Review: Sumioni: Demon Arts (Vita)

Review: Sumioni: Demon Arts (Vita)

My initial impressions for Sumioni: Demon Arts were mixed. I had been eagerly anticipating the title as a beautiful and interesting platformer since I first heard of it back in December. It seemed to be a title that would be a great showcase for the touch mechanics of the Vita with a unique and exotic style. I started my first playthrough at approximately 5:30pm Wednesday evening. I finished my first playthrough at approximately 6:15pm Wednesday evening (including credits).

I started a new game, in a new save spot, and found that there was no carryover from the previous playthrough. I found myself playing through the exact same path (of the seven total paths resulting in six different endings offered by Sumioni: Demon Arts). The tutorial level played exactly the same as the first time, as if I had never touched the game before. Progressing into a different path seemed arbitrary at this point. My initial impressions were that the game was hardly worth $19.99 when only providing 45 minutes of play. I thought perhaps $9.99 would be a more fair price given the apparent length and depth of the game.

As I spent more time with the title, however, I realized the error of my ways. Sumioni: Demon Arts is meant to be played using a single save file. With each playthrough, you continually overwrite your previous progress. In this way, your upgrades and stats continue to develop and accumulate. As this happens, your playing style changes, and new paths become open and possible. As mentioned, Sumioni has six different endings, with each harder path providing a better ending. Continuing within one save file to build your character allows you to get through all of the game’s content.

The game itself is very beautiful, using the traditional Japanese art style, “sumi-e.” The colors are mixed, muted in places and vibrant in others, creating a great contrast. The action is a little sluggish, and lacking flow between attacks. It could have been tightened up a bit, but it’s functional at the very least. The platforming is entirely up to you. Your Ink Demon character is able to create platforms in the air using ink. Sliding your finger across the touch screen creates ink platforms that can be used to stay off the ground, reach objects and enemies, and build up “Multi-Edge.” Multi-Edge is a power bonus that will continue to level up as long as you are standing on an ink platform and don’t take damage. Touching the ground or taking damage resets your Multi-Edge.

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Beyond platforming, the front and back touchscreen are both used very well and integrate smoothly into the game. Every ink platform depletes your ink bar a little. When standing still, rubbing the back touch panel will see your ink meter replenish. More than platforms, however, Arts and Summons deplete your ink bar significantly. The Arts screen handles special attacks and Inkgod summons. Time freezes when you activate the arts screen. A swipe will create a wall of fire, dealing damage to your enemies. A tip: while an enemy is in the fire wall, hit them with your water brush to turn them to your cause. Moving on, thunder attacks are ground attacks that deal massive damage. They are activated by holding a single spot on the Arts screen for an extended period of time. Finally, summons. When summons are available (they recharge over a period of time) they are tappable on the Arts screen. Two equilateral triangles stacked in the form of an hourglass appear, and a light dot traces a pattern on them. Retrace the pattern exactly (with an extra power bonus if you do it at the same speed as the light dot example) and your summoned Inkgod appears, dealing massive damage to your foes.

Initially, $19.99 seemed to be a bit steep. Playthroughs were short, there was no carryover from one playthrough to the other, and progressing through the game’s paths was completely arbitrary. Once I started using the same save file, however, I discovered the real depth of the title, and found myself replaying it with vigor. Just goes to show that initial impressions aren’t always the best impressions.

Review

ProsCons
Great visual appeal
Good use of touch mechanics
Multiple paths and endings
Sluggish combat
Difficult to navigate paths
Rating
85 out of 100

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