Author: Heath Flor
Editor: Howard Ha
Publish Date: Tuesday, February 28th, 2012
Originally Published on Neoseeker (http://www.neoseeker.com)
Article Link: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Games/Reviews/Shin_Megami_Tensei_Devil_Survivor_2/
Copyright Neo Era Media, Inc. - please do not redistribute or use for commercial purposes.
Atlus fans were treated to a new game in the Megami Tensei series titled Devil Survivor published for the DS in 2009. It met with great success, and had many calling it a welcome addition to the Megami Tensei lineup, which includes the ever popular Persona series. It didn't take long for Atlus to create a more robust experience with Devil Survivor Overclocked for the 3DS, and to get started on a sequel titled Devil Survivor 2.
Released last July in Japan, Devil Survivor 2 has once again been receiving welcoming praise, as well as slightly better sales figures than its predecessor. By combining tactical RPG and turn based RPG elements, Atlus has been able to provide fans with a solid RPG, with a little bit of something for everyone.
Not a true sequel, Devil Survivor 2 follows a group of three high school friends who must befriend demons in order to help save the entire country from an invading demon force. Though the story is different, nearly the entire set of gameplay elements are copied over from the original title.
The game starts out with your friend Daichi giving you a link to a popular website making its rounds across the campus. After joining, you receive an e-mail with a clip showing a train derailing in the station, killing you and your friend. Shortly thereafter an earthquake rocks the city and the scene you saw on the video clip comes to life in horrific fashion. Instead of dying though, you team up with demons who make a pact to keep you both alive as well as a third friend you ran into at the train station named Lo.
The pact allows you to team up with demons to fight other demons and spirits led by a group called the Septentrions trying to take over Japanese cities. It's a good thing there's a few nice demons out there willing to help out, as there are plenty with the Septentrions that want to see you die.
You and your friends have only seven days to save Japan from the brink of disaster. During this time frame you have the ability to visit various regions in order to get a piece of the story, and/or increase your social link with one of your friends (which nets you more battle skills). Every stop along the way adds 30 minutes to your clock though, and must be used wisely.
Battles also use up time, but after completing them you have the option to revisit them to participate in Free Battles. These allow you to replay levels for chances to gain more experience, skills, and money, but won't subtract from your allotted week. It is during these you will gain most of your skills and character levels thanks to the grind sessions necessary in order to advance.
The gameplay is rather simple in that it follows the basic rules of strategy RPGs for the movement, and those of turn-based RPGs for the actual battles. You begin each battle with the opportunity to place your teams in designated squares, keeping in mind the target goal of each fight. The goals change for each one; many consist of merely wiping out the opposing forces or escaping the map without losing a team.
Each team is made up of three characters, two of which are demons. The center member is the leader, and knocking them out will take out the entire team. This is true for both enemies and allies alike. Taking out the lead isn't always the wisest thing to do as you won't have the ability to earn extra XP and money (awarded by defeating the supporting team members before the leader).
Every member has Command Skills, Passive Skills, and an Auto Skill. Each of these is assignable in the main menu, where you have to choose wisely as the teams share their skills from the same set list. Once a skill is assigned, you can not have another team utilize it. The only drawback here is the Demon Skills -- which mirror available character skills -- are not able to be changed. This is a bit of a bummer, but a necessary evil to corral players from becoming too God-like with their teams.
The battles are straight forward: you have the ability to move, attack, use a command skill, or end the turn. Each member of the team has the option to use a command skill prior to the team's turn ending, so use them wisely. Each skill requires you to sacrifice HP or MP, which encourages caution.
Once you begin an attack, or are attacked by an opposing team, the view changes to a first person perspective and the turn-based elements kick in. Again you have the opportunity to attack or use a command skill, as well as the option to Guard the enemy's attack. By striking the enemy's weakness you also gain the opportunity for an extra turn, which comes in handy for dispatching demons quickly. Just be careful, as the opposing team has the same opportunity and can wipe out an unsuspecting team with ease.
Of course a major element of the game is collecting demons and creating strong teams with them. To do this you must conquer demons who aren't already in a contract, earn them by acquiring skills, unlocking them when leveling, or making them by using the demon fusion system.
The demon auctions are an excellent way to collect demons you don't already have. Rather than hunting them down you can purchase them for a few Macca (DS2's currency). Bidding takes place in a rapid 5 second session between yourself and up to three other NPCs. If you don't wish to take your chances, you also have the option to 'buy now' at an inflated price.
Frequent bidders on the demon auctions will be treated to special one-off demon selections. You will have to choose carefully which demon you want to bid on from a various selection, as you can only bid on one per auction and they disappear once the auction is over. These are a bit tougher to win than your normal demon auction, and also offer some of the rarest demons available in the game.
Another way to collect rare demons is by combining them through the demon fusion feature. Once again, you will find many demons not obtainable through normal means. This can be quite challenging if you don't have a guide to assist you, as there are quite a few duds to be had as well.
The graphics are excellent, and look great on the DS. While there's not much wiggle room on the platform and you won't see PSP-like graphics, Atlus does a wonderful job of pushing the engine and hardware available. I wouldn't be too surprised if it appears on the 3DS later this year in another "Overclocked" version though, as there's still some room to grow outside of the DS limitations.
As usual in an Atlus title, the music is very catchy and upbeat. I will admit it's not for everyone, and anyone who finds Jpop influenced techno funk annoying is going to turn the volume down. There's no harm in doing so, as the music is really the only audio worth listening to. Fans who prefer their own selection of music won't be missing anything if they cranked up their iPod instead of the game's music.
Devil Survivor 2 unfortunately suffers from some significant issues which may hamper your overall enjoyment of the game.
First, dedicating 30 minutes to an hour of your time to a battle, losing, and have to restart all over (dialogue and preparation included, the former of which can't be skipped) makes them very tedious. This is something common to many strategy RPGs, and I'd love to see it gone. Some games offer players the option to save at key points, which helps to eliminate the issue, and is something Devil Survivor 2 could have benefitted from.
Ludicrous difficulty spikes is another big one. Some battles are smooth and go over fairly easy, but then there's quite a few which are incredibly difficult to overcome without grinding on Free Battles. I don't mind putting dozens of hours into a game, but I need a reward for my patience. Putting in twice as much time into grinding just to get past an escape mission is downright frustrating. Unfortunately in the end you feel like you're only going through the motions in order to advance the story, which isn't very fun for anyone.
Though a little rough around the edges, Devil Survivor 2 is another good entry into the Megami Tensei series, and one which shouldn't be passed up. While not a true sequel, it captures the essence of the original title and delivers a solid tactical RPG. A few fans might be disappointed there's no real drastic changes here other than the story and characters, but the gameplay found in Devil Survivor 2 is solid, and well worth a playthrough regardless.
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