Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 – Record Breaker is a remake of a DS game that was originally released in 2012. It’s been shined up with a fresh coat of paint, wonderful voice acting and an updated translation. From the very beginning you have two options to choose for the story. For people who are new to the game you can choose the Septentrion story arc which is a retelling of the original DS game, complete with all the upgrades the 3DS allows them to make. The Triangulum story arc is a new addition to the story that takes place after the events of the main story. It continues immediately after the events of that story. It is a semi-retelling of the events of the main story, but in an alternate world where they are reliving the events of a world where they never existed.
The game is a tactical strategy RPG. Story events are told through the use of static images with voice over of each of the characters. It mixes familiar elements of the SMT universe with a really solid turn based, grid based battle system. Each character in your party can move a specific amount of space each turn, attack anyone in adjacent squares and even aid allies through the use of their abilities. You can summon demons into the world through the use of a demon summoning app on your phone. This lets each party member control two demons who fight alongside them.
When in combat you choose the actions for each party member and their allied demons. Each side of the fight is arrange with the party member or main character in the center with the two demons on either side of them. You have two options when battling. You can take out the assisting characters first to gain additional EXP or you can choose to try and end a fight more quickly by taking out the person in the center. Each person in the fight has strengths and weaknesses based on different elements. Exploiting their weaknesses gives you the opportunity to earn additional attacks in battle that can be the difference between ending a fight quickly or prolonging it out and using valuable resources like magic ability or health.
Then there’s the demon fusing. If you’re a fan of the Shin Megami Tensei universe you know this is one form or another, whether it’s demons or personas. You’ve probably got charts and excel spreadsheets showing the best possible combinations to fuse. You’ve researched which skill combinations work best among party members. It’s an incredibly deep system that is rewarding to explore. In Devil Survivor you obtain new demons through an online auction. You bid against NPCs to try and get the best demons at the lowest price. You can then add them to your team, assigning them to different party members or you can use them for the specific purpose of fusing them with other demons. No one demon can be higher level than the main character of your party, but as you level up you see more and more unique demons that you weren’t able to use previously. It’s fun to just try out different combinations and see what they create when fused together.
Part of the appeal of the story is managing your time. Every action, outside of the story progression sections will take up valuable time, usually 30 minutes at a time. You can choose to do as many of these side missions and story beats as you want, but they come at a price. Many of the events of the game take place at specific times. If you choose to do too many of the extra bits then you run the risk of having a “life altering” event take place. This can be the death of a character, one that you might have been able to save if you’d acted quicker. It’s a risk/reward style system that feels makes all of the decisions you make feel weighty and like they have a purpose. You need that little bit of an XP boost to take down an enemy coming up, but if you do X character may die. Is that worth the risk to try and save them? This leads the game to have many multiple endings.
Most of the story arcs eventually lead to the same place. The characters will have different reactions based on your choices, but they ultimately pull you in the same direction. You may choose to have a flirty response with one character that leads her to blush and act shy for a couple of story beats. You could also choose to be more cold to that person. You build relationships with each character you encounter and the strength of your bond with those characters ties directly into how strong some of their options in battle then become. I always felt like every decision in the game I made meant something and that caused me to weigh my reactions to things more than I would had it just meant a slight change in the dialogue or would just continue the story with no affect.
I love RPGs. I consume as many of them as I can as often as I can. I missed out on this one the first time around on the DS. I’m glad I didn’t this time. This was one of the best RPGs I’ve played in a long time. I think after experience both the main Shin Megami Tensei universe, dabbling in the Persona universe, and now this it’s probably my favorite branch of the SMT tree. I dig strategy RPGs. This one had a story that kept me engaged the entire time. The new story arc created something that felt different from the main story while still keeping it grounded in the events that I experienced in the first part. I need to go back and finish that Septentrione story to see exactly what led up to the events of the Triangulum. If you’re looking for a really, really good RPG experience then this one might be one worth checking out.