Los Angeles based Atlus U.S.A. has released another Shin Megami Tensei game, Devil Survivor 2, the sequel to the 2009 Nintendo DS tactical role playing game Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor. Devil Survivor 2 makes all around improvements to the handheld series even though a remake of the first title was released on the newer 3DS. However ,the technical upgrades of Overclocked (the 3DS title) are missed in Survivor 2.
SMT: Devil Survivor 2 starts off with you, your friend Daichi, and soon thereafter the buxom La, who are all Japanese high school students. Your friend Daichi shows you an email and phone app from a website foretelling deaths and that’s where things start to get weird. If you have any experience with SMT games, you know they’re all a little weird. The formula is that you get sent an email foretelling death and then you and your friends set out to prevent it, using your devil summoning phone app.
If this were any other Japanese SRPG, Devil Survivor 2 would basically work like a Pokemon/Disgaea hybrid but, it’s not. The Shin Megami Tensei games all have a way of interweaving a mostly ordinary school life with demonology. As such, the conversations you have will alter your relationships with characters and subsequently change the story. In addition to travelling around Japan and collecting demons for seven days, you’ll have to put a good amount of thought into your conversations.
That being said, the real work in this game is the combat and it can be lengthy and difficult at times. Your group of friends and your collected demons will have to fight your way through this adventure. Combat is executed on a grid map with each character able to move within a limited area. Attacks and special commands can be performed on the grid. Once an enemy has been attacked, the screen flips to a three-on-three duel. Each team in the skirmish features a summoner and two demons with their own abilities. However, once the primary enemy is defeated the battle is over.
The combat in Devil Survivor 2 is probably the deepest I’ve seen in a tactical role playing game on a handheld system. Players can get Extra Turns or Double Extra Turns in the battle resulting in almost Capcom-like combos. Players can also decipher enemy skills and, in turn, assign these skills throughout their party. If that weren’t enough, Devil Survivor 2 features a demon fusion system allowing a combining of demons, and the ability to acquire up to 24 demons, by winning demon auctions using the Macca collected in battle.
Devil Survivor 2 features a new story and cast and more demons than its predecessor and is, in almost all ways, better. If you liked the original Devil Survivor 2 gives you more of what you love, including expanded party interaction. Like all Shin Megami Tensei games, Devil Survivor 2 features a crazy narrative and multiple endings. I know we’re all a little sensitive about multiple endings after finishing Mass Effect 3 but, Devil Survivor 2’s culmination should meet your expectations.
The real problem with Devil Survivor 2 is that it probably will have a difficult time winning new fans over. While nearly every SMT game has a compelling narrative, the mechanics and console limitations get in the way of what could have been a genre defining game. The artistic but lo-res art and lack of animations and voicing detract from the immersion and little things like having to use the d-pad for the isometric grid in combat all get in the way of the experience. There are rumors the series is coming to the Vita. If true, here’s hoping Devil Survivor can grow to fit a bigger pair of shoes.
Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 is rated T (Teen) by the ESRB for Alcohol Reference, Blood, Language, Suggestive Themes, Use of Tobacco and Violence.