The original Devil Survivor was an unusual departure for the Shin Megami Tensei franchise. Most of the games in the series are traditional RPGs. Some more closely resemble dungeon-crawlers than others, but they tend to be in the same genre. However, Devil Survivor replaced dungeons with strategy-RPG battles and put an increased emphasis on the story and time management aspects. Oddly, Devil Survivor: Overclocked for the Nintendo 3DS is a straight port of the original game. The new Nintendo DS title, Devil Survivor 2, is the actual sequel, but don't mistake its presence on an older system for being a low-effort game. Devil Survivor 2 is shaping up to be an excellent follow-up to the first Devil Survivor.
Devil Survivor 2 is more of a thematic sequel. Like the original game, you play as a high school student in modern-day Japan. You and your friends sign up for a YouTube-like site called Nicaea, which doesn't host funny cat videos but is instead said to show videos of the deaths of people who are close to the watcher. Moments before the accident occurs, the player and his friends receive a video of a train crashing into the station at which they're waiting. The Web site saves them by offering a chance to use a Summoning App to call forth demons to save their lives. However, saving their own lives is the first step in the adventure. The train derailment was caused by an invading monster, which is raining down death and destruction on the planet with its fellow monsters. The only ones who can stop them are Demon Trainers, who have access to the Summoning App. It's up to your character to find a way to survive and stop the monsters before all is destroyed.
Not a lot has changed in Devil Survivor 2, with the basic gameplay being almost identical to the original Devil Survivor. For those who never played the first game or the recent 3DS port Devil Survivor Overclocked, the Devil Survivor brand is a combination of Shin Megami Tensei demon recruiting, battles and strategy-RPG elements. Players are given control of four humans, each with a team of two demons, and put onto a large battlefield. You take turns moving your units around the map and attacking one another. In combat, each side has one round to attack the other side. Successfully striking enemy weaknesses earns you an extra chance to attack in the same round, but this can only occur once. Combat lasts until the "leader" of the enemy party is defeated. For trainers, this is the human. For demons, it is merely the demon in the middle of the party.
Magic in Devil Survivor 2 takes the form of Skill Cracks. If an enemy has a skill that you covet, you can choose to mark it as "cracked." If you defeat that enemy with the character who marked him or her, you permanently learn that skill. Magic goes into a party pool: Everyone has access to every cracked skill, but each skill can only be equipped by one party member. Compared to the previous Devil Survivor, skills are far easier to equip. Their stat requirements are lower, and there are various mechanisms in place that make it easier to obtain them. There's also a greater variety of characters, so you're less likely to be stuck with only a few party members and a few potential character builds like you were in the first game.
As with any good Shin Megami Tensei game, a big part of Devil Survivor 2 is recruiting demons. Almost every system from the original Devil Survivor returns unchanged. You still recruit demons from the demon auction by bidding on them with money. You can also fuse them to form more powerful demons, each of which can equip three "active" skills and three "passive" skills, as well as one innate "racial" skill. The only noteworthy change comes from the addition of add-ons. The ability to randomly add bonus skills to a demon after battle has vanished; in exchange, you will occasionally find an add-on. During fusion, you can use an add-on to add new skills or stat boosts to the resulting demon. Each add-on is a single-use item, so be judicious.
One of the larger changes to the game is the introduction of a Persona-style "friendship" system. As you interact with characters, they'll gradually grow closer to you, and that leads to special passive bonuses. For example, the first time you level up, that character gains a permanent boost to one or more of his elemental resistances, making him more capable of taking and dealing damage. At level two, you gain the Joint Crack ability, so the protagonist can "crack" any move that his ally has marked. This continues, with each level granting new abilities.
Like Persona however, this friendship system comes with a price. Pretty much everything you do in Devil Survivor 2 takes time. Each game day has only a limited amount of free time that you can spend with friends. The original Devil Survivor had this as well, but Devil Survivor 2 has a lot less free time. There are a lot more actions to take and a lot more chances to screw up. Nicaea continues to send you death clips, and each clip represents a potential lost opportunity. If you screw around too much, you'll fail to find the victim, and he or she will die. There are also hidden plots and secret paths to discover, which you can only find by investigating certain story lines. While the main yarn isn't something you can miss, you'll only see part of the game if you don't carefully manage your time.
Devil Survivor2 doesn't shake up the formula of the original game. It adds some Persona-style Social Links and refines the combat, but it's still the same game you had played on the DS or 3DS. This isn't a bad thing, as the original Devil Survivor was a solid game, and Devil Survivor 2 is shaping up to be just as well designed. It's a nice bonus that it's on the DS, since it means that both DS and 3DS owners can enjoy the game. If you're a fan of Shin Megami Tensei games or of the original Devil Survivor game, you'll find a lot to like in the sequel, which is scheduled to hit store shelves at the end of February.
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