By Colin Malone / August 10th, 2015
|Title||Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 Record Breaker|
|Release Date||May 5, 2015|
|Age Rating||ESRB – Teen|
Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2: Record Breaker is the remake of the sequel to 2009’s Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor, which itself had a remake with Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor: Overclocked, which I reviewed a few months ago. I rated Overclocked pretty highly, with 3 and a half stars. But how does Record Breaker compare? Will this game break it’s predecessor’s record, or will it fail to live up to expectations? Read on to find out!
So, the first thing to mention is that the gameplay is virtually unchanged from the first game. The gameplay is split into two segments: battles, and time between battles when you can talk with your partners and advance the story. Battles are more or less the same. The game is part strategy, part turn-based RPG. You move around a grid-shaped field, strategy game style. When you reach an enemy, you attack them and begin a turn-based battle. Doing well in battle gets you extra turns. Some new moves and abilities were introduced, but nothing radical.
The main difference between this game and the last one is that the (often frustratingly unfair) levels of difficulty have been toned down a little. None of the bosses have stupidly, frustratingly overpowered abilities this time around. They’re still tough, but not infuriatingly so. Also, they no longer pull the bullshit move where, once you finish off all their enemy units, they’ll summon like 50 more demons making it impossible to actually win the level on the first try.
The second major change is that the pacing of the game is a bit better. The battles are a bit more evenly spaced apart with fewer battles packed back-to-back. Also, they added a new, lower difficulty level. Along with making things a little easier, it also increases the experience and money you get from battle, so you don’t have to spend as much time between matches grinding.
The story is somewhat similar to that of the last game (and by extension, nearly every Shin Megami Tensei game). You’re just a normal high school student, when your best friend, Daichi, tells you about a new website everyone is signing up for called Nicaea, which claims to be a “Dead Face Delivery Site.” It’s said that it will show you videos of how your friends and loved ones will die.
Despite the fact that this just screams “terrible idea,” the protagonist decides to sign up as well. He and Daichi then decide to ride home on the subway, where they meet Io, a girl who goes to the same school as them. After a brief conversation, your phones all ring. You each get a video showing you all dying, being crushed by a derailed subway train. No sooner than this happens then an earthquake causes a train to derail, killing you all.
That’s it. Game over. You lose.
Okay, not really. As it turns out, signing up for Nicaea not only gives you videos from the future, but it also lets you use the Demon Summoning App. Several demons are summoned and rescue you and your friends. They then try to kill you. Demons are finicky like that. You defeat the demons, which (as required by demon law, apparently) forces them to become your demon minions. You leave the tunnel to find that Tokyo has been completely wrecked.
Soon you join up with an organization known as JP’s (pronounced “Jips”), who hunt demons. You find out that the giant beings (not demons) who started all this mess and are attacking Japan are known as Septentrion. The game’s story revolves around driving back these Septentrion, finding out where they came from and why they’re attacking, and surviving in the ruins of an increasingly unstable Japan.
Confusing matters further is that the organization that you joined, and that is leading the offensive against the Septentrions, might not be exactly as on the up and up as they seem. Thus, during many points in the story you have to choose between siding with JP’s, or those who oppose them. Besides that, a mysterious person known as the “Anguished One,” also seems to have a stake in the fighting and pops by occasionally to drop cryptic messages. As one does.
Also, Shin Megami Tensei‘s faction system returns in force to determine the endings you get. So once again it’s up to you, the SMT player, to make some world-altering moral decisions and choose which philosophy will ultimately prove dominant. While the Law/Chaos dichotomy that pops up in most SMT games still plays a big role in this, none of the alignments in this game follow it’s traditional trappings exactly. Each alignment has some elements of the other, which makes the game somewhat unique amongst other SMT titles in that regard.
Of course, much like Overclocked, Record Breaker has a second, post-game story. Unlike Overclocked though, Record Breaker‘s Triangulum arc is available right from the beginning. So if you played the original Devil Survivor 2, you don’t have to play through it again to get to all the new content.
Unlike Overclocked‘s Eighth Days, the Triangulum arc takes place over three days, rather than one. So it feels more like a full story, rather than just a playable epilogue. Of course, unlike the Eighth Days, it doesn’t take the player’s choices from the previous story into account. Even if you started from an already completed save file, it doesn’t take into account the ending you chose. It always takes place assuming you picked the “Triumphant” Ending and didn’t let any characters die. This gives it a tighter focus, and is probably why they were able to put so much content into it. But it does feel like it devalues the player’s choices a little.
The story is similar to that of the main game. Demons have appeared and powerful beings known as the Triangulum are attacking Japan. You and your friends have to rejoin JP’s, find out why history is repeating itself, and try and fix the damage. Once again, things are made difficult as the world has gone to hell much more quickly than in the previous arc and some people seem to be missing from history entirely.
The new arc is certainly an interesting addition, and it’s great to see the characters again, and how they’ve been doing since the first game, but the Triangulum arc isn’t quite as interesting as the main story. It feels a little like a rehash and not much new has been added. It’s fine as a bonus, but wouldn’t really stand on it’s own as a sequel.
Moving past the story, the sprite work for this game is some of the best I’ve ever seen. Each of the character’s battle sprites is fluid and expressive. They each come with several unique, character-specific animations, and even their idle animations are unique and full of character. Their portrait art is pretty good as well. It’s expressive, varied, and it suits the characters. Even if some of the minor NPCs reuse assets from the first game.
As per usual with this series, the demon designs are amazing. There’s nothing particularly unique about them in this game though. All the demons still pretty much have their same design and artwork. The main stand-outs of the game are the designs for the Septentrion and Triangulum. They look a fair bit different compared to the usual demon designs and are suitably alien, considering their origins. Although, due to their alien nature, they’re not particularly memorable.
The music in the game is fair. There were a few stand-out tracks, especially in the Triangulum arc. Mostly, it’s just average though. Few songs stand out as being particularly good, but at the same time, nothing is particularly bad either. And the music does all tend to suit the game, even if there isn’t very much variety.
The voice acting in the game, on the other hand, is amazing. Each character has a well-developed voice that really suits their character. One of the reasons it took me so long to finish this game is because I wanted to go though each scene multiple times to see what all the different choices did. While the amazing characters and writing played a big part in that, the wonderful voice acting certainly played a part as well.
All in all Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2: Record Breaker, is a great game, and definitely worth a purchase. The story and characters are amazing. The gameplay is fun, and the game has a ton of content. I’ve played over 70 hours, I still haven’t gotten to all the content the game has to offer! All of this comes together to make this game an amazing experience. While $49.99 is a little much for a portable game, if you’re willing to pay that much, this game is definitely worth it.
Review copy supplied by author.
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