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Review: Devil Survivor Overclocked

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Baka survivor.

Devil Survivor Overclocked has certainly seen a rocky release here in Europe, finally landing in the laps of desperate Atlus fans well over a year after the rest of the world. What's more, the eventual launch was hampered with negative press regarding a list of bugs and errors that frequent the European port exclusively. Ghostlight sure haven't had the best of experiences, that much is certain.

The patch is still yet to hit the Nintendo servers, but the game is far from unplayable. After a couple of weeks jamming in time to play this during the daily commute, I believe it's about time to put it down, take a step back and perhaps even write some words about the game.

It might be a little rough around the edges, but this is a game worth checking out.

Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor Overclocked (3DS)
Developer: Atlus
Publisher:
Atlus/Ghostlight
Release date: August 23, 2011 (NA), September 1, 2011 (JP), March 29, 2013 (EU)
MSRP: $39.99

Devil Survivor Overclocked begins with the protagonist, along with his two friends Atsuro and Yuzu, obtaining strange devices known as COMPs from another friend. While they are trying to work out just why they've been given the devices, they discover that they possess the power to summon demons, predict the future and all sorts of other weird things. Most notably, the protagonist notices that everyone has a death clock, meaning he can see how many days they have left to live. After they become trapped within a quarantine zone, they end up having to fight with demons just to stay alive.

While the biggest draw for this game is more than likely coming from its series history and publisher, fans of the tactical RPG genre will certainly have their interest piqued. There have been a few tactics games on the 3DS so far, but games like Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars just didn't satisfy the desire for a good Nintendo outing on the new handheld. What is most interesting is not that it’s a competent tactical RPG, but rather that it shakes up the existing formula in such a way to make battles very intense.

Playable characters are allowed to take up to two demons into battle, each of which will have their own stats, strengths, weaknesses and skills to offer to the user. These two demons and their human leader form a three-member squad, and you can eventually bring four of these into battle with you. While you'll likely be using duplicates of some demons early on in the game, you'll soon be hunting out the rare ones for their abilities. As there are so many abilities available, having access to as many as possible across different squads will only help your chances.

There are some abilities, like the very useful Demon Speed, that effect only the human that possesses the demon that knows the ability. Others, such as the healing spell Charm, can be used on other individuals or whole squads, providing they are within a certain range of the demon using it. You'll likely end up with each squad having access to abilities like Demon Speed, but you can start being more selective with what abilities you choose to bring in to battles if they can affect other squads. Being able to use these abilities regardless of whether you have entered battle or not with that party means that it's always going to be something worth perfecting. You can also learn abilities by defeating certain enemies using the Crack Skill option in battles, so you'll seen have a large catalogue of these to choose from.

Demons won't just join your party, rather you must attend an auction and buy them for use in battle. They don't seem to mind fighting other demons for you so long as you give them that initial payment, but always feel kind of mean when I buy the services of a demon just to fuse it with another. I'm sure that there's a morality issue here, but as long as you end up with a kickass monster that outclasses all the enemy monsters, who cares!

Outside of battles you'll find yourself hopping between different locations in Tokyo to initiate conversations or to find another battle to fight in. It's very similar to a visual novel in this respect, as you're given plenty of dialogue between art of participating characters, as well as the odd decision to make here and there. The game does a great job of pointing you in the right direction if you just want to race through the story, but you may find yourself struggling if you don't participate in non-story battles every so often. These won't expire either, so you can continue to rack up experience for as long as you feel it is necessary. Repeating the same battles isn't ideal, however, as the monsters won't change until you do some of the story missions. If the monsters don't change, you won't have any new skills to learn via Skill Crack. If you just want pure experience, then sure, why not?

The music is certainly an interesting point to comment on, as while some music is fun and catchy, there are also some really terrible tracks that sound like they've been ripped from a MIDI website. It also sounds incredibly compressed, something I believe is a remnant of the original DS version of this game. You would think that the quality could be upped a little with all that space on the 3DS version, but there you go. The battle theme is a really good tune to get you nicely pumped up, but it's probably the worst offender of sounding like a bad quality audio clip.

The English dubbing is certainly inoffensive, with characters like Atsuro and Haru having good, believable voices. However, I do find that Yuzu, who is a main character, has a really irritating voice that is typical of most English-voiced female anime characters. It's pretty uninspiring, which is a shame when Atsuro's voice works pretty well. Weirdly, the audio seems a little out of balance. The voicing seems to be of a decent volume, but most of the music, especially during battles, seems way too quiet.

One of the most disappointing areas of Devil Survivor Overclocked is with its art, as the absolute mismatch in demon designs really brings the game down. The human characters, clearly designed by Suzuhito Yasuda of Durarara!! and Yozakura Quartet fame, look really good, having had plenty of time dedicated to being perfected and refined. Some of the demons look pretty cool, but it's very obvious that their art was done by several different people. Some are very 3D looking, some are cartoony, and some are just plain confusing to understand. Sure, it won't affect actual gameplay, but you would certainly expect a higher bar of quality for a game in such a popular series.

What baffles me about the 3DS re-release is that there is barely any usage of 3DS technology. I've found only a handful of screens will give you 3D when you turn up the slider, meaning it both looks and feels like a regular DS game. Overclocked boasts more demons than the original game, as well as an eighth day (compared to the seven in the original games), so there certainly is some new content locked away in the game cart, but reading that it also has higher resolution art just makes me wonder how it looked originally. 

Of course, it wouldn't be a complete review without mentioning some of the unfortunate EU bugs and issues. Some are very minor, in particular that some of the demons still contain underscores between both parts of their names (for example Moh_Shuvuu), where there has been an error pulling the names from the game code. One game breaking bug is completely unavoidable, as it only occurs in the auction and there is no way to see it coming as it involves hidden stats.

One of the most irritating involves the Summon skill, which allows you to swap one of your knocked out demons during battle for one in your reserves. Imagine having a 3v3 Pokémon battle with a friend, but you had an ability that let you swap one of your knocked out Pokémon for one in your box, without having to give up your attack. It's an extremely useful ability, and unfortunately the game will freeze up if you try and use it. Luckily it will eventually unfreeze itself, just be prepared for about five minutes of waiting around while resisting the temptation to switch your game off. If you're playing the EU version, be sure to save frequently.

There is so much to be desired from the art, the voicing and the music, not to mention getting a patch for all these bugs. Saying the game was rough around the edges earlier on is certainly a nice way of putting it, but don't worry all that much about the negatives if you enjoy this particular genre of games. Hidden beneath these nasties is a really fun and genuinely exciting tactical RPG, just be fully prepared for what is in store.

7.0 -- Good (This game could have been destined for greatness, but it was held back by some unfortunate flaws. While some may not enjoy it, fans of the genre will definitely have a blast.)


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Devil Survivor Overclocked reviewed by Chris Walden

7

GOOD

Solid and definitely has an audience. There could be some hard-to-ignore faults, but the experience is fun.
How we score:  The Japanator reviews guide

 
 
 

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Chris Walden
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