"Three cheers for plot convenience!"
Sorcery Saga: Curse Of The Great Curry God, or SS:COTGCG for a handy acronym that just rolls of the tongue, is the simple tale of one Magic School dropout's quest to save her favorite curry restaurant from getting edged out by an invading chain. To do so, she must retrieve ingredients from perilous volcano and lush woodland that can be combined to create the Ultimate Curry. No, there isn't much more to it than that. Quite frankly, if you are in any way familiar with anime, you already know every character and situation that appears in Sorcery Saga. It is a bland and entirely toothless affair, which is ironic when you consider that this game is a love letter to traditional Japanese curry.
The game is set in a perplexingly curry-obsessed town surrounded by an improbable amount of themed landscapes. And when I say "curry-obsessed", I mean it; everyone eats curry, everyone talks about curry... quite frankly, if it were ever revealed that the main character is entirely made up of curry, I would be inclined to believe it. Speaking of whom, we are first introduced to Pupuru fast asleep whilst sitting what I assume are the Magic School equivalent of Finals. Despite falling asleep for most of the test and then guessing every answer, she manages to get the highest score in the class. Three cheers for plot convenience!
Pupuru herself is the definition of a moe character, by which I mean she is cute, naive, and doesn't have two brain cells to rub together. Despite this, she isn't the most annoying character in this game; that award goes to the other characters, of which there are too many. The cast of characters in this game is incredibly surplus to what is required. After every dungeon you complete, you go back to town and have to endure skits between this cast of characters. None of them are multi-faceted characters — they each have a "thing," and that is their joke for every scene they are in.
Gigadis is horny, Cliora is jealous, Etanya is "mysterious". However, the most frustratingly unfunny character of all has to be Puni, a girl who will never speak in absolutes, only "maybe"s and "probably"s. If it is supposed to be endearing in some way, I confess that it is completely lost on me. I in no way found her non-committal attitude to be interesting, cute, or funny. She also can apparently sense others' "Curry Aura", which as far as I'm concerned only backs up my theory that Pupuru is actually made of curry. Well, the less said about the plot and its characters, the better. I wish I could say it's uphill from here, but that would be a lie. Instead, let's just say that we are coasting in a nice flat valley and the hill is nearby.
Sorcery Saga follows the formula of a Roguelike pretty well. You go into randomly generated, grid-based dungeons, you mash the attack button at enemies and occasionally use the odd spell, and eventually, you reach the end of the dungeon, kill a boss and go back to town with your loot. What's nice is that Pupuru doesn't need to explore alone, as the ever-ravenous Kuu will tag along behind her. Kuu's main job is attacking the enemies you come across, and he is pretty good at it. What is unique about Kuu is how he powers up: you throw various pieces of junk you find around the dungeon at Kuu, he eats them and gains experience points. You name it, he eats it. Knives, scrolls, pickled onions — it's all fair game to Kuu. At certain levels, he acquires new skills to help you explore the dungeon. Kuu is both a blessing and a curse, since he is an essential ally when he is feeling co-operative, but unfortunately, his AI is more than a little wonky, and he often goes away by himself and gets mauled by a pack of monsters or just refuses to aid you in battle.
This is not the only poor design choice I found myself battling. Half of your time in dungeons is spent in the main menu, either selecting items for Kuu to eat one at a time or equipping and unequipping swords and shields. When you pick up a weapon or armor, the game doesn't tell you what its stats are. Instead, you have to actually unequip your current weapon, equip the new one and more often than not find out that its stats are worse. This unnecessary barrier adds nothing to the game — it is only an exercise in tedium. As for the items, none of them give a very good description of what they actually do. I could often pick up an item, read its description, and still be none the wiser. Most of the time, you don't even know if an item will benefit or hinder you. Once I fed Kuu some "Strange Water" and it damaged him, then I gave him "Cero Water" and it healed him. Remember, Kuu eats knives.
Dying as a result this failure of the game to tell you what items do, giving you have no choice but to try them out yourself, happened to me so frequently that I eventually stopped using items altogether. It wouldn't be so bad except that every time you die in a dungeon, Pupuru and Kuu's level get reset to 1 and all your items are taken from you. It erases all progress you have made in that dungeon, and you may even need to run through a specially-made side dungeon just so you can build up a supply of items again. Every dungeon is designed to be finished in one fell swoop, and you get no benefit if you go back to town mid-way through.
Every game should have something that makes it unique, and if I had to figure out what Sorcery Saga's unique thing is compared to other Roguelikes, I would guess it is Pupuru's ability to make curry mid-dungeon. By throwing some ingredients in your pot, you can make yourself a curry that can give you the boost you need to take out a tough boss, or it can paralyze you and let said boss maul you. Guess which happened to me? I could sometimes find myself getting into the groove of the gameplay, but more often than not, an unfair surprise would get me killed and force me to start all over again, making everything I had done thus far completely pointless.
So, since plot and gameplay are such busts, what is left? Well, at least the game is pretty. It's not graphically amazing, but it is bright and colorful. I enjoy the designs of the characters and enemies, and the dungeons all look very different from each other. Personally, my favorite characters are the ugly fish monsters wearing maid outfits. Kawaii! What is strange, though, is how despite being graphically un-intensive, the game suffers from random slowdown. A sign of poor coding, perhaps.
The game's soundtrack is nothing spectacular, but it does have some stand outs. Gigadis's theme song (a man singing in broken English about how great he is) fits the character quite well and provided one of the few laughs I had while playing the game. Also, the game is fully voice acted, although I can't give much of an opinion on its quality either way, as the only language is Japanese. It all sounded quite good to me, but without actually being able to understand what they are saying, I must admit I don't know for sure.
I doubt I will look back on Sorcery Saga: Curse Of The Great Curry God fondly, if I remember it at all. If you cornered me and forced me to give it a compliment, the best I could come up with is that it is mercifully short. I could never recommend this to adults, but perhaps this wouldn't be a bad game to give to children. It's bright and colorful, and the gameplay is very simple, even if it is unforgiving. They may even find its attempt at humor funny, as they don't have to look through the jaded eyes of a mirthless reviewer like me.