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   Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga 2 - Staff Review  

Welcome to the Real World
by Derek 'Roku' Cavin

BATTLE SYSTEM
INTERACTION
ORIGINALITY
STORY
MUSIC & SOUND
VISUALS
CHALLENGE
Moderate or Hard
COMPLETION TIME
25-40 Hours
OVERALL

4.0/5

Rating definitions 

   After the war of the Junkyard was lost and won, Serph and his comrades were left with a rather large cliffhanger. Now, a few months after the release of the original, comes Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga 2, the conclusion of the two-part series. Of course, things aren't as peaceful as the heroes would have liked. They must continue to fight and devour their way through those that stand in their way.

   Battles are fought in pretty much the same way as they were in the original. Players and enemies take turns performing actions with each team receiving one turn icon per living member, with the exception of a few special enemies. Characters will take turns in the order they are arranged, so it's important to organize them carefully so the more important warriors can perform the most actions. While most actions use up a single turn, special combos can be performed that use two or three. To mix things up, only half a turn is used if a warrior hits an enemy's weakness, gets a critical hit, or passes. Conversely, two turns are expended if the target dodges, voids, absorbs, or reflects an attack. As only a limited number of skills and auto-abilities can be equipped at once, it is important to choose wisely in order to gain the most bonus turns and stop enemy attacks early.

The battle system is enjoyable as usual The battle system is enjoyable as usual

   Skills are gained by downloading and mastering classes known as mantra. This time around, the branching mantra system has been replaced with a massive mantra grid. This grid allows players to customize their path rather than following the more linear ones in the original. Mantras that players don't care about can be bypassed by simply going around them. Secret mantras can also be unlocked by mastering all of the mantras surrounding them, even if they are mastered by different characters. Another addition to the series is the ring system. Rings have default abilities such as raising statistics or decreasing the turns lost when the holder misses, but they can also be customized with gems that boost various statistics. The design of the battle system and sheer amount of flexibility promote a good deal of strategy and creates excellent battles.

   Like most games that force the players to use strategy, Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga 2 is hardly a walk in the park. Having the right skills equipped for the right boss can make a huge difference, but generally the game is of moderate difficulty. Those that carry data over from the original will also be able to select Hard if they feel like a challenge.

   One area of the game that really shines is its interface. It's obvious that a lot of work was put into allowing the player to focus on the game instead of wandering through menus. For example: the cursor will automatically highlight the afflicted member when selecting a status-curing item, the mantra menu will automatically flash to whichever character just mastered one, and there's a convenient recover option in the main menu that will automatically heal HP and status ailments using the most MP-efficient method possible. There's even an enormously heavy auto-map function that can help out while dungeon crawling. The localization is also excellent, with no noticeable errors and good lip-syncing. While it's only marginally improved over the original's, it really stands out given the increased complexity of story.

"Fools, guns only do like three points of damage in RPGs!"

   The story in Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga 2 is much more developed and complex than that of its predecessor. It really builds upon the foundation laid out in the original and runs with it. With the exception of the last level, the balance of dungeon crawling to story is better, though still pretty unbalanced. Even so, the story makes excellent use of the time it is given and finishes off the series nicely.

   While the story takes an original twist and there are a few additions to the battle system, the game is still fairly similar to its predecessors. While it's certainly not unoriginal, it doesn't do anything drastic either, though that's not necessarily a bad thing.

   Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga 2 will most likely take between twenty-five and forty hours to complete, though most of that time will be spent wandering through dungeons. There don't seem to be as many sidequests as there were in its predecessor, but there's still some replay value.

   Fortunately for players, the lengthy hallways feature good music. Of course, some tracks tend to get old, especially in dungeons that are upwards of five hours long, but at least their quality is generally pretty high. Where the music really shines is in boss battles and out of dungeons. These tracks are generally very good and fit the mood perfectly. The sound quality is also very high as there is enough variety to keep anything from getting on the player's nerves.

   While they may take some getting used to, the visuals are very good. There is a lot of attention to detail and there have been numerous additions to the enemy models present in the original. Additionally, animations are smooth and magic effects are especially nice.

   An excellent battle system and great story come together to make a very good game. If that isn't enough, there are plenty of great music tracks and visuals. There are even plenty of mythological references for those that enjoy them. The heavy focus on dungeon crawling does hurt the game a bit though, and the frequency of random battles doesn't help. Even so, Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga 2 improves upon the original in virtually every way and is definitely worth a look.

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