Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Release Date: May 5th, 2015
ESRB: T for Teen
To me, the Devil Survivor series is almost like a drug. Between Devil Survivor: Overclocked (I missed out on the original game in 2009) and the original Devil Survivor 2, I“ve spent a combined 430 hours experiencing everything both games had to offer. At this point, I know what makes these games tick. And I can tell you every single thing that“s changed about Devil Survivor 2: Record Breaker—a much enhanced 3DS port of the 2012 DS game.
First, a bit of background. You needn't worry if you want to experience the Devil Survivor series for the first time through Record Breaker. Even though it is a numbered sequel, you don“t need to have played the first game in order to enjoy the second. In terms of story, the two are completely different from each other. And in terms of gameplay... the two are extremely similar. So if you've dabbled in Overclocked, you“re sure to feel right at home when playing Record Breaker for the first time.
In terms of both gameplay and presentation, let me summarize: Take the best parts of Fire Emblem (a field in which player characters and enemies move on a grid, then get next to each other to initiate a battle), Dragon Quest (the battles themselves play out in a similar fashion to Dragon Quest games, including a first-person view and gameplay that is heavily dependent on strengths and weaknesses) and PokÃ©mon (bid on demons, fuse demons, improve their move-pool and traits, collect ”em all for the best possible teams) and combine them all to create something magical. Since I“m a big fan of all those styles of gameplay, it“s not hard to see why I eat this series like candy.
Devil Survivor 2: Record Breaker tells the story of three high school kids in modern-day Tokyo. There“s a new app for cell phones that has appeared called "Nicaea," and it lets you see how your friends (not strangers, but folks connected to you by fate) will die by way of short video clips. Things begin in a world of peace, where exams are the only real thing to worry about, just before the three see their own death clips. What unfolds is a story of darkness and demon summoning that spans not just all of Tokyo, but Japan—the world—as a whole. The story is heavily focused on character development, as a group of three grows to include some fifteen party members. You can expect a bunch of philosophical and religious themes as well.
Record Breaker“s entire first half is the original 2012 DS game with several improvements. That“s right... I said "half." There are two stories here—the fight against the Septentrions (the original game's story, except with a brand new script and is now fully voiced), and a brand new story that pits the same characters against the Triangulum, a new threat. The latter half features brand new environments, new faces, and some really interesting twists on the gameplay presented in the first half. Some of the boss fights in the second half had me genuinely impressed; I might even go so far to say that the final boss fight(s) in the new content is my new favorite out of all the RPGs I've played, because it's very entertaining.
Let me elaborate on the improvements in the Septentrion half of the game, for those of you who have played Devil Survivor 2 on DS. The new script and voice-work is phenomenal overall—every voice fits its character quite well. Among my favorites are Fumi (who sounds exactly like I had pictured in my head) and Airi (who“s given more personality thanks to an actual reading of her script). All of the errors in the original translation (like some of the Japanese puns making no sense) have been fixed. Things still aren't perfect, though. Something I'd consider a minor flaw regarding the localization is that some of the voice work and bits of script have tiny inconsistencies, like pronoun trouble. Overall, though, the script is much more cohesive, and a definite improvement. There are even a few new bits in the game, like â€œThe Secret Gardenâ€ scene featuring new artwork.
Many who have played the Devil Survivor series before will note its difficulty. These games have never been a cakewalk, often relying on heavy grinding or mastery of its gameplay in order to trounce difficult scenarios or bosses. To alleviate some of that intimidation for newcomers, there“s a "Blessed" difficulty; it“s just like playing the normal game, except enemies hurt less and offer more experience and money when defeated. If that“s still not enough to make the game a little easier on you, there is both free and paid downloadable content that kills some of the more grind-heavy elements of the game. There“s one that offers a ton of experience, one that offers a ton of money, one that gives you a ton of Add-Ons, and more. Of course, if you“d prefer the original game“s difficulty, you can forego all of this by picking the Apocalypse mode. You can switch back and forth between difficulties without the game punishing you as well.
The Triangulum half of the game isn“t light on content either. When ATLUS advertises these two experiences as being halves of each other, that is entirely accurate. There are even some new compositions in this half of the story, arranged by Shoji Meguro. I honestly prefer them to the tunes from the original game. Also—for those familiar with the Devil Survivor way of handling New Game+—your Rewards can be carried over from the Septentrion story to the Triangulum one, and vise-versa, so there“s no need to start your experience all over again. I“m not going to spoil anything about the Triangulum saga since the first few minutes alone are absolutely filled with spoilers from the first game. However, those as familiar with the Septentrion story as I am will feel comfortable jumping right into the second half (you are given the option to choose).
Characters“ personalities are given more time to shine in the Triangulum story. Having already been fully developed in the first half, they“re simply presented with more situations to show folks familiar with them how much they“ve changed for the better. And the new story? I am most definitely impressed. There are twists and turns you don“t see coming in, and questions whose answers will keep you on the edge of your seat. Additionally, there are multiple endings for the Triangulum story. The only thing I didn't really like about the new content is how you're still forced to let the "Fate" system play out again. It doesn't really make sense to budget your time between all the game's main characters when you've already formed tight bonds with them in the first half of the story.
I believe that—with Record Breaker—ATLUS set out to make the Devil Survivor series more accessible than ever before. They've assuredly fixed everything cumbersome about the original Devil Survivor 2, while leaving everything just the way it was for those who prefer a more difficult experience. And they“ve given folks familiar with the original a brand new story that truly does make up a "full game," figuratively speaking. If you've never experienced the series before, and this kind of thing interests you, Record Breaker should not be missed. And if you've played as much of the original DS game as I have, there is simply more to love; much more than you may be expecting!
+ The brand new, fully voiced script revitalizes the Septentrion portion of the original game
+ There are numerous ways to alleviate difficulty for series newcomers
+ The new Triangulum content is a full game, with new areas, music, and twists on Devil Survivor 2's gameplay
+ You won't run out of things to do. Whether you've experienced the original, or the entire series is brand new to you—Record Breaker isn't a game that's finished quickly
- Some returning gameplay elements in the new content—while they're explained away in the narrative—feel unnecessary.
- Bits of the script (which is otherwise extremely polished) are inconsistent.
Overall Score: 9 (out of 10)
Whether you've played the original DS game, or you're experiencing Devil Survivor 2 for the first time through Record Breaker, this is a game everyone will enjoy.
Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable 3DS code provided by the publisher