Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 Record Breaker Review (Nintendo 3DS)
Originally making its way to the U.S. in 2012, Devil Survivor 2 continued the theme carried out in its predecessor. Many prominent features of the original Devil Survivor made their return, from the system of choice that takes you down certain paths with certain party members to the in-depth recruiting of demons and adapting of their skills to help your characters survive in battle. Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 Record Breaker includes the full version of the original released game, but with the added feature of an entirely new campaign that takes place immediately following the events of the original story. There are a lot of things that are recycled and a handful of things I would’ve loved to have seen executed better, but it’s still a ton of quality gameplay shoved into one game.
In case you missed it the first time it came around, SMT: Devil Survivor 2 Record Breaker follows Japanese citizens as they attempt to survive a crisis in tandem with the appearance of demons. The main protagonist is a silent high school student whose actions and choices are decided by the player. It all starts when the character’s friends introduce him to Nicaea, a phone app which shows the user videos portraying how people bound to the user by fate will die. Before you know it, the protagonist and his friends are up to their neck in demons. They learn that by defeating the demons, they can form contracts with them through Nicaea. They use this newfound power to survive the crisis and prevent their deaths and the deaths of their friends.
Players familiar with the original Devil Survivor will feel right at home here. The battles play out on a grid, and up to four characters, each with two demons at their disposal, form mini-parties which can moved around the battlefield in a turn-based strategy manner. When an enemy is engaged, the battle turns to a first person perspective in which each character and demon in the fight is allowed an action, with “extra turns” possible for doing things like landing critical hits or using a spell which attacks an enemy’s weak element. The skill crack system is here as well to allow characters to target an enemy with a certain skill, kill that enemy and learn that skill.
Off the battlefield, the Demon Auction, Demon Fusion and Demon Compendium options return. In the auction, you’ll invest in demons you’ve defeated before with currency earned in battles or “macca.” Fusion allows you to take demons in your employ and fuse them into a more powerful entity. The compendium allows you to stock a demon in its current state and be able summon that demon at that state at any time for use in fights or fusions. Truthfully, nothing has changed in the way this game executes from the original Devil Survivor. It offers great depth of customization for your squads and skills, but outside of a few minor features such as a bargain period in the auction, it’s an entirely recycled system. Even a lot of the demon sprites are recycled. It’s a good system, but the stark lack of change is a little boring.
In Record Breaker, there are a few things that are notably new and interesting outside of the new campaign and a new character that appears within it. The first is that all of the characters are almost fully voiced. Every line is delivered with the exception of handful that are simply reactionary lines occurring within battles. The characters are voiced well and do a great job of adding emotion to a story that’s full of intense and trying times (though I must admit, hearing Daichi scream in fear so much near the start of the game is a little annoying). Another option present is a casual (“Blessed”) difficulty. Anyone who has played Shin Megami Tensei games should be aware that these games tend to be challenging and sometimes overwhelming. The “Blessed” difficulty addresses that concern and allows a little more padding for those who might be off put by the level of frustration present in these games.
One interesting aspect of the Shin Megami Tensei games is choice, and it is certainly prevalent here. Every event moves time forward in a limited window, and when a death video appears, the race is on to rescue your friends and allies in a timely manner. Not arriving at the scene or making the wrong choices in determining your friendship with someone could cause you to lose them forever; it gives a real sense of distress to the situation. The first scenarios are easy to solve and guide you gently into it, but later ones will have you struggling to use your time wisely and make the right call.
Even further, choice will determine how the story diverges. In both campaigns, you will find that certain choices will put you at odds with the beliefs of your allies. Failure to reconcile could see you fighting against characters that were once your friends. This, of course, also leads to different endings based on what characters you side with and the choices you make near the end of the game. Between keeping characters alive and what paths you take in both campaigns, there are several ways the story could play out.
Choice is a huge part of Devil Survivor’s overall story progression, but the second campaign begins based upon one particular ending in the first story arc. There’s no option to complete the first arc and transfer the results over to the second campaign. That means that pretty much all choices that may have led to a path not in line with the second story arc are negated in favor of a canon ending. This might be considered minor, but from a developer that puts so much stock into choice, it’s disappointing that there’s no connectivity or interaction between two campaign arcs set on the same game. However, I must say that I appreciate that it doesn’t start you back at level one, but also gives a meaningful reason to not let you keep all your skills and demons from the end of the first campaign.
Devil Survivor 2 Record Breaker has a good, lengthy story built on a solid system. The choices you make and the paths you take give a game that’s already pretty long a great deal of replayability. Shin Megami Tensei continues to produce decent offerings in a market that doesn’t see a lot of good JRPGs anymore. If you’re looking to reacquaint and extend your experience with Devil Survivor 2 then the new arc included in this game will satisfy. That said, those who may have missed or passed over this entry on its first outing will find a lot of game here for their money.
This review is based on a downloaded copy of Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 Record Breaker provided by the publisher for Nintendo 3DS.