Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 Record Breaker Review

By Shawn Collier on May 4, 2015

It's been a while since we've last seen Atlus's Devil Survivor series, as the last Nintendo 3DS version came out back in 2011 and its successor hit western audiences the following year on the original Nintendo DS platform. Three years after the original version, Atlus is now releasing an enhanced port of Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 on the Nintendo 3DS with the new tagline Record Breaker. Similar to its predecessor's Overclocked Nintendo 3DS port, this game includes the original game with some new features exclusive to the new iteration. Does it warrant picking up this new version for veterans of the original? If you enjoyed the original, that answer is yes.

For those who never played the original Devil Survivor 2, you don't need to know the events of the original Devil Survivor as they're not related at all. There's a mysterious websites known as Nicaea that send outs a video of a person's death to their friends (but not the actual person dying) before those events actually occur. The main protagonist and his friends get a video of themselves dying in a horrific subway train crash from a train running off the rails.

Those events eventually come to fruition, but in a twist of fate they are saved through that very same website when they receive the ability to tame and control demons that appear after the crash occurs, of which is a larger part of a radius of destruction around the entire area of Tokyo as far as the eye can see. And it ends up being where they join up with a group specifically created to try to prevent the catastrophe that occurred and is now fighting against a series of super-powerful demons bent on destroying the world.

This is all pretty similar in setup to the events of the original Devil Survivor, but Atlus did throw in a couple changes in Devil Survivor 2 (which carry over into the new Record Breaker edition). The original Devil Survivor included frequent dialogue options to choose from when conversing with NPCs and party members, ranging from basic "yes/no" options to ones that make the player think as the choice can greatly divert where the rest of the conversation goes. The developers did a good job with making the conversations feel realistic given the catastrophic calamity, with discussions on issues such as if it's right to increase prices on critical goods given supply versus demand, how people's rational thinking degrades when faced with chaos, to give a few examples.

The new addition to Devil Survivor 2 comes in the Fate system, which tracks your friendship levels with your fellow party members --- think the Social Links system in Persona but without the dating sim mechanics. Fate levels start out at 0 by default and can increase up until level 5, with each level unlocking modifications to said character (i.e. higher resistance to specific elements) or new demons. The flaw with this system, which was also an issue in the Persona series, is that figuring out what the optimal choice is for a given situation is hard at times.

In Persona this also was an issue, but due to the 3D character models you had more expression to indicate the choice's value either positively or negatively. Devil Survivor 2's implementation is much more simplistic as almost all of the choice require a single "correct" choice to be picked up gain any Fate points and some of the "wrong" choices don't deviate the dialogue as much as one would expect and throw off the "this is the right choice, this is the wrong choice" deduction.

That said, there is something I preferred about how Devil Survivor 2 (and thus Record Breaker) treat time management compared to the original game. In the original Devil Survivor, in-between battles you could visit different locations to pass the time, some of which started off a chain of events that required specific locations to be visited along the game's storyline. This was combined with needing to go to certain locations at certain times to thwart a playable character's death. The latter comes into play again in Devil Survivor 2, but this time around generally unless you travel to an entirely new area you can partake in a conversation with a given character the next day. Some might balk at this making things too easy, but for someone who doesn't want to replay through the game multiple times it's a welcome modification.

If you've played the original Devil Survivor game, you'll be right at home as the battle system plays almost essentially the same. Battles take place in an isometric overhead view utilizing strategy RPG mechanics with the player's character moving along the battlefield to run into and engage the enemy units, with the enemy's doing the same thing against your units. Each unit consists of a leader and two subordinates, with one of the three being a human character and the other two consisting of demons.

The twist in Devil Survivor 2 is that you can assign each unit a demon to "crack" it's skill once it's defeated using the Skill Crack system. This adds a bit of strategy to the mix, as players need to time their movements so they have the correct unit defeating the correct enemy. These skills become paramount later in the game as the latter-half of the game's bosses generally expect you have been cracking the proper skills as you go along. There's free battles that can be taken on at any time and don't take up precious time, but it's generally best to crack skills as you go along instead of waiting till you need to grind for them because you ran into a brick wall.

In terms of new addition to this new Record Breaker version of the game, they come in the aspects of a new easier difficulty option, voice overs, and a new post-game playable storyline. The first is a carry-over from the original's Overclocked version and function similarly here as it lessens the grinding that generally became necessary near the latter half of the game, although playing through this mode there were a few times where I still needed to grind because the experience gained through required battles just wasn't enough.

The voice overs, compared to Overclocked's, are quite an improvement. I didn't feel the disconnect between the voice and how the character's dialogue is crafted that I felt in Overclocked and the voice actor's inflection was applied correctly when in a stressful situation versus a more relaxed situation.

The bulk of the new additions in the game are included in the new Triangulum arc, which takes place after the original version's storyline, known as the Septentrione arc. Unlike Overclocked's "8th Day" scenarios which took place after a select number of character's arcs from the original game, Record Breaker's post-game content takes place following an arc that didn't exist in the original. Unlike Overclocked, Record Breaker allows veterans of the original to skip ahead to this new arc instead of requiring the original to be replayed through to unlock it. I won't spoil the specific details of this new story arc, but it took about 20 hours to complete for the first time and felt like a worthwhile addition instead of feeling minor like Overclocked's post-game content.

Graphically there isn't much of a change from how Overclocked handled things. The sprites and background are upped in resolution to the larger screen size of the Nintendo 3DS compared to the original Nintendo DS platform, which makes them a bit sharper in detail even on the more stretched out resolution on the Nintendo 3DS XL variants. There isn't much use at all of the Nintendo 3DS's 3D effect outside of some basic effects, similar to Overclocked, but that's for the best as the isometric view wouldn't have worked well with the effect anyway.

Final Thoughts

Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 was already a great addition to the Shin Megami Tensei franchise and the new Record Breaker improved Nintendo 3DS port brings the game to a market which may have skipped the original Nintendo DS release as it was released after the new system's release in Western territories. There's still some minor issues carried over from the original version and its predecessor, along with the lack of using any of the power of its new handheld, but those issues pale in comparison to the new additions in this version of the game --- a great game is still a great game years later.

Post-game content has a bit more meat on its bones than Devil Survivor Overclocked's did.
Graphics are a bit more cleaner in this version due to the larger base resolution of the Nintendo 3DS.
English voiceovers are much better than Overclocked's.
Normal difficulty is still hard-as-nails as you remember, but the easier difficulty still has some difficulty spikes present.
It's hard to determine sometimes how your dialogue choices factor into the Fate mechanic.
If you expected the Nintendo 3DS's graphical capabilities to be utilized here, you'll be disappointed as it's essentially a cleaned-up Nintendo DS title.
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