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Deception IV: The Nightmare Princess (PlayStation 4) artwork

Deception IV: The Nightmare Princess (PlayStation 4) review

"Tecmo Koei continues to stake their claim on PS4 with quality software."

I don't care what anyone else says: 2014 was a great year for gaming. From one month to the next, publishers delivered a slew of memorable titles and unexpected cult-classic sequels. Bayonetta 2, Drakengard 3, and Deception 4 showcased some of the coolest ideas that our hobby offers, and it's a shame that so many people chose to grouse on Twitter instead of game.

Now it's 2015, and I'm glad to be playing Deception 4: The Nightmare Princess. This was meant to be an expansion, but Tecmo smartly included the entirety of last year's Deception 4 since so few people experienced it. The only things missing are the original trophies, which have been replaced by a new set of awards.

The core game tells the tale of Laegrinna, a solemn woman who ruthlessly hunts "heroic" invaders within her lair. Across the story's twelve chapters, the player -- in the role of murderous Laegrinna -- sets traps throughout several thematically-varied environments. Deception is all about the traps; Laegrinna can't even so much as kick an enemy in the shin. Inside each room, players rig pendulum blades, giant stomping feet, and other grim devices in an effort to slay, imprison, or humiliate a series of successive strangers.

All of that existed in 2014's installment -- players could set up devious combination attacks and guide enemies towards environment-specific traps (such as a blazing furnace shaped like a bull). It was challenging and satisfying. Nightmare Princess has taken that and added dozens of new traps. Although fun to unlock, the additional traps make the game much easier. For example, instead of breaking an opponent's armor with a clever combination of blades and boulders, players can just drop the new acidic blob on them. The plethora of new traps is good, but their effect on the game's balance is bad. So which is it, good or bad?

I say GOOD. Deception 4 is a non-competitive singleplayer game, so balance takes second place behind fun. It's obvious that the developers had a blast while working on Nightmare Princess -- just look at the new gymnasium stage, where you can recreate Twisted Sister's "I Wanna Rock" by sending foes plunging through basketball hoops. Or the devil's playground full of twisted schoolyard staples. Or the creepy hospital equipped with paralyzing drugs. Or the return of every heroine from the series' history. This is a Deception fan's dream match, and obsessive fans have already posted videos of their disturbing dreams.

All of those enhancements make the original game a lot more fun, and unless you hate well-realized imagination, you'd best buy Nightmare Princess. But I haven't even mentioned the advertised allure of this disc, which is the Quest Mode. This is where players get to play as Velguirie, a wicked woman with fresh abilities and a more enthusiastic attitude towards killing. Velguirie can physically attack foes, so playing as her is significantly different from past Deception games.

The quests are presented along branching paths, so if one particular mission is troublesome, players can pick a different quest and continue making progress. Nightmare Princess is clear about its goals and rewards; both are listed upfront on the selection screen. Rewards consist of new traps, new outfits for the (barely worth mentioning) online quest-building mode, and even some extra playable characters.

That last bit is especially noteworthy. Deception 4 included unlockable costumes for the main character that were based on past heroines. Nightmare Princess actually includes the past heroines as playable characters (and as opponents in battle). The heroines' play styles are based on their source episode. For example, Millennia sets off traps via the controller's face buttons just like she did in Kagero, whereas Laegrinna cycles left-to-right through a larger set of traps. It's a trade-off between trap speed and trap diversity, which is an interesting way to take a previously cosmetic bonus and make it mechanically meaningful. I approve of that.

Deception 4: The Nightmare Princess is unlikely to appear on any mainstream "best of 2015" lists, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't. This is a thematically powerful, mechanically sound return to a series that went untouched for nearly ten years. Despite the "4" in the title, it feels fresh and original. If you care about diversity in games, you need to play it.

zigfried's avatar
Staff review by Zigfried (September 21, 2015)

Zigfried likes writing about whales and angry seamen, and often does so at the local pub.

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