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Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 Record Breaker

Platform(s): Nintendo 3DS
Genre: RPG/Strategy
Publisher: Atlus U.S.A.
Release Date: May 5, 2015 (US), Fall 2015 (EU)


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3DS Review - 'Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 Record Breaker'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on May 4, 2015 @ 8:00 a.m. PDT

Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 Record Breaker is an enhanced version of the 2011 NDS strategy RPG title, adding a new episode after the conclusion of the original, nearly doubling the content.

Buy Devil Survivor 2: Record Breaker

The Devil Survivor franchise has been an interesting deviation from the norm for the Shin Megami Tensei franchise. In terms of tone and style, it exists somewhere between the traditional SMT titles and Persona. They're both about teens in modern Japan and the oncoming apocalypse, and the result gives it a distinctive feel. Toss in the strategy-RPG gameplay, and Devil Survivor stands out from its brethren much more than other spin-offs like Digital Devil Saga or Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey. Perhaps that is why both Devil Survivor titles were tapped for 3DS ports. The original Devil Survivor: Overclocked came out near the start of the system's life cycle. Devil Survivor 2: Record Breaker has been a long time coming, but it's finally here, and it is almost exactly what Devil Survivor 2 fans have been expecting.

Devil Survivor 2: Record Breaker contains the full and almost unaltered version of the original Devil Survivor 2. The core gameplay hasn't changed very much from the original, so if you enjoyed the previous game and would like more of it, then you'll find exactly what you're expecting. Newcomers should read the original review of the game because in terms of mechanics and gameplay, the 3DS iteration is a straight port of the original. However, there are a number of changes that add to the overall value of the game.

The largest change to the main campaign has been a general rebalancing of the difficulty. The game now has two difficulty modes: Apocalypse and Blessed. Apocalypse is the default difficulty and is slightly tougher than the original games. Some fights seem to have higher-level enemies and tighter enemy compositions, but most of the abilities and tactics you used in the original title will work just as well in the new game. Abilities like Multi-Strike or Holy Dance are as powerful as ever. There are also a handful of new skills — e.g., Curse Dance, which drains enemy HP at a fixed rate, and Dream Eater, which lets you absorb enemy MP — although you won't see many of them until later. There are only a handful of new moves, and many have already appeared in Overclocked, but they're still nice to have.

The other mode, Blessed, significantly tones down the difficulty. You gain more Macca and EXP, and if you fail, you can restart a battle without losing experience and money. The Blessed difficulty isn't completely without bite, but it's a very relaxed mode that's designed for those who just want to experience the story. You can swap between Apocalypse and Blessed at will from the menu, so it's a nice way to cut down on grinding for EXP or Macca if you're stuck.

The biggest new selling point in Devil Survivor 2 is the addition of the Triangulum arc, which is a sequel to the main game. However, returning players can choose to start there when beginning the game. It's set after a fictional perfect ending, which combines the Anguished One and Daichi endings into one. The heroes have all returned to their normal lives after defeating Polaris. A few hours into what seems like a successful reset of the world, Tokyo comes under siege from monsters known as the Triangulum. It's up to the hero to gather his friends, restore their memories, and take on this new danger. This is complicated by the fact that Japanese leader Yamato has vanished and has been replaced by his sister Miyako, who has far different plans in mind for the world.

The Triangulum arc is almost entirely self-contained, so you can play it as soon as you start a new game or continue it from a finished save. In either case, your character starts around level 20 and with an empty inventory. The caveat is that you can use the New Game Plus features from the campaign if you start Triangulum after you finish Septentriones. However, if you do so, the game will not scale at all, so you can breeze through the new campaign with overpowered skills. That's why it would be better to avoid using any of the New Game Plus features.

The new campaign is fun but feels lacking. The Triangulum effectively consists of three different fights, only one of which is particularly taxing. The third battle is perhaps the most disappointing of the three, since it's effectively a cut scene boss. Only a single character can hurt him with a single attack, and the fight is set up so you'll sit around and heal while he whittles down your health. It's like a less interesting version of the Beldr fight from the original Devil Survivor. The other two are more enjoyable. The gimmick of the second Triangulum is one of the cooler ones in the game, although it's reasonably easy to get around once you understand it. Perhaps the weirdest design decision of the new mode is the final boss fight. Without going into spoilery details, the last boss of the game involves a special gimmick where your every move and ability is supercharged. As a result, the final boss died in a single attack.

The campaign feels like an expansion pack, since it only has a smattering of new content and satisfies itself mostly by remixing existing content. It's pretty lengthy but still clocks in at about half the length of the original game. The new character, Miyako, does not join your party until the very last segment, and her content is breezed through rather quickly. While the new mode retains all of the systems from the main game, they're all simplified. The Fate system is mostly for flavor, and while death videos occur, they are not something you can reasonably fail. There are three endings available (four, if you count a bad ending), although one (entitled Record Breaker) is clearly the "good" ending of the game. The plot is fairly bare bones, and the "twists" are so obvious that even the game makes fun of them.

There have been absolutely no significant visual changes to the game from the DS version. A small batch of basic cut scenes is about the only real upgrade. The 3-D effects are barely there, and little has been done to change the game's core look. The only significant addition is the inclusion of voice acting. By and large, the voice acting is reasonably good. Several of the characters do an excellent job in their roles. Of particular surprise is Girl Tico's voice actress, who takes an insufferably written character and makes her work through charmingly peppy voice acting. There are a few duds here and there, but by and large, the cast works better than in Devil Survivor: Overclocked. I found myself laughing at lines that were kind of dry in the original DS release because the voice actors managed to use just the right tone.

With all of its content and features, Devil Survivor 2: Record Breaker is the definitive version of the game. It's a well-made strategy-RPG that fans of the genre will enjoy. The Triangulum arc is a significant addition to any already lengthy game. In the long run, though, most of the new features are not worth buying the game on its own. If you're a fan of the original Devil Survivor 2 and want to re-experience the original or if you're a newcomer, it's a fantastic purchase. Those in it just for the new Triangulum arc may want to wait for a price drop, since the arc alone isn't meaty enough for a full $50 purchase.

Score: 8.5/10

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