Review by MinishLink

Reviewed: 10/13/05

Nirvana

Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga 2, is the newest Atlus, and Research and Devoplment game to make it to America, and the direct sequel to Digital Devil Saga 1. Other games made by these developers include many other “sleeper hits”. Such as Persona Revelations and Persona 2: Eternal Punishment, and more recently Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne. Though Shin Megami Tensei is one of the most popular RPG gaming franchises in Japan, second only to the giant Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest of Square-Enix, it is hardly known outside of the island.
Digital Devil Saga 2 is a very unique RPG, in almost all ways. From story, to game play, and even the graphics and music. For someone who is bored with run of the mill RPGs this will get you excited again

The story has a strong theme that is well played out throughout your entire adventure, and it tends to suck you into it, you really care for you characters, and what is going on, as the developers did an excellent job in this entry of bringing the characters to life, and making most of them very human. Though I found myself a little frustrated with the story at times as it tends to throw a lot of information at you at once, which can make it a little confusing for a time. Overall though the story is very well put together, with enough mystery to keep you going but not enough to frustrate to the point of not even caring. This is made in part by the excellent characters in the game, created to near perfection, they are fun and exciting to listen to, they are hard to understand at times, but they all have motives, and they are all very human. There is also humor sprinkled throughout the game, and it is actually quite good, I found myself smiling very often throughout the game. At the end of your adventure you should find yourself very satisfied with the story.

Now onto the meat of any game, the game play. Mercury, this game moves that fast and fluid. It is just beautiful. The game uses a very unique turn base method, called Press Turn Battles, first found in SMT: Nocturne. It is one of the most enjoyable battle systems I have ever used in all my time of playing RPGs. The basic idea is this, you have three “Turns”, if you use an enemies weakness against them you gain a turn, and if you use something they block you lose two turns, and if you happen to use something they absorb or reflect, you lose all your turns, but the same goes for the enemy, and this is where the game just blows you away. In lures you in with its benign simplicity, and it keeps you hooked with new enemies, which you may be thinking huh, all games have new enemies, but in this game new enemies mean new strategies, really a new battle, and though at times it can get tiring, I never found myself bored with the battles, even though they do happen quite often, but due to the absolute speed and smoothness of the battles I never really noticed. The major plus to the battling is the character development, which has near absolute freedom, much more than its predecessor. You use a octagonal grid based board, which is full of “Mantras”, each one holding different skills, your goal here is to master the “Mantras”, which is done by gaining AP (ability points) from battle, once mastered you open up the “Mantras” beside the mastered “Mantra”, this may sound a little complicated, but due to the fluid controls navigating this maze of “Mantras” is made quick and painless. Though you can not just select a new one to learn, you must pay “Macca”, the money source in the game, to learn the new “Mantra”, and so you see battles are never dull because you are always gaining something from them, whether it be levels or new skills, or money, you need all of these things, and so the battles feel more necessary and not so tacked on like some RPGs, and in the end makes them very fun. Also there are so many skills to learn, and any character can learn any skill, though some are more inclined to physical, or magical than others, all can learn all the spells, and its great to know you have that much freedom. There is also the Solar Cycle, which effects combat in a variety of ways, which I will not be going into, other than to say that at a “Max” cycle you may become a half human half demon form, which is a new and welcomed addition to the battles, not because it really adds anything amazing, but because it is just another way to keep the battles refreshing from time to time. The battles are very smooth and very intense and they will keep you coming back for more.

Outside of battle the game play falters only on a couple of occasions. The dungeons are very well put together, with well placed save points, and though they are very maze like it is fun to explore, as there are many treasures to find and many things to “examine”, and each one has its own unique style and at times puzzles, which is good due to the fact that most of the dungeons will take an average gamer an hour to two hours, if not longer on a few of them. A couple of the dungeons have some annoying back tracking, but overall they are just blast to go through and all of them have nice little rest spots, where you can converse with your party and kind of take a break from the intense battling.

Quicksilver, yeah that is a good way to describe the graphics, again this game just screams smoothness, the graphics are just as fluid as the battles. You may not find yourself awed by the graphics, but the style is very unique and refreshing, and there is not a hiccup to be found. The spell animations are great, and fast, so you never really get tired of them, not because you don’t see them all the time, but because they are gone to fast to really every get too much of them. The basic attack animation is pretty dull though, but do not worry you will not be using it much. All of the enemy designs are very well made, and interesting to say the least. The graphics are all accompanied by at times great music and at times annoying music. The battle theme and all the boss themes are great, but some of the dungeons had some cheap techno sounds to them. The soundtrack is very trance/techno inspired, which is not a bad thing, as it goes with the theme of the game, and most of it is above average, though to me some of the dungeons soundtracks did annoy me, but not to the point of turning it down or anything that extreme.

If you want a great and unique RPG experience I suggest you buy this game, it roughly took me 44 hours to beat, but I did fight all the secret bosses, and leveled quite a bit due to this. I would think you could probably beat the critical path in about 26-30 hours.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

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