Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 (Nintendo DS)
Publisher: Atlus USA
Release Date: February 28, 2012
MSRP: $29.99 [Buy]
Devil Survivor 2 starts off with your main character heading to his high school, until he discovers some interesting news from his friend Daichi. It turns out that there is a Website known as Nicaea that allows you to witness the death of other people right before they happen. After an encounter with a girl in the school and a series of unfortunate disasters, the group ends up getting their phones upgraded to have an app that allows them to summon demons. Now it is up to the hero and his friends to figure out the current situation that has affected the well-being of Tokyo and the rest of Japan.
Compared to the first game, Devil Survivor 2 knows how to get straight to the action, since the game has a quicker pace in setting up the story. This is becuase Devil Survivor 2 has your character get involved early on, instead of starting off with a long narration that makes you wait for over a minute to get started. Unfortunately, the game does not give off any signs of following up one of the endings from the first Devil Survivor. One of the reasons is that no one in the game recalls anything about the lockdown from the first game. Does that mean that I am disappointed? Absolutely not, because the story still manages to retain the same feeling that the first game gave off, since it starts off with a normal event that leads up to a chaotic disaster in an urban environment.
Remember the death videos that I mentioned earlier? Part of the game's story has to do with you and your party members doing what you can to prevent the deaths from happening. While this was also a key feature in the first Devil Survivor, the second game decides to take things up a notch. This time around, you are not given a specific time on when the person is going to die, so you will need to stay on your toes to find a way to save each victim. Any person that joins you has a chance of getting killed off in the story, so make sure that you don't lose a party member that you have spent your valuable time on. Otherwise, you will end up going through an emotional tantrum, because of the mistake that you have made.
You also have to fight a series of special boss fights that feature designs from Mohiro Kitoh (Shadow Star Narutaru, Bokurano), which is part of a major element in the story that screams out similarities to Evangelion. Mainly because of the fact that you are protecting a landmark from a specific number of lifeforms that threaten the existence of all mankind. Then add the fact that you are doing it because of the request of a special government organization that is lead by a person with ulterior motives. Back to the bosses, these battles can be a bit difficult, and they require a different approach compare to the normal battles. If anything, it is another factor that can make the game a bit unpredictable, which is always a good thing in my book.
Devil Survivor 2 is split into various types of gameplay elements. First you have the visual novel segments where you interact with the characters in the story. By spending time with each character, you also have the chance of increasing their Fate status, which is similar to the social links from Persona 3 and 4. It is also an intriguing option that allows you to learn more about the characters that you care about. Take Joe for example, he appears in the game as a guy with a laid back kind of personality. At the same time, there was a serious issue that was bugging him throughout the story. As I leveled up Joe's Fate, I was able to figure out the right choices in regards to helping him solve his own problems. Besides the scenario that I mentioned, there are 12 more characters that you will get the chance to interact with throughout your playthrough.
Then there is the battle segment of Devil Survivor 2, which combines elements from strategy RPG and traditional turn based RPG games. Which is basically selecting a character, and moving them close to the enemy that you want to attack. Then the game shifts to a battle screen that resembles games like Dragon Quest and Earthbound. Once you engage in these battles, the strategy RPG segment kicks in again, since you and your opponent only get one turn to attack. However, both sides can get an extra turn if they manage to hit the opposing side with a critical hit or their weakness. While this part has not evolved much from the first game, there are new moves and abilities that add new levels of strategy.
Besides being able to move and attack, you can also use abilities such as using healing spells on adjacent party members, and Skill Cracking. Skill Cracking allows you to obtain and equip certain moves off of enemies that you defeat, which grant you complete customization over your human party members. There are also abilities that you can gain from increasing the other character's Fate, such as joint Skill Cracking and unlocking new demon fusion, which will be the next element on the list. If you are wondering how a group of normal people can pull this off, the answer lies within their cellphones. Besides being able to summon demons, the phones also grant you the abilities to fight them as well -- take that, smart phones.
Finally, you have the main staple of the MegaTen series known as the fusion system, which lets you fuse the demons that you have obtained from the auction house into even more powerful demons. The best part is that you get to pick what transfers over to your new demon, which is a rare privilege in the MegaTen series. In addition to taking two demons and combining them to form a new one, you also have the option to add special enhancements to the demon that you are about to fuse. These enhancements can range from adding a new set of moves or improving a specific stat, which will allow you to create your ultimate partner.
The compendium that has been present in the other games finally makes an appearance in this one. For those who are not familiar with the feature, it is basically a Pokédex that keeps track of all the demons that you have created, and you also have the ability to update the text. While it can be more expensive than obtaining a demon at the auction house, the compendium demons have the moves and stat boosts that you assigned to them. It also makes demon fusion more convenient, since you won't have to re-fuse to get certain demons for specific fusion recipes.
Speaking of auctions, the auction house is more user friendly with the new indicators that are thrown in, since you are given an estimate of what your competitors are going to put on the demon that is on sale. Whereas in the first game, you had to be lucky when it came to making bids on the demons that you wanted to obtain. As for the availability of demons, it all depends on your progress through the game, along with defeating certain enemy demons in battles.
Devil Survivor 2's cast is filled with an assortment of characters that fill in a majority of the personality color palettes. Most of these range from people trying to overcome the loss of their normal life to others that have their own agendas during the crisis that is going on. The fact that the age differences between characters is pretty vast, you can expect different kind of scenarios where age groups clash. Part of the appeal of the cast also comes from the character designs by Suzuhito Yasuda the guy known for creating Yozakura Quartet and the character designs for Durarara!.
The soundtrack for Devil Survivor 2 is not the best one in the series, nor the worst. You could say that it is right in the middle. Most of the songs feel like you are inside of an elevator or office, and there are others that give off a horror/Satanic vibe upon hearing them. However, there are some tracks that do stand out, such as the opening theme when you first start up the game. As for the other songs, they do manage to fit with the urban fantasy setting of the game. They may not have the catchy beats that we came to love from Persona 3 and 4, but there might be some songs that might grow on you.
Atlus USA deserves some praise for their translation of the game, since the dialogue manages to hit me during the story. If the game is doing a great job with that, then I guess we can say that they did a fantastic job with the way that they worded each phrase. Before I forget, I also have to give Atlus USA props for getting the names and information of each demon right, along with their work on the description behind the moves and abilities in the game.
Devil Survivor 2's graphics at first resemble those from the first game, but you can see that they have improved if you take a close look at them. There are a good number of new battlegrounds to fight in, since you get to explore other areas of Japan such as Osaka. You can see the effort put into the 2D environments and images that are present in the game, which applies to the detail in the lighting during the morning, afternoon and night segments, the designs of the urban areas and landmarks, and the immense work put into making each boss fight a different experience from the last. Surprisingly enough, the game actually has cutscenes present throughout the story, which range from panning scenery to dynamic sequences that showcase each of the special bosses. My only complaint with the game's design is that the demons that you encounter in the game lack any sort of sprite animations in battle, since Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey for the DS had animated demon sprites. In exchange for the lack of demon battle sprite animations, we did end up with a colorful and simple presentation that manages to set up the mood for each scene.
Devil Survivor 2 has proven how minor tweaks done to elements from its predecessor can create a big difference in the overall experience. Both story and gameplay succeed in adding new surprises to both veterans and newcomers alike, and the new intense moments are a nice welcome to the series. Having different options in the game will grant you different endings and outcomes, so you will always have a reason to go back to the game. While the game is lacking on certain aspects, it manages to make everything work with the style that it presents. If you have been in the mood for a strategy RPG that takes place within an urban setting, you might want to survive playing through Devil Survivor 2.
8.5 — Great. 8s are impressive efforts within their genre with a few noticeable problems holding them back. Won't astound everyone, but it's worth your time and cash.
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