Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner 2 – Raidou Kuzunoha vs. King Abaddon Review for PlayStation 2 (PS2)

Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner 2 – Raidou Kuzunoha vs. King Abaddon Review for PlayStation 2 (PS2)

Summon a Good Time

The Shin Megami Tensei series (or MegaTen for short) has garnered a huge fan following in the US, in no small part due to the success of the blockbuster Persona series. But the world of MegaTen encompasses more than this highly-successful franchise, including the latest entry in the moody Devil Summoner series.

Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner 2 - Raidou Kuzunoha vs. King Abaddon screenshot

Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner 2 takes place shortly after the events of the first game (released in 2006), again following the exploits of Raidou Kuzunoha the 14th. For the uninitiated, Raidou Kuzonoha the 14th is a spirited warrior who has a dual identity. By day he is a police inspector/student with a regular name, but by night he takes on the Raidou alter-ego to battle and summon demons, saving the world from its ultimate destruction. If you haven’t played the first Devil Summoner game, don’t worry; you’re not really missing a whole lot. There are a few nods to the original story and a few extras if you still have your save file. Aside from that, this is a great game for those new to this sub-series.

The story this time revolves around the balance of luck in the universe. Sure, it sounds a little ludicrous at first, but as with any other RPG worth its salt, there is plenty more under the surface. Throw in an ambiguous missing person and some serious demonic involvement, and you’ve definitely got yourself an engaging story with plenty of twists, turns, and memorable characters.

Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner 2 - Raidou Kuzunoha vs. King Abaddon screenshot

The trouble is, however, the story moves very slowly. It will take several hours to know what is really going on, and if you are a fan of instant action, this game will definitely bore you in the beginning. I found myself really questioning the value of this game by hour five, but the action picked up soon after, and by hour ten I was totally engrossed. The pacing is definitely slower than the latest Persona entry, though, so if you are just coming off of that tile, you may want to curb your expectations just a little before heading into Devil Summoner 2.

As good as the story may be, the real centerpiece of this game has to be the gameplay. The game ditches the turn-based system of other titles in the MegaTen series, instead going for a semi-active battle system similar to that seen in the Star Ocean series. The main character can use both sword and gun attacks in rapid succession with no real limit, and he can also chain these standard physical attacks together in rapid-succession for combo attacks.

Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner 2 - Raidou Kuzunoha vs. King Abaddon screenshot

In addition to these regular attacks, you can also summon demons. These demons are contained in little vials, and up to two at a time may be summoned in battle to help you engage your enemies. These demons are not just handed to you, though. Your character must visit an alternate demon world from time to time and try to recruit demons to fight for your cause through the power of negotiation.

Once you launch into a battle, you will have the opportunity to speak to the demons with whom you are about to engage. Negotiations depend on two main things: level and dialogue. If you aren’t a high enough level, the demon won’t even talk to you, but if you are, you will need to respond to some questions about your intentions in order to sway the demon over to your side. Most low-level demons only want a little bit of your lifeforce and some Yen in order to become bound to you. But at higher levels, you will need to surrender more of yourself, as well as some specialty items to get higher level demons.

Using these demons in battle makes up the small turn-based component of the game. You can summon two demons at the start of the battle. When you summon these demons, they can act freely and just attack the foe you are trying to deal with using physical attacks similar to your own. However, if you want to use a demon’s special abilities, you will have to bring up a sub-menu and use some of your own magical power in order to facilitate the attack. In this way, the game implements some turn-based elements, which vary the game nicely.

Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner 2 - Raidou Kuzunoha vs. King Abaddon screenshot

One good thing about the battle system is that it is quite complex and is always evolving. As you gather and recruit new demons, you will gain access to different powers that you can use strategically to incapacitate your foes. Conversely, as you yourself level up, you will gain access to special weapons and armor that unlock your own potential. The battle system is ridiculously deep, and constantly gaining new demons and abilities definitely made grinding a breeze in this title.

Visually, Devil Summoner 2 is not that great, and most of the issues with this title stem from the fact that it was released on the aging PlayStation 2 hardware. Character models are generally nice, but there are some shuddering issues as well as low levels of detail. One thing I do have to commend the visuals on, though, is the way they bring the high atmosphere of the game to life. This title takes place in both a historic era and a demonic realm, and bringing both of these elements to life using different color palettes, character models, and modifying subtle elements of the environment is an impressive feat indeed.

As far as sound is concerned, this title is a mixed bag. On one hand, you have the music. The score for this game is absolutely wonderful, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there is a soundtrack released for this game eventually. It is quite varied, and each stage/character/level has its own unique theme, most of which are nice to listen to.

On the other hand, however, you have the voiceover, which actually doesn’t exist. Not having any kind of voiceover for a game released in today’s modern gaming landscape just doesn’t feel right. While there have been plenty of MegaTen games released without voiced dialogue, the series really upped the ante with the Persona sub-series, which did have voiceover, and I can’t imagine why they would want to go backwards with this title. Although I don’t mind the scrolling dialogue in regular conversation scenes, it makes animated cutscenes feel a little stiff, particularly in the opening montages.

Overall, I have to say that Devil Summoner 2 is a surprising title. Though I was expecting a more modern-feeling title, complete with voiceovers and plenty of action, in the end, the subtle and moody elements of this title won me over. Though its not the fastest-paced or action-infused title you’ve ever seen, Devil Summoner 2 is a great RPG with an engaging story and a superb battle system that is a credit to the MegaTen series.

PS2-level graphics are fairly good, but cutscenes are a little on the bland side, and there are some technical issues largely prevalent due to the aging hardware. 4.4 Control
Controls are easy to use, and shifting between the active and turn-based elements is a breeze. 4.1 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The score is beautiful, but the absence of a voiceover really brings the audio level down. Silent cutscenes feel antiquated and boring. 4.0 Play Value
The story takes awhile to get going, and the absence of a voiceover can make some scenes awkward, but overall this is a fun game to play, and the battle system will keep you coming back for more. 4.1 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • Massively upgraded battle system: Advancements to the battle mechanics include a MAG balancing system, dodge and hide abilities, and the ability to command two demons in combat. Use the retooled Weapon Alchemy system to create new swords with unique special attacks.
  • Deeper demon integration: Demon negotiation returns with more than twice the number of demons to attempt to recruit to your side. Create more powerful demons through fusion and skill transfer. Control two demons in battle and choose from more tactical options.
  • Phenomenal creative team: The rich environment of this Taisho-era Japan comes to life with the character designs of Kazuma Kaneko and the musical score of Shoji Meguro.

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