Shin Megami Tensei first got its start back in 1992 on the Super Famicom in Japan. While its traditional RPG style mixed with demon catching/collecting proved to be a popular formula, as the series went on the developers began to experiment with the game’s mechanics. Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2, which was originally released on the Nintendo DS, sought to implement turned based strategy mechanics into the mix. Now, after much delay, the 3DS remake, Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 Record Breaker, is finally here. How does it hold up after such a long development time? There is only one way to find out!
First things first, lets talk about the story. The game puts you in control of a silent protagonist and his group of friends. After being convinced by your friends to sign up on Nicaea, a mysterious website that claims to show you videos of people you share a bond with before they die, you witness a video of you and all of your friends dying due to a train crash. Shortly after you and your friends see the video, the train crash happens, yet you all somehow survive. While nearly dying may seem bad enough, the tremor that caused the train wreck seems to have somehow allowed demons to enter the human world, and it’s up to you and the friends you meet along the way to find a way to stop them using the demon summoning tools provided to you by Nicaea.
The story is pretty deep and engaging, and the game does a great job of making you care about the characters, as you learn about them through talking with them. The game is very dialog heavy, though, so players who enjoy seeing a story told through cut scenes may find all the text in the game overwhelming. For those who have played the original game on the DS, there is a brand new story to play through, and it can be accessed straight away once you boot up the game, which is a huge plus for veterans looking to dive into something new straight away.
While the story is enjoyable, the gameplay is just as entertaining when you get right to it. The game works on a time based system, and every action you take on the over world (talking with team members or fighting key battles for instance) will take up 30 minutes of your day. Some battles are available that will not take up your time, and these are vital when it comes to trying to level up.
When you select a battle, the game becomes a turn based, tactical RPG, and you’ll be moving your demon tamers carefully across the battle arena as you engage with demons or people in fights. Depending on the situation, the game will give you different conditions for winning the battle, and sometimes you may have to flee to a certain area or defend a person in addition to the standard defeat all the enemies to win goal. There are also plenty of spells that you can use on the battle arena that can help you or hinder your opponent, and you can even set targets for your team members to attack so they can learn new spells and abilities.
Upon attacking an enemy from the battlefield, the game enters the familiar first person; turn based battle system that is found in almost every RPG today. You will usually face off with three enemies at a time, with the demon in the middle being the commander of the group. While you can single out the commander and focus your attacks on him to defeat all the enemies at once with his demise, sometimes it’s worth attacking the cronies first to get some extra experience or to unlock a new ability for your character.
Like any RPG, you can fight, defend, and use magic to defeat your foes. You can summon up to two demons at once to help you in the fight, and having strong demons with a variety of abilities is the key to victory. Using magic to your advantage can also help, as using magic an enemy is weak to will grant you and extra turn before the battle ends. Landing critical hits can also net you an extra turn, and it’s important to take advantage of these when you can, as a normal battle will only last one turn for each party, and you’ll want to deal as much damage as you can in the quickest time possible. Enemies have the ability to acquire extra turns as well, so battles are rarely boring, and you’ll certainly need to be on your toes.
Sure, winning experience and Macca (the game’s currency) is all well and good, but you wont make it far with the demons you first start out with. Luckily, the Nicaea app on your phone allows you to enter demon auctions, and you can bid on demons to add to your team. Auctions play out as a very short minigames, where you judge the other bidders emotions, and bid an amount you think will win. It’s a fun and simple way to purchase demons, and it makes the game a little more fun than just buying demons with a standard shop system. Sometimes a demon won from an auction may require you to pay extra to join you, so be careful how you spend your macca.
Now that you’ve got a handful of demons, it’s time to head over to the dark cathedral app to fuse demons into even more powerful creatures. By selecting two separate demons, you can fuse them together to get an entirely new demon with new abilities and strengths provided you have the macca and a high enough level to control the new demon. This part of the game is essential to making progress through the game’s exceedingly difficult stages, but thankfully fusing demons is fun and the game encourages you to experiment with different combinations.
When it gets right down to it, Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 Record Breaker is a good time whether you are new to the series or you are a veteran. The inclusion of a brand new story to play through makes this remake a big step up from your standard remake, and you’ll be logging in plenty of hours to complete both stories. While the graphics aren’t mind blowing, the game’s tactics and strategy will pull you into the game’s world. The story is engaging, even if it’s dialog heavy, and the decisions you make as the game goes on become increasingly more difficult, and important to the outcome of the story. On the downside, the music in the game isn’t very memorable, and the game’s extreme difficulty will hurt your enjoyment of the game if turn based tactical RPG’s aren’t your thing. If you’re a fan of the Shin Megami Tensei series, or you want to try a challenging tactical RPG with a Pokémon-esque twist, then I’d recommend picking the game up. If you don’t enjoy tactical RPG’s, or you don’t like dialog heavy stories and plenty of level grinding, then leave this one alone.
PNM Review: Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 Record Breaker
While the game’s difficulty can make you rage at times, gaining strength through demon fusions and clever use of tactics makes the game satisfying to play.