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Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor review

alex9234’s Sunday Review

Time for another review, and this is a game that I have been meaning to put more time into for some time, but wasn’t interested in playing for a while until this year. When I started playing this game again, I didn’t realize what I was missing because this is one hell of a game. Developed by Atlus’ Career Soft team – the same team that develops the also excellent Growlanser series, this awesome game is Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor, which came out on the Nintendo DS in 2009.

The Plot

Devil Survivor is set in modern day Tokyo, and follows the story of an unnamed protagonist (which the character can name) and his two best friends, Atsuro Kihara and Yuzu Tanikawa. At the beginning of the game, our characters are given modified Nintendo DS lookalike devices called COMPs by the protagonist’s cousin, Naoya, who tells them that they will need to hold onto them for certain future events. After Atsuro does some tinkering around with his COMP, he accidentally activates a program that summons demons. After defeating the demons and forming contracts with them, the three of them decide to hold on to the COMPs because of what Naoya told them. The next day, a large area of Tokyo is put under lockdown by the Japanese SDF, and they deny food, power and communications to those trapped in the quarantined area, which causes riots and vigilantes to roam the streets attacking demons and weak humans. The group eventually learn that they can summon helpful demons to take on the loose demons roaming the streets of Tokyo, allowing them to live and fight another day. They also learn that the COMP gives them the ability to see other peoples’ death clocks, which determines how many days a person has left to live. While they are able to extend their time by fighting off powerful demons, the group eventually find out that everyone in the lockdown only have 7 days to live…

The Gameplay

The gameplay of this MegaTen game is quite an interesting case here, and it has Career Soft’s fingerprints all over it. It also has a lot of similarities to Growlanser II: The Sense of Justice in terms of gameplay, where it is part visual novel and part tactical JRPG. The gameplay is strategy based, but not in the same way that Fire Emblem is. Before you start a battle you must dispatch up to 4 teams of (up to) 3, with each one containing 1 character and 2 demons. When one of your characters gets a turn, you can move them across the board, attack an enemy next to you, or use your special abilities that you’ve earned to heal your characters or hamper an enemy’s movement across the board. If the character’s HP drops to 0, that character is taken out of the battle unless he/she is revived. During battles, your characters and demons can gain “Extra Turns” whenever you attack an enemy’s weakness or make a Critical hit on an enemy. There are no items or shops in this game, and in typical Career Soft fashion, your MP ONLY gets restored after battles. So plan accordingly when you decide what enemies you want your characters to attack. The key to being successful at this game is SPEED, and if you want to save yourself a lot of MP, take out the head of the enemy demon parties. You are also given the ability to crack skills off of enemy demons – if you set a skill to crack on a demon, you have to defeat that demon in order to grab that skill. Also, like pretty much every MegaTen game, it is extremely difficult, so keep on level grinding if you want to beat this game.

New to Devil Survivor is the Demon Auction, where you can enter bidding matches with other COMP users for other demons, or buy demons to use in battles or in fusions.

And this wouldn’t be a MegaTen game without a fusion system where you can fuse demons that are in your possession to make stronger demons. The fusion system is critical to beating the game, so always keep your demons up to date. You are able to fuse higher-level demons as long as you keep on leveling up the main character.

Remember when I said that this game was part Visual Novel like Growlanser II? Well, you make progress in the story by selecting events from the Tokyo map. There is also an in-game clock determining how much time you have left to make decisions. Every event, whether it be plot-critical, character-critical, or a battle, consumes 30 minutes. There are also “Free Battles” which you can partake in to level grind, and Free Battles don’t take up time on the in-game clock, so don’t worry about spending too much time in the Free Battles. In fact, you should always partake in Free Battles to level up your characters and demons, as well as earn more money to use in the demon auction. There is also an e-Mail system in the game, where you can send and receive messages. Your choices will influence which events can be accessed, and how long they will be around for, which ultimately influences the plot and what ending you will be taking. Yep, this game has multiple endings, so if there is an ending that you’d like to get, look up an online guide.

The Characters

(Sorry for my shoddy editing on some of the pictures)

The Protagonist – Age: 17- The main character of Devil Survivor. His personality is shaped by the player in whatever way he/she sees fit.

Yuzu Tanikawa – Age: 17 – Yuzu is the childhood friend of the protagonist. She has a cheerful personality but is also uncertain about herself and others. It is also implied in the game that she does not believe in God. Yuzu is very caring and very protective of her friends. Atsuro also gives her the nickname “Yoohoo”, which she despises. Also has a playable route where you can get her ending. Playable Character.

Atsuro Kihara – Age: 17 – Atsuro is a computer programmer and a good friend of Yuzu and the Protagonist. He knows what to do in serious situations, cares very much about his friends, and often acts as the team’s cheerful spirit by acting goofy. Also has a playable route where you can get his ending. Playable Character.

Midori Komaki – Age: 15 – Midori is a popular internet cosplay idol that goes under the handle “Dolly” online. She is a very friendly girl who has a strong sense of justice and love, which can sometimes make her look childish. She follows her late father’s lesson of helping people in need, however she has a bad habit of helping people without thinking about the consequences of her actions. Playable Character.

Keisuke Takagi – Age: 17 – Keisuke is a good friend of Atsuro. He is a calm, kind, and thoughtful person. However, he has a very judgmental side towards people who bully others and people who use their power for their own selfish desires. He eventually kills a member of a gang known as Shibuya Daemons, which angers it’s leader, Tadashi Nikaido, who vows to take revenge on the person who killed him. If the player does not convince Keisuke to change his judgmental ways towards people on the 4th day, he will die. <strong>Playable Character.</strong>

Naoya – Age: 24 – The protagonist’s cousin. He is very smart and quick witted, as well as a skilled programmer. He also has the ability to predict the future. He is the character who gives the Protagonist, Yuzu and Atsuro the COMPs, and if you make the right choices, he becomes a playable character, and has a playable route in which you can access his ending.

Mari Mochizuki – Age: 23 – Mari is an elementary school nurse, and she was Atsuro’s tutor when he was in middle school. She is a very kind person who doesn’t mind helping out anyone in need. Her boyfriend – Tadashi Nikaido’s brother, was killed in the lockdown by the demon Kudlak, and she vows to avenge her lover’s death. In order to do so, she forms a pact with the demon Kresnik, who is also planning to kill Kudlak. Mari can become a playable character, as long as you give her a bag which contains a special powder that can kill Kudlak. In order for her to become a playable character, you must give that bag to Nikaido so he can give it to her. If you do not give that bag to Nikaido on the 5th Day before 10:00 AM, she will die.

Amane Kuzuryu – Age: 16 – Amane is the maiden of the cult known as the Shomonkai, and is the cult leader’s daughter. She is a very cold, emotionless, impassive person, and she does not share her father’s wishes to create chaos. She is possessed by the angel Remiel, as well as the demon Jezebel, and Remiel helps keep Jezebel in check so it does not take over her soul. She can become a playable character on the final day depending on what route is taken by the player.

Tadashi Nikaido (aka “Kaido”) – Age: 19 – Kaido is the leader of the gang called the Shibuya Daemons. He appears to be a good guy at first, but later in the game, he shows his true self when he becomes obsessed with power. At the end of most routes, he often shows his brutality and hatred for people who are weaker than him. He is also very protective of Mari, who he also has a crush on, but doesn’t want to admit it. If you choose Naoya’s path, he becomes a playable character.

Eiji Kamiya (aka “Gin”) – Age: 25 – Gin is the manager of a local live house. He is very friendly and caring. Although he worries about not being able to open up his bar due to the power outage, he seems to sometimes enjoy the confusion in the streets at times. He is still searching for his long lost girlfriend, Aya, who was the keyboardist for the J-rock group known as D-VA, who disappeared half a year prior to the events of the game. He can become a playable character, and also has a playable route, which is probably the best ending you can get in the game.

Yoshino Harusawa (aka “Haru”) – Age: 20 – Haru is the lead singer of the J-rock band D-VA. She is very depressed, and has attempted to commit suicide at one point in the game, but is friendly towards other people, particularly Gin and Yuzu. She misses D-VA’s keyboardist and her best friend, Aya, though she thinks that she went to Europe for studies. She is able to summon demons using her sequencer that was handed down to her by Aya. She is not a playable character, but is part of Gin’s ending. However, if you want to get Gin & Haru’s ending, you have to stop her from committing suicide on the 4th day, or else she will die, and every ending will be barred except Yuzu’s and Atsuro’s.

My Thoughts

Overall, this is a very good game. The story is solid, and it leaves you guessing the whole way through. The characters in the game are also solid, and most of them are very likeable, especially Gin, Haru, Mari, Midori, Atsuro and Keisuke. The gameplay is also very well done, and I actually prefer it over Fire Emblem’s, and that’s saying a lot. I also like the Visual Novel elements were implemented, as it adds quite a bit of depth to this game’s enjoyment, and it reminded me of Growlanser II’s Visual Novel elements. The Fusion system is also excellent, and I spent countless hours tinkering with the system to fuse more powerful and useful demons which helped me get through some of the hardest parts in the game. However, it is not without flaws. Like the difficulty. The game is very, very difficult, and it doesn’t help that the game often cheats and trolls you in battles, which can get very annoying. And yes, I’ll admit that I ragequitted the game quite a few times. Level grinding in the Free Battles are what helped me get around it, and believe me, I spent a lot of time grinding, and I still do, especially since I’m on the last day. I’m on Gin & Haru’s route, and I’m stuck at the battle with Jezebel, who is too god damn overpowered that it wipes out my characters in 2 turns or less. And yes, I’m level grinding and saving up my money so I can get more demons from the auctions to fuse. If you have a DS, and if you’re looking for some great MegaTen action on the go, check this one out.

My score: 8.5/10


Published by alex9234

A skeptical game writer who doesn't believe the gaming press.

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