Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor - NDS - Review
The Shin Megami Tensei series and its off-shoots has been well-revered in some gaming circles, offering compelling gameplay and some truly bizarre stories. The game has launched on a variety of different systems (beginning way back with the Super Famicon), and is showing no signs of slowing. Devil Survivor is the latest SMT game to hit the US, offering a compelling blend of strategy-based gameplay and RPG combat and character development. Additionally, the game certainly has no shortage of weird story elements, due to a robust text-based dialogue system. While the strange subject matter and long-winded text chains may not be for everyone, SMT fans will be pleased with this latest entry in the storied franchise.
Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor puts you in control of a quiet 17-year-old in Tokyo. Your cousin, Naoya, hands off a COMP device to you and your friends Yuzu and Atsuro each as a means of conversing to each other. However, strange things begin to occur as the devices begin to predict the future. Before too long, it becomes apparent that Tokyo is under siege, being attacked by an invasion of demons. Your COMPs are successful in taming some of these demons, who then begin to fight for you as you try to discover the odd events taking place and save the city.
Getting around Tokyo requires you to use your COMP to select your next location from a marked map. Each area has a timer, which helps indicate how important it is to get to that area at that specific time. However, it is possible to step off of the beaten path and fight some free battles, which will let your team level up a bit should you need it.
The game’s mechanics are surprisingly easy to grasp, considering the hybridization of RPG and tactics. Once you’ve deployed your team on the battlefield, you’ll be tasked with fulfilling the victory conditions of the battle, which usually include taking out all of the on-screen enemies, or sometimes just the leader. Moving your characters around the grid is easy enough, requiring you to choose which summoners and which monsters you’ll want fighting on your side. Each of your characters can select up to two monsters to bring along with you, so the more you have, the better your chances of winning the battle.
Once you take on an enemy, the game moves into the RPG battle system. The battles are fairly traditional, with each team playing out the specific battle like a fight in an RPG game like Dragon Quest. You’ll have your demon’s specific abilities as well as those of your character, meaning that you’ll be able to cast damaging magic and gain access to more powerful spells as you fight battles and level up. You’ll have to be careful not to allow your summoner to fall into harm’s way too often, as if they die, your whole team will go down as well, regardless if you have any other summoned creatures still standing. However, your summoner will be able to take more damage if your demons are still available.
The other element of the game is more text-based, where your characters will talk amongst themselves and to other characters. This will have the biggest impact on the ending that you get at the end of the game, which will open up some replayability for hardcore fans. The only downside is that you’ll find yourself wading through a lot of text in-between gameplay, and you won’t get to choose what your character says too terribly often.
Graphically, Devil Survivor isn’t the most impressive game on the DS by far, but the art direction is pretty solid. The characters and monsters sport a nice look in line with other Shin Megami Tensei titles, and the environments are nicely rendered. However, the whole look is powered by 2D sprites and the animation isn’t top shelf, leading the whole experience to feel like it could’ve been done on the GBA years ago.
The sound is solid, without sounding too compressed. The heavy metal soundtrack is either a hit or a miss depending on your tastes, and you’ll either love the wailing guitars or they’ll grate on you very quickly.
Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor is a solid entry to the SMT franchise, featuring solid and accessible gameplay, an interesting story, and cool design elements. While the game might be a little too text-heavy for some gamers, fans of the SMT series of games shouldn’t be disappointed.
Review Scoring Details for Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor
The game does a fine job of balancing its RPG elements with a tactical strategy approach. The game’s adventure-based text elements will allow for several different ways to play, adding in some depth to the game’s campaign.
The art direction is quite good, with well-conceived monsters and other characters boasting solid designs. However, the whole game is rendered with 2D sprites, and there’s really nothing here that couldn’t have been done on the Game Boy Advance.
The game sounds decently enough, but you’ll either love or hate the wailing guitar soundtrack.
The game’s story elements are pretty interesting and as with other SMT titles, quite bizarre. You will find yourself thumbing through a lot of text, however.
A solid blend of RPG and tactics combined with the series’ trademark atmosphere and bizarre story elements, Devil Survivor should not disappoint hardcore fans of the franchise.