By Colin Malone / April 2nd, 2015
|Title||Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor: Overclocked|
|Release Date||August 23, 2011|
|Genre||Real Time Strategy|
|Age Rating||ESRB – Teen|
From Devil Summoner to Persona, the Shin Megami Tensei series has more than a fair number of spinoffs, but none are quite as dear to my heart as the Devil Survivor series. First released for the Nintendo DS in 2009, the game got an enhanced port for the 3DS in 2011. How does this port stack up, though? Is it a game you’ll want to survive, or would you be better off avoiding this lockdown?
The story starts out innocently enough, you and a few friends are are going to meet with your cousin. He stands you guys up, but leaves you and your two friends a couple of hacked 3DSs… sorry COMPs. That’s when things start to get weird.
A little tinkering with COMPs and you find an odd application in them called the “Demon Summoning Program.” In a completely surprising turn of events, the Demon Summoning Program summons demons, which you then have to fight. After defeating them, you and your friends decide then and there that you’ve had quite enough of this shit and start for home.
It’s never that simple, though, as an apparent gas leak has the subways shut down along with every other exit, and you are trapped inside the Yamanote Circle. As demons begin to appear within the lockdown, you must use your COMPs to make demon allies, survive the lockdown and get to the bottom of why demons have started appearing. Also, you receive the ability to see how long people have left to live, and learn that if you don’t accomplish this all in seven days, everyone in the lockdown is going to die.
Those who have played a Shin Megami Tensei game before will see a lot that is familiar about Devil Survivor. You recruit demons to your team. You fuse demons together to make new ones. The difficulty level goes through the roof once you hit the mid-game. You know, the usual. There are some differences, though; rather than making contact with demons through negotiation, you buy them at a market through a little auction minigame. Also, rather than a traditional turn-based RPG, the game plays as a turn-based strategy game with traditional RPG elements.
When it comes to the battles, most of the action takes place on a grid where you move your units around to attack enemies. Aside from the protagonist, you have three other human characters on the field at the same time. Every unit on the field actually consists of a party made up of themselves and up to two demons. You, your three teammates and the enemies on the map take turns moving based on their respective speed stats.
If two enemies meet on the field, one can choose to attack the other. This initiates a more traditional turn-based battle between the two parties where you select what you want each member of your party to do, and the turn plays out from there.
What makes these fights particularly interesting is the way they reward good strategy and tactics while punishing poor ones. Normally, each character in the battle gets one move, and, once each character has acted, the fight ends, returning you to the battle map. But, if you play it smart and, say, have a party member get a critical or strike the enemy’s weak point, that will give them an extra turn for that fight, giving your team a huge advantage.
Of course, this applies to your enemies, as well, and, if they hit your weaknesses, they can pick up extra turns, too. Likewise, turn order matters as extra turns can be canceled if you get targeted by an attack that hits your weakness. So, you can’t be too reckless or you risk the enemy really screwing you up.
What really got me hooked on this game, though, was the characters. There are a ton of NPCs you meet and get to know during your stay in the lockdown, each one with an interesting and developed personality with their own goals and motivations. From the justice-driven Midori to the power-hungry Kaido, each character is endearing and you can’t help but want to get to know them better. It helps that they have some amazing voice actors, something that wasn’t available in the original DS version.
And, of course, getting to know the characters and understand their motivations will be essential for you to escape the lockdown, as each of the game’s endings is tied to a character. If that character doesn’t trust you by the end, or dies during the lockdown, you’re locked out of their ending. I found this to be a novel way to continue the series’ tradition of having multiple endings, while at the same time moving away from the binary dualism that has defined most of the series’ prior conflicts. So, rather than a Chaos/Order scale, the endings will be based on the specific goals and personality of the character you choose to team up with. This also helps with replayability, as, with multiple different endings, you’re going to want to play through multiple times to see them all.
One new feature in Overclocked is that certain endings also have a secret eighth day, in which you get to explore the consequences of the ending you chose. Unfortunately, the ending I got didn’t have an eighth day, so I can’t really comment on this feature. It still seems like a really awesome concept, though.
When it comes to the game’s art, I’d rate it as mostly above average. Pretty much all the visuals in the game are done via sprites. While none of the sprites are bad per se, none are particularly overwhelming. The portrait art is pretty above average and serves to highlight each character’s personality and feelings. The artwork for the demons is quite good on average, although some designs fall flat. Likewise, the music in the game is all right. None of it is bad, just none of it is particularly memorable, either.
Unfortunately, the game does still have its failings, chief among those is its poor pacing and absurd difficulty, which, in many places, go hand in hand. Let’s start with the difficulty. It feels a bit silly to complain about the difficulty in a Shin Megami Tensei game, a series known primarily for its difficulty. But this game just feels unfair at times, to the point where it can get really frustrating. Some of the bosses are just absurd, especially in the late game.
In most cases, your character has an attack range of one. This means they can only engage in combat with enemies directly in front of them. The late game bosses, on the other hand, have absurd ranges; able to hit almost anyone on the field. One particularly frustrating boss can attack any of your characters on the field, no matter where they are. And, if they aren’t in range of the boss, they can’t fight back. This, combined with each bosses’ ability to hit like a truck, and the fact they they heal themselves after each fight often they end up feeling more “unfair” than “challenging.”
This doesn’t apply to just bosses either, regular enemies can be just as frustrating. This is because, unlike a lot of other games, they tend to be grouped together in a lot of clever ways. Sometimes, this can force you to have to use clever strategies to defeat them. Other times, it can just get annoying, as you waste half your magic fighting an enemy team, only to have them heal to full health afterwards because you didn’t kill them fast enough. Or have one enemy defend their leader (who, if you kill, you win the fight instantly) and nullify your attack.
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