An earthquake menaces Tokyo, destroying crucial infrastructure. Supernatural creatures threaten not only Japan, but the entire world! Survivors cower in fear, but are saved in their time of need by three stalwart heroes. Who are these brave souls, who would risk life and limb for their fellow man? Well, it’s Shin Megami Tensei, so you can bet that they’re going to be a few seemingly average teenagers. This time, they can summon demons from their cell phones.
That may sound ridiculous, but if you’ve played the original Devil Survivor, this plot will seem oddly familiar. In fact, the outset of Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 Record Breaker is almost identical to the game preceding it. As lazy as that may sound, it’s actually not so bad once you get into the meat of the story, when the game decides to take a drastically different turn.
Devil Survivor 2 Record Breaker’s narrative revolves around the main character, a completely normal high school student. The player immediately is made aware of a creepy underground website that is rumored to be able to predict how people will die. Naturally, you sign up for it, and promptly receive an email. Contained within is a video of you and your two friends dying.
You manage to avoid your impending doom, but a massive earthquake devastates Tokyo, and you are menaced by strange, otherworldy creatures. Thankfully, your phones are good for more than simply showing how you’ll bite the dust. You are gifted with a Demon Summoning App, granting you the ability to summon and command your own demons. This is essential to your survival, as the death videos become more regular, and you are clued into the grander scheme of things.
The plot in Devil Survivor 2 is quite compelling, almost surprisingly so. It is easy to roll one’s eyes at the teenager-centric plot, and the bizarre and convenient plot devices the game utilizes to give these kids the ability to summon demons. However, what begins as yawn-inducingly standard Mega Ten fare begins to evolve into a dramatic, suspenseful journey. Characters go through deep, meaningful development, and your decisions actually completely shape the events that take place. This is refreshing in a time where many games simply give you the illusion of choice.
The story progresses via a time-based system, somewhat akin to the Persona series. You must allot your time in a way that you deem to be optimal, which directly dictates how events will occur. Results of wisely spent time could be positive, such as making a party member like you more, or saving someone’s life. The opposite is also true with poor time usage, however, and main characters can and will die depending on how you play the game.
Another similarity to Persona is the Fate system. This mechanic plays out quite similarly to the Social Link system, which adds additional depth to characters you meet. It also rewards you tangibly for interacting with the other PCs by providing combat boosts, which is even more incentive to discover more about them, and become closer. Some may dismiss this feature as resembling a dating sim, but I find it hard to complain about quality character development.
Being an enhanced version of the 2011 title, Record Breaker adds quite a bit to differentiate it from the original. Along with an entirely new, full-length story arc that takes place toward the end of the vanilla storyline, the remake ships with full (and not awful!) voice acting, a new female PC, and a Casual Mode for players who simply want to get the most of the story without slogging through the challenging combat. With all these new features, it seems to be the optimal way to experience Devil Survivor 2.
The gameplay is arguably the most crucial part of any title. A good story is definitely a boon, but may as well be a visual novel without satisfying gameplay mechanics. Thankfully, Devil Survivor 2 delivers a satisfying, strategic experience, that still manages to stay in line with its Shin Megami Tensei lineage. In standard SRPG fashion, characters move around a grid, and attack when they are within range of an enemy. However, when this occurs, the game switches to a screen resembling a traditional RPG, and you are able to plan out your attacks.
Each playable character is able to command two demon comrades, who can each attack individually. You can simply strike physically, or use any number of magical spells and physical abilites. Much like other entries in the Mega Ten series, enemies have specific strengths and weaknesses that you can exploit. Doing so will grant you an extra turn after the initial combat phase, thereby potentially doubling your damage output. Unfortunately for you, however, the enemies are able to do the same. It is easy to get lazy with combat and allow yourself to lose an advantage, so you need to always be thinking about your next move.
Demon companions are acquired via an auction house, in which the player bids against NPCs to recruit monsters. As is typical in an SMT game, there is also a demon fusion function, which is the best way to get the most out of your critters, as they will be able to learn abilities they wouldn’t normally have had access to. I found assembling my demon army to be a very enjoyable task, made doubly fun by the sheer variety. There are easily hundreds of demons to be recruited, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. It’s fairly easy to spend hours simply working on them.
If I have one complaint about Devil Survivor 2, it’s that the game doesn’t give you much direction when it comes to making big choices. You have so much sway over what happens in the game, which is undoubtedly a great feature. Unfortunately, there isn’t much indication to let you know the weight of your decisions, and a lot of the time you’ll end up having to reload a save because something horrible happened, or you didn’t quite get things the way you wanted them to be. This leads to a wonderful amount of replayability, but it can become irritating when you’re just trying to do things in a certain way, and you can’t seem to figure out where you went wrong. One complaint hardly condemns a game, however.
Overall, it’s hard to find much to hate about Devil Survivor 2 Record Breaker. The combat is satisfying and complex. The story is deep, with rich characters, and a plot that you actually change with your decisions throughout the game. The demon fusion system is improved over that of the previous entry in the Devil Survivor series, and the exclusive features that come with the new version give it much more content than the vanilla game. If you’re looking for a quality RPG to sink a hundred or so hours into, and you own a 3DS, buy this game.
Shin Megami Tensei Devil Survivor 2 Record Breaker was reviewed on 3DS using a review code provided by ATLUS. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.
The Verdict: 9
- Deep, satisfying strategic combat.
- Demon fusion is addictive.
- Ridiculous amounts of new content.
- Great story and likeable characters.
- Your choices actually matter!
- It’s a bit too difficult to tell when you’re making the wrong decision, leading to save scumming.
- If someone asks you what you’re playing, you sound silly reciting the entire title.