Review: Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2: Record Breaker - The Demons Lay Waste to the Land
Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2: Record Breaker
Japanese RPG, Strategy RPG
Review copy provided by the publisher
Seven days to save your friends. Seven days to rid the world of demons and the mystery behind their appearance. Seven days to save the world from the threat of destruction.
These are the dilemmas your protagonist faces in Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2: Record Breaker, the updated port of the original title for Nintendo DS released in 200.
Before beginning your adventure, you can now choose between Septentriones and Triangulum sections of the game.
[Spoiler Alert: This review contains minor plot spoilers. Continue reading at your own risk.]
The Septentriones is the original story from the DS Devil Survivor 2 that spans seven days, which has been completely re-localized and has full-voice acting added. Triangulum is the brand new story added to the remake. For those playing for the first time, start with Septentriones and then continue to Triangulum.
There are also two difficulty levels: Blessed and Apocalyptic. Blessed is an all new easier mode added on for players who found the original title too difficult at times, while Apocalyptic is the original difficulty.
Players can switch on the fly, which is a mechanic I can appreciate. However, only having two difficulty options throws off the balance a bit, as Blessed can feel a bit easy at times and Apocalyptic can be incredibly punishing.
Going from the Septentriones story mode, naming your character (as with any other Shin Megami Tensei title) is the first order of business after a brief introduction.
A strange phone app called Nicaea is becoming popular among high school students; when you register, it predicts the death of those intertwined with your own fate.
Once Nicaea is booted up on your own phone, you choose the gender of your AI partner-in-crime Tico. Male Tico is a sedate and kind gentleman type, and female Tico is very, very energetic.
Disaster soon strikes and the party is treated to a near death experience as a massive earthquake hits the Tokyo area and derails the train they’re waiting for. Unlike in the death video they received from Nicea that predicts their gruesome deaths, several demons come forth and save them, then challenges the group to a contract battle.
The protagonist, Daichi and Io have been thrust from their relatively carefree lives as third year high school students to the precarious ruined world post natural disaster.
Players have seven days to complete the plot and discover the cause behind the powerful earthquake, as well as discover the true mastermind behind the appearance of demons and other unfolding events in Tokyo.
The Triangulum path continues from the end of Septentriones; you’ll begin with an (optional!) recap of the original Devil Survivor 2 and then dive right into the thick of things starting at about level 20, which is nearly mid-game levels. Players can also carry over certain demons and bonuses from
In this section, your character is the only one who recalls (with plenty of difficulty) the events of the original title and must contend with this as he progresses through the newly Regressed world.
However, during a concert demons attack again and the protagonist, along with the other humans once their memories are restored, must defeat them to form a contract. Finding out why demons are attacking this version of the world becomes the main goal and the party slowly unravels the mystery behind this phenomenon.
Regardless of the section you play, the plot moves forward in a similar manner. Every event you witness (barring “Free Battles”) pushes the clock forward 30 minute, whether it’s a side event or a main story event.
Players must be aware that story events are not marked as such, and that if you wait too long to complete them (ie: complete too many side events without moving the story) your friends can and will die.
However, there are benefits to viewing side events too, as they raise your Fate meter, netting them elemental strengths and other neat bonuses. Thus it’s imperative for players to properly balance between progression and character development.
Even though the no plot event marker sounds brutal, it’s quite easy to keep track of things as long as you actually pay attention to the plot — if you’re not then why bother playing a JRPG in the first place?
Gameplay is a mix of turn-based strategy and the traditional turn-based JRPG combat the Shin Megami Tensei is know for. During a battle, your four party members, demons and enemies all appear in the map. Each ally can have up to two demons summoned in their own individual party.
You can take several actions during a turn in the over-map view including Attack, Move and Summon. Characters can also heal and use other skills that either belong to them or to a member of their demon party.; you can actually use every command once during a single turn.
When you approach an opponent and select Attack, it takes you to the normal turn-based layout, in which allies and foes met out one action during a single round. Sometimes combatants may have the words “Extra Turn” appear above their name, which means they receive a additional attack.
Extra Turns can be automatically granted based on how high a given agility stat is, or randomly awarded to a combatant when they hit an elemental weakness or inflict critical damage.
Of course foes can also approach and Attack you as well if you’re within targeting range, giving them the advantage in Initiative. This is were strategic movement becomes critical in the over-map, as you must take care that your human party isn’t split up and ganged-up on.
The feature of being allowed to keep resetting your actions until the very end of your turn, in case you make a mistake with movement or choosing a skill, is incredibly useful and I appreciated the consideration from the developers in adding that into gameplay.
I do wish that a mechanic allowing you to see the movement and attack range (similar to Fire Emblem Awakening) of each enemy had been implemented as well, since you often must guess or use trial and error to figure that out.
Each demon possesses a set of skills that they can use both during combat and in the over-map. The human characters can share and equip all skills between them, although only one character can equip one skill at a time — this means, for example, that only one person at a time can have Dia equip.
This sounds like a steep impediment in a player’s progress, as humans are limited to a handful of skills from demons and can only equip one of each. However, characters can also acquire skills through the “Skill Break” mechanic.
Skill Break allows characters to mark a particular demon, defeat them and garner their skills. You set the mark at the beginning of any battle by assigning a human to the foe that has the desired skill. That human must be the one to fell that demon; if successful then you gain the skill and can equip it immediately.
There are three types of skills: Command, Passive and Auto. Command skills can be used during and outside of battle by accessing the command menu, Passive skills augment Command skills during battles with certain effects and Auto skills are unique effects that automatically activate at the start of battle.
Using Skill Breaks are simple to grasp at first but make battles quite enjoyable, as they add in both extra incentives and challenge to each battle.
Devil Survivor 2 has a pretty nifty UI that resembles a cellphone, complete with various Apps that feature different in-game functions.
One of these functions is the Demon Auction App, which lets players acquire demons by bidding on them. You compete with other buyers (between one and three) and attempt to outbid them; their estimated bid is displayed before each auction and during the five second decision period you can view their emotional state.
This is important because it determines whether they will overbid, bid as estimated or underbid. Within the five seconds, you choose when you’re ready to bid and select an amount. If you lose, that demon is lost to you but winning nets you the demon. A demon may ask for additional money and if you agree you’ll either receive an item or even money back.
Another vital App is the Cathedral of Shadows. This spiffy function lets you fuse two or more demons together to create a new demon. The “child” inherits skills from the “parent” demons and receives other bonuses as well. You can even add extra skills to them via Add-Ons.
In the form of additional content are special DLC quests, which offer handy benefits for players who choose to purchase them. The first two — a battle geared for beginners needing practice and another that nets you a new demon — are permanently free.
The other quests — including experience, money, rare skills and Add-On aggregation quests — are paid content. Trying them out, I found these missions to be actually quite fun, with each one featuring a unique goal.
I do find the idea of paying for this content a bit jarring, considering that the remake is already $50 at retail. This is DLC that could easily have been provided for free at regular intervals (maybe bi-weekly or such). Another issue is that those willing to pay for the DLC receive a decidedly unfair advantage early in the game, versus players who must grind solely using the in-game Free Battles.
The story is engrossing and written well, with interesting and well-developed characters that push along the plot at a pleasantly brisk pace.
One of my favorite parts of the visuals in this game is the excellent sprite art; well detailed, fluidly animated and adorably retro, seeing them in action during cutscenes are always a delight.
The 2D artwork is a bit more of a polarizing factor, though. Drawn in the ever distinctive style of Suzuhito Yasuda, it certainly has its positive points as well as its flaws.
Personally, I enjoy the very unique look of the characters — guaranteed you won’t see this kind of style anywhere else. However, some of the glaring issues come from the anatomy of the characters, particularly the females and particularly their poorly drawn breasts.
There are occasional errors here and there as well (wonky anatomy scattered around for instance) but seeing a female makes my heart weep at all the anti-gravity boobies floating around.
Despite the aesthetic and DLC complaints, Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2: Record Breaker is an all-around solid JRPG, with great gameplay and an equally great story.
Not to mention that the oodles of extra content and updates to this version would be worth a second buy for fans who purchased the original, let alone any newcomers to the series.