Sumioni: Demon Arts
ACQUIRE | XSEED Games
Now available on the Playstation Network for the Playstation Vita.
Introduction / Storyline
There once lived a great chancellor named Michisada, beloved and respected by all who served him. All, that is, expect Seimei – a man who desired Michisada’s seat so strongly, he was even willing to sell his soul to get it. Calling upon the forces of hell itself, Seimei seized control of the entire Japanese government, holding Michisada and his daughter hostage alongside imprisoning Michisada’s most loyal aide, Tengan. As Japan drifted more and more towards chaos and despair, Tengan knew that something had to be done. He recalled a legend of an old shrine within his prison grounds, wherein a great inkdemon had been sealed away. The Inkdemon’s name was Agura, and his power was legendary. Unfortunately, so too was his insolence…
Nonetheless, this seemed to be Japan’s last hope for survival. Tengan would have to sacrifice himself to rouse Agura from his slumber, so he entrusted his long-time Inkgod companions Yomihi and Shidou to keep an eye on this unlikeliest of heroes… then proceeded with the unsealing ritual. The fate of Japan, and perhaps the world has been entrusted to an unwilling, apathetic Inkdemon. And there was simply no time for argument.
Sumioni: Demon Arts served as the first Playstation Vita title for both Acquire and XSEED and one that at first glance is visually impressive with its strong edo era aesthetic and interesting choice of ink themed gameplay. However aside from these it proved to be only an average at best game with a couple of factors that kept the game from being great. As the storyline blurb above states, you take the control of the Inkdemon named Agura as he travels to save Japan from the grasp of Seimei. Unfortunately the storyline is not heavy in this game and lacks any interesting features alongside being short. While there are around 30 levels in this game, the game follows six tracks which lead to different endings. The game requires you to get a perfect score (3 Stars) in order to progress to the next track and a chance at a better ending – requiring you to not only perform well but get through the stages as quickly as possible. As it can take a while to grasp the mechanics sufficiently enough to get three stars in every stage, you are looking at potentially repeating the same limited storylines a couple of times.
Moving on to one of the games more enjoyable aspects, the visuals are repetitive at times but otherwise aesthetically pleasing. The use of designs which are reminicent of ink paintings alongside some appropriately designed enemies, characters and the appropriately included ink drawing feature all work harmoniously together. The limited storyline they do present comes with some well designed artwork. There is nothing much to say about this games design, and it is one of the more redeeming factors about this game.
Music and Voice Acting
Given the time period and location this game is set in, the music contributes well to the visuals and offers a nice variety of tracks to go alongside with them. The game unfortunatelys lack any form of dub track, with the storyline being delivered to you by scrolling text alone.
Sumioni: Demon Arts starts off with an interesting and ambitious concept… and for the first playthrough it actually works out quite well – you play as an Inkdemon who navigates through side-scrolling platformer worlds under attack by enemy forces and the occasional supernatural beast… and able to control the power of ink to produce platforms you can stand on to avoid traps or give you a tactical advantage. The gameplay mechanics are easy to grasp – X has you jumping, control pads to move and the square button to slash with your bisento. While there are attack combinations you are introduced to and can use during battle, you will find that for the most part you will just be button mashing the Square button. As an ink demon, you can summon the power of ink through your Vita’s touchscreen and despite being useless in the later levels where you need to be a bit more quick in your movements, works well with no problems. While building up Ink, you can also use it to summon two Ink God beasts or set everyone in the path of your ink ablaze.
I have no problem with the system they have implemented, and they occasionally shake things up by giving you timed attack stages or “Escape from the foe” stages… but the major problem is that most of the stages are short and unless you perform well in all of them they can get very repetitive and dull. Thus this leaves you with the dilema of having a game that actually has a fun gameplay system but offers annoying grinds through potentially the same stages time and time again. If they threw in longer stages, more stages that do not require multiple replays and perhaps a couple more foes it would have offered an experience that might even give my 3rd Place GOTY 2011 “Rayman Origins” a run for its money in terms of originality.
In the end, I finished my first playthrough of this game in less than half an hour which was disappointing to me, but Acquire still developed an interesting system which I would like to see them expand upon in a future release or otherwise put their creativity into developing equally enjoyable gameplay with a hundred times more weight behind it content-wise (Even a custom level maker would have been a nice inclusion).
Storyline/Character Development: E+
Music/Voice Acting: C
Personal Opinion: C
Overall Score: C-