Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner 2: Raidou Kuzunoha vs. King Abaddon - Staff Review  

When Good Games Meet Brick Walls
by Billy "madhtr" Young

Click here for game information
20-40 Hours
+ Battle system is easily the best point of the game.
+ Very serious story with humorous undertones.
+ Soundtrack is quite catchy.
- Game provides very little direction.
- Some enemies require specific skills that are not used normally.
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   Raidou Kuzunoha is back once again in his very own game, Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner 2: Raidou Kuzunoha vs. King Abaddon, and it seemed like the game was going to turn out great, but in the end just turned out to be full of frustration. The game starts out with a girl coming to Raidou for help, and as the story progresses, the case gets more and more complicated. Gouto, the reincarnation of a Raidou Kuzunoha past, returns as your partner in crime, once again always there to explain things to the player. The story is top notch, the gameplay and battle system are both fun to play around with, but in the end, was the frustration of not knowing what to do just too much?

   When it came to the story, not only does the game have a solid main story to follow, but the player is also given questions to answer that can change the game. Following chaos, neutrality, or law are based on the decisions the player makes and these give the players different demon options as well as transforming the story around thoese choices. Despite there being one main case that Raidou and Narumi are working on the entire game, the story is broken up into chapters and sometimes even into smaller chapters within these main chapters, making the case feel like a bunch of little ones. There are also case files that can be taken at the two headquarters that Raidou takes up over the course of the game. These case files are given to the player based on things he does within dungeons and towns. Talking to the right person or reading their mind may just give Raidou a new case file to look into. These files allow the player to not only get items as a reward for accomplishments, but also experience from fighting hordes of demons or even strong bosses.

   The music in the game is handled by Shoji Meguro, and he once again provides a very good musical score. There are not really many pieces that stick out, because all of the tracks in the game are fairly solid. From the regular town music, which ends up with six or seven versions due to it being remixed in most different cities that Raidou will visit over the course of the game, to the boss music which varies based on the enemy, the music all seems to be very fitting of the situations. When players eventually meet fiends to fight, the music will fill players with dread, giving the feeling that the battle being fought is going to be tough and possibly very long.

A small example of the semi-large towns. A small example of the semi-large towns.

   The strongest area of the game, besides the story would have to be the battle system. Battles are normally all random, but some enemies are visible in dungeons, which usually means that players need to be prepared for a tough battle. When entering into a battle, players are typically given the choice of beginning battle, summoning or returning demons, analyzing enemies, escaping battle, or negotiating with demons, but sometimes the enemy will surprise the player and do some damage or just start negotiating right away. Most enemies will only appear three at a time, but sometimes multiple enemies will appear as the player defeats others. Negotiating with demons that the player already has captured will usually net the player either an item or an easy health refill. Raidou can use a standard attack, attack with a weapon specific special attack, dodge roll, and guard along with being able to hide his demons to keep them from being damaged. Keep in mind that demons stop attacking and healing the player when hidden, so this feature is only recommended during specific weakness attacks.

   Leveling up characters and demons as well as increasing demon loyalty is very important in this game. While leveling up is normally important in RPGs, it is more so in this title as increasing luck is key to everything the player does. Not only is luck used to determine the types of demons that show up, but a low luck stat will increase the chance that the player will encounter fiends on new moons. luck is also a huge factor in the game's story, so there will be times that players will have to focus on leveling up luck just to be sure that they won't be facing a tough crowd of demons. When it comes to loyalty, each battle provides a small amount of loyalty points that increase a demon's loyalty towards Raidou. Once it is maxed out, the demon gains its passive skill and will often times provide an item. Hitting plateaus in Raidou's loyalty points from demons will provide him with new titles that will sometimes be recognized by demons during negotiation, but more importantly, opens up more and more case files to be solved. Due to this, it is very important for players to max out a demon's loyalty and then either release them or fuse with another to create a new demon.

   Fusing demons is all handled in the Gouma-den, which can be accessed at save points or in the shop in Tsukudo-cho. The Gouma-den is run by Victor, a mad scientist, and allows the player to fuse demons and weapons, heal Raidou and his demons, and register and view demons in the compendium. For a price, Victor will take gems that the player finds during their travels and fuse them with existing weapons to create stronger ones. In all, the player can use spears, swords, and axes, which all have strengths and weaknesses applied to them. The player can also visit the demon compendium to pay a fee to recall a demon that the player may want to use. Some of the higher level demons can get rather pricey, so this isn't necessarily the best use of money. On top of normal fusions using two demons, the player can sometimes hit specific types of fusion that Victor requires gems to complete. When battle victory music plays during fusion, the player could possibly get a powerful passive ability added to the ending demon. When boss music plays, the player could create an evil type demon that usually is a lower level than what would normally have been created. The final type of fusion is when the fiend battle music plays, which is the only time a player can fuse one of the fiend type demons. Of course, the player must already have defeated a fiend to have a chance at fusing them, but there are a lot of demons in the game that can only be created once defeating them. Finally, players will find that some demons can only be created through fusion and may not be found out in the wild.

Raidou taking the fall for man. Raidou taking the fall for man.

   Players will find it easier to traverse through towns in this title, as whereas in the original where random battles occurred in towns, it's only in dungeons that players will encounter enemy resistance. The biggest issue with this title is that there are so many areas to search and investigate that it is easy to get overwhelmed. The game is not sympathetic about this, either, as it will sometimes only give the player very vague information on which to base travel on. Hinting that something may need to be found in the capital, without suggesting an area that should be visited could net the player and hour's worth of searching for very miniscule reward. This is not very noticeable at the beginning of the game and doesn't really pop up until the final few chapters. This is where many people could end up spending much of their time frustrated that the game is very vague on what to do next. During the game, it's prudent to have at least one of each of the main demon types for its skills alone. It would also do the player wonders to find a demon with the "Finders Keepers" passive skill and have it summoned during investigations. This skill will allow the demon to randomly find items as the player walks, sometimes netting very expensive and important items that are rare within the game's world.

   In the end, the game was very fun to play, very fun to listen to, and very fun to watch, but the frustration caused by the game's inability to give better information ruined the overall enjoyability. It was very unfortunate that going through most of the game was a joy, whereas the end just totally ruined it by becoming cryptic and not wanting to give any suggestions as to what to do next. Granted, some may expect this out of the series, but it is a gameplay element that is likely to frustrate many people. The lack of structure when it came to telling the player what to do is what dragged this game away from what it was doing a fantastic job of in the early chapters. The game was about being a detective and it tried too hard to force the player to figure things out on their own. It turned the game from feeling like an investigation into a game where it felt like the player just needed to experiment with everything to either sink or swim. Again, this may be something that people like, but it really did not make the game anymore enjoyable. Devil Summoner 2 could have really shined among action RPGs, but the way it falls apart near the end truly hampered any enjoyment from the first half of the game.

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