One of my all-time favorite games for the DS was 2009’s Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor. True to form for the SMT series, the game revolved around a group of young people who become embroiled in an otherworldly conflict. In the first game, characters used special DS-shaped devices called COMPs that could be used to summon demons. When you were a demon tamer, you would also gain the ability to see how many days someone had left to live. Events in the game could either increase or decrease the amount of days a chosen character had left, so it was up to you to make the right decisions and survive until the bitter end of the crisis. The game featured all of the tropes you might expect from a JRPG, but it added several modern twists to the formula. Demon collecting, social missions, and branching character growth made it a game that JRPG fans just couldn’t miss.
Devil Survivor 2 features much of the same structure and tropes as the first game. Players will again be in command of a gang of three young people who find themselves unwittingly at the center of an occult crisis. Blackouts, lockdowns, and shady non-governmental organizations all play roles here, and the story gets complex very quickly. The game does assume some familiarity with the SMT universe, and doesn’t really go into depth about where the demons came from or how demon taming actually works. You simply have to accept the rules of the universe and enjoy the ride from there. If this is your first time with an SMT game, be warned that these games are all very text-heavy, and it’s not uncommon to flip through text for ten or more minutes between battles.
Though the structure is almost the same, there are some key differences in the story this time around. COMPs no longer exist, and our new heroes use their smartphones to summon and manage demons. The countdown clocks have also been replaced, and threatening situations are now delivered via updates to a website that posts predictive video clips of your friends’ deaths minutes before they actually happen. It’s sort of like a morbid Facebook-meets-YouTube thing. (If you’re guessing that the game is using this fictional website to make some kind of statement on our hyper-connected world, you’re absolutely right.) Like many JRPGs, the story gets a bit preachy at times, but if you’ve ever played an SMT game, you know this is par for the course.
Much like the original game, the story branches off in several directions, and your actions and decisions will determine not only key events in the game, but also who lives and who dies. You have to think about everything you do in the game, and if you don’t play it smart you can get yourself into a very tough spot fairly quickly. However, smart players will recognize when they are heading down a losing path and take one of the game’s few cues to get out before they are totally screwed.
The battle system is nearly identical to the one in the first game, relying on your ability to collect, equip, and create demons with the largest amount of elemental strengths and the fewest amount of weaknesses. Most of the demons in the game will be immediately familiar to players of the original, but as you progress you will see at least a few new faces on the demon roster. I would have liked to have seen a little bit more variety here, as collecting the same old demons feels a bit cheap at first, and using the same old attacks is a bit of a letdown. However, the battle system from the first game still feels relevant and modern, despite being recycled three years later.
Visuals are also on par with Devil Survivor, although the sequel boasts more animated plot scenes than the original. However, in-game visuals, even down to demon animations and NPC silhouettes, are completely unchanged. This is also a bit of a disappointment, as I would expect completely new assets to be produced for a high-profile sequel like this. The lack of production value is a bit sad, especially when the game itself is so good. It deserves to have as much new content as possible, and, unfortunately, that doesn’t translate to the visuals.
However, the game’s soundtrack is one area where attention and care was given. Devil Survivor had a rockin’ J-Pop fusion sound going for it, but if you are expecting more of the same from the sequel, you will be surprised. The music in Devil Survivor 2 is much more moody, and there’s a lot more variety this time around. The songs are still quite catchy, and you’ll definitely be humming battle and dialog themes for weeks.
Devil Survivor 2 is a great sequel to an awesome game. Really good JRPGs are few and far between these days, and the DS was the platform of choice for these titles. The only real complaint I have about Devil Survivor 2 is that it plays a little too closely to its highly-successful predecessor. The nearly identical setup, battle system, and copy-and-pasted visuals will definitely annoy those who have fond memories of the original and are expecting something completely new. However, if you can forgive these grievances, you are in for a wild ride with a compelling story, plenty of demons to collect and create, and branching paths that allow for plenty of replayability.
I can’t imagine this game not being successful, but hopefully when the time comes for Devil Survivor 3 (I refuse to believe this won’t become a long-running franchise) there will be a bit more new content for fans to discover. Simply adding new characters and story elements doesn’t make for an amazing second game, and it would make for a truly disastrous third entry. I’m willing to overlook some of these flaws this time around, but I don’t think fans will be as forgiving if it happens again. The ball’s in your court, Atlus.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.5 Graphics
Visuals look good, but fans may be disappointed at the amount of recycled content from the first game. 3.8 Control
Button-based controls are intuitive and menus are easy to navigate. 4.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The soundtrack is amazing and features a wide variety of tunes. 4.0 Play Value
The story is long and branching, and will take at least 20 hours the first time you play through. 3.9 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid
|2.5 – 2.9 = Average
|3.5 – 3.9 = Good
|4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor
|3.0 – 3.4 = Fair
|4.0 – 4.4 = Great
|5.0 = The Best