Review by ErinIsADrunk
Turn-Based RPG In All Its Glory
Welcome to the world of a Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga 2. Digital Devil Saga 2 is a direct sequel to Digital Devil Saga and picks up almost right where the first one left off. You and your tribe the Embryon minus a couple of members find yourself out of the Junkyard and in the so called Nirvana for which you fought so hard to get to through your trials and tribulations in the Junkyard. This a fantastic game that will have you hooked from the moment you pick it up to the moment you finish and put it down. DDS2 boasts a great story, amazing graphics, and some truly fantastic gameplay that suffers from only a few hiccups.
Digital Devil Saga 2 has some of the most visually stunning graphics of any game on the PlayStation 2. DDS2 uses anime style graphics which works very well because the game is very story heavy and the anime style character models make the already intriguing cut scenes even more interesting and pleasing on the eyes. You can tell that I lot of thought and work went into the creation of the character models as they look fantastic and each have their unique look and feel to them.
The demon forms of the characters and the demon enemies look so cool, except for Seraph what the hell were they thinking there? Anyways, each demon form is unique with each demon from have its one style and feel to it the same can be said for the enemies found through out the various dungeons. The graphics in this game however are not perfect.
The dungeons in this game are bland, uninteresting and hardly unique, as you go through pre-rendered dungeon after pre-rendered dungeon youll start to asking yourself havent I already done this dungeon 5 times? The dungeons can wear even thinner when you start developing your characters and having to battle for hours at a time leveling up and teaching your characters new skills.
Aside from the dungeons the graphics in this game are top notch and definitely add something to the overall feel of the game, which is rare in this world next-gen graphics for the sake of next-gen graphics.
Sound & Music 9.0
I love the music for this game. Atlus really did a knock out job with the music in Digital Devil Saga 2, from the great opening song to the dungeon music to my personal favourite the battle music.
This is the only RPG that I have ever played that I didnt want to tear my hair out near the end of the game because the battle music during random encounters was driving to up that damn wall. The opening theme fits the feel of the game really feel as it definitely has that anime TV theme song vibe going for it.
The voice acting in this game is great, there is none of that awkward translation and it sounds compelling except for a few spots (ex. Argilla screaming SERPH!!! That one felt forced and almost made my ears bleed).
The background sounds of the game are a little underwhelming in comparison to the music and the voice acting but it is still good enough to blend in. The roaring of your characters demon form after winning a battle can get tiresome after a while as are the sounds of going into the small & large karma, healing, life, etc. terminals. But the problems of the basic sounds of the game arent really noticeable once you get into the swing of things and are really into the game.
The gameplay in Digital Devil Saga brings little innovation to the now stale gameplay of turn based RPGs but it does such a great job at pulling it off that you somehow feel as if it is fresh.
Lets start off with the combat, in DDS2 youll be using the standard turn based RPG combat. In battles you will be able to use three characters in any one battle with their goal being to destroy the enemies with the skills you have taught them. You start of with three press turns (one for each of your characters), you can expand your number of press turns (to a max. of 6) by dealing critical hits and exploiting enemies weaknesses but one must be careful as this works the same for your enemies and if you attack an enemies strength or miss completely you will lose a press turn. This makes for a more strategic battle as exploiting weaknesses will allow you to finish off your enemies in less turns which in DDS2 will net you more precious money, once you start playing youll realize how precious money is, it will become addicting like sliced bread or crack, youll always be hunting for that next fix of money that is (I do not condone the use of crack or any other drug, although I wont discourage it).
The boss battles in DDS2 are awesome, as they require the perfect mix of strategy, execution, and luck. Having the right abilities is critical to winning any boss battle, you could be 10 levels higher then the boss and still get creamed if you dont have the right abilities to take out the boss as exploiting a boss weakness is key from the first boss fight to the last. Many of the boss fights in DDS2 rely on knowing what you are doing going into the battle and knowing how you are going to pull it off, if you go into any of the boss fights unprepared or without the proper skills you will find yourself at the game over screen real quick.
The leveling and ability system work well. With that said, since the game is very linear and strong story wise you will sometimes feel like the only reason your spending hours trying to level up and gain abilities is to advance to the story along.
The leveling system in DDS2 is the same as almost any turn based RPG you have likely played in the past 15 plus years, you defeat the enemies in random encounters and boss battles and gain experience until you reach the next level, which will allow you to increase your stats and develop your characters. In DDS2 there is very little customization in terms of how to distribute your stat points after leveling up with the exception of Serph. The only way to truly customize your characters stats is through the use and customization of Karma Rings. Karma rings can be bought and collected throughout the game and can be used to boost the stats of your character or provide useful sub-abilities. These rings can be customized with gems so that you can boost the stats of character in area where your character is weak.
The ability system in DDS2 is different from the one in the first DDS game, DDS2 uses a hex grid that looks sort of like the sphere grid in Final Fantasy X and creates an ability system that is extremely non-linear allowing for free and open development of your characters abilities. This is a nice change in contrast with the very linear story line of the game. To teach your character an ability you must buy mantras which can cost anywhere from $1000-$10,000 at the beginning of the game to $800,000-$1,500,000 towards the end of the game. After buying a mantra it is equipped and you must master it by collecting AP after battles, once you gain enough AP you will have mastered the mantra and with now have use of the abilities contained within that mantra.
Like in the first DDS game you will be able to learn and use hunt skills, which will allow you to gain more AP after a successful hunt and will allow you to master your mantras more quickly. However, if you hunt too often you run the risk of getting a stomach ache, which will prevent that character from gaining any AP after battle. Through out the game you will run into field hunts, they are a mini game of sorts where you run around a specified area collecting these little blue orbs and after your time has expired you fight a battle in which you get a chance to collect a lot of AP. It is important not to pass up field hunts, as they prove extremely useful.
There are tons of extras in this game, which really adds to game overall. If you played and completed DDS, loading that save into DDS2 will unlock many extras including Karma Rings, money, and an extra character. DDS2 also has many optional bosses, who are challenging to beat and add a lot to the main game. There is also a hard mode that can be unlocked either by loading a DDS clear save, beating DDS2 and starting a new game, or my personal favourite sacrificing a newborn baby.
Now that I have highlighted the strong gameplay elements, its time to add some balance and talk about some of the less stellar aspects of DDS2s gameplay. For one the random encounter rate is insanely high, its not so bad/extremely annoying when you are try to get from Point A to Point B the rate of random encounters is pull your hair out annoying. Add this to the fact that in DDS2 one wrong move in a random encounter can have hitting the game over screen in a flash.
Personally my most hated thing in terms of gameplay in DDS2 is a really small problem, the inability to move items around in your inventory. In this game there are certain items that you will be using more then others, some of these items are stuffed deep down in the middle and scrolling to them is hell. I found it extremely annoying to have to scroll every time I wanted to use a Core Shield or use the Murder Rock in battle.
This is easily the best part of the game. The story in Digital Devil Saga was really good the story in DDS2 is even better. It will have you hooked from the moment start and in the final thralls of the game will drive you too the finish. The story is so good that as I have previously stated, it sometimes feels like the only reason you are putting the hours into the game is so that you can experience the next part of the story.
The story connects you to the characters in the game and makes you feel a connection towards them, which becomes incredibly rewarding towards the end of the game. Atlus did a great job at rewarding those who played the first DDS game as the story will have a much bigger impact on the player if they played the first game as the truth about what was happening in the junkyard unfolds.
Its interesting to see how the characters change or how they did change throughout the story too. There a couple of cut scenes that give you a glimpse into what the characters in your party were before they were thrown into this mess. It makes a change of pace when they stop and take a look back in game that it very forward driven.
The only bad thing about the story is that its a little to linear. It feels really dumb when the world is slowly being destroyed and you have to stop and level up for a couple of hours, makes you feel kind of bad but whatever. The story also can be very confusing for those you did not play the first DDS game, those you havent played the first game will be at a loss or not feel the complete impact of the story for about the first 1/4 of the game as it relies heavily on the events of DDS for its impact.
This is one of the best RPGs released for the PS2 and I would highly recommend it. DDS2 manages to breath live into a turned-based RPG genre that is duller then my grandpa talking about the good old days. As turned-based RPGs start to go the way of the dodo, its nice to see a solid turned-based RPG on the market. This game has no real weak points as it is really well rounded and allows for hours and hours of seemingly endless fun, go out and pick yourself up a copy now or I will eat you and pillage your village.
On the ErinIsADrunk Drunk-O-Meter, Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga 2 gets a very solid nine passed out drunks out of ten
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
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