Oh, Tokyo, epicenter of more problems with monsters than anybody would ever expect. If it's not Godzilla, then it's an onrush of demons that are strangely accommodating to the idea of humans entering into contracts with them. The demon onslaught doesn't even start things off; instead there's a strange cell phone app called Nicaea making the rounds that shows viewers how other people are about to die prematurely. Naturally high school students just have to monkey with this vaguely Final Destination-inspired app, and soon enough my main character is seeing videos of his two classmates dying when a subway car crashes into the station. This is where the demons enter the picture, appearing from the wreckage of the subway station and immediately engaging this teen trio in battle for their lives, yet proving surprisingly easy for novice fighters to trounce. Doing this lets the trio summon the defeated demons from a newly appeared app on their cell phones, but a subway crash isn't the only thing wrong in Tokyo when they emerge onto the surface.
" People making contracts with demons to beat down the baddies. Anything can be done well, and this is. "
So when it comes time to throw down with the demons, and an occasional human who butts in, tactical turn-based battles occur. Not having played the first Devil Survivor, I'm forced to compare these fights to something far fewer people around here have experienced. Archaic Sealed Heat had the germ of a good idea in its three-person tactical teams until it lost all goodwill by throwing the same formations in my path over and over. Devil Survivor 2 is so far avoiding a drift into monotony by constantly varying the enemy lineup. New things keep appearing, and this is exactly the way to stay engaging. The missions are also nicely varied, having already made me run from a giant exploding mushroom demon, and then making me intercept some humans who kept summoning extra demons to dog my pursuit. The possibility exists that the game will get monotonous in the future, but already it's more varied than ASH.
The humans form the core pillar of the team, and demons are the other two members. One nifty feature I like is that if one of the demons gets KO'd the human leader has the ability to summon another one from the reserves to reform the team. Atlus made nice use of the top screen, so that it's never necessary to open a menu in order to look at the affinities and statistics of anything — it's all right there in view. Combat moves fast too, thanks to the game's super-speedy animations that don't cause the proceedings to drag. I'll have to see if the game starts throwing any nasty stuff my way, but so far I haven't come across any of the escort missions from Hell that everyone who played the first Devil Survivor remarked upon, which makes me happy.
Atlus's translation is as usual solid work that keeps the text entertaining to read. Having well-written text is important too, given that (as I believe is the standard for this series) the plot is a lot more complex than the standard RPG trope. The characters thus far aren't particularly deep, but they're pleasant enough to spend time with. The inexorable passage of time whenever I choose an event to participate in has already caused me to miss a few character interactions that vanish at a certain point of the day, but I don't have to see everything all at once, so this doesn't bother me.
For a long time now, I'd steered clear of the Shin Megami Tensei behemoth. Playing even just a few hours of Devil Survivor 2 hasn't been revelatory to the point of causing me to set all other things aside in order to experience all available SMT games, but it certainly makes clear to me why the series has so many ardent fans. The battles are making me think without being overwhelming, though my tendency to make use of the Free Battle aspect probably has something to do with that, and the demons definitely get stronger as I go along. The ability to spotlight enemy abilities that my characters can learn, and even trade between each other, is a feature that deserves to be ripped off by other tactical games. It's still early, but this looks like a winner to me.