Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 Break Record - Review  

I Will Survive
by Adriaan den Ouden

Click here for game information
40-60 Hours
+ Unique mix of turn-based and tactical combat
+ New story mode available immediately
+ New difficulty mode makes game more accessible
- Female character designs look weird
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   With its unique mix of turn-based and tactical combat, coupled with its story-heavy presentation based around character relationships and time, the Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor franchise could just as easily have been called Persona Tactics. The latest entry in this small but well-liked franchise is Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor Record Breaker, a mouthful of a name for a game that's just as meaty. An enhanced port of the Nintendo DS original, it features the addition of complete voicework along with a brand new secondary story for players to experience. It also features a new, easier difficulty setting, making this one of the most accessible Shin Megami Tensei games ever.

   Record Breaker tells the story of a group of friends who find themselves caught up in a disaster that's gripping all of Japan. What appears to be a massive earthquake decimates all of the major cities, while at the same time a mysterious group of dangerous creatures known as the Septentriones begin attacking. The main character and his friends also learn about a strange website, Nicaea, which seems to be capable of predicting the future, sending him and his allies gruesome videos depicting the future deaths of their friends. This website also gives them the ability to summon demons to protect themselves.

   Unlike the story of the original Devil Survivor, which was localized entirely to a handful of districts in Tokyo, Break Record has a much broader scope, taking place across all of Japan. The stakes are significantly higher, but unfortunately this doesn't always pan out as a positive. Overall, the story lacks the sense of personal tension that gave the first game an almost survival-horror feel. Instead, Record Breaker has a much more philosophical bent to it in much the same vein as any main series Shin Megami Tensei game.

Now you And so you're back from outer space. I just walked in to find you here with that sad look upon your face.

   New to Record Breaker is an all new story mode, which is difficult to talk about without delving into massive spoilers. In this mode, the main character and his allies take on a new threat, the Triangulum, which are similar but distinct from the Septentriones in the main story. Unlike the "Eighth Day" content of Devil Survivor Overclocked, the 3DS port of the series' first game, the Triangulum story is accessible immediately upon starting a new game. Devil Survivor 2 veterans who don't wish to replay the main story can jump right into the new content right off the bat, making the game that much more appealing to those who've already experienced the original version.

   In both modes, the game's story is told in half hour blocks over the course of several days. In each half hour time period, players have to choose how to spend their time, whether it be spending time with an ally or engaging in a story-related battle. Free battles can also be fought at any time, but these don't cause time to move forward as normal battles do. Carefully deciding what to do every half hour is vital, as the wrong choices can easily lead to the permanent death of one of the hero's friends. Spending time with allies also improves the bonds of fate between them and the main character, unlocking new abilities and demons.

   The meat of the game takes place in the combat system, which involves a mix of turn-based and tactical strategy. Players make a party of four characters, each of whom enter battle with a sub-party consisting of themselves and two summoned demons. Characters move around a tactical grid based on turn-order, and when they attack an enemy, the game switches into a turn-based system similar to other Shin Megami Tensei games. While in this mode, each character or demon can choose from a number of different attacks at their disposal. By exploiting weaknesses and resistances, characters can gain a second turn for the round, allowing them to attack again. In a few very special circumstances, a character might even get a third attack. The round ends when all turns are exhausted, or one of the two party's leaders dies. If the latter occurs, the defeated character is removed from the grid.

   To add more depth to the tactical aspect of the game, every demon is equipped with a special racial skill, which is determined by the group the demon belongs to. These racial abilities offer up a number of unique abilities which range from extremely useful to virtually worthless. Some allow characters to move further each turn, while others allow them to attack or heal from a distance. Of course, enemies have access to these abilities as well, so part of the game's strategy involves carefully examining your opponents' lineup before the battle even begins.

Do you think I Did you think I'd crumble? Did you think I'd lay down and die? Oh no, not I!

   In fact, a lot of the game's strategy occurs before battle begins. Before starting any battle, players have the option of changing each characters' selected skills, their demon party, and can also determine which enemy skills to try to crack. Each character can equip up to seven skills — three active skills which can be selected and used during battle, three passive skills which offer up constant bonuses, and one auto skill, which activate some sort of effect each time a turn-based battle begins. Characters learn new skills by cracking them from enemies: at the start of each battle, players can select a skill for each character to target. If that character successfully defeats the enemy that holds that skill, it's added to the global skill list, becoming usable by any ally. However, each skill can only be used by one ally at a time, which means players will have to carefully decide who gets to use the best skills.

   Players will also need to regularly upgrade their demons. They can do this by purchasing new ones at the Demon Auction, a shop that features a built in auction minigame. Players can also fuse their demons together to create new, more powerful demons. This method is particularly beneficial, as it allows players to select which skills to carry over from the two demons being fused. Buying new demons and fusing them together is the best way to get more powerful demons as the game wears on.

   Record Breaker's audio is quite good, helped in part by the addition of voice work throughout the game. The new voice work is solid and helps bring the characters to life, while the music is decent, though not nearly as memorable as the first Devil Survivor's. The game's visuals hardly push the capabilities of the 3DS, but being a port of a DS title, this isn't surprising. That said, the spritework is excellent, and the maps are detailed and vibrant. It's worth noting, however, that the female characters are bafflingly designed, most of them featuring gravity and anatomy-defying breasts that just don't look right. It's not that they're too large or anything so shallow, but rather that they're disproportioned and oddly placed, throwing off the entire character design. It's immediately noticeable and distracting throughout the game.

   Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Surivor 2 Record Breaker is a worthy follow-up to the original and is a terrific example of a well-made enhanced port, something Atlus has shown time and again that they are experts at. For veterans, the new Triangulum story mode offers up an immediate new experience, while for newcomers, the additional Blessed difficulty provides a less intimidating challenge, which may be a relief to some players considering the notorious difficulty of the DS original. Either way, Record Breaker is an excellent addition to the already robust RPG library of the 3DS.

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