The Shin Megami Tensei games are some of the best running series of Role Playing Games. While the Devil Summoner series of games might take a back seat to the more mainstream titles, namely the Persona series, it is still a quality game. A direct sequel to the first game, Devil Summoner 2 shares some the first’s weaknesses while going out of its way to improve several key aspects.
Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner 2: Raidou Kuzunoha vs. King Abandon, besides being one of the longest game titles ever, takes place around a devil summoner – named Raidou – tasked with watching over the Capital of Japan, detective-style. The game is filled with well developed characters including a talking cat that only Raidou can hear.
The game itself is broken into two distinct modes of play – one based the standard human world and one based in the dark realm where demons inhabit. The human world segments of the game normally involve Raidou doing basic investigation work based on the cases like finding leads, tracking down persons of interest, and other basic detective stuff. The dark realm is where most of the battles and demon recruiting take place.
The game does have a Pokémon type aspect in recruiting demons to aid in the cause of the investigation. During almost all battles there is an option to start a negotiation with a demon to try and persuade it to join Raidou. If the negotiations go well the demon, he will join Raidou and his team. From there, the demons can be used in a bevy of ways. Primarily most demons are used for combat purposes, but many of them can be used on the game map to do things such as scouting the area or moving large boulders out of the way. Some of them can even be used in the investigation to read people’s minds or disguise Raidou as someone else. Sadly there are many parts of the game that can’t be passed if Raidou doesn’t have a specific demon type in his party, and while most of the time they can be recruited from the nearby area without much issue, it is still annoying to have to backtrack to pick one up.
While most of the time the two elements of the game, fighting and detective, are pretty well balanced, there are chunks of time during the investigations that feel like something was lost in the translation. During a very early part of the game I stopped playing for about a week, so I forgot exactly what I needed to do next. The game provides a notebook and dialog at the HQ that explains where the next objective was. I figured out I was supposed to go to Mannen-Cho , which I was not able to find as an option when I went to the railway station. After wasting time exploring, I found out that I first had to take the train to Fukagawa-Cho, get off and walk from there to get to Mannen-Cho. This would not have been a problem if the game is played straight through, but could be a problem if you don’t stay on top of details. This sort of issue seems to happen constantly.
Everyone in battle shares one set of magic points, or MAG. It creates balance as a demon that ran out of magic could be swapped for one with full magic if done normally. That said, it has the adverse effect of making magic is almost never used, as the entire team is drawing from one communal pool. It makes magic feel as if it should be saved incase the next boss can only be beaten with an elemental weakness, or kept in reserve for the much needed healing spells.
Not surprisingly, the game itself is mechanically sound. Battles are fast past and rarely annoyingly complex, Raidou always seems to do as he is told, and while it seems that some demons will willfully get themselves into amazingly dangerous circumstances, they can be summoned to Raidou’s side with a simple button press. Additionally, the game’s rather good graphics and it makes the game a relatively easy play.
This game is exceptionally easy. Most other Shin Megami Tensei games are either impossibly hard from the start or experience sudden difficulty spikes later in the game; Devil Summoner does not do this. From the start of the game, the entire experience is pretty well balanced. There are parts of the game that do involve some grinding, but it is usually to gather more money to buy a better weapon as opposed to just gaining a few extra levels.
Devil Summoner 2 might not have as many redeeming qualities as some of the later Persona titles, and it might not even tie the two chunks of the game together as well as those titles do either, but that doesn’t mean that the entire game isn’t a solid investment from the moment that it starts. The story and the investigation of just what is happening are interesting throughout, and the sections of demon battles and taming are always fun. The main flaw in Devil Summoner 2 is that it tried to fix things that weren’t that broken to start, and forgot about some of the things that held the game back to begin with. That doesn’t mean that this game isn’t a solid buy for anyone in need of a good RPG, because this is probably one of the best ones to come out this year. It is great companies like Atlus that keep the PS2 alive.