February 28th, 2012
A mysterious website Nicaea is said to foretell the deaths of those who join, complete with videos as proof. It would be easy to dismiss such a hoax, yet the strange predictions are deadly accurate. Truly this cannot be real, many think. The protagonist and his classmates soon find out that this website is far from a prank, as their lives are nearly ended during a horrific subway train crash. Even more disturbing, demons suddenly appear to wreak havoc all across the country. In Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2, players are once more transported to Japan in order to solve the mystery of what is happening. New fans to the series needn’t worry: Devil Survivor 2 may be a sequel, but it does not follow any of the events from the first game, nor will you need to play the first game in order to understand anything (it would probably help, however).
I feel that Atlus dropped the ball a bit in terms of graphics. NPC and level designs have been reused from the previous game, showing a lack of creativity. While this is understandable due to the fact that the game is once again set in Tokyo, it would have been nice to have newly designed backgrounds and levels rather than recycled data. Once you leave Tokyo and branch out to other areas of Japan, however, you will finally get some new art and levels. It is interesting to note that some of the designs for the new enemies reminded me very much of the angels from Neon Genesis Evangelion. While certainly not exact copies, Evangelion was the first thought that came to mind when I first encountered one of these mysterious new creatures in Devil Survivor 2. The purpose was also strikingly similar: destroy everything in its wake. Another interesting observation is that the females in the game all seem to have breast designs that defy gravity. In fact, some oddly seem to point up. I cannot help but question the subtle, if not amusing perversion. While each character has their own individual style, black and white seem to be the pervasive color schemes for each character. Given that most are wearing some sort of uniform, this is to be somewhat expected. Other colors are used to flush out individuals in their own unique style.
Devil Survivor 2 shares a similarity with the previous game released on the DS: there are no voice overs like in the reissued 3DS version. I felt like this was a step back, but considering the game is still a regular DS game, the extra audio files would have required too much space. The musical compositions by Kenji Ito are enjoyable to listen to. A situation can be punctuated with a jovial, upbeat tune which instantly shifts to a darker melody as the game’s events change. A majority of the battle sounds have also been taken from the first game, and some have been tuned up.
Devil Survivor 2 plays exactly like its predecessor using tactical, turn based combat. A full party consists of four demon trainers, each with a possible two demons at their side. Having the right mix of monsters is the key to victory, and the difficulty takes off before the end of the first in-game day. One battle involves trying to escape the field, skirting the lower leveled enemies and the hard hitting boss. If one human died during the mission before escaping, game over. The boss can practically one shot any human or demon, and has a large attack radius. Failing/dying results in a lengthy, unskippable game over scene that, for its credit, at least manages to be pretty and cryptic upon first viewing. The AI can also be either a blessing or a curse. During a different battle I was tasked with stopping enemies from fleeing. I left the opponent closest to the exit almost dead after completing my turn, and used a spell to switch places with my guest character, thinking she would target the fleeing foe. What happens instead? She walks in the opposite direction to the other side of the map to attack another foe at full HP, in turn allowing the escaping enemy to flee. Luckily the match still ended in victory, but I would have liked to defeat all foes for the extra experience.
Levels grinding will become a necessity. Useful skills can be learned from defeating foes, but when you’re performing an in-battle skill crack, only the person intending to learn the skill must be the one to defeat the demon. Unlike in the previous game, however, it is possible for multiple units to crack a skill if you are able to create a stronger bond of friendship with that person. Skills can also be swapped out at any time before a battle begins, so studying the field before you confirm your unit placement becomes a handy tactic. How much experience and money you gain is determined on how well you do in a single battle. Wiping out all opponents will net you a bonus, however if you kill only the leader unit, you will receive less, yet that unit will vanish from the field and the remaining foes in the party will go with it. Taking no damage, striking the enemies’ weaknesses, and taking out all three foes will net larger gains; having your personal demons perish or getting your weaknesses struck will provide a negative bonus. Completing the mission will also provide experience and money for the entire party, so try to keep all party members alive.
This time around, the demon auction has been revamped. The initial auction system has changed from the original. Instead of placing multiple bids, you must carefully determine a price that will be above your competitors. Special auctions will crop up from time to time, and these will be more like the previous game where you have five seconds to bid as high, and as frequently, as you wish. Devil Survivor 2 also takes a page out of Persona’ book, and introduces social links. Creating stronger bonds with your allies gives them a boost in combat and helps flush out their characterization and overall story. Fusing demons also gets a slight change with the addition of add-ons. Defeating enemies in battle sometimes nets a decent add-on for a boost in stats or addition demon skills. Comparing Devil Survivor 2 with its predecessor, I also feel that time management comes into play a bit more heavily this time around. You can, and will, lose potential allies if you do not pay close attention to their death prediction videos. Be sure to save often, and possibly make multiple saves in order to prevent any losses.
As with many games in the Shin Megami Tensei franchise, Devil Survivor 2 offers a variety of choices that affect the events in the game. With multiple endings, various characters to befriend, and a large variety of demons at your disposal, the game has a ton of replayability. Controlling what you want your main character to specialize in also adds more to the choices: create a strong physical fighter, a powerful magic user, or take the slower route and try to keep him balanced.
Devil Survivor 2 borrows much from its predecessor, but also has enough personal quirks to make it an interesting game. I adore having yet another tactical rpg game to my library, and the fusing of demons is also great fun. I felt that the story at times seemed to mimic the first game a bit too much with the whole “demons are going to destroy the world” idea, but the changes do make the game worth playing.