By 1996, Nintendo of America had started to relax its policies on censorship. Gamers saw violence-laden releases of Mortal Kombat II and III on the Super Nintendo after the Genesis version of the original outsold the SNES’s by a factor of three-to-one. But despite loosening up restrictions on depictions of blood and violence, there were other areas where NoA refused to budge. Chief among these was religious content, where anything that could be deemed potentially offensive to gamers of any faith got altered or excised. Sony’s American branch, on the other hand, had much less restrictive policies. So when Tecmo decided to make a game about demonic possession, revenge, torture and corpse harvesting, Playstation was their first choice of platform. Enter “Tecmo’s Deception: Invitation to Darkness.”
Tecmo’s Deception tells the story of a young prince, returning from a journey to a far-away land with a new bride in tow, to his Castle Sweet Castle. Sadly he’s not home five minutes before he’s implicated by his younger brother in a plot to murder his father, and swiftly sentenced to death for treason. As the flames rise up to consume him, he begs the Powers That Be for revenge. When next he opens his eyes, he’s greeted by a ghostly figure who tells him “The Demon” has answered his plea, and guides him to a strange castle in the middle of the forest to meet the Dark Lord.
Here, our young prince will make a pact with Lucifer in order to ensure that vengeance is forthcoming. He will do so by mastering the challenge of placing traps so as to ensnare victims. These victims will be sacrificed to the Dark Lord in order to increase the prince’s power or bank account, and eventually the prince will become strong enough to confront the reality behind his being framed for the king’s death. Oh, and Lucifer will be brought back to life to wreck havoc too, but that’s just a minor point, really…
As an early PS1 title, Tecmo’s Deception looks a bit rough around the edges. But the unique gameplay mixture of FPS, RPG, and tactical sim more than make up for any graphical issues. The soundtrack is enjoyable, with a nice orchestral blend and some vocals thrown in at appropriate moments to add gravity, but the tunes repeat themselves pretty often as there aren’t that many tracks. For fun, throw your game disc into a standard CD player and skip to track 2 to hear some of the game’s music without booting it up.
The gameplay itself takes some getting used to, as you typically wander your environments in a first-person perspective, looking for both victims to sacrifice and treasures to collect. Traps on the other hand are placed during each mission via a strategy screen that shows a map of the level, where any current potential victims are, and guides you in laying down your snares. The more power you claim for yourself, the bigger your bankroll, and the more souls you harvest for Lucifer, the larger, deadlier and more complex you can make your traps. You can also mutate captured victims into monsters which serve as bodyguards and hamper intruders if you’re feeling a bit more merciful(?).
The challenge is increased by the fact that you can’t really defend yourself in the first-person sequences. At first, you’ll be grabbing people with little in the way of offensive weaponry or skills (people like merchants or other low-level foes). After a while though, you’ll start facing the likes of ninjas and sorcerers who react faster and dodge your snares, or assault you from long-range with fireballs and such. The prince really needs to be at the top of his game with the timing of his trap triggers and the staging and layout of those traps.
Tecmo’s Deception spawned several sequels on the PS1 and PS2, but its unique combination of RTS and RPG elements mixed with its swiftly-ramping difficulty condemned the series to niche status almost from the beginning. Nevertheless, it’s worth seeking out for gamers looking for something different from the pack that can provide a long-term challenge with plenty of options. As long as you don’t mind being the bad guy, Deception will have you entertained for weeks with its dark, morbid presentation. Enjoy your retro ad goodie!