Devil Summoner - Reader Review  

Raidou on a quest of simplicity
by Solon

Very Easy
25-35 hours


Rating definitions 

   With the Shin Megami Tensei series finally getting the attention it deserves outside of Japan, more installments are being localized for North American and European players. Devil Summoner: Kuzunoha Raidou is the first part of Shin Megami Tensei's sub-series Devil Summoner to reach our shores, and has a slightly original take on the whole SMT concept. Does its changes ruin the success of Shin Megami Tensei in the west, or does it draw an even bigger audience? Has Atlus finally run out of new ideas, or is this game yet another refreshing piece to endulge in?

   First and foremost, the biggest change from previous SMT titles lie in the battle system. Veterans of the DS series as well as newcomers to the SMT series overall will instantly notice the drastic changes that have been made. The system is now almost entirely in real-time, and you only control the main character. The only allies you have are the demons you can summon, and you can't have more than one present at the same time. Players will be quick to realize that this leaves for a lot of switching in and out between your demons, as some are more useful in various situations than others. The main character is unable to cast any type of spells, but you can at any time command your demon to cast any of the spells it possesses, as well as let it act on its own. The only thing the hero can do is to swap demons and attack with his sword or pistol. The pistol has a deeper purpose than just attacking though; it can be loaded with elemental bullets to expose weaknesses in each enemy you face. Once shot with such a bullet, the enemy will be stunned for a small amount of time, giving you the chance to hit it for critical attacks.

Swing thy sword. Once is enough. Swing thy sword. Once is enough.

   That isn't all though. Once stunned by its weakness, the hero has a chance to confine that demon and make it his ally. This is the way to acquire new demons in Devil Summoner, and is in a way quite similar to the persuation methods present in many of the other Shin Megami Tensei titles. Very similar to Nocturne, there is a place where you can fuse demons together to create new, more powerful ones provided you have the level for it. New to this feature is the ability to sacrifice a demon to your sword, giving it more power and benefits. The only lacking part here is that the number of possible fusions are much, much fewer than in the mammoth that is Shin Megami Tensei III.

   The battles are accompanied by the traditional heavy tracks we usually get from SMT composer Shoji Meguro, but the rest of the soundtrack is inspired by a kind of "big band" touch. The main theme, the tracks played during cut-scenes and conversations are very jazzy and lighthearted. Now, wether you'll like this or not is entirely up to your own taste, but from the perspective of a Shin Megami Tensei game, I couldn't help but to feel that this was out of place. The music style takes away the seriousness in the plot and almost makes the whole thing silly. It doesn't help that these tunes create a total contrast to the battle themes earlier mentioned. There's also no voice acting present at any time during the game, which may disappoint some and please others.

   With no voice acting it comes down to the translation to present the story, and Atlus has done a good job with that. Overall the text is well translated, although some NPCs sometimes spoke a bit out of character. A high-ranked general using expressions such as "join the club" feels unrealistic.

Recognize yourself? Recognize yourself?

   Looking at the interface, veterans of the series will feel at home instantly. Everything except the battles is pretty much similar to what we've seen before both in the SMT series and elsewhere. A plus here is the small sub-menu they've added to the R1 button for easy access to demon summoning (both in battle and in the field) and instant return to the detective agency. This way you don't have to go and browse the main menu all the time.

   Many similarities to the older SMT titles have been mentioned, but the biggest and obviously most intentional one is the atmosphere. Much like bombs, chocobos and flans are always present in Final Fantasy, the same demons and names are pretty much always present in every Shin Megami Tensei game, and Devil Summoner: Kuzunoha Raidou is no exception. The purpose is also the same: to uphold a tradition and play with it, and it works. If you're a fan, you know what's coming, and you know you'll love it. If you're not a fan, you know for sure that you don't have to waste your cash on another game in the series, save renting.

   While all the aspects brought up so far are very important, neither of them would be even nearly as good as they are if there wasn't a story present to back it all up with. Naturally, there is one. Is it that good though? The last three installments of Shin Megami Tensei have had stories that practically raised the bar of storytelling in RPGs overall, which sort of puts Devil Summoner in a tough position. The main issue with the plot is that it leaves for nothing to think about. The whole scenario is very predictable, you know how it's going to end from the very beginning, and you can early see who is friend or foe. When it comes down to it, it's really just another chance for us to save the universe (or Japan) from eternal doom.

   Another aspect where Devil Summoner fails to impress is in the graphics section. To be fair, this isn't what the developer has put focus on at all in any of the installments of SMT, but in this case it was actually annoying. There's the occassional glitch, the character models are blurry (especially the NPCs in the town areas) and the overall backgrounds and textures are bland and undetailed. Hardcore fans will easily overlook this, but the average gamer will probably notice it, and maybe even move on to something else because of it.

   Something that might put off hardcore fans though, is the difficulty. Kuzunoha Raidou is easily the simplest game ever to be released within the SMT franchise. Dying once on an entire 30 hour playthrough feels almost silly, and it certainly takes out the fun in experimenting with the system, seeing as you really don't have to in order to survive. Not even the hardest sidequest (which there aren't many of, by the way) posed any special challenge, which was a bit disappointing.

   All in all, Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner - Kuzunoha Raidou vs. The Soulless Army is a decent game. On many aspects it does stay true to the SMT roots and will satisfy fans of the series at that. The battles are fun, but way too easy. The story is simple and predictable, but enough to keep you going. The music is bland, but is saved by the battle tracks and some of the dungeon themes. In the end, the game can't land anywhere else but on a clean 3.0. Recommended for fans, backup game for others.

Review Archives

© 1998-2017 RPGamer All Rights Reserved
Privacy Policy