[Review] Devil Survivor 2: Record Breaker
Posted on May 4, 2015 by Dennis(@LyonHart_) in 3DS, Reviews
Release: May 5, 2015
When you think demons, you think about terrible sentient monsters that aim to do nothing but torture you and inevitably drive you to death. But what if you were put in a position where the very thing that’s nurtured to torment and cause perpetual trepidation becomes the cause and reason for your survival in a world that’s quickly dissipating?
Devil Survivor 2: Record Breaker wants you to experience this firsthand, with an extensive and elaborate narrative that shapes itself by how you choose to respond to certain situations, whether it be during gameplay in the battlefields set all around Japan, or during a cut-scene where you’re sometimes prompted to choose how to respond when interacting with another character. This is a game that wants you to be personally invested, to the point where they let you name your character, both first name and last. You’re only given a certain amount of spaces to input your name, but most names should fit with ease like mine did – Keanu Reeves.
Devil Survivor 2 starts out with you finishing up a test in high school, and soon after it’s over, your best yet quirky friend in the game, Daichi, runs over to you and asks you about it. After a bit of bickering, he tells you about this phone app he finds called “Nicaea” that shows people who you meet and death videos of those closest to you. You wonder and ask why anyone wants to see or even sign up for a website like this, but Daichi without hesitating says, “It’s what everyone’s doing now! Sign up, dude!”
When you sign up, you’re greeted by an avatar of your choosing known as your Nicaea Contact. You can choose between a male or female, both of which are named Tico. This will be your “guide” of sorts as you go on your journey. The male avatar is very stern and professional throughout the game, while the female – who refers to herself adorably as Tico-Tico – is extremely jovial. I ended up going with Tico-Tico because in a situation like the one you’re in, you could use all the humor and gaiety you can get. Later down the line, when the game gets extremely somber, you tend to look forward to her appearances. It legitimately gets to a point where she’s one of the very few things left that’s capable of putting a smile on your face.
You soon find that Nicaea is the app that you’ll be using heavily throughout the game. This will be your “hub” of sorts for when you’re not in battle. Before being able to access it, you and Daichi head home after a long day at school. While waiting in the train station, you run into another person who will end up joining your party, Io Nitta. Soon after the introductions, your phone starts to ring and vibrate. It’s a notification from Nicaea with a death video attached. It’s Io, along with yourself and Daichi in the train station, and you all die from the train derailing.
It’s not long before things begin to go awry, and you begin to realize that the videos sent to you from Nicaea are not some fabrication but are indeed real future occurrences. Nicaea, for better or for worse, is your crystal ball of death, but will also serve as your primary weapon for survival.
Devil Survivor 2: Record Breaker is your standard SRPG, set in gridlocked maps with each character assigned a certain number of blocks to move to and an attack range based upon your level and stats. Each time you gain a level, you’re given a stat point. These stat points can be assigned to your Strength, raising your normal and physical attacks; Magic, raising your elemental attacks as well as your MP; Vitality, raising your HP and lessening damage taken from enemies; and Agility, which determines your move order and increases your chances of getting Extra Turns. Extra Turns are earned a various amount of ways, by either getting it at the start of battle, getting a critical hit, or evading an enemy’s attack.
Eventually, you’re introduced to another gameplay mechanic as well: the Demon Summoning App. Anyone with this app on their phones can summon demons at their will and use them to fight alongside in battle; it’s reminiscent of Pokémon in the way that after you defeat a demon, you essentially “catch” them, though they’re not officially yours until you win a bid for them in the self-explanatory “Demon Auction”.
There are tons of demons in the game that come in all shapes, sizes, and races, each with their own specialty. With these demons that you bid on, you can further enhance their abilities by fusing them to make stronger demons. This part of Devil Survivor 2 is extremely fun due to the Pokémon-like approach and getting creative with how you assign attributes to your demons. Though you can view logs and information to see what demons you’ll create by eligible fusions, I found it a lot more exciting to simply use the demons I had in my party and see what would come up instead of going through logs to see what I could potentially create.
There’s another neat feature in Devil Survivor 2 as well. Let’s say that you really become attached to a certain demon and don’t exactly want to offer it for a fusion, yet you don’t have much of a choice because it’s all you have that’s eligible for that next big demon powerhouse. Well, you can register demons beforehand in what’s called your Compendium, so after you do fuse that beloved demon of yours, you can simply go back to the Compendium and re-summon said demon for a fee. Depending on the level and type of demon, some will require a good amount of Macca (the game’s currency), but most prices are reasonable. Registrations are free and endless, so if you have a demon that levels up during a future battle, you can go back to your Compendium and update their registration.
After you become exposed to the power you now hold as a Demon Tamer, you quickly notice the state of decay that Japan is in after leaving the train station. Demons begin to roam the streets and cities are collapsing at a rapid rate. People are rioting and dying. Law at this point has become irrelevant and life becomes a matter of survival. The weak die and strong survive, both physically and mentally. You either become stoic, or let emotion get in the way and suffer like the rest. Age at this point is just a number; you being in high school means nothing. In this world, if you are capable, you are able. Food is scarce, phone lines are cut and electricity is minimal. A secret organization known as JP’s (pronounced “Jips”) approaches you soon after as they caught wind of you and your group using demons to face off against others. JPs will help you figure out the reason behind everything that’s going on, as they also want to know two things: how and why?
The story of Devil Survivor 2 is a deep and intricate one that touches a lot on human beliefs, morals, merits, and eugenics as well as coming to terms with who you are as well as who you want to be. As you progress through the game, you’ll essentially have to make decisions on who lives and dies, the relationships you’ll have with your comrades, and inevitably the fate of the world.
One thing that bothered me immensely throughout the course of Devil Survivor 2 is the lack of the upper screen use of the 3DS. The screen remains black. This is the dominant screen in terms of ratio and resolution, so why 70 percent of the game takes place on the bottom screen – conversations, gameplay, and some cutscenes – is beyond me, and truly a shame as the art direction in Devil Survivor 2 is quite pretty. The sprites are well designed and animated, and the actual portraits of characters you see during dialogue are detailed. Not putting the upper screen to use for these scenarios so you can fit more text on the screen and really bring the vibrant colors, sprites, and art to life is certainly disappointing. What the upper screen does provide when it is in use, however, is enemy information while out on the field, letting you know what a certain demon is weak or strong against. Outside of battle, you’ll run into the occasional cutscene that utilizes both screens – stretching an image across them – or when you’re accessing apps on your phone, you’ll see demon information be displayed here as well.
The touch interface of the bottom screen works well, but oddly enough isn’t always active. I found myself sometimes using the touchscreen heavily (though you can navigate using the D-pad and ABXY buttons just fine), so it was odd whenever you’d get into a place like a mission/battle and all of a sudden touch controls were no longer available. It’s not an issue that’ll make you defenestrate your 3DS by any means, but for those that do like to use the touchscreen a lot in their games when it is provided, it’ll certainly throw them off. I thought my touchscreen was malfunctioning at some parts.
The music that roars during the missions and battles are simple but memorable. Each and every track has its own emotion attached to it that you’ll hear very frequently throughout the duration of the game. The same beautiful piano piece plays during sad and emotional scenes, heavy guitars accentuate boss battles, and more up tempo goofy tracks play during comedic moments. The soundtrack is set on a theme that fits the world of Devil Survivor, but each piece with its own distinction designed to accentuate various situations.
Devil Survivor 2: Record Breaker by no means pushes the SRPG genre. It’s everything you’d expect to be part of your standard SRPG, also with intuitive controls that make sense from the get-go, but it does have its own flair with beautiful demon designs and an intricate story that is sure to make you think, even if it does unfortunately limit most of what you’ll see and experience to the smaller inferior touch screen. The battle system is deep enough to involve strategy, but not too deep to the point it becomes convoluted and can be only be mastered by those willing to devote a chunk of their time into the game. The relationships you build with characters over time are up to you, and so are their lives. It can be heartbreaking when a particular character you’ve grown fond of ends up dying because you weren’t paying attention to how the events were lining up. Mistakes will be made, but in Devil Survivor 2, it’s up to you to save the world by any means necessary. Casualties come with the trade.
If you’re a fan of Atlus, SRPGs, Pokémon-like monster training/handling, and/or make-your-own-path style stories and gameplay, then this is definitely worth picking up. The game will run you around 35 hours, but if you’re trying to complete everything you possibly can from demons to spells and attributes, you’re looking at a game that will give you close to 100 hours of content. It also has an anime if you want to squeeze a bit more out of it, too!