations where you’ll risk losing all of your hard earned levels and items just to stash your rare drops, requiring you to start all over again.
The combat itself is fairly simplistic, and is performed by pushing X to swing weapons varying from a fork to a magical wand. Finding books can also allow Pupuru to activate magic abilities such as damaging all of the enemies in a stage or randomly teleporting her to a location on the current floor. Spells can also be learned but have a limited number of casts before they are consumed and require recharging. Consequentially, learning when to use spells is critical later in the game.
Crafting stronger weapons and shields can be done in dungeons for free by using Kuu’s skills, or you can pay a small fee in town. It’s as simple as finding two of the same item types and combining them. For example, if you’re using a Sword and you find a Rusted Sword, you can fuse the two to create a more powerful pointed object. Elemental damages and various other stat increases are eventually possible after a few upgrades. This system provides a huge incentive to explore entire dungeons or even replay old ones in order to find items that you can join together to make the ultimate equipment.
Don’t let the strategy aspect intimidate you, though. Different elements are added to the combat as time goes by, making the system itself deeper but still incredibly easy to learn. Often times, it’s easy to overpower yourself and get through each floor without worry, but later maps in the game offer a slightly more challenging experience. Balancing your health, Kuu’s strength, and your equipment will keep you occupied at all times, but will also provide the impression that you’re making meaningful progression with every stride.
Still, while this is a little more manageable compared to other more ruthless entries in the genre, you’ll still find yourself punished from time to time. Some enemies possess abilities that will degrade, destroy, or outright drop your weapons, meaning that after hours of farming to create an awesome sword, a goblin can demolish it in a matter of seconds.
Kuu can also present his own brand of challenges. Sometimes, he’ll decide to recklessly charge into a room full of powerful enemies or refuse to follow you correctly. It’s manageable on most occasions, but he has the potential to prompt your immediate death if you don’t get him under control by defeating the antagonists swiftly.
It can, of course, be crushing when you lose your items, but it adds a healthy sense of urgency to the experience. Careful planning and thoughtful execution of each move leads to a very rewarding adventure – especially when you down a boss with your sought after implements.
Better yet, the colourful graphics and animations spring to life on the Vita’s brilliant OLED display. The frame rate does tend to suffer in crowded rooms, and can cause menus to feel slightly sluggish – but when it works, the presentation is vibrant and energetic, with an amazing soundtrack to boot. Furthermore, all of the voice acting – and there is a huge amount of it – is recorded in Japanese with English sub-titles, but even without any knowledge of the language, it’s easy to hear the emotion in the speech.
Sorcery Saga: Curse of the Great Curry God is a spicy title that’s sure to put a smile on your face. While you’ll have licked the campaign clean within around 20 hours, the vast array of equipment, costumes, and items augment you with a good enough reason to double-dip. Like a fiery feast, the experience can be punishing at times – but the overall feeling of reward when you succeed far outweighs the fleeting sting of a lost item or two.