Rebuild of Devil Survivor 2: Why Atlus' Odd Strategy Series Deserves Another Look

Rebuild of Devil Survivor 2: Why Atlus' Odd Strategy Series Deserves Another Look

Kat takes another look at the sequel to the underrated strategy series, which is due out soon on the Nintendo 3DS.

Much as it did back in 2012, Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 will be sliding in under the radar later this year, this time on the Nintendo 3DS. Its low production values are apt to result it in being ignored by all but the most hardcore RPG fans, but that would be an injustice. Devil Survivor 2 is secretly one of the best Shin Megami Tensei games around.

Here are some of the relevant facts:

  • Devil Survivor 2 is the follow-up to a 2009 strategy RPG, which also received a 3DS remake (Devil Survivor Overclocked). The two have much in common, but they are otherwise standalone stories set around the end of the world. Like any good Shin Megami Tensei game, both are set in a Tokyo overrun by demons, with the twist being that the main characters are privy to disasters before they happen.

  • The Devil Survivor games are unique among strategy RPGs in the way they mix Dragon Quest-like combat with the familiar isometric maps of Final Fantasy Tactics. When you encounter a monster, the view shifts to a first-person perspective, and you are given the opportunity to play out a couple turns before returning to the map. In my original review of Devil Survivor 2 back in 2012, I commented, "One notably difficult battle [in Devil Survivor 2] features a creature whose neurotoxins have to be neutralized with a special device lest it crush your entire party from afar. From there, it's a race against time as you get into position and try to hammer it with your best abilities while fending off its minions. I wish more strategy RPGs had these sorts of multi-layered encounters.

  • The Devil Survivor games are structured somewhat similarly to the World Ends With You in that each chapter represents a day of gametime. To that, Devil Survivor 2 adds the Persona-like "Fate System," in which you build up social links with party members to unlock hidden traits and abilities. Ratcheting up the tension is the fact that it's quite possible to lose a party member in Devil Survivor 2 if you don't save them before their appointed end.

  • The Demon Fusion system is once again in fine form in Devil Survivor 2. Tinkering with different demon combinations is addictive as always, and it's greatly bolstered by the introduction of the Demon Compendium, which makes it possible to store and retrieve copies of demons for a nominal fee. Seriously, everything is better with Demon Fusion.

  • More on That Battle System

    I briefly discussed Devil Survivor's battle system above, but it's worth going into more detail on it because, as turn-based RPGs go, it's really good.

    The general thrust of Devil Survivor 2's combat is that you get a very brief period of time to do as much damage as possible. Like any good game, Devil Survivor 2 presents the opportunity to make a variety of interesting decisions. One of the most basic is whether to immediately target the leader and potentially wipe out the entire enemy party immediately, or to knock out the support monsters to earn more experience, keeping in mind that resources like MP are relatively limited.

    Often, it's not possible to defeat enemies with one attack, so efforts must be undertaken to extend the battle as much as possible. That means, for example, striking at a monster's elemental weak spot or earning critical hit, thus pushing the battle to an extra round. Extending the combat is often crucial, since it potentially denies an enemy an extra chance to attack, which makes a big difference in a game as unforgiving as Devil Survivor 2.

    From a stylistic standpoint, Devil Survivor 2's combat also feel more dynamic than other strategy RPGs, affording the opportunity for more interesting-looking attacks and somewhat deeper strategy. I don't mean to disparage Final Fantasy Tactics, but I do find Devil Survivor's battles more interesting than simply walking up behind a foe and whacking them with a sword. And with minimal loading times and extremely quick attacks, Devil Survivor 2 manages to come off as fast-paced, giving it the best of both worlds.

    What Record Breaker Brings to the Table

    In addition to the original, rather robust, campaign found in the original, Devil Survivor 2 adds a lengthy follow-up called The Triangulum Arc. Accessible from the start, it picks up near the Tokyo Skytree, where only the main character can recall the events of the original seven days. Hence the confusion of his companions when strange events begin happening and the main character seems to know exactly what's going on. You'd be a little weirded out too if black helicopters appeared in the sky and your friend said, "Oh, those belong to a secret organization working to prevent the end of the world.

    There's also voice acting now, which puts it in line with Devil Survivor Overclocked, as well as the rest of the franchise. Atlus' voice work is generally well-regarded around the industry, and I don't expect that to change with Devil Survivor 2. I don't know that it'll make a huge difference, not the least because I tend to play with the sound (and thus the voices) turned off while I listen to other music or podcasts, but it does lend some personality to the characters as well as to the story as a whole.

    The Devil Survivor games have their own cult following, but like many other games not named Persona in the franchise, it's not especially well-known outside of the Shin Megami Tensei fandom. Being the hardcore strategy RPG that it is, I don't expect that to change. But there's a lot of merit to the series, and I'm glad to see that it's getting a second chance at an audience.

    With Persona 5 getting so much hype, I've seen more than a few fans expressing concern that the Shin Megami Tensei franchise as a whole might be dead. Hopefully, this impending update—which contains such a large amount of new story content as to be considered a pseudo-sequel—will put those fears to rest somewhat. And if it doesn't, then the best way to sway Atlus is to go and vote with your wallet. Even if you don't like strategy RPGs, I think Devil Survivor 2 is worth it.

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    Kat Bailey

    Editor in Chief

    Kat Bailey is a former freelance writer and contributor to publications including 1UP, IGN, GameSpot, GamesRadar, and EGM. Her fondest memories as a journalist are at GamePro, where she hosted RolePlayer's Realm and had legal access to the term "Protip." She is USgamer's resident mecha enthusiast, Pokemon Master, and Minnesota Vikings nut (skol).

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