If you slept on Devil Survivor on the Nintendo DS, or even its up-port dubbed Overclock on the 3DS, then you should probably check out Devil Survivor 2. I thought the original was pretty great, and its sequel brings more of the same strategy RPG action to the table with that typical Shin Megami Tensei spin to it. And when I say that the two games are pretty similar, I mean that in a good and bad way. It does share some very, very familiar elements. Some of the story actually adheres a little too closely to the original for my liking, at least in the opening days of the plot.
Like the previous game, you’ll guide an unnamed and silent protagonist, along with friends and other add-ons, across a mostly real-world setting based out of Japan. At the beginning of the game, there’s some big disaster level event that leaves everyone shaken and unsure of what’s happening around them. Adding to the confusion is the inclusion of a mysterious app on the phone of our heroes, which allows them to summon and then command demons. These demons soon become pretty useful, as your opening group is beset upon by a number of monsters, and shortly things spiral out of control, hence the whole “Survivor” part of Devil Survivor 2. And if you played the original, I think you’ll agree that this set-up sounds remarkably similar to the first game.
The game plays out in two ways. One, there’s the story centric elements, which unfold through menu selections that advance the in-game clock a half hour with each selection. A lot of these elements are strictly dialogue sequences, usually used to reveal side information about the events, and occasionally build your relationship status with other party members. One new element to Devil Survivor 2 is something similar to building Arcana ranks in Persona, so the way you respond to your party members has an overall effect on how well they perform in battle. The stronger your bond, the better they become.
Occasionally you’ll be able to select an option that takes you into a fight, which plays out in an isometric view of a grid with city-themed background elements. If you’ve ever played an SRPG like Final Fantasy Tactics, or Tactics Ogre, you’ll have a pretty good understanding of how this works. You take a party of four characters, made up of teams that consist of an actual character and two demons for support, and move them around the grid to battle other demons and occasional humans.
Where Devil Survivor becomes different from a run of the mill SRPG is in how those battles play out. When you initiate a fight, or vice versa, you’ll switch to a more traditional RPG battle screen. Here you’ve got three characters to control, the human you moved around the board and your two demon companions that make up that human’s team. The same goes for your foe, there will be three enemies to face off against.
The idea here is that you want to knock off the side characters before attacking the middle monster. You can really attack at will, but if you try to fight the middle enemy you’ll find them much tougher to kill with the enemies to the left and right still alive. But if you manage to wipe out the middle enemy, you’ll win the fight without needing to kill the other two. So there’s some risk/reward in there that’s nice to have, especially for some of the more challenging fights you come across.
And Devil Survivor 2 is no slouch in the difficulty department. It’s not quite as punishing and uneven as the previous entry, but some of those end game fights get to be particularly rage inducing. If you’re not one for tough RPG’s, I’d have no trouble not suggesting DS2 for you. There is an option to grind though, so you can eventually overcome any fight.
Besides combat, Devil Survivor 2 has a demon summoning and fusing element in place, not unlike the last title. To summon new demons, and make pacts with them, you can purchase them from an in-game auction house. Demon’s bought through the auction house can either be flat our purchased for a higher price, or you can bid against computer controlled characters to attempt to save some cash. From there you can swap out your current teams with new demons, build them up and learn new skills, and then fuse those demons together to make better ones. Fans of other SMT titles like Persona will be pretty familiar with these elements, and overall this system feels downright identical to Devil Survivor 2.
Overall, that’s pretty much the case with Devil Survivor 2 in general, that it feels remarkably similar to the first game. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as I really enjoyed the first game, but I’m surprised at how little was done to differentiate the two. One thing that does stand out is that the characters are far more likeable in DS2 than the cast of the first game. Considering how story heavy the series has been, that’s definitely a plus. But still I really would have liked it if the game did something to stand out from the first a little more. As it stands it’s a largely enjoyable and well-made SRPG that represents the SMT style extremely well, but if you weren’t blown away by the first title, the second entry will do little to change your mind.