Nothing says action gaming like the ritual sacrifice of a rock.
Keiji Inafune's new Playstation Vita game Soul Sacrifice's story opens, literally, with the opening of the Necronomicon from the Evil Dead series of movies; the book is modeled exactly after the book of dead in the film series right down to its ghastly eyes and mouth in the cover. In the game, though, it's the journal of a sorcerer, and the protagonist, who is doomed to be sacrificed himself, reads it and relives the experiences of the sorcerer himself.
Sacrifice is key to the story and gameplay. When preparing for a mission, the player can fill six slots with sacrificial items (of which there will be hundreds to choose from) that can be used to generate attacks. These attacks range from nature-based attacks that will wrap vines and roots around the enemy; to electric shockwaves; to the sacrifice of a rock, which turns the lead character into a boulder than can do a charge attack at the enemy; and, to attacks derived from the lead character's own blood that turn his right arm into a massive meat-club. These sacrificial items eventually wear out, and can no longer be used in combat, so it's important to use them at the right time.
Fallen enemies can be saved or sacrificed. This decision ultimately yields different powers and also introduces a morality component to the gameplay, something that Inafune was very interested in, according to Kumi Yuasa, the Sony Associate Producer on-hand to answer questions. As you save or sacrifice enemies (or companions) they affect your physical appearance. Enemies were once humans, but then performed too many sacrifices and became monsters. This aspect of the game comes even more into play with bosses. As bosses take more damage, they begin to unburden themselves of their psychological issues, allowing you to see the humans within the monsters.
Choosing to save a fallen boss returns them to human form, while sacrificing them nets you more sacrificial powers; both have ramifications outside of the fight. When I saved a fallen boss, my companion who had been fighting with me, turned on me and attacked; apparently, I hadn't been ruthless enough for her taste.
Soul Sacrifice has a novel approach to an action game, with both a collectible and tactical element to the Sacrifice mechanic. The book provides information about the monsters, so that the sacrifices can be chosen appropriately to match their weaknesses. The possibility of hundreds of different sacrifices increases the likelyhood of replaying the levels to get more items.
Soul Sacrifice is like Pokémon crossed with a Clive Barker horror movie and an brawler action game. Look for it to arrive Spring 2013.