It’s funny how the smallest of game franchises can grow up into something huge and powerful, with millions of players logging in and taking part of the action either alone or with friends. That was the case with Capcom’s Monster Hunter series, which started out gaining just a cult status and is now one of Japan’s best selling game series this side of Pokemon.


However, Sony isn’t waiting around for Capcom to produce a specific Monster Hunter game for its PlayStation Vita. In an effort to create something innovative for its fledgling handheld system, the company reached out to Mega Man creator Keiji Inafune and the team at AQL Entertainment to create a game just as fanciful as Monster Hunter, but certainly a lot darker. Get ready to make some divine – and devilish – choices with Soul Sacrifice.


The game, which was a big hit when it was shown last month at the Tokyo Game Show, has just as much emphasis on the single player campaign as it does on multiplayer. You play a powerful and cruel sorcerer who’s set to be sacrificed. However, before that takes place, a demon, formed like the Necronomicon (remember the Evil Dead movies?) appears before him. Rather than killing him, the book makes this sorcerer relive some of his greatest battles with enemies from his past. But it’s not just to make him suffer – this book actually serves as a way for the sorcerer to possible learn from the error of his or her ways, thus becoming more empowered in the process.


The game is set up in a similar nature to Monster Hunter in terms of you fighting your way out of a situation against some very nasty enemies. Several of your buttons on the Vita are assigned to attacks, so you’ll be doing plenty of damage with traditional weapons or spellcasting, depending on your capabilities. Regardless, you’ve got a tough road ahead of you because of your opposition and the choices you'll need to make.


The game gives you the option to make sacrifices. Doing so actually leaves mark on your body, limiting how much you can tap from certain resources. Some choices are made for the better, while others could leave you feeling a bit drained when it comes time to face a particular adversary. The “nature of the beast,” as it were, really depends on what hard choices you make.


For instance, when you kill an enemy you have an option that can help you two-fold. Choosing to save the creature’s soul will help your defense for future battles, while also giving you a full load of health – perfect for when you’re running low. However, if you choose to or sacrifice and destroy the soul, your attacks pick up in strength. It’s really a matter of what you need over the course of each battle and how it can serve you better. Just don’t forget those marks or the fact that you’re not entirely invincible, even with your sorcery.


Like Monster Hunter, Soul Sacrifice also supports co-op. Up to four people can take part in an online session across the PlayStation Network, working together to bring down foul beasts and power themselves up.


What’s interesting is how you can also make saving and sacrificing decisions when it comes to your teammates. If they’re near death, you have the choice to either rescue them and bring them back to help or destroying them to gain more powerful techniques. Again, this is a tough decision depending on what you really need. Are you a team player who prefers to balance the load across your partners or are you that lone soul who wants all the glory all for him or herself? Like we said, these decisions don’t come easy. The fact you have a lock-on feature is also useful, should more than one show up at a time. Never hurts to systematically cut enemies down to size and maybe not put your partners in danger, eh?


What does come easy is the presentation. Though we still have yet to see a majority of the game in action, AQL and Inafune, have really done some great work with the Vita. The fantasy-based backgrounds are dazzling and some of these enemies are really ugly mothers, putting up a fight to the finish as you execute some vivid effects. Even online, it looks like the game runs without a hitch.


Though Soul Sacrifice might be a little too dark for those who prefer Monster Hunter, we might suggest waiting for the eventual sequel from Capcom. However, you’d really be missing out on something with Soul Sacrifice. This could easily be on the best games to hit the Vita when it arrives sometime next year.