Most players will attest to the visual superiority of Compile Heart’s dialog sequences. Across an array of titles such as Record of Agarest War, Hyperdimension Neptunia, and Mugen Souls character portraits are painstakingly drawn and astonishingly animated- showcasing elements like strikingly sinuous hair and a beguiling amount of breast jiggle. However, look beyond these meticulously crafted sections and you’ll discover other elements of each game don’t demonstrate the same level craftsmanship. Combat, one of the key components of a role-playing game, has often been lackluster throughout Compile Heart’s output- habitably testing the patience of players with repetitive, unremarkable battles. Aesthetics outside of conversations often don’t measure up either, with unexceptional overworlds marred by low framerates.
As such, I headed into Sorcery Saga: Curse of the Great Curry God with muted expectations. Although it’s no surprise that Compile Heart’s latest stateside offering provides sumptuous-looking character portraits, what is surprising is that the rest of the game is nearly as polished. Across the studio’s seven-year legacy, it’s often seemed as if the Idea Factory subsidiary has aimed to ape the whimsy and grace of the Nippon Ichi Software team. With Curry God, Compile Heart finally comes within striking distance of the Disgaea developers, by dexterously fusing plot and gameplay.
Undeniably, the game’s narrative echoes the eccentric personalities, referential allusions, and goofy non-sequitur-jammed plot of a N1 title. We first meet the game’s affable protagonist, Pupuru, as she frets about an upcoming final exam. Through the help of a magic pencil, the resilient student is able to ace the test, thereby earning the privilege to skulk the school’s adjacent Magic Tower and retrieve a magic orb that’s located on the top floor.
Unfortunately, the enchanted object in nowhere to be found and the only notable element in the immediate vicinity is a cute creature with a limited linguistic capability. When Pupuru names the being, “Kuu” after its persistent verbal response, it becomes clear that Curry God, is parodying Pokémon. As players dig deeper, they’ll discover that the allusion isn’t limited to merely poking fun at Pikachu. In essence, Sorcery Saga: Curse of the Great Curry God duplicates the mechanics and feel of Chunsoft’s Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series, albeit with a storyline strewed with whimsy, double entendres, and a consequential scenario that pits the owner of a mom-and-pop curry house against the owner of a cutthroat conglomeration that’s poised to dominate the industry.
While often funny, the game’s dialog isn’t consistently sharp- there are often protracted interludes which don’t deliver much of a payoff. That said, Aksys’ localization efforts are to be commended. Curry God retains the flavor of the original title by keeping the title’s original Japanese voiceover, while supplying subtitles which express the title’s wit and irrelevance. For those who aren’t charmed by the endeavors of Pupuru, Kuu, and a cast of comical characters, the game allows players to skip past the conversations.
Beyond the game’s conversational interludes, players will also spend a large proportion of their time skulking the game’s dungeons. Replicating the tenets of a Rogue-like, movement is turn-based, with survival hinging on prudent inventory management and conscientious combat tactic. Like the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series, moving through each milieu is a gratifying experience with the burden of persistence softened by HP regeneration as well as Kuu’s increasing skill set. Outside of offering assistance during battles, your companion provides a number of key abilities, such as augmenting weapons and armor through a straightforward crafting system. Beyond those powers, scrolls provide Pururu with the ability to learn magic spells. Like weapons, these skills improve with use, ensuring players use a diversified routine of attacks.
The use of this capability is imperative, as once Pupuru leaves a dungeon, she forgoes her experience level, keeping only her gear and currency. Naturally, Curry God stays true to its Rogue-like roots, with death robbing you of your earthly possessions and any money you haven’t farsightedly bankrolled. However, the title is one of the far less punishing entries in the genre; prudent players should be able to get through the condensed campaign with only a fatality or three. Clearly, the biggest challenge is managing an undersized inventory in environments filled with loot. The answer is to avoid squirreling away loot, using found items to refill and level up Kuu, or using useless items as projectiles to injure enemies. Cleverly, Curry God has its share of red herrings- from ineffective elixirs identified by their knock-off naming to scrap with little positive capability.
Playtime is lengthened by a side quest component which emerges during the course of the campaign, as well as collecting rare items which can be exchanged back in town for supplemental conversional bits. For completionists, hunting these articles down will undoubtedly extend Curry God’s playtime, but might also transform the enjoyable dungeon prowling into tedium. Players hoping to extend the game’s duration through the purchase of downloadable content should be warned- a caveat in the PlayStation Store indicates that items require an internet connection, which seems like an impractical proviso for a portable system.
Visually, Sorcery Saga: Curse of the Great Curry God exhibits stunning portraits of the game’s personalities as well as proficient renders for in-game characters. Dungeon environments are varied, vibrantly hued, and flaunt a pleasing amount of detail. Unfortunately, when the screen becomes too busy, input lag arises, especially during boss battles. Aurally, the title is exceedingly enjoyable- extending a variety of catchy tracks, including a handful with vocalization.
Typically, Rogue-likes deliver playability while forgoing plot. Sorcery Saga: Curse of the Great Curry God offers a commendable balance of both components, giving an engaging impetus for exploration across the pre-formulated and randomly generated environments. While gamers who aren’t enthusiastic about visual-novel style conversation or turn-based dungeon crawling might want to approach the title with caution, fans of both features will find Curry God’s recipe delectable. Hopefully, Compile Heart delivers a second helping.
Sorcery Saga Curse of the Great Curry God was played on the PS Vita with review code provided by the publisher.