Thursday, March 1, 2012

S&S Review: Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2


Title: Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2
Format: Nintendo DS
Release Date: February 28, 2012
Publisher: Atlus
Developer: Atlus
Price: $29.99
ESRB Rating: T

Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 is the follow up to the 2009 Nintendo DS title. Fans will draw a direct contrast, however, between this sequel and last year's 3DS remake of the original. In preparation for this review, I played both the 3DS title and the sequel. While there are some drawbacks to offering this entry on a last-gen system, the gameplay additions and tweaks make this a must-play game.



Presentation:
Fans of Devil Survivor are familiar with a dark brooding apocalyptic storyline with heavy religious overtones. The sequel takes the series in a different direction. The DS/3DS inspired Comps are replaced with cell phones (not smartphones) with demon summoning apps. The death clock mechanic is replaced by a soothsaying version of Youtube that e-mails clips of possible death scenarios and disasters. Your characters are not restricted to Tokyo. They will travel to various other locations in Japan such as Osaka and Shibuya. This all contrasts from the story of the first game where characters were confined and desperate to survive. There's very little sense of immediacy in this entry.

The color palette is a bit brighter. The protagonist wears white and is less of an emo-Steve Jobs. The character designs are a bit more cartoony with exaggerated proportions. In particular, I'd call out a girl by the name of Io who makes Yuzu from Devil Survivor 1 look like a tomboy. There's a definite grab at the Tesuya Nomura fans as some of the designs seem informed by Kingdom Hearts.

Animated cutscenes are added which provide a nice break from static artwork conversations. There's no voice acting which is a step back from the 3DS version. Fans will forgive this exclusion, however, as the writing is witty and an excellent take on coming-of-age drama.
Demon artwork and levels are recycled from previous versions which gives a sense of continuity. Some decisions, however, are odd. For example, the character artwork for a demon tamer policeman was displayed when a regular cop gave a line. The salaryman artwork was desperate and unhinged in Devil Survivor. In the sequel, the recycled artwork seems somewhat out of place.


Core Gameplay/Multiplayer:
Underneath the washed up and brightened aesthetics of the first game , the sequel boasts tweaks and additions to the core gameplay. The Fate system is a variation of SMT: Persona's Social Link system. As you get to know the supporting cast of characters better through cutscenes, their Fate level increases. Leveling Fate to level 2 or higher introduces the player to team skill cracks. This new ability makes collecting or cracking skills easier by allowing the player to set a team of characters on one ability. If any member of the team defeats the demon with that ability, the skill is cracked. The mysterious magnetite stat and skill copying is removed from the game. In its place, players can use the rare drop add-ons to set skills on demons. At its heart, however, the objectives are still the same: meet the demons at 3x3 combat and defeat the leader of the team.

The "overworld" map menu system is simplified and only displays timed events and free battles depending on the day and time. The game progresses as the player recives a mission or a death clip and ballpark hints of when and where the disaster or death will take place. It's then up to the player to follow a route to either prevent or ignore the event. With more recruitable characters than the first, the possibilities for story progression and routes have increased.


One thing of note, I managed to trigger a game freeze during battle. I closed the DSi XL halfway while talking to a family member. When I opened it back up, the game was unresponsive. Coincidentally while playing Devil Survivor: Overclocked before the sequel, I managed to crash that game while analyzing data on the battlefield. I'm not sure if its just my bad luck or something present in all copies. Players should, however, save frequently and always after a battle. It's usually helpful when you're trying to get to the right place at the right time and save a playable character.

Final Thoughts:
Devil Survivor 2 is a must-play title for any Megaten fan or turn-based RPG enthusiast. Prior to the Pokemon Black/White 2 announcement, it also seemed to be the last hoorah for the Nintendo DS. There's a different air to the story as it focuses less on desperation and more on fan service. Characters are more cartoony in demeanor and porportions. Oddly enough, they are blended in with artwork from the previous iterations. Despite some aesthetic recycling, however, the core gameplay has enough tweaks and additions to hold gamers' interests.

Final Score = 8.75/10
Twitter: @jeanlucpierite
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