Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor (DS) Review

I had researched this game before but didn't pay much attention to it and definitely did not pick it up, but after starting it on a boring afternoon, have been hooked since, and now finally finished the game... I have to say it is one of the best games I've played!

Like most Japanese anime style games, the characters are all very pretty with perfectly styled hair and sharp jaw lines, and feature on the front of the box, with a red tinge over it, giving it the "devil", "evil", "dark" and "menacing" colour effect. It definitely does not give the game away at all. From the cover, I would have no idea that monsters (ahem... demons) are involved!

This game is actually part of a long games franchise called "Shin Megami Tensei" which is also responsible for the Persona series, which I was close to getting on PS2, but didn't, and now probably will!

Anyway, you start the game reading some poetic introduction before entering your name and nickname (which they call you throughout the game, so pick wisely!) and then get thrusted into the beautifully drawn world of Tokyo, Japan... where you meet your two (best) friends Yuzu and Atsuro. You are handed your "comps" which look identical to your Nintendo DS and demons are summoned. Immediately, you are in battle and upon defeating the demons start your journey to discover the dark and sinister plot that this game slowly unveils.

So, now you have a comp and have experienced the demons, the basic plot is that you are trapped inside Tokyo with a Defence Squad barricading all exits... the backdrop for a battle between angels and demons, biblical reincarnations, a modern day "tower of Babel" and a whole lot of religious jargon. The themes in this game are based on themes and events from the Bible, which does make this a very intriguing concept and story.

Firstly, I'd just like to say that this game is text-heavy. Perhaps 40-50% of the game you will spend reading text. But this game offers an alternative experience with the text. Not only do they give you options in your response which will trigger interesting (and funny) outcomes, your choices from the beginning will alter game play. Choosing to visit or speak to certain characters will unlock events which will then lead to multiple endings.

I was unaware of this multiple ending business and by the time I found out, I had managed to let three characters die which meant I limited my ending choice as well as characters that could join my party and be made useful.

Apart from choosing responses to text, the other half of the game play is based on battling. This is turn based, and takes place on a "board" or "grid", where you manouvre your characters in order to attack demons, pick up "items" and so on. The battle system is pretty fun, and requires strategy as well as technique. Which character you place where, how many moves it can have, the attacks and weaknesses of monsters nearby...

In order to win such battles, you must level up your characters through experience... You can personalise stats for yourself, but not the other party members. Monsters are obtained through the devil auction (yes, you bid for demons), with more powerful demons being unlocked as you level up and gain points for every purchase... Even in a game, they reward you for shopping!

Demons can also level up and fuse with each other (much like Dragon Quest Monsters Joker) to form more powerful monsters, with fusion level cap being the same of your main character, so you can't fuse a level 60 monster if you are less than 60 in level- although you can buy monsters higher in level than your main character...

Interesting to note is that when monsters fuse, they say their "description", and some statements are just hilarious, such as Pixie's: "Are you trying to make me more sexy? You are such a pervert." Errr... No. That just made me laugh... which moves us nicely onto dialogue. I have found the dialogue interesting to read, and very intriguing, but mostly lighthearted and funny. Upon introducing myself to one of Yuzu's friends, Gin, an option came up for me to choose claiming to me Yuzu's boyfriend.

As a sucker for a game with good story, this was a no-brainer. I was stuck in instantly. When you first get given the "comp" and it has to reboot, I was quite scared, thinking my DS was the comp itself and some demon programme is now on it. Yes, I was totally absorbed, and playing it in the dark didn't help!

Overall, the storyline is deep and gets very complex and intricate, with the multiple endings drawing you in for a second go. I am currently on my second run, and upon completing the game the first time, it offers you the chance to keep your skills and monsters. Apart from that, the game is identical, and you'd just be playing it twice. There are atleast five different endings, so you could be playing this for a very long time! It look me atleast twenty hours on my first go.

The controls consist of the buttons, and there is no need for the stylus at all. It is eas to control although sometimes I mix up my X and Y keys during fusion.

Game difficulty is rather shallow... although certain bosses provide chinks in the game. I have found days 1-3 pretty straightforward, and then it gradually increases in difficulty which I like. I only spent a couple hours on days 1-3, but on day 4, 5 and 6, it required an hour more more each, whilst day 7 took me atleast 5-6 hours... The last bosses were mental, as I took Amane's path.

Overall, given you collect the right monsters, set the right skills and use tactical skills, this game shouldn't be difficult at all.

The graphics are beautiful and colourful and lovely to view. I would perhaps like to have a few more movie sequences, but the monsters, bosses and attacks are nicely animated.

There are only a few games where the music is acceptable and this is it. I happily turn the sound on when playing, and it doesn't annoy one bit (most games does)... This aids in setting the mood and maintaining excitement with its upbeat jazz/rock-ish sound.

This game is a rare find, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who likes Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest Monsters Joker or long, in depth and a game with a good story. Those who like Japanese animation games such as Phoenix Wright or The World Ends With You will also like this game.

I love the story in this game which is perhaps the best part, and the provision of multiple endings which develop through the choices I make are a great move to make this more dynamic and much more enjoyable (not just reading linear text). Plus it gives this game replay value that otherwise would be non-existent.

I would rate this as one of my favourite DS games of all time.

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