Unleash the Devil within you..or you know, get the app like everybody else.
Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 Record Breaker is everything that is good about the original 2011 release and so much more. Devil Survivor is another spin-off of the Shin Megami Tensei series of games and is a tactical role-playing RPG, much like the Final Fantasy Tactics of old or the more recent Agarest War series. Devil Survivor 2 is an unforgiving RPG like its sibling games too, but that’s not where it stops as everything in the game is designed to deter you, from the increasingly difficult monsters to the more complex Death Clips that you have to stop. There’s tons to do but oh so little time to do it in.
Record Breaker is essentially a remake of Devil Survivor 2. It has better visuals, better music and it is basically two RPG games in one. The Septentrione Arc (Devil Survivor 2) and Triangulum Arc (Record Breaker) are two complete games packaged in one. But what’s a remake without changes right? Both Devil Survivor 2 and the Record Breaker expansion feature fully voiced characters and the ability to change difficulties. Record Breaker comes complete with those changes, along with new songs and new characters and it begins on the last day of Devil Survivor 2 in a brand new arc based on an entirely new ending from the original Devil Survivor.
Interchangeable Difficulties? Sweet! No, not really. While you can make the game easier, I can assure you that the game will not be TOO easy. This is still Shin Megami Tensei at its finest. It is unforgiving and the odds are stacked against you, but fear not as DLCs are here to help! No, not really. The game is designed perfectly to tilt the balance against you, even with paid DLCs to help you grind and loot money, the enemies are still faster and stronger, and are always 2 steps ahead of you.
The visuals of the game looked amazing in 2011 and they still look amazing today. While Devil Survivor 2 Record Breaker may indeed be an enhanced port, the game’s ‘outdated’ art by today’s standards has withstood the test of time to provide the same gaming experience back then to gamers today, if not better.
The colors look even better this time around, even though the changes are subtle, but players of the older Devil Survivor 2 will immediately feel those changes and younger players won’t even realize that Record Breaker is a 4 year old game. Of course, what’s a Shin Megami Tensei game without its demons right? Yes, the demons have returned and this time they look badder and they want your macca. I have always loved the design of the Demons in the Shin Megami Tensei series, from the macabre and the bizarre (MARA YOU KNOW I AM TALKING ABOUT YOU) to the spunky and vivacious (Pixie is best girl), Devil Survivor meshes them all into one loveable ball of hate that will kill you as soon as you encounter them in battle. Ah, good times amirite?
Speaking of Demons, they are actually one of the main points of the game. See, in Persona, the Velvet Room people help you manage your Personae using their compendium and their fusion and the Personae could actually be procured on the field. Unlike Persona, however, Devil Survivor features the Nicea application where Demons that you have fought in the past COULD be bought, provided that you can outbid your competitors.
Yup, Demon Auction. Nifty right? No. Like I said earlier, the game’s odds are stacked against you. You do not earn enough money and you will not be able to save your money especially when you need it most. Also, shops do not exist in the game. No equipment, no Phoenix Downs. Nope. You are left to fend for yourself in a world filled with creatures that could rip you to shreds if they felt like it. Is the game sounding more and more challenging by the second? Good, because it is. You have to respect this game in order to beat it, which I learned the hard way the first time I played it a few years back.
The music… man don’t even get me started on the music. While there are minimal changes to the game’s original soundtrack, the nostalgia that comes with them brought me back into the game. But what surprised me the most is the addition of Shoji Meguro (Persona! Catherine!) into the fray. Yup! The Triangulum Arc comes with brand new songs by the Master himself! What I can say about the music however, is that the tracks bring their own story into the game. Some are more action oriented and some are slower and more menacing, and it definitely helps in building whatever atmosphere that you may need for the game.
As stated earlier, both games are now fully voiced and, while that is usually cause for celebration, in Devil Survivor 2’s case it is not. The voice acting in the game is generally unremarkable and not even the great Greg Ayres was able to bring out the best in his character. The voice acting feels bland and the characters always sound bored, but I will say that I did love Luci Christian as Tico, the Nicea app’s female navigator, who’s similar in essence to Ali Hillis’ Burroughs from Shin Megami Tensei IV.
Luci did well where her colleagues did not – she brought life (although in a bizarre way) into a world that is falling apart and for that I commend her. All in all, if anything in the game has to be the lowest point, it would have to be the voice acting which I believe could have been done better, similar to the anime adaptation of Devil Survivor 2 whose voice acting was not terrible at best.
Gameplay-wise, Record Breaker is not too different from its 2011 release. The player has the freedom to explore the various ruined cities of Japan during their free time, but every interaction will eat away what limited time that you may have left, so choosing what to do and when to do it is key to surviving the menace that is Devil Survivor 2. Of course, the time system is a vital part of the story as certain characters will be introduced to you via the Death Clip feature of the Nicea application which is essentially a video of them dying in a certain way in a certain place and this is where the game becomes a race against time and investigating the ruined cities of Japan takes time so if you take too long, your friend could die, never to come back ever again. Heavy, right? Right. In this case, you have no plot armor to protect your main characters and everyone -without exception- CAN die.
The battles are the main selling point of the Devil Survivor series, to be honest. While on the outside, it is a full-on Shin Megami Tensei game, inside Devil Survivor is on a league of its own with its own Tactical RPG elements perfectly meshed with the more traditional Shin Megami Tensei bits such as exploring and getting to know your people. Battles in Devil Survivor work with the player being able to strategically place his or her characters across the maps in the game and each map is separated by grids which the player can use to direct his character’s movements like a chess piece.
Encounters are mostly voluntary, wherein the player could choose to attack or run away (but the opposite applies if the enemy chooses to engage you in combat which in this case – you have no choice, fight or defend) and if the player does choose to attack, the player and his character accompanied by his demons (each character can carry a maximum of two demons) will fight in a traditional RPG menu not unlike Shin Megami Tensei IV wherein the battles are in first person and the status and other useful info is displayed in the DS’ secondary screen.
All in all the battles are very interesting though admittedly, they do have a steep learning curve. But even so, mastering the game’s mechanics is rewarding in its own way. What helps however, are the supremely comfortable controls that comes with the game. Everything is easy to traverse and learn, and battling is at least made more comfortable by how relatively easy to learn and master the controls are.
The plot of the game is good. I mean real good. The formula is simple but it is a tried and tested one and in Devil Survivor’s case, it does not disappoint. The world is going to be destroyed in a few days and it is up to the protagonist and his friends to save it, only the protagonist’s friends can all actually die if you let them die (See Death Clips above). The game is bleak but it does know when to throw in some humor every now and then and it does that magnificently. The addition of the Triangulum Arc is a welcome one and the story is actually resolved nicely but it sure feels like a new port or hey, maybe even a full-on sequel is needed. Is the game that good to merit a full sequel? Definitely. I want more Devil Survivor and Triangulum may be a satisfying epilogue but I need more.
Speaking of plot, the game features the FATE system akin to Persona’s social links. You can build your relationship with your party members through time consuming interactions and conversational choices that could affect your rate of progression. Also worth noting is that, as you progress your relationship with your friends, they start developing strengths and fusion moves that they can use with the protagonist which are badly needed in this unforgiving game. I personally wanted to social link err… Fate System the heck out of Makoto every time I could and at some point, I even caused the death of one of my friends because I spent too much time with Makoto. Worth it! Just kidding.
To sum things up nicely, Devil Survivor 2: Record Breaker is an excellent ‘remake’ of the 2011 Devil Survivor 2. The plot, music and gameplay is incredible and replayability is hinted at every possible moment. Record Breaker is an excellent game with completely optional DLCs but it is extremely unforgiving!
Enter the game with a steeled heart and do your best to survive until the final day. God speed players and thank you for reading my review.