When I first played Devil Survivor 1 for the DS, I was pleasantly surprised. It managed to create some interesting characters and gave options for quite a few endings, different routes, etc. And it helped bring gameploay that was fun and customizable, but could be brutally hard. While I do admit there were problems with that game, I am happy to admit that it was one of my favorite DS games. Somewhere down the line, I may replay it and give a much more accurate review of it, but that is not today’s subject.
Today is about its sequel, Devil Survivor 2, and it helped drag me back into the world of a perfect sequel…well nearly perfect. It’s rare I find a better sequel in a game, and the few that I did have were games like Mass Effect 2 and God of War 2. So imagine my surprise when I found out that DS2 was not only good, but it is far superior than the original game.
If anything, the story may be the weakest aspect of this game. While it does touch on the dark tones of the first game, both with slightly improved visuals and story of conflict between humans, they have been toned down in favor of the new enemies: the Septeriones. These beings are the central conflict against your allies and are destroying the world. In order to defeat these beings before everything is gone, you must unite every available team member you have to face against the dark forces. There is more conflict after that, but that would spoil the story if I just told you. If you really want a comparison, I would say think of the Angels in Evangelion. In fact, I dare say Evangelion and Shin Megami Tensei are combined into one here, minus giant mechs.
But while I did feel it weakened the story of usual SMT games, it also improved on giving us a fantastic cast to carry it, even if they do lack voice actors. Each character has their own personality traits and stand out very easily. While some characters like Daichi can be annoying, others like Ronaldo and Jungo help bring their own flare into things, some moments even tugging heartstrings for me! However, much like in Devil Survivor 1, these guys are not safe from permanent death. Your only help to prevent their deaths is Nicae, an app on the cellphones (yes, rather than COMPs, you use cellphones to summon demons) that can show deaths that can happen in the future to friends of yours. This too is part of the story, and necessary to keep your friends alive for future battles, and you will need all the help you can get. And the game does a great job in making us care, and I found myself on the edge to see if they were going to live or die…before I found out how simple it can be. It’s very hard to miss these opportunities to save your friends, and they are guaranteed to save your friends. So it kind of kills the suspense unless you truly make a bad decision. In a way, both games actually remind me of Shin Megami Tensei Nocturne, but that’s a topic for another day.
The main factor to keeping these characters is also the Fate System, similar to the Social Link system from Persona 3 and 4. By interacting with characters, the number goes up a level after a few times you talk with them. Each time it increases, new abilities are gained for that character, such as double-joint cracking, which can allow for multiple people to gain a skill from an enemy or unlock more fusions for you to do. These levels can reach a maximum of 5, but you only really need a 4 for most characters, depending on who you want to ally yourself with. You can also gain more information, and even do a side-quest for some, and there’s very few in that regard. There are also funny moments, dramatic moments, etc, that help move the story and make you care about the characters, and see how they change through the hellish experience in this game.
Combat has improved in nearly every aspect. Maps tend to be recycled in some areas, the newer ones can be very interesting and show off what the DS is capable of, especially with the giant enemies featured here. Characters are also more balanced, with everyone starting with a movement of 4 squares as opposed to the previous game, which forced some to only a movement of 3 squares. This does allow for you to pick your favorite characters easier, while trying to figure out their stat builds. See, characters level up, each character gains a stat point to put into either agility, strength, vitality, and magic, and aside from the protagonist, you cannot change which stat is increased, thus characters follow a build, such as specializing in speed, magic, combinations, etc. However, this can make things that much harder in choosing which units will be the most useful for the right situation, since each battle does require some planning. AI has also gotten smarter and stronger in some parts, and may try luring you into a trap, though they do do rather stupid things that can get themselves killed while in a fight. Skills have also been tweaked, with auto skills only activating when needed, like using the spells Media and Recarm.
Aside from that, the basic formula of combat remains unchanged: you and three human party members, sometimes with a guest member, each take up to two demons each into a tactical fight, but by engaging in a fight, it switches to a typical RPG combat system, where each member chooses an action to perform. Enemy stats and weaknesses are displayed on the top screen, and choosing the right one is key to victory. And by targeting a weakness or gaining a critical hit, you can also gain a extra turn to hurt your opponents. Be warned that an enemy can do the same thing.
And the combat is also that much harder. You gain less experience points in Free Battles, and in the story, enemy levels are often much higher, forcing you to make strategies, or have a stroke of luck. The latter is definitely more likely in protect missions, since enemies can demonstrate victory in seconds, or they actually do give you enough time to catch up and take them down.
Demons roster has also grown and changed things around, including a bigger roster too. As always, you can see a list of possible fusions, and you can go into the auction to bid for demons. The more you bid there and win, the chance to gain even more powerful demons also increases. The Demon Compendium, famous in many Shin Megami Tensei games, also returns. With it, you can now record old fusions and demons, and then buy those demons with any skills they had before you tossed them away, so long as you registered them into the Compendium beforehand.
Endings are limited and easier to choose, and can also change in minor ways depending on who you help save, which route you pick, and their Fate levels. Same goes for the story itself, and you can even fight new enemies or discover new missions/scenes as well. Combined with multiple save slots, you have a lot to play with! There are also achievements that can be unlocked at the end of the game for a new game +, and grant various bonuses, such as newer bosses or gaining even more EXP in battle.
While I can’t say this is the last great DS game considering my lack of playing the newest of DS games, I can say this is one that should be in your gaming library already, but only if you really can handle a hell of a challenge. Despite some yelling, I enjoyed my 30+ hour ride, and that was just doing one story route.
Devil Survivor 2 summons up a 5 out of 5.