Gaming Review: Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2

Tokyo, 2012. Our main character is finishing some exams, when his best friend tells him about a site that can predict peoples deaths. Later that day, they get a message from the site that they signed up to, with a movie clip showing their gruesome deaths in a train crash…and moments later, the train hurdles into the station, smashing through the platform. If that’s not an interesting start, then I don’t really know what is.

Thankfully, the whole game keeps up this level of pacing, apart from a few odd instances where it dips in favour of character development, which is no bad thing by all means. But, well, the story starts off pretty simple; using the power of a demon summoning application, you need to find out just what’s happening to your country. From there, things are very player-oriontated. Events with different people appear on the world map, and it’s up to you to pick which events you want to view. Some of the characters have a full-blown story, complete with their own routes and endings, so choosing wisely is a must. Making a bad choice can often result in you permanently loosing a character from your roster.

The fighting is often rather simple, surprisingly. Characters engage in a wonderfully drawn 2D scene, where your team of demons fights the opposing team in a manner of turn-based moves, with the characters/demons of higher agility tend to go before the others. It sounds complicated here, so just view the below screenshot to help understand what I meant.

The game uses the classical physical/magical split, with your standard attack being free to use, but any fancy physical moves cost HP. The same doesn’t really apply to magical moves, with all moves costing MP, but with how strong the magical moves actually are in this game, you won’t find yourself complaining. A well thought out magical user could be worth two poorly thought out physical abusers, if that gives an indication. All of the characters have a pre-set focus, with some of them being geared towards magic, some being geared towards physical, and some of them being geared towards the middle ground as an offensive tank. The main character, however, is completly up to the player to direct, so he can thankfully become anything you want him to….even though for the above reasons, most players gear him towards magic.

Characters move around the battlefield on the old fashioned grid, and even though there are fancy changes and bright colours, and a few whiz-bang elements to it, that doesn’t change the fact that it’s the same old thing. Is that a bad thing? I couldn’t say. It’s entirely up to you to decide if you like grid based battles, or if you hate them.

The battling system aside, you’re left with the characters. As I touched on above, the characters are a pivitol force in the game, driving the story forward in whichever direction you’ve decided to take it in. There’s all sorts of characters, from the cliche tsundere to the not-so cliche evil badass in a trenchcoat. It’s rather easy to pick out the characters you prefer, and all of them often have a reason to be used…if you ignore the fact that not using a particular character as your magical attacker is kinda weird, considering they have by far the highest magic and agility.

All in all, the characters are well used, with them covering for the fact that they’ve used the odd cliche rather skillfully by just throwing more and more characters on top of it. It’s a game which encourages using your favourite characters, and that’s often the most important thing. The more important characters (Daichi, Yamato, Ronaldo, Daichi2 and Anguished One) all have their own routes, with the cast neatly fitting into slots to go with. And picking which route to go down isn’t as simple as merely picking your favourite character, there’s actually a lot of neat philosophical drama and discussion to go around.

On top of all the battling, character development and story plot twists, there’s a few features which are essentially the icing on the cake. With a fate system where you “rank up” your relationships with your favourite characters in order to gain in-battle bonuses or even rare and unique demons, getting everyone to level 5 is hard work. When you’ve done that, there’s a huge roster of custom drawn demons to pull from, with each of them being classical demon names and appearing at one point or another in the history of this world. The drawings for the demons are often delightful to see, and even though towards the later game all you want is demons with the right abilities, there’s an oddly addictive collect-em-all style to it. You can fuse them by combining two of your existing ones together, or you can buy them in an underground demon auction.You can even pay a large sum of money to call back an existing demon from your catalogue, if you so please.

There’s plently to do in this DS game that’s a spiritual sequel to one of the best DS RPG’s around, and it’s a pleasant surprise to see it come in what i’d expected to be the end of the NDS’s lifecycle. The game is easily worth taking a look at for NDS owners, and i’d imagine that everyone else could use their black arts to have a look at the game even without an NDS.

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