Title: Sorcery Saga: Curse of the Great Curry God
Release Date: December 10, 2013
Publisher (Developer): Aksys (Idea Factory)
ESRB Rating: “Teen” for Drug Reference, Fantasy Violence and Suggestive Themes
People get fanatical about good curry. I’ve never really seen the appeal, but those who do know that a good recipe is a work of art. Sorcery Saga: Curse of the Great Curry God seems to get that as well, as it frequently opines over the dish, to the point where the main focus is to please the great Curry God by making a Legendary Curry that will help save a small store and redeem a young witch. Naturally, this feat is achieved via roguelike dungeon crawling and with some of Aksys’ best translation work. You couldn’t have it any other way.
From magic academy delinquent to curry goddess champion.
Sorcery Saga begins with young mage Pupuru taking a very important test at the magic academy. She believes it’s needed to graduate at the time, but it’s really an exam to see which student in her graduating class will be the Grand Magus. The one who gets the honor is able to enter a special tower to retrieve an orb from the top. Naturally, luck and guessing helps Pupuru place first, and after a brief tutorial, she’s at the top of the tower.
Unfortunately, the orb is gone.
It’s been eaten by a strange little creature that Pupuru dubs “Kuu.” He’s sitting up there with a mysterious book, starving. Pupuru figures if she brings him down and explains the situation to her teacher, everyone will understand.
They don’t. The teacher thinks Pupuru is lying. Kuu gets upset and attacks the teacher, and Pupuru’s suspended. She can’t attend classes or graduate. So she heads back to town, dejected. There she meets an odd girl named Puni, who educates her about the Legendary Curry God and pines over good curry. The newly opened chain store is too busy to visit, so they go to Smile Curry, Pupuru’s favorite restaurant, instead. Puni says the curry aura there is the best, but the owner says he may be driven out of business. Pupuru decides to use the legendary curry recipe in the book to save the shop, all while avoiding freaks, weirdos, and the self proclaimed, band of heroes trying to make the legendary curry for the big box store.
Before I go any further, Idea Factory and Aksys have worked absolute magic with Sorcery Saga‘s script. Pupuru is a perfect protagonist, with equal parts trusting, innocense, good intentions, and snark, and she’s not the only one. The characters are brimming with personality. The best way I can describe it is “screenshot-able,” as there are far too many segments that beg to be permanently commemorated and shared with friends. Yet, there’s more to it than just making the player smile. The story and characters may be silly, yet it also deals with the poignant issue of what happens to small businesses when a chain comes to town. It’s difficult to be both apt and adorable, but Sorcery Saga manages it. Besides, how often do you get a game that would use a phrase like “obtuse euphemism?”
Spelunking for ingredients
Once Pupuru has her task, she’s on her way into the world. Fortunately, all of the ingredients for the legendary curry are pretty close to town, so all she has to do is journey through some forests to enter some randomly generated dungeons, reach the boss within, and beat it to get the ingredient. As with all roguelikes, this means Pupuru is at level 1 whenever she enters a dungeon, and can only leave with all items if she uses one of the strategically places exit points, a special item, or beats the boss. Failure means being sent back to town with only the weapon and shield she had equipped at the time of her demise.
Fortunately, Pupuru has an edge as a cast-off, magical student. She can read certain tomes, which will teach her skills. These will allow her to use magic spells a certain number of times in a dungeon, and are all quite helpful. They can be offensive, like fire and ice spells. Some are generally helpful, like one that will appraise an item or heal her. My personal favorite was a rebound spell that would let her revive with full health one time on a floor after being defeated. Since the game follows standard roguelike rules, every time Pupuru moves or performs an action, the other enemies (and Kuu) will perform one as well. Careful plotting will ensure survival, and the blue magic circles that restore skill usage appear at least twice in each dungeon.
Which means getting through each area is no big deal. Pupuru’s health is restored as she walks, and Kuu’s hunger doesn’t go down too quickly, so it almost feels like players are encouraged to loiter around every floor, collecting as many items and they can. It’s the only way to collect special items for the Character Theater, which offers brief skits and rare item rewards, as well as the best way to clear the room so Pupuru can cook. Yes, if Pupuru is in a safe, open room and has the right ingredients and recipe, she can make a batch of curry for herself. Eating it has a restorative effect and boosts experience earned on the floor.
Still, as entertaining and enjoyable as Sorcery Saga is, it isn’t without its dark spots. The biggest problem of which is that jerk, Kuu. He’s Pupuru’s constant dungeon companion and replaces the standard “hunger” stat found in typical roguelikes. Feeding him satiates his hunger, levels him up, and occasionally helps him learn new skills. He’s supposed to be a helpful sidekick. The problem is, he’s a liability. Sure, he sometimes helps with attacking enemies and has some helpful skills. But there’s no guarantee as to his usefulness, as he’s totally unreliable. He can’t be trusted to walk alongside Pupuru, sometimes wandering off to other parts of a floor to pick fights. You never know which skills he’ll learn on each outing, so good luck getting ones that will let him save 6 items, even if you die, craft items, or automatically appraise items. Plus, if he gets too hungry, he starts luring enemies to you. Thanks, Kuu. I needed that. On top of that, feeding him items doesn’t always fill him up, and may instead kill him. Which means you wasted an item, and then have to find something else he can eat to resurrect him, as Pupuru can’t proceed to the next floor without Kuu.
Aside from Kuu, the only other crimp in Sorcery Saga‘s style was a case of occasional lag. If there are too many enemies or passage ways on-screen, Pupuru slows to a crawl. It’s most noticeable in the Relax Tower, though I also faced some serious slowdown when I went to face the second boss. Defeating enemies in the vicinity usually fixes it, which means players just have to power through to bring it to a stop.
Sorcery Saga: Curse of the Great Curry God is one of those games where you come for the fantastically hilarious story, and stay because it’s probably the only roguelike you’ll ever be able to easily beat. If I hadn’t let myself die once, just to see what would happen if I did, Sorcery Saga would never have beaten me. It does offer some challenge, mostly in the form of the fickle Kuu, but also happens to be one of the most fair roguelikes I’ve ever played. As an example, I got through the second dungeon in one shot, using unaltered equipment I’d found in the Oboro Forest, all because I played smart. Perhaps I was just lucky, and found the right Character Theater items to unlock especially helpful spells. I prefer to think that Sorcery Saga is just one of those games that chooses to focus on fun, rather than masochistic, roguelike punishment. It’s never too spicy for players, instead offering a savory, slow burn that any JRPG gourmand will enjoy.