Following the success of the original 2009 release Shin Megami Tensei Devil Survivor, Atlus released the sequel for the DS. Even though it has the "2" on its name, there are no direct relation between the two titles in term of the storyline. The same but improved battle system and demon collection make a return, and I'm happy to say that it is as addictive as ever.
**About The Game**
Without giving any spoilers, this is the gist of the story: You, the protagonist, are just a normal high school student just finished with the mock exam. Everything starts when you, the protagonist, and your friends cheated death, with the help of demons, after looking at a site that showed how you will die. Earthquake hits Japan, every building falls down, radios and phones do not work, and deaths are everywhere. Now you need to find out the cause of the disaster, and in the same time, struggle to survive and save humanity.
There are a total of 14 playable characters, including the protagonist (who you name him yourself). You can only choose three of the thirteen (must include the main protagonist) during a battle, but more characters mean more choices. All characters differ in their personality, and you can't help but to really care to most of them.
The other main part of this game is its battle sequences. Think of it as a strategy RPG, where you deploy your characters in a grid, and you need to move next to your opponent's grid if you want to attack them. When you attack them (or vice versa), it turns into a traditional JRPG battle sequence, where you have a 3 vs 3 battle skirmish. Your human characters will be the party leader, accompanied by two other demons. If the leader dies, then the whole party dies too, and the same goes with the enemy. But the leader will take less damage if they still have the partners in the party.
A battle sequence usually ends after each party member attack once, but they may have the opportunity to attack once more if they exploit the enemy's weaknesses. The closest example would be Pokemon. If the opponent if weak against ice, you attack them with ice: this will give you a multiplied damage and a chance to get an Extra Turn.
There are hundreds of demons that you can collect, and they are the most important part in the battle. You can buy them from the Demon Auction site, using Macca (the currency in this game) that you earned from your battles. This saves you more time to collect more demons as you don't have to use any difficult method to obtain them. Some demons are not available at the auction site, and you need to use the Demon Fusion to obtain higher-level demons.
Each demon belong to a race, and each race has their own Racial Skill. For example, Dragons allow you to attack foes two grids away from you, Jaki can limit you opponent movement to only one grid away, and more high level races like Tyranny will restore you Magic Points at the end of every skirmish.
***Minor Improvements Over The Prequel***
Atlus is making the sequel ten times better with this borrowed feature from other Shin Megami Tensei series, namely the Persona series. The FATE system to Devil Survivor 2 is what the Social Links are to Persona 3 & 4, but in simpler form. You can listen to other character's problems and backstories. When you give them the best respond, their rank on the FATE system increases. The maximum level for each character is 5, and you will get rewards for each rank up. This makes listening to other characters more interesting and meaningful, in addition to their already interesting backgrounds.
--More Demons and Race--
In addition to the demons that were in the originals, they added more into the amount and gives you more choice of demons to choose from (just like Pokemon, the duds are inevitable). New races also available, such as Ghost and Omega, thus opening up more possibilities for battle strategy.
--New Racial Skills For Higher Level Demons--
This is what I least expected when I played the game, and it is the improvement about the battle that I appreciate the most. This keeps the game fresh, especially if you played the recent Devil Survivor Overclocked (an enhanced version of the first one) on 3DS. Like I said before, Dragon race can attack foes at two grids away from you. If your demon of Dragon race level up higher, it will gain a new racial skill in addition to the old one, which is to be able to attack opponent at six grids away from you, but in cost of more MP.
***What I Like***
--An Engaging Story and Multiple Paths to Ending--
The story keeps me engaged until the credit rolls. I assure you that it is really good. First you just want to know what caused the disaster to struck Japan. Then when you find the cause, you need to decide on what you are going to do with the cause. There are total six endings to the game, and the choices that you have are very well-implemented. The choices are not black and white, as what you choose depends on what is your belief in certain matter. It was hard for me to choose because there are no wrong answers: just what do you feel is the right thing to do. Multiple paths and endings also make the game less linear, and somewhat provide a reason to replay the game, especially if you want to see what happen if you choose another path.
--Gotta Catch 'Em All!--
The Demon Fusion is a very deep system, as your resulting demon can inherit the stats and the skills from the fused demons. So you can create your own super demon that no one else can if you are willing to spend searching for the best demon and the best material demons. The resulting demon can learn any skills that the material demons have, so choosing the material demons is also important.
--Interesting Characters and Their Backstories--
For me, this is the point that stands out more than the rest. The feeling of wanting to know the characters better is the main force for driving me to play the game until the end. Each character has their own personality and backstory that make you really care about the character. Some people will choose their party members according to their battle stats, but I choose mine according to my emotional attachment to them.
You don't have to listen to their backstories, and you can choose who you want to listen to. Each character has their own agenda/problem/opinion that are interesting to listen to, and they all give more colors to the game. For example, Io has problems with sounding off her opinions, and Joe has been avoiding his girlfriend who is sick. You listen to them, and you give back your responds. If your responds are good, your relationship with that person will be deeper, and you will be rewarded with some things. The rewards are very, very beneficial, and that is for you to discover.
I'll be honest here: I like Airi very much.
This is just a minor point, but somehow the color blue is making this game more delightful to look at, rather than the original's red. It gives a different tone and mood to the game when I am playing it. It doesn't burn my eye like the original did. This game is also lighter on its mood, and there are plenty of funny dialogues and cheerful scenes. It is not as tense as the original, and that is a good one.
Playing this game, I realized why I kind of hated the original. It's the MUSIC. The music in this one is so much better, and it fits the scenario and atmosphere perfectly. I particularly love the Anguished One theme.
--Battle Full of Tension and Strategy--
Just like most strategy RPG (like Final Fantasy Tactics), everything that you can do, the enemies can do too. So you have to plan your party and placements really well before going out to battle. But this also means problems because unlike other games, you rarely feel like you are the superior being in this game. Just as the enemies can die easily, you too can die in one turn if you are very unlucky or commit a grave mistake. See the "Brutal Difficulty" section below.
***What I Think You May Not Like***
You thought the original was difficult? Be thankful, because this game is harder. Much, much harder. Some battles seem like designed to make you lose. No kidding here. Some are just strategy-specific, and you need to be very lucky in this game. It can be overcome though, only if you are willing to study your enemies first, spend like 15 minutes setting up your skills and your demons, and grind. Grinding is a necessity if you want to win this game, so be prepared to spend some of your time leveling up and earn Macca to buy new demons.
Some battles can also take 30-45 minutes, longer if you die and need to retry. There is no way to skip the conversations and scenes, so you need to suck it up and deal with it. The bosses especially are no pushover. They will do everything in their power to kill you, and enough to make you rage so hard that you want to break the DS into two.
The final battle took me three tries before I finally defeated the boss, and not only it is hard, it is also LOOOOONNGG. The boss has three forms, and if you die when fighting the third form, you need to restart from the FIRST FORM. I think the total time just to defeat the last boss took me more than one hour. I don't really mind, but I know most casual gamers do.
The boss battles are hard, but it is not totally impossible (I finished the game~). Yes, the bosses are really intimidating, and somehow they are made to make you feel that you are not going to win. But the satisfaction you got from defeating them is priceless.
You can save a suspend data during battles, and only one suspend data can be made. So choose carefully when you want to save in a battle, and it might save you your time and your feelings.
--Any Character Can Die Forever Without Reminder--
In this game, you will receive a video that shows when a character will die. You can prevent this, or you can just let it slip and let the character die (forever!). This means that you will never see the character again, unless you start a new game. Sometimes you just don't know that the character can die at that moment, and it is easy for you do to other things first. My advise to you is to save often, and make use of the three save slots.
***What I Dislike***
--When The Game Ends--
Because it was a very wonderful experience, and now I demand for more games like this to be developed and released (last year's Radiant Historia was totally awesome too). Atlus you rock!
This game is the true swansong for the Nintendo DS. If you love strategy RPG, the Shin Megami Tensei series, or even if you just love Atlus, you need to play this game. It has a lot more to offer than the original. But if you don't think you can handle the difficulty of the game, you should probably avoid this game.
If you still have your DS, don't throw it away just yet. Take it out, wipe off the dust, and play this. You can also play this on the 3DS if you want.