And that's why I don't like cricket.

Shin Megami Tensei Devil Survivor 2

By S.A. Renegade on March 17, 2012 in Reviews

Final verdict: B
Final playtime: 45 hours

Aight, sup my dogs and cats and mice. You know why we’re here, yeah? That’s right, it’s time to go over Devil Survivor 2. As it should be abundantly apparent by now, ain’t nobody as huge of a SMT fanboy as me. But even still, I’ma keep it extra real as usual. The first thing you might be wondering is, how does this game stack up to the first one? Well, more or less the same, actually. Not only is the game very safe and similar to the first one (a good thing), but it does some things better and some things worse, which kinda balance each other out.

As you should already know from my review of the first game, Devil Survivor 2 is a turn based strategy RPG in a similar vein to Fire Emblem, ‘cept every character is actually a team of three, because every person has two demons. The entire game takes place during 7 days (actually it’s 8 days, so the trailer was lying. Now that’s my kind of false advertising.) and every event that you do or scene that you watch takes 30 minutes of game time, excluding random battles. This means that you only have a certain amount of things you can do each day, so you have to choose what you want to do, and some things you’re just gonna miss (unless you play again or do a lot of resetting). In this regard, Devil Survivor 2 has even more events than the first game. In fact, it has a lot more. So that’s cool, but beyond that, a difference is that a majority of those are character development events because Devil Survivor 2 apes the P3/P4 system of “friendship ranks” that increase as you spend more time with a character.

It’s called the fate rank or whatever, and as you increase the ranking with a character you get perks with them like natural resistances to elements, the ability to transfer demons in battle and the ability to fuse special demons. However, the ranking is affected solely based on whether or not you decide to spend time with the character and not by the answers you choose. This is an improvement, because something I’ve always hated about the Persona system is how you get these multiple choice answers but there is never any actual choice, because one answer is always the correct one, which will give you the points to advance, and the rest are the incorrect ones that will only make you waste time if you choose them. Thus there is no point in choosing what you really think or want to say. So Pikachu- I mean, Atlus, take notes! It’s more fun to be allowed to choose what you want to say than this stupid little game of  “find the correct random string of words that will give you the points”. Oh yeah, that’s right, bitch, I said it. Why do I have to lie to Nanako and tell her that her dead mom is in heaven or that the tooth fairy is real or that santa claus ain’t a punkass bitch to get those points? Fuck that. That shit don’t fly with a real nigga like me. See this is the problem with kids these days, instead of being straight with them their parents make all this shit up to preserve their “innocence” or whatever the fuck. More like to perpetuate stupidity and ignorance.

But what was I supposed to be talking about? Oh right. Speaking of characters, that’s a field where Devil Survivor 2 is clearly better than its predecessor. First of all, against all odds, the main girl Io is actually really cool and not an annoying bitch like Yuzu in the first one. In fact, unlike the first game there aren’t really any characters that I outright hate (only some that I find uninteresting). Of course, that could be helped by the fact that not only does DS2 give you the option to only spend time with the characters you like, but also introduces all of the characters into your party early on and gives you access to most of them for most of the game. So it has a lot more options and variety from the get-go, in stark contrast to DS1 where you’re stuck with the same cunts for like the first 6 days before finally getting the cool people.

Just like in the first game, you can expect a lot of choice on what to do. As I said before, you won’t be able to see all events so you have to spend your time wisely, but something that I also found very interesting was the fact that the exact same event can be different depending on what order you did things in, or whether you did a certain thing before, or what the current situation of the plot is. Also, based on your actions characters can die off in the story, although I only know 100% for a fact of one character that can die because all the others I always made sure to save immediately (and even the one that did die was an accident and I reset and made sure to get there in time to save him so it‘s all grood).

Now lemme talk a little about the gameplay and why this game is so fun. First off, despite the game having no difficulty settings, I find the default difficulty to be pretty good. It has a decent level of challenge, which encourages you to always be upgrading your demons and making your team more powerful. There were fights where I actually lost and had to redo them again and sometimes even go for a different strategy and change up demons and skills and whatnot. So that was fun. There are also some tough optional battles. A mechanic that I’ve always really liked about these games is that there are no items to save your ass in battle like in a lot of games. The fact that running out of MP is devastating and a real danger is a good move because it makes the sustainability of your party an important issue and adds another layer of depth when creating your teams that just isn’t there in games that just shit out items until you have 99 of everything. I also like the skill crack feature where in every battle you are able to steal one skill from an enemy to add to your library. Cracking skills is fun because you know you’ll need ‘em later. Same deal with getting new demons, that’s always been great, even though this game still suffers from the previous one’s problem of some demon races just being blatantly way better than others. Among the worst offenders guilty of being extremely godlike are Viles that increase your attack range to 3 spaces, Avians that increase your movement and allow you to pass through objects, Kishins that allow you to fight twice, Omegas that give you the chance to get a second bonus turn, and of course the sustain races like Divines and Tyrants.

In fact, now that I mention it, being the safe game that it is, Devil Survivor 2 carries over a lot of the bad things the first game had instead of fixing them. Aside from what I just mentioned, it still has the kinda bad design of imposing a very hard exp cap on you, where once you go over a certain point enemies start giving almost no exp, which gives the sense of being really boxed in and forced to always be exactly the level they want you to be. If you think about it this kind of thing is just fucking lazy as shit, because rather than just fucking playtesting to create a proper level of challenge throughout the game, they do it by just forcefully homogenizing everyone into being at the same power level. Look, if you’re designing the game and you’re scared that you won’t know how strong to make enemies because some players will be stronger than others, the solution is actually VERY simple: when in doubt, make them tougher. It really is that simple. Playtest your god damn game, make sure that you play properly and make yourself very strong, and then make the game hard enough that it still poses a challenge in that situation. Oh sure, pussies who aren’t playing properly will get crushed, but then all they have to do is regroup, try a little harder, get stronger, make a better team, etc. It’s all part of the fun. For reference, see Nocturne: a game that doesn’t have a hard exp cap and still manages to be challenging. Hell, in that game you could just keep leveling all the way to 99 and even past that (although the number froze at 99). In this game getting past 70 is literally impossible. At least until new game+ where they remove the exp cap.

Which brings me to my next point: Why. THE. FUCK. Is this retarded new game+ feature still in here? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: nothing makes a second playthrough more pointless and boring than being able to carry over all of your skills, all of your max level demons, your compendium, your money, and whatever the fuck else. I can’t believe these dumbasses STILL haven’t learned. When you play a game again, it should be HARDER, not EASIER. And especially not so much easier to the point of becoming trivial. You’re doing it fucking ass-backwards, you assholes. What should happen after you beat a game and replay it is that you unlock Nightmare Mode. Or Ass-rape Mode. Or You Betta Break Yoself Mode. Not this… this… this shit. For reference, see Devil Summoner 1. Now there’s a game that handled this correctly.

The one area where I really feel that Devil Survivor 2 falls short of the first game is the plot. While it’s actually in fact very similar (and apes Nocturne’s plot probably just as hard as the first one, but perhaps in slightly different areas), and is pretty interesting at first, it really falls off after you’ve chosen your path (in contrast with Devil Survivor 1 which only gets really fucking awesome after you’ve chosen your path) simply because it doesn’t have the equivalent of DS1’s demon king ending. Simply put, none of the paths in DS2 are that appealing, and that makes me sad. I mean, how can I get pumped about these shitty options man?! I gotta feel conviction about the path I chose like in Devil Survivor 1. I gotta be all like fuck YOU. If you get in my way I will end you. But in this it’s just like meh…whatever. I just can’t get into it, and that really hurts it.

The game also feels more light-hearted in general, with more humorous scenes like Io going all Solid Snake to infiltrate a place and things like the protagonist having the option to say really silly/funny/playful things surprisingly often. Also unlike the first game where friends who didn’t agree with your path straight abandoned you, in this one you can convince almost everybody into switching over to your side (this is actually a good thing because even though by a stroke of luck Devil Survivor 1 conveniently had the cool characters join me, it‘s better to make sure that you‘re able to get a character that you really like). Hell, this game even has a peeping tom bath scene for some reason! Seriously, what is the deal with every jap game these days having an obligatory bath scene with the girls comparing their boobs and shit? Is it just me or does it seem like they all gotta have that exact scene at some point for some reason? I swear to god it’s getting ridiculous. Sheeesh.

But anyway yeah. Devil Survivor 2 is very similar to the first one with a lot of the same good things and also a lot of the bad things like the fact that it‘s much too short. Although it has some small improvements here and there like a better cast, it’s balanced out by the plot not being as cool. Overall though it’s a really fun game as well and I was sad to finish it.

Final Verdict: B

Final Playtime: 45 hours

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