Friday, 28 May 2010 23:11

Shin Megami Tensei : Devil Survivor

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The review that started all other reviews.


In seven days, Tokyo will fall.

The entire city has been locked down. No one enters, and no one leaves. Demons have invaded the city, attacking innocent people who have no means of fighting back. Inside the lockdown, fear and chaos reign.

You are inside the lockdown. You will forge contracts with demons who will fight by your side. You will make decisions that will mean life for some and death for others. But what about your own life? Will you survive?

Seven days remain. The clock is ticking.

That's the premise behind the new Devil Survivor, even on the DS, Atlus still is able to bring the dark, ominous, and decedent  storyline that fans have to expect from the series. The storyline will intrigue newcomers to the franchise as well keep long-time fans well interested. In the midst of suspense and mystery the idea that you only have small window of opportunity to live not only draws us into the story, but adds a good dose of authenticity to the game. To not reveal too much of the story, let us dive right into the gameplay.

The key is to survive, inorder to protect yourself and company you'll need to enlist the help of our very own Demons, sort of like using snake venom to make a cure for snake venom. Using a device known as C.O.M.P which share a resemblence to the Nintendo DS, you are able to fully take advantage of your new demon allies.  As you explore different areas through a map menu, you can scout different areas, talk your fellow party members, begin to forge friendship with other lockdown victims, and of course battle it out with nasty demons at every turn.

Combat System

I'm sure you already heard, or seen this but the combat system combines a hybrid of both a tactical role-playing game (remencient of games like Final Fantasy Tactics and Disgaea), and your old school first person rpg (which resembles Dragon Quest).  Before a battle you can dispatch up to 4 party members. Each party member forge their own  teams accompanyed by up to two demons. One thing to note is your party members act as the leader of each team, if he or she dies the whole team goes down. If yourself (Main Character) dies, the mission is automatically suspended.

In tactical RPG fashion you and your enemies take turns to travel accross a isometric grid and attack only if within in striking distance. Which characters turn to move is displayed on the top-bottom of the touch-screen. When engaging in an combat you attack your opponents the Dragon Quest first-person mode where you can issue actions and cast attack spells on your enemies. Before or alternatively after a "Attack" command team members can issue healing spells and buffs to themselves or other party members in within proximity. You are still able to perform healing spells in the midst of a battle but then you are limit to healing those within your team. Furthermore you can also switch up your demons at anytime except during first-person attack mode.

If you've played any of the Shin Megami Tensei games you'll understand (or even in Pokemon) demons are vulerable to certain types of attacks and exploiting these weaknesses is key to victory.

While newcomers may find combat a bit confusing at first, it is actually quite simple. While in combat specific stats for each demon (including your own) are displayed by fliping through the menu on the top-screen. Unlike other Shin Megami Tensei games, no longer do players need to "analyze" or guess a demons attributes, weakenss, and strengths they are given to you at the beginning of the battle. This is a strange departure from the previous Shin Megami Tensei where it was left to player intuition and experience, which makes the combat seem slightly easier.

What has not changed, is the extra-turn feature. Extra-turns are rewarded for dealing critical damage, absorbing damage, and of course extorting your enemies weakness. Extra-turns are just like what the name says, the character gains one extra chance to wack your enemy again during the same combat phase. In battle each team member and enemies is given one chance (a turn) to evoke an action, but Extra-turns gives them an additional turn to attack. One thing to keep in mind is battle initiative, if your being attacked some of  your opponents will automatically gain extra-turns at the beginning of battle, and visa-versa. You can cancel out your opponents extra-turns the same ways as you gain an extra-turn.


What this does means is that a good defense is also key to victory. The A.I has been slightly bumped up, enemies will tend to also strike your allies with their weakness exposed. A important part of combat is to dispatch  and summon forth the right kind of demons for different battle situations.

click watch a combat demo.


Surprisingly as you progress through the story, the game offers variety of different types of missions. While some mission will have you clearing out demon infested areas others will have you rescuing civilians, preventing demons from escaping, and fighting the games tough bosses. The length of each battle are reasonable, depending on how you strategize a mission could take anywhere from ten minutes to being drag-out to half-an-hour.Luckly you have the option to save during mid-battle and "continue" later. The game features many "Free Battles" which do not consume time, and is a means to level up your party.

Game Difficulty

Game veterns eager to start the game on Hard will be surprise to be find there is no difficulty setting at the beginning of the game. This is another strange feature deptare from the previous games. Difficulty then I would say, is more dependent on the player. While the game can be burn through quickly, but as one progress they will soon find their enemies increasingly more challenging and difficult this way. Opposed to if one takes the time to strategize (and that does not necessarily mean grinding) they will find the game less daunting.  Going through the "free battles" allows your characters to level up, and sometimes unlocks new demons in the game.


There are three types of skills in the game, Command Skills Passive skills, and auto-skills & racial skills. Characters and including demons can hold up to 3 skills of each type (with exception of auto-skills).
CMD skills are skill you only use in battle with exception of healing spells.
PSV skills are like status buffs for each individual character. These include but are not limited to things like HP & Mana Bonuses, elemental resistance & immunity, or the ability to inflict status effect on the enemy. Lastly are the racial skills (for demons) or auto-skill (for humans). For demons racial skills are demon-dependent, meaning you cannot replace these skills. Different types of demons have a different racial skill. Racial skills range from giving the team to walk extra-squares, increased attack range, to group healing. These skills are usually only accessible during when the character is on the grid map. 
Alternatively, humans possess Auto-skills, these skills are interchangeable and only one party member can possess a specific auto-skill at time. Auto-skills are usually casted right before enemy engagement, and usually give that specific team some group stat-bonus.

Each character's individual stat increases differently from the other, some are more effective with magic while others deal more physical damage. This is true for demons as well. You can only control the stats of the main character (yourself).Making sure their skills complement their stats is also crucial in preparing for encounters. Although one character with only physical attacks can lead to headache without considering extorting enemies weaknesses.  By optmizing your teams, you can create a powerhouse to eliminate even the toughest enemies.

Customizing Skills

There are different ways of acquiring & and degrading skills

For Humans learning moves through what is called “skill cracking.” It involves first selecting a skill to copy from a demon enemy before dispatching your teams. Each character can crack one skill per battle, which skills that are assessable is dependent on the type of demon your facing and whether the characters meets certain requirements to learn that skill. The process of skill cracking involves that specific team must defeat that specific demon holding the skill. If the demon is defeat by anyone other than the team specified or the party is defeat before the demon killed the skill crack is void. Meaning the chance of learning the skill was missed. 
Once “cracked” the skills become available to them right after the battle and is made available in the C.O.M.P’s skill inventory list. Humans can then trade skills they’ve cracked amongst each other. 

Demons on the other hand learn skills through three ways.They learn skills by inheriting the skills during demon fusion else, they can copy one skill their masters’ each time a characters sort of skill meter is full. The final way a demon acquire skills is they by leveling up each demon will have one or two “natural skill(s)” they acquire by leveling up.

Demon Fusion & Auction

Demons and how you use them is a crucial part of the game. For those new to the franchise Demon fusion is as it sounds. It requires take two demons and fusing them together to create a more powerful demon. Fusion allows for players to redistribute their most crucial skills from one demon to another demon in addition to the fused demon's own skills. Fans rejoice, especially Persona fans for now you fully choose which skills you want to redistribute. Fusion is one way which allows players to acquire new demons, but also new and more powerful skills. An important new feature in Devil Survivor is the "Search" feature which allows you to browse through a demon catalog and analyze which fusion material demons are need to acquire specific demons. This list allow to glance at demons that you can eventually fuse once the main character reaches a specific level. The list  then grows as you acquire more demons and increase the main character's level. Demons and Characters will level up during battles but to truly take advantage of them is to fuse them. Being stingy with your demon selection only leads to more difficulty, and more grinding in the future.

See demon fusion in action.

To be able to fuse Demons together, you need to first acquire demons. Additional Demons can only be acquired through the Auction in your C.O.M.P. By completing missions and defeating demons in battle you earn Macca, the currency in Devil Survivor. In an Auction you can either bid for the demon or buy them outright (however this is usually more expensive). Ever time you win and pay your bid, an auction rating goes up. There are several ways one can unlock new demons in the Auction. A higher rating allows you to unlock new demons to bid on, as well completing "Free battles" will also unlocks new demons in the auction.

See a demo of demon auctioning.

Decision Is Key

The game features multiple storylines, which makes your decisions more meaningful. Although you still cannot get out of being a hero, there are some situations where dialogue and characters interactions do change based on what you choose to do and how to choose to respond to your party members and other characters. Eventually these decision collectively influence the ending to your story. The downside is there is only one save slot avaliable, however a new game+ mode is avaliable after finishing the game once.


Like all Shin Megami Tensei games, part of reason the series has lastest this long is their amazing musical score accompanied in every game. Devil Survivor is no exception, the music helps emphasize the grity and chaotic ambiance in the story. The artwork is phenominal, the characters arevery well animated to give them personality, the backdrops detailed and and the menus are designed well. One of the downside to this game is that there is no voice-acting to add to this experience.
Personally, I would also like to see Wi-fi compatiablity, the ability to perhaps trade demons and engage in mock battles at the very least.

Overall Devil Survivor does serve to quench fan's thirsts, it is what you expect from a Shin Megami Tensei title, and Atus Faithful community will enjoy this departure on the Nintendo DS.  Newcomers will be pleasently surprised at the depth in the story, and character customization packed within this cartigde.


Read 8772 times Last modified on Saturday, 06 August 2016 21:35