Sunday, 13 December 2015

Devil Survivor 2 Record Breaker

The world isn't short of turn-based JRPGs. I don't know how many there are out there, but it's more than six. Competition is so fierce that it's almost impossible for such a game to stand out, let alone be remembered over time. Exceptions include almost any entry in the Shin Megami Tensei series, including the much-loved DS exclusive Devil Survivor 2 Record Breaker includes a fiddled-about-with version of this game and, as a generous bonus, a brand-new adventure that follows on directly afterwards. Sounds good, doesn't it? Yeah, but...

Developed by Career Soft and out now on  3DS comes Devil Survivor 2 Record Breaker. So what fiddling has taken place, exactly? Well, DS2 is now fully voiced. Every line of dialogue is spoken and, by and large, acted quite well. Your protagonist's buddy Daichi is acted absolutely superbly, and it's a shame nobody else quite matches up. In addition, there is now a new 'Blessed' difficulty for those who want to wimp out. This doesn't really do the job, though – more on which soon.

For the benefit of the uninitiated, the story of DS2 concerns demons, death, and smartphones. A rumour is doing the rounds of your character's high school of a website that allows you to see videos of how your friends will die. Naturally you and your buddies, being morbid bastards, sign up ASAP. It turns out that the rumour is true, and the appearance of the website precedes a mass invasion of demons. You soon die in a jolly nasty train accident, but! You and your friends are resurrected by challenging and defeating a couple of demons. Your mobiles now have a 'demon summoning app' (sort of like Just Eat, but quicker) which allows you to call, fuse, and command demons. Just as well, because there are dangerous monsters all over the bloody place.

There are no random battles (thank the deity of your choice) but plenty of compulsory ones, as well as a selection of optional encounters. These are all initiated by choosing them from an unglamorous list on the main map screen but, interestingly, when you choose to start them can have an effect on the story. It's a tale that takes place over seven days, and each menu event (including affinity-increasing chats) takes half an hour of in-game time. If you take too long to kick off certain story fights, it'll result in a character dying.

The turn-based battles are very old school, which immediately alienates anybody not already in love with the system. There's the obligatory strength & weakness element system in place for characters and attacks, and planning around it is much more important here than in most other games. The sadist developers don't make this clear until you've been playing for a dozen hours or so, at which point it's too late to correct any lack of planning. It's no less painful on the Blessed difficulty, which does at least let you quicksave during battles and repeat any that you lose while keeping your level and abilities.

Trudging through the same fight over and over until you're sufficiently strong is no fun, of course. And the new story? It's even more difficult, purposefully weakening you and your team further. The graphics and design are no better either, meaning that your enemies still appear only as static drawings. Static drawings which, during the harsher difficulty spikes, will make frustratingly short work of you and your allies. This is a case of preaching to the converted, really. Existing fans will be thrilled with Record Breaker, which sharpens up the original game while gifting a whole new story to play with. Genre fans unfamiliar with DS2 may still manage to get dozens upon dozens of hours of gleeful play from this – and the story's worth persevering for – but it has absolutely no interest in making the experience more accessible to the world at large.

This Devil is better if you know it. 3/5.


Luke Kemp

Devil Survivor 2 Record Breaker at CeX

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