Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 Record Breaker
- Street Date:
- May 5th, 2015
- Reviewed by:
- Elizabeth Henges
- Review Date:1
- May 4th, 2015
- Game Release Year:
Digital 3DS version reviewed. Downloadable content also tested for review. For digital buyers, the download takes upwards of 21,000 blocks, so make sure to prepare your SD cards in advance.
The original version of 'Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2' was released in February 2012 for the original Nintendo DS. But before 'Devil Survivor 2' had even been released in the U.S., fans of the massive 'Shin Megami Tensei' series caught wind of other news: an enhanced version of the original 'Devil Survivor' title, named 'Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor Overclocked' had hit the Nintendo 3DS in Japan, offering a plethora of upgrades from the 2009 original, including a meaty post-game scenario.
With that, many Atlus fans expected that 'Devil Survivor 2' would get similar treatment, and with the announcement of 'Devil Survivor 2: Record Breaker' in 2013, that expectation was seemingly confirmed. And yet, though the new version had been announced, subsequent delays were followed by an extended silence from Atlus, and many feared that the game had been cancelled or, at the very least, would not receive an English release.
Those developments out of the way, 'Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 Record Breaker' is finally here. Now to see if the long-awaited and wordily titled game is worth all the fuss.
The Game Itself: Our Reviewer's Take
'Record Breaker' stars a young group of students that are forced to fight and survive after a cataclysmic event rocks Japan and brings demons into the world. When the mysterious program called Nicaea shows their deaths only minutes before, the three must find a way to fight their grisly fate… which also means learning to control the unruly demons that have seemingly appeared from their phones.
While the story can easily be summed up in a paragraph, and quite honestly sounds rather silly, the plot to 'Record Breaker' is actually quite good. There are a lot of twists and turns along the way, and the dark setting of a modern society suddenly brought to ruin is quite an effective plot device, even including that the original 'Devil Survivor' used the same setting, although the two games' plots are not connected.
'Record Breaker's plot is certainly strong. The narrative alone is almost enough to recommend a playthrough for RPG fans, but it's really the solid gameplay that sets this 3DS title above and beyond. 'Devil Survivor 2' is a strategy RPG, and one that has battles take place on maps set up like grids and have a turn-based format. When two opposing units meet up on the map, the game will zoom in a bit to a battle screen, where the two units trade blows. When the leader of a group is killed, that group will disappear from the map, regardless if all the units in the team were killed or not. In terms of leveling up, players can choose what stats to dump points into for the main protagonist, but the other playable characters will gain stats on their own, without player input.
This all sounds like most typical strategy RPGs, but 'Record Breaker' achieves that rare success of nuance that rewards tactics in successive manner. For starters, when in battle, allies and enemies alike can gain an Extra Turn when they hit certain weaknesses or use certain attacks. This mechanic has been a staple of many 'Shin Megami Tensei' games, and understanding and implementing it is an essential part of surviving battles. Foes will not be afraid to use the system to their advantage.
Another main mechanic is the Skill Crack. Playable human characters will not be able to learn spells and skills on their own; instead, they have to Crack these skills from enemies, using their phones. At the beginning of a battle, players must assign a certain skill to Crack to certain teams; if the team defeats the enemy in question, the skill becomes available for the party to use. Skill Cracking adds another tactical layer. For example, when matching up a team against an enemy that's too tough or makes use of the team's weaknesses in a devastating manner, the team could end up getting killed, and the chance of Cracking that skill lost, for a time.
Finally, there's the fact that almost everything takes up the game's time resource. Story missions and character events eat away at the limited time available in each game day, and if one is too reckless and misses cues in the cutscenes, they could wind up with a dead party member. Thankfully, as long as the player is paying a slight amount of attention to the main cutscenes, it'll be hard to miss the right events. Even so, the limited time aspect does lends a sense of urgency to the game, and makes players weigh the importance of what events they decide to view.
Also of note is the game's difficulty. The original 'Devil Survivor 2' was often cited for its high difficulty level, and the same can be said for 'Record Breaker'… that is, if you play on the title's Apocalyptic difficulty. Altus has also included an easier Blessed difficulty for those who do not want to have to grind and want to enjoy the plot more. But, that doesn't mean that the Blessed difficulty is a complete cakewalk, either; there were multiple occasions in which I got careless or reckless in story missions and the enemies tore one or more of my teams to shreds, so there is still some challenge to be enjoyed there.
It's worth mentioning the DLC that Atlus has created for 'Record Breaker', and the advantages it provides. There are a few free pieces, mainly with battles to help new players, and paid maps that provide the chance to grab some powerful skills, or extra Macca (the game's currency) or experience. These DLC maps mainly just help to cut down on grinding even further, but the maps do not simply dump the goodies in the players' laps and call it a day; a battle and Skill Cracking is still required. Also, it's worth noting that the DLC is mostly balanced so that players don't become too overpowered at the beginning of the game. For example, the maps that offers powerful skills have equally powerful enemies, making it very difficult to actually kill the enemy and obtain their skills. When I first tried the above DLC on Day 3, I was barely able to get one Skill Crack per attempted run, but trying it later in the game allowed me to get a bunch of skills I missed or needed, lightening the load of Skill Cracks I needed to take care of during story missions.
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
The visual aspect of 'Record Breaker' is its weakest point by far. It's easy to tell that this was originally a DS title here, with small, pixelated versions of the playable characters running around the field, and fighting oft-reused drawings of 'Shin Megami Tensei' demons on the battle screens. The rather basic field visuals do make sense for the genre; even graphically impressive strategy RPGs such as 'Fire Emblem: Awakening' use rather basic field screens to prevent obscuring and detracting from the map itself. Even so, though, it does feel like more could have been done, especially when coming to the demons' in battle drawings.
Outside of battles, 'Record Breaker' fares better, but not far from expectations based on the game's platform history. Character portraits are used to portray the characters and convey their dialogue, and this representation is peppered by the occasional use of battle sprites to show a sense of movement. The portraits themselves are rather expressive, even the silent main protagonist, which helps to give a tone to the actual choices players pick throughout the game. It's no technical marvel for sure, but 'Record Breaker' isn't an ugly game to look upon.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
'Record Breaker' provides a wonderful array of music and sounds to please players' ears. For starters, the music is mostly provided by Kenji Ito, best known for his work on the 'Mana' and 'SaGa' series. His high-energy, rocking tracks are absolutely perfect for 'Record Breaker', and any players playing the game with the volume turned down are doing themselves a disservice.
Also, 'Record Breaker' is packed to the brim with voiced dialogue. Almost every line in the 3DS title is voiced, and thankfully most of the voice actors play their characters well. The importance of this factor plays out regularly. Had some of the more emotional scenes been miscast in 'Record Breaker's apocalyptic setting, many of the game's scenes and the overall impact would have been injured and possibly lost. I will admit that I don't care for Ranaldo's voice actor all that much, but with so many characters to voice, the ratio of good voice actors to bad is pretty great here.
There is quite a lot to do in 'Record Breaker', even just in the Septentrione arc. There are three major endings to see, as well as a True ending that can be difficult (but not impossible) to gain on a first playthrough. Additionally, there are more character events to see than a player can see in one playthrough, which allows some variation of what can be seen each time. Also, thankfully, 'Record Breaker's New Game+ also carries over a lot from the previous playthrough, making subsequent playthroughs for the sake of seeing more endings reasonably easy.
And, this is just the stuff that was already in the original 'Devil Survivor 2'. There's a whole lot of content new to 'Record Breaker' as well, which is explained below.
HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?
Without a doubt, 'Record Breaker' is the definitive version of 'Devil Survivor 2'. There are many tweaks to the core game, including two difficulty levels, new demons to create and use, and a completely voiced and re-written script. The dialogue for 'Record Breaker' flows far better than the original title, and the lines lend a lot more to each character's personality than the DS original did.
However, the biggest piece of new content is the new Triangulum storyline. While players can start up 'Record Breaker' and play the new storyline right out of the gate, the plot does take place after the original 'Devil Survivor 2' storyline, so those new to the game will want to play the Septentrione arc first.
While the Triangulum arc might seem like a short, rushed add-on, similar to many examples of plot DLC, this new arc is jam packed with new content that makes it worth the price of admission alone, even for 'Devil Survivor 2' veterans. After a short overview of the 'Devil Survivor 2's' canonical ending, players are given an entirely new scenario to work through, complete with its own branching paths and multiple endings. It's also a very meaty piece of content, which oughtt will last most players at least twenty hours.
'Devil Survivor 2: Record Breaker' is an amazingly well put together package. The game isn't perfect, but most of the flaws are niggling and barely worth mentioning. (For example, how cumbersome it can be to set a bunch of skills to four playable characters.) Perhaps 'Record Breaker's' biggest flaw is that it resides in a more niche genre: Strategy RPGs aren't as popular as their various strategy counterparts, which likely means that 'Record Breaker' will not get as much exposure as compared to some of 'Shin Megami Tensei's' other spinoffs.
But letting this game's genre, perceived difficulty, art style, or anything else completely dissuade potential players would be a mistake. This is truly a wonderful game that any and all RPG fans should pick up as soon as they can.
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