Review by Calamity
The promised land was really just a new hell...
Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga 2 is the second in a two game spinoff series. It's a direct sequel to the first game and takes place directly after the first game's ending featuring all characters from the first game for the cast as well. Atlus improved upon the first in some aspects, but overall Digital Devil Saga 2 comes off as a worse sequel that was rushed. Why was this game rushed? Read on to find out.
Graphics:10/10:As with Nocturne and Digital Devil Saga, the art style is incredibly stylish. Character/demon designs are really good in the game too and won't disappoint either. The dungeons you travel across in the game won't really impress in terms of design, but don't interfere with the graphics either way. Animations in the game are well done too, and are fluid. Graphics overall score a 10/10. One thing to actually remember is a game can have great graphics, but without good gameplay it's just not a good game then.
Gameplay:8.5/10:Digital Devil Saga 2 as with 1 includes the departure of many trademark aspects of the Shin Megami Tensei series. To begin with, the game is a lot more like a typical RPG. Progression is extremely linear, and the storyline is presented in a fashion that RPG gamers are most likely well accustomed to expect. As with most RPG's and Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne, battles are randomly encountered and in Digital Devil Saga 1/2 you can have three man parties. Battles are still the same as they were in Digital Devil Saga 1.
The sequel still maintains the press turn battle system from it's predecessor. In battle you have three press turns. For exploiting a enemy's weakness or landing a critical blow, you gain half a press turn. Also, if you miss with a attack you lose two press turns as well. Using a attack that a enemy is strong against well result in losing two press turns. These same rules apply to enemies too in battle. If you choose to pass a turn in battle you'll only use half a press turn instead of a entire press turn. To quickly summarize the battle system though, it's just as great as it was in Nocturne/Digital Devil Saga 1. It adds several more elements of strategy to battle and helps keep things innovative. Not to mention, the game is also still quite fairly difficult. In all honesty, the game really comes down to getting the right skills for the next boss or area. As long as you do that though, the game becomes much easier. Another thing this sequel maintains as well, is the customization system from the previous game.
Unlike other entries of the Shin Megami Tensei series, Digital Devil Saga 2 does not feature the trademark staple feature of the series known as fusion. Instead, abilities are acquired through Mantra's. From winning battles and devouring enemies, you gain AP along with EXP. AP is Atma Points. You accumulate Atma points to fully learn the abilities of a Mantra that you've bought from a karma terminal which is a save point. To buy Mantra's you use cash received from winning battles. I've pretty much mentioned all of the positive aspects of the gameplay. However, this is where the gameplay takes a major turn for the worst.
At certain points of the game you'll temporarily lose some party members. Meaning, you'll have to use other party members whom you may have not used the whole game. Since EXP and AP is not shared with party members who did not participate in battle, this will mean that those party members are going to greatly pale in comparison to your normal party members. Due to being forced to use these party members for certain segments of the game, you'll have to do grinding that should be unnecessary in the first place, but is mandatory since your replacement party member is pitifully weak. The second flaw of the game also has a relation to this flaw. It leads to more grinding as well. Now, the second flaw of Digital Devil Saga 2 is, that towards the end you have to get some really high level Mantra's in order to get some mandatory abilities. As you will quickly find out, Mantra's do not level up fast at all. Until you gain both of the Atma bonus skills, it'll take a long time to master Mantra's. Due to this fact, you'll have to do a lot of training at the end which once again should be unnecessary, but is necessary in this case. Overall, I would give the Gameplay a 8.5/10. It's a lot of fun despite getting a little repetitive at times, but the immense amount of grinding you have to do when a party member leaves, and at the end of the game really bogs down the entertainment value. Gameplay is great in a game too, but for a RPG you should expect a good storyline as well. Does Digital Devil Saga 2 deliver a storyline that improve well upon it's predecessors or is it a failure?
Storyline:8/10:Upon ascending to the top of nirvana in Digital Devil Saga 1, the party was transported to another realm. This realm that was spoken of often in Digital Devil Saga 1 was supposed to be a land where prosperity flourished. However, it turns out that the alternate reality is really just a whole another hell like the junkyard. Due to exposure from the sun's malicious data, people have became petrified and the world is a barren wasteland with few survivors. The karma society is also out to devour those they can find. Your party arrives in this world, and meets up with the survivors to try and resolve the catastrophe that is currently occurring as a result of the karma society and the sun's data.
Digital Devil Saga 2's storyline directly takes off right from where the first's ended. While the storyline improved greatly upon the first, it still isn't amazing. Digital Devil Saga 1 lacked any interesting characters or any character development really. However, it had a great main plot. In Digital Devil Saga 2, there isn't really a amazing main plot, and the character development is to be found, but feels poorly done. Throughout the game, your party members are rather uninteresting and a few members are really there just to fill in a gap for the sake of doing so. If I had to say really the only interesting characters, it would be Serph, Heat, Roland and Argilla. The rest of the characters were rather stereotypical and uninteresting to boot as well. Gale does receive some development, but in the end it just isn't that much. His attitude is also boring and doesn't undergo any change from the first game like the other characters do. Cielo is a lot more lively with his newly acquired attitude, but gets absolutely no backstory in the entire game like the other characters. In Digital Devil Saga 2, the characters aren't amazing, but good. However, the main plot is where really the storyline also takes a major hit.
Beyond the sun's data is turning people to stone due to it's harmful data, the plot doesn't expand much further. It's hardly intricate and at major certain events in the game you'll be confused due to the game doing a horrible job of explaining what's going on in the storyline. In Digital Devil Saga 1 you had a excellent main plot that heavily involved idealistic conflicts. There were four tribes all battling for survival and to ascend the tower of nirvana so they could escape the hellish realm that was the Junkyard. However, in Digital Devil Saga 2 what I mentioned is just about basically the main plot of the game. Not only is the main plot terrible in comparison to the first game, but the final boss confrontation is incredibly anti-climatic as well.
It involves about two minutes of talking that's right. There's no good dialogue, and while fortunately the game doesn't use the "Let's unite our power as friends/allies to defeat this force, because, the power of friendship takes priority above all!" Nothing interesting happens despite fortunately not using that horribly dumb and cliche plot device. The final boss's appearance as it appears is not impressive either. I just didn't really feel excited for the final boss fight. All I was excited about was that it was the final boss. Not because the final boss actually interested me due a awesome event happening before or during the final boss fight. All-together, I give the storyline a 8/10. It's decent and has some character development compared to the first, but not much. However, the main plot took a major blow and pales in comparison to the original's With everything else covered, last is Music.
Music:8/10:Shoji Meguro did a rather disappointing job with Digital Devil Saga 2's soundtrack. Instead of using mostly his heavy metal themes that accompany the first and Nocturne, 2 focuses heavily more on a techno style. Most of the battle themes do involve guitar and drums along with piano's, but the techno element still consists of being a heavily contributing element to the battle themes. Fortunately, while the final boss song Divine Identity is heavily techno, with little guitar and drum segments to accompany it, the techno was extremely well incorporated into the song. Dungeon songs in the game are great though, and so are the town/store songs. Overall, the Music scores a 8/10. Shoji Meguro tries a different approach heavily incorporating techno in Digital Devil Saga 2's soundtrack with some interesting results, but he should just stick to what he does best. So, is Digital Devil Saga 2 worth buying?
Overall:8/10:Yes, Digital Devil Saga 2 is a decent albeit disappointing sequel. It still retains the great press turn battle system and is a lot of fun gameplay wise, but the training you have to do occasionally is annoying. Storyline is decent too, but the main plot is a lot worse and certain scenes feel rushed and some major plot points are poorly explained in a way that leaves the player confused. Graphics still use the awesome art style from Nocturne and Digital Devil Saga 1. Last, as for the Music, it's good, but one of Shoji's most disappointing works. The techno style did not work too well in certain aspects as compared to his normal heavy metal focused style. Overall, I give Digital Devil Saga 2 a 8/10. It's a pretty good game, but not absolutely amazing as some people praise it to be.
Rating: 4.0 - Great
Product Release: Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga 2 (US, 10/11/05)
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