Released as Kagero: Dark Side Princess in Japan, Deception IV: Blood Ties come from a very unique lineage of trap games. Here instead of directly attacking the enemies you play as a girl who must use traps in order to conquer her foes.
The story follows Laegrinna, the Devil’s daughter. She along with three of her demon allies try to retrieve the twelve Holy Verses, which are secret texts that helped bind the power of the Devil 3000 thousand years ago. Deception IV overall has a weak story that is just there to section out chapters of the game. Thankfully the characters you meet more than make up for this.
The game retains the dark tone of its predecessors, having a creepy and sadistic atmosphere. What’s most interesting is that the game is sprinkled with moral dilemmas. Every enemy that comes into your lair has some kind of backstory. Using your Devil’s Eye skill you can read about them as well as their strengths and weaknesses. The moral dilemma comes into play when you read more about these enemies, each story tying in with the character exceptionally well. I even felt sorry for a shivering guy that came to my castle just to take refuge from the rain, all confused as to what the hell is happening around him. Shortly after his girlfriend came by as well looking for him. Each and every character says something unique when met or killed fleshing out even the weakest of enemies and it’s up to you whether or not you will kill, capture or even let weakened enemies escape.
Laegrinna cannot attack so your safest bet is to lure the enemy to your already prepared traps. With the circle button you can enter a top down view which allows you to place the traps in a grid in your current room. Traps take time before they can actually be activated and also take a while to reload, so you will have to plan well in advance. You can then select your placed traps with the D-pad and activate them with the cross button.
Traps can be stringed together making combos which is especially important in the later levels. They can be placed either on the wall, floor or ceiling and can be one of three categories. Elaborate traps focus on making a larger combo, sadistic traps do more damage, while humiliating traps are unique as they tend to move enemies into desired locations. Traps come in all shapes and sizes from the classics such as the swinging axe, arrow shooting wall and bear trap, to more creative ones like an iron rake, banana peel, giant yo-yo and a UFO catcher-like claw. As you use more of a specific type of trap new ones will be unlocked. These can be bought with the funds you earn by completing missions and there is quite a variety to choose from, making certain that everyone will have his or her own favorites. Using these traps is surprisingly satisfying in a weird sadistic way. Catching an undressed knight with the delta horse trap just to see them smile with pleasure is hilarious.
Aside from the traps you place, each room in your hideout also has its own specific items that can be used as traps, ranging from a chariot in the courtyard, to a train that goes through the whole factory. These usually are a lot harder to pull off as enemies are more than likely to steer clear from them, but if you do manage to get a hit it is that much more powerful than your regular traps.
Things are most fun when your plan is foiled by your own traps. A single wrong step can usually end in disaster as Laegrinna is hurled across the room into another well positioned trap eager to cause massive damage. I can’t count the number of times I was crushed along with three other enemies by a rolling barrel followed by a bolder and then finished off once the bolder started rolling downhill.
Enemies come in different types and sizes. From sword and axe wielding knights, to archers, ninjas, mages and even hired mercenary soldiers equipped with guns and flame-throwers. Knowing strengths and weaknesses for each type is imperative since they drastically differ in AI. Archers and mages will attack from afar, while ninjas can jump over obstacles and dodge specific traps. Armored enemies are immune to some traps, requiring you to match their weakness and hurl them in the air in order to remove their armor, leaving them just in their underwear.
Even one enemy is no pushover let alone three. Being chased by multiple enemies is a nightmare. While the enemies will wander over the exact same space where they were previously hit, they will steer away from any activated traps so you must be precise in your timing. What’s worse is that activating traps takes a second or two, in which you are fully exposed, not being able to move or dodge attacks. The intelligence of bosses is on a whole other level, as they learn where you placed traps and make sure to walk around them.
Here comes to the only real gripe I had with this game, it’s ridiculously hard. I spent hours upon hours playing the same two minute scene where I have to fight waves of enemies and a super agile boss who always manages to dodge attacks. Future levels become harder and harder, requiring the mind of a general and the reflexes of a ninja just to get past the standard enemies, which will definitely make you feel more like a masochist than a sadist. This is a bit of a shame as it essentially discourages experimentation, since you are more likely to succeed with what you are already used to.
Deception IV is perfect on the go. While the Vita version is essentially the same game as the PS3 version, it feels like it was made specifically for this platform in mind. There is only one issue with the Vita version that doesn’t come around until the insane difficulty kicks in and that is the controls. Since you move your character and camera with the analog sticks you can’t easily use the D-pad to switch between selected traps, making it even more challenging to change your plan on the fly.
Aside from the story mode, Deception IV also has free battle mode which allows you to pick the map and enemies in order to practice your combos. There is also a mission mode where you have a set of constraints which you must meet within a strict time limit. Finally you have cross-quests which is an online mode. Here you can download mission that other users uploaded as well as make your own quests in order to share your sadistic nature online. These additions are especially interesting for the Vita since they take a couple of minutes to complete. These modes will insure that you will keep coming back to the game long after you finish the main story.
Having played the PlayStation Vita version of Deception IV I have to say that the visuals are absolutely stunning. The game looks extremely sharp, running on Vita’s native resolution. Both the textures and lighting are also great. Belts and buckles shine realistically, while chain mail looks particularly detailed. The models are some of the best I have ever seen on the system. Each enemy is so meticulously detailed that even fingers are separated instead of meshed together. The game is also fully voiced featuring the original Japanese voice overs.
Deception IV: Blood Ties is a game I wholeheartedly recommend as one of the most innovative titles that came out in a very long time. And while its sadistic nature and quirky humor are definitely not for everyone, it’s still a deep title which allows a lot of experimentation. Whether you want it or not Deception IV will awaken your inner sadist and you will be laughing at the torture scenes soon enough.