I have a problem; it’s a serious problem, and it’s affecting my life: I get obsessively addicted to certain video games. I don’t know how it happens, but it happens. I play a game, get hooked, and the next thing I know I’m sprawled on the ground, disheveled, and in a moon-lit, rain-slick alley smelling of pizza rolls, Mountain Dew, and regret. Once lucid (read: reaching 100% completion), I can never remember how I got in the damn alley again, and I can never remember if I still have my job. The Shin Megami Tensei series plays off of my horribly addictive predisposition, and its Devil Survivor spinoff series for the DS always makes me its bitch. Fortunately, I’ve been privy to Atlus’s tyrannical hold over my life for some time now, and – in order to keep my job, wife and kids – I waited for my vacation before I started up Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 (I didn’t get this old by being stupid, you know!). Now that I’ve unhealthily put close to 60 hours into it in less than a week, I’d like to delve into this incredible game and what makes it addictive for me.
Console: Nintendo Dual Screen
Release Year: 2012
Though games are still being made for the aging DS, I’d say Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 is its swan song, its last great game. And let me tell you, with such a magnificent final game, the DS certainly did not go gentle into that good night! Graphically, it’s on par with late-SNES era games, but that’s a definite plus for me. The music is of a lot higher quality than what you’d get on the SNES, and the tracks run the gamut from being bland or trite to being epic and awesome. Considering there’s a lot of electric guitars and synth, I’m inclined to say that the soundtrack is ultimately amazing. You got your generic rock tracks for battle music, a goofy synth track for goofy moments, and a kick ass anime opening with J-Pop and vocals. It’s all pretty standard for an Atlus game or a JRPG. I’d like to mention that there are a couple of really good, salient tracks in the mix: Dark Clouds with its surprisingly unnerving and minimalistic piano and string arrangement, and Septentrion – Battlefield Theme with its piano and haunting guitar. The latter is definitely my favorite.
Plus David Bowie’s theme is pretty sweet, too.
Though the music is a great aspect it’s not what makes this game addictive. There are two main factors that make this game hard to put down: 1.) It’s a strategy RPG, and 2.) The fun you get out of it is directly proportionate to the time you put into it. I’ll elaborate more on the latter point later (I found this unintentional play on words during editing, and I just wanted to apologize). Getting to the first point… it’s an SRPG. I don’t think I’ve picked up one I didn’t like. It’s a genre that makes me happy. I don’t want to get too involved in the mechanics because I really don’t like reviewing games, but it’s suffice to say that the game is a typical SRPG with zero moving around outside of the battlefield with lots of leveling your guys up. The big differences are the lack of equipment management and a flexible class system (the game’s race system is pretty limited), and the battles are three-on-three, first-person, traditional turned-based RPG skirmishes. This battle system adds a lot more strategy, variety, and characters to the mix. Ultimately, it’s just really cool, and I’ve never seen it done before.
Fights against Slimer and Zack de la Rocha aren’t uncommon in this game.
The second addictive factor I mentioned in the previous paragraph is a major one: The fun you get out of it is directly proportionate to the time you put into it. That might seem applicable to every video game, especially RPGs, but I don’t think so. Let me explain: the time and effort you put in to making the most kick ass demon you can, the more fun you’re going to have while playing the game. That still may not sound too special, so let me give you an example. My favorite thing to do in this game is make hardcore, self-sustaining demons. In order to that, you have to fuse your demons just right. Fusing demons is just how it sounds: you take two demons and put them together to get another one. The resulting demon’s appearance isn’t dependent on its parents, but its skills are, and that’s where the game gets interesting.
Every demon comes with elemental strengths and weaknesses, and good demon fusing can strengthen or eliminate these weaknesses, sometimes resulting in invincible creations. But these precise and specific creations take a lot of time to arrange, and if you don’t want to take the time to create them, or if that just doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, then you’re not going to enjoy this game to its full potential. But invincible demons are worth it! In Devil Survivor 2, I was able to create four invincible demons: Titania, Purple Mirror, Baal, and Metatron.
And that brings me to another amazing aspect to this game: Demons! And it’s not just demons you can summon. You can summon angels, gods, avatars, and legendary monsters! I’m HUGE into folklore and mythology from around the world, and this game collects some of the greatest creatures and lets you pit them against each other. It’s like Pokémon but with monsters that aren’t lame!
Look at this guy, and then argue against me, Pokémon fans. You can’t!
And with less sexual imagery:
Cloyster can’t go to the Poké Hospital to heal up. He has to see a Poké OB/GYN.
Though, Pazuzu is a bit too much for me:
I suppose the unexpected thing about this game that hooked me was its plot. It’s stupid. But in a good way. It starts out like any other Shin Megami game: world-shattering Apocalypse, then demons! Demons are summoned through technology (in this game it’s through an app on your phone), and this technology is used to save the world, or, in DS2‘s case, change it. I’m not going to spoil anything, but I will say that the plot gets ridiculous (the whole Shiva and Kama part is a definite highlight), and the final enemy is basically a glorified IT guy. It’s pretty amazing.
Have you tried shutting down your world and then restarting it?
The best part is that DS2 takes this outlandish premise and runs with it till the very end, and it takes itself 100% seriously. It doesn’t care that summoning Lucifer or Loki via email or buying demons through an eBay-like auction site sound stupid, nor does it care that the dialogue describing the final enemy is laughably ludicrous; the game just goes with it. And damn if that’s not what makes a great story!
I will say that the first Devil Survivor had a better plot. It was more interesting, mind-provoking, mature, and griping. Seriously, the talk of abdication in Amane’s 8th Day in Overclocked, the 3DS remake, actually got me to think more about God and religion than anything I’d ever encountered.
And then Jack Frost looked unto him and said, “Hee-ho!” Amen.
However, I felt that the characters were better and more fleshed out in DS2, even if all the female protagonists made it look like I was playing a Hentai game to passers-by (They all have enormous breasts. Though, most are in conservative outfits, Hinako). I also felt that DS1 was more difficult, but that might be because I still hadn’t perfected everything in the game. The only trouble I had in DS2 was when I had to fight Daichi and Io with only Bimmy Lee (that’s what I named the hero) and Al Saiduq (is it pronounced “Psyduck?” Because that would be hilarious!). But, if I had to choose which game I preferred, I’d pick DS2 because it has more demons and skills. Story really isn’t a factor when I’m picking video games to replay.
The last thing I love about this game is how freaking god-like you and your demons can become. You can build up and create demons that break the game. I put a skill on my invincible Titania and Purple Mirror that made them jumped in front of my leader whenever he or she was attacked (Hero’s Soul), resulting in a near-invincible team. It’s just nice to see all your time and effort come to fruition with an extremely cheap demon. However, this can also sucks. Not because the game becomes too easy per se, but because all your demons start having the same skills (Megidolaon/Holy Dance/Multi-Strike; Phys Repel, Victory Cry, Anti-Almighty). It’s just kind of boring, especially when you fight demons that have sweet powers who conveniently lose them once they’re on your team. If I could give Atlus one piece of constructive feedback for this series, it’d be to have demon-specific skills, such as letting Lilith keep Temptation.
I really can’t overstate how much I love this game. I’m glad I replayed it, even though I played it for too much too long in way too little amount of time (There’s nothing like binge gaming!). I had beaten it once before when it first came out, but I lost my original copy in a house fire. I repurchased it (New. Because buying used doesn’t help Atlus) and beat it a totally of five times to get all the endings. I highly recommend playing through the game. It might be a little difficult for newcomers to the Shin Megami series, but the Devil Survivor series is a hell of a lot more forgiving than its parents.
Now that I’ve finally gotten that out of my system, what game should I play next? Hopefully the next one won’t consume my life like Devil Survivor.
I’m going to just call my boss and resign now. Thanks for your Playing…