Since the system's release, handheld enthusiasts everywhere have been clamouring for a game that managed to both fully utilize the PS Vita's exceptional hardware and deliver a jaw dropping entertainment experience as well. After selling 150,000 retail units in one month, impressing Japanese critics across the board, and already sparking talks of a sequel, Soul Sacrifice may be the killer app PS Vita owners have been looking forward to. RPGamer recently had the opportunity to speak with legendary Designer Keiji Inafune (Mega Man) and Soul Sacrifice Producer Teruyuki Toriyama about this highly anticipated action RPG, which is set to hit the west in the very near future.
Trent Seely (RPGamer): Thanks for taking the time to chat with us about Soul Sacrifice. For those who are unfamiliar from this upcoming PlayStation Vita release, could you give us a quick rundown of what kind of RPG it is?
Keiji Inafune (Designer): The theme of Soul Sacrifice is "sacrifice" and "cost." The game is unique in that there is cost and sacrifice involved, and the player uses tools, mainly spells/magic — and to use spells, you have to give offerings — in order to fight monsters. However, once you use up all the tools, you either have to sacrifice yourself, what you own, or other players in order to keep playing. So this game has a dark side to it and also is demanding and hard core.
TS: What advantages did the PS Vita offer? How has the Vita's hardware functions been incorporated into the game?
KI: Vita allows the usage of touch panel. The game is based on a book, and the player needs to turn the page. Instead of hitting a button to turn the page, it allows the users to actually turn the page so it gives that realness of actually flipping through pages. Allowing the player to use this function on the big screen really enhances the effect of this game.
Additionally, about the core theme of sacrificing can be experienced in multiplayer as well. One of the unique characteristics of this game is that the player can choose to sacrifice his/her comrades instead of their own life.
The traditional multiplayer platform allows you to play the game with multiple people simultaneously, but that interaction occurs not in the same room. You don't know what other players look like and therefore it diminishes what we're trying to achieve — providing the "realness" of your comrades. Vita allows you to do both, but most importantly, sacrificing someone who might be playing next to you. If you can't see other players, you may not hesitate to terminate the life of your friends. In this sense, Vita allows the player to have this profound decision-making process that enriches the realness and impact of what might occur.
TS: What does the character customization system look like? What are some of the options that are available? Are your choices set in stone once you start playing?
KI: You have the option to not only choose your character's gender, but also more detailed aspects of customization. Beyond your features, for example, you can choose things like whether you want your character to wear a hood or not, should you prefer their face be obscured.
The game will also provide additional levels of customization based off the decisions that are made during gameplay, making for a truly wide range of character customization options.
TS: The game has a mission based structure. What kind of hub system have you created to jump from mission to mission? How does it tie in with the game's story?
Teruyuki Toriyama (Producer): The story begins from the depths of despair. The protagonist is a sacrificial slave, owned by a ruthless mage in a prison. Facing inevitable death, a "book" appears suddenly. Basically this book, named Librom, acts as a hub system to jump from mission to mission in the game. The book can also think and speak and has a special power, allowing those who read it to experience what's written within. Through reading the book, the protagonist will relive the past of a particular sorcerer and discover the secret of the world and his/her own fate.
TS: What is used for currency within Soul Sacrifice? How is it obtained and used?
TT: There is no currency within Soul Sacrifice. However there's element called "lacrima" (Librom's droplets). You can use lacrima for various purposes such as to change player's names, recharge offerings, remove effects from Black Rites, revive NPCs or to adjust levels of your right arm. (Right arm status decides your character's growth direction; if you're gearing towards dark side or divine side.)
When enough Librom has enough lacrima to be collected, it will talk to you. Then you can wipe Librom's eyes to collect lacrima.
TS: Can you explain and detail the depth of the salvation/sacrifice system?
TT: You have a choice of saving or sacrificing enemies and/or allies when they are in critical conditions. Each decision has different consequences. If you save fallen enemies, you will gain some HP and obtain Life Essence that will increase your defensive stats. If you save boss characters, they may become your ally and you can take them with you to missions. If you save allies in critical conditions, you will share half of your HP to revive them.
On the other hand, if you sacrifice fallen enemies, you will recharge the offerings and obtain Soul Essence that will increase your offensive stats. If you sacrifice your allies, you will launch one of the Black Rites, "Gungnir," a powerful magic that will deal a large amount of damage to enemies.
TS: How do you obtain new spells? Are there many variants and can they be upgraded?
TT: You will need Offerings in order to use spells. Every time you clear a quest, you receive different Offerings for your reward depending on the score. Therefore, it's important to receive a high score upon clearing a quest in order to receive better Offerings.
There are over 300 types of Offerings. You can fuse different Offerings to create new Offerings. You can also combine the same Offerings to boost its level and fortify them.
TS: What are Golems? How are they collected and controlled?
TT: You can summon Golems to fight for you if you have the Offerings. They're powerful however they cannot move. Therefore, you need to be careful about where and when to summon them. I recommend giving enemies status ailments or stop their motions first, then to summon Golems.
TS: Considering the size of some of the creatures you have to defeat, what happens if you're caught in a desperate situation? How do you revive allies? Can they be sacrificed instead? Are there special limit breaks or desperation attacks?
TT: When you're in a critical condition, you can ask your allies to either save or sacrifice you. If they save you, you will get back to the quest. If they choose to sacrifice you, one of the Black Rites, "Gungnir," will be launched and you will die. You can also choose to sacrifice your limbs of your body to launch a Black Rite when your HP is low. Although you will have to suffer from certain consequences, Black Rites are extremely powerful magic that can change the situation to your advantage.
TS: How is character death handled in Soul Sacrifice? How does it affect progress?
TT: When you die during quests, you will become a spirit and still be able to support the combat by supporting allies. In this mode, you will be able to see enemies' HP with numerical value. Additionally by touching enemies, you will lower their defense. Touching allies will boost their attack power. In this way, you will be able to support the combat and you will gain items as normally would upon clearing the quest. However if all members die, it'll be a game over.
TS: Some missions feature non-playable companions. How does your character coerce these NPCs into joining your party? Do they develop as they as they fight alongside you?
TT: You will have allies join you as you progress through story, or if you save some boss characters. They have a trust level towards you. It will go up by clearing a quest together, saving when they're in critical conditions, or curing their status ailments.
Once their trust level reaches to a certain level, they will be able to carry more Offerings. Allies can be Dark (will choose to sacrifice), Divine (will choose to save), or Neutral. If your choice between sacrificing and saving doesn't match with their tendencies/beliefs, they may develop mistrust towards you and leave your party.
TS: What does the online multiplayer experience look like? Can damage be compounded or interrupted by online players?
TT: Damage will be compounded. In multiplayer, you will be able to enjoy something different that you didn't experience in single player mode. Each player can have own role and truly cooperate with each other.
KI: When playing the single player campaign, the player makes choices whether to save or sacrifice computer controlled NPCs. During multiplayer mode, the decisions become tougher, as each decision can affect real people. So the experience and your emotions will be different and we think players will want to see what it's like to sacrifice characters controlled by real users. We feel that this added dimension can really amplify the player's satisfaction of the gameplay experience.
TS: Anything else you'd like to share about Soul Sacrifice?
KI: Playing Soul Sacrifice for the first time could create a wide variety of reactions. If Japanese gamers first started playing this thinking it was a conventional action/fantasy game, they may be pleasantly surprised. The added experiences and emotion will change their perception on what an action/fantasy game can be.
For players outside of Japan, I'm certain they will also see that Soul Sacrifice is something completely new, and unlike anything they've ever seen or experienced before anywhere in the world. This game goes far beyond general combat and adds an increased layer of depth that I hope they will enjoy and become hooked on.
RPGamer would like to thank Keiji Inafune, Teruyuki Toriyama, MarvelousAQL, and SCEA for helping to conduct this interview. Soul Sacrifice will be releasing in North America on April 30, 2013 and in Europe on May 3, 2013. Stay tuned to RPGamer for more coverage of this upcoming action RPG and check out the Official Site for further details and media.