Although it may have taken a considerably long time for Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2: Record Breaker to arrive in PAL regions, Nippon Ichi Software America managed to finally deliver their physical and digital editions of the game a couple of days ago. Similar to Devil Survivor: Overlocked a few years ago, Devil Survivor 2: Record Breaker is an enhanced Nintendo 3DS port of its original Nintendo DS release from back in 2011/2012. With one console generation jump comes a whole lot of new features.
This is not just a port with some fancy 3D effects, and instead features a plethora of new additions including a brand new story (the Triangulum Arc), an easier difficulty setting, full English voice acting, new demons/skills and more. Although to some extent it may be a similar game to the one you played years ago, the variety of new additions make this already strong RPG worthwhile for both veterans and newcomers alike in my opinion.
Part 1: The Septentrione Arc / General Story Delivery
A mysterious website known as Nicaea has appeared, becoming popular with mobile phone users around Japan. The website claims to allow people to see the tragic deaths of anyone who are relevant to their fate before the death occurs. You take control of a self-named protagonist, who signs up for the site following a high school examination, unawares of what awaits him later that day. Joined by best friend Daichi and classmate Io, the protagonist and the others receive death mail clips while standing in the subway, indicating their deaths by a train accident. Unable to do much, the incident occurs moments later. Opting to live rather than succumb to their fates, all three manage to survive and recruit demons to their side. With their mobile phones now granted the ability to summon demons and having managed to survive several several encounters, the trio and others begin to work with the mysterious organisation JPs to defeat them and the Septentrione threat.
As I have said before, the one thing I appreciate the most about this game’s storyline is that it feels more similar to the earlier Shin Megami Tensei games, being much darker in nature and really giving the impression that the world is doomed unless your characters do something. Although you do have some small control over the personality of the protagonist from a handful of dialogue options which appear on occasion (Fumi’s Fate Level routes are my favourite), and there are occasions where the dialogue is quite comical, the story presented is quite complex and serious with minimal fluff to make the overarching story more light-hearted.
The game takes place over approximately a week in-game time, with each event or “social link” scene undertaken by the player taking up half an hour (or a bit more for major events). Each day includes several major events which may or may not involve inescapable battles, and serve as the brunt of storyline delivery. Outside of these events, players are able to engage with characters through “social link” like scenes to improve their “Fate Levels” with characters. These usually focus on one or two facets of each character’s personality, and can unlock some nifty features including the ability to share Skill Cracks and unlock fusable demons (More on these later). I would argue that the Fate Level system does not come anywhere close to what is presented in Persona 3/4, but do a good job in giving each individual character a chance to shine.
While the first few in-game days in Devil Survivor 2: Record Breaker are fairly linear, as days progress the actions undertaken by the player can have an impact on the characters. Characters are able to die should you fail to progress through events in the right order, while the ending you receive depends on which characters you align yourself with near the end of the game. Fortunately given there are three save slots, you don’t even need to replay through the entire game multiple times to see each individual ending provided you undertake the right actions and save in the right spots. That being said, all endings are pretty satisfying, and each lead to a distinct outcome.
Aside from a few aesthetic changes and a couple of unlockable New Game + features, the Septentrione Arc’s storyline has not been noticeably modified for this release. This is a good thing in my opinion, as this arc features an enticing storyline to begin with.
Part 2: The Triangulum Arc
With regard to Devil Survivor: Overclocked, ATLUS opted to introduce an additional “Day 8” onto each of their different endings, essentially expanding each route by a few hours. Although I did appreciate the additions, it did take quite some time to dive into the new content, especially having played through each arc previously in the original DS release. Tying in with the storyline well and allowing veterans to automatically dive into new story content, ATLUS have introduced a new standalone “Triangulum Arc” in Devil Survivor 2: Record Breaker. This arc is not based on any particular Septentrione arc ending, but rather a new non-playable ending where all fourteen playable characters unite together.
Taking place in a renewed world, the circumstances of each character have changed considerably, although none but the protagonist have any idea about what they had accomplished during the week-long fight against the Septentriones. Although the world appears normal at first, the Nicaea service once again appears and demons begin causing chaos across Japan. Now faced against a new group of enemies known as the “Triangulum” and having awoken to their memories, Daichi, Io and the protagonist start a new journey to recruit all their friends and take on this new threat. But things have changed in this new world, with the Anguished One having disappeared and JPs now being by led by newcomer Miyako Hotsuin – with nobody seemingly having any idea where Yamato is.
Coming in at around 15 to 20 hours in length, the Triangulum arc was shorter than the original story arc in my experience. Nevertheless, it was a fitting sequel to the original story and took advantage of the original character cast, giving them more of an opportunity to shine.
Design / Music / Voice Acting
Despite the console jump, the actual character/demon designs and sprites in Devil Survivor 2: Record Breaker remain mostly unchanged from its original DS release, which is not a major issue in my opinion because they work well enough. As most of the game takes place on the touchscreen, there were only a few occasions where the 3D effects are noticeable when enabled. The 3D effect does however look pretty good with regard to the animated cutscenes spread throughout the Septentrione arc and the general/battle menus.
One of the more noticable omissions from this edition of Devil Survivor 2 was the original opening song, which is present in its instrumental form but not the lyrical version. Instead, Record Breaker features a new opening theme with a brand new animation, which is short and sweet but not as good as the original in my opinion. Asides from a theme song change, this enhanced port mostly retains the original soundtrack, with a few additional tracks present.
Easily the biggest (and greatest) addition to Devil Survivor 2: Record Breaker is the full English dub. With the most notable exception being demon voices, the game is almost entirety dubbed. This dub covers all playable characters, all supporting characters and even the NPC’s whom may only appear once or twice in the story. Given the likely space requirements of providing a full English dub, it should come as no surprise there is no Japanese dub option included with the game. However, the English dub is competent across the board, and it is worth revisiting the Septentrione arc just to hear events unfold with voice acting in my opinion. This is a standard I would like to see more of in the future.
The core gameplay itself is almost exactly the same as Devil Survivor 2, merging a tactical RPG system with a classic turn-based battle system when actually battling your enemies. With up to a total fifteen characters to choose from at any one time, players are left to confine their battle party to just four characters, who are each able to summon up to two demons to fight alongside them. Characters must navigate their way across the battlefield and use these teams to defeat groups of up to three demons/human tamers that appear on the battlefield. A party is only considered defeated upon the defeat of a party’s leader. It is a system which has served them well so far, and as proven by the way ATLUS used it during the Triangulum arc, is both versatile and still has a lot of challenge to offer players.
The battles themselves are based around seven different styles of attack – Physical, Four Elemental types (Agi, Bufu, Zio and Zan), status altering spells such as Paralysis and Poison, and (later on in the game) Almighty. Each demon has individual strengths and weaknesses to the first six types, so series mascot Jack Frost for example is weak against Agi (Fire) spells however can drain Bufu (Ice) spells. It is the same as almost every SMT game… but with the implementation of three demon/character parties and each having different aptitudes, it is a case of careful planning.
While demons come set with a stock batch of spells and aptitudes, your main party members begin the game as a blank slate – allowing you to choose what spells and skills you give them. Each character can equip up to three different skills, three passive skills and a single auto-skill. With no skill overlap allowed, planning your party is vital so you don’t have one character too limited in battle or a Jack of all Trades that struggles to defeat most enemies on the field. There are a variety of skills, so provided you battle frequently and “Skill Break” (If a character you designate defeats a particular enemy you select, you can “steal” an ability from them), you should slowly but surely be able to both level up and improve your skill arsenal – a system that is useful during the many grind sessions throughout the game. With the exception of the protagonist whose stat distribution is determined by the player, each character also has a particular niche in battle, and sometimes it is better to juggle around characters to suit the battle ahead rather than stick with the same quartet.
While given your initial demons post-battle, you have to win the right to use other demons through either auctioning or fusing them. During the game you earn Macca after every battle, a demon world currency which you can use on your phone to bid for one of the games many demons – going against up to three other tamers. If you win, you can add them to your party, and can later fuse them together to form even more powerful demons, with the ability to carry over skills to diversify your demons even further. There is also a compendium, which allows you to register your demons and then pay to re-summon them at any time.
While the new arc brings a range of new challenges to go up against, the impacts that Record Breaker have had on the actual gameplay were minor in my perspective. The new difficulty setting for example does provide a great option for those looking to experience the storyline more than the actual gameplay, however there are still battles which won’t be particularly easy to breeze through. There are also several new skills and demons to unlock, along with SpotPass functionality which grants players access to some of them.
Final Words on Devil Survivor 2: Record Breaker
Having given this game an ‘A’ grade in my review of its Nintendo DS edition back in March 2012, I already knew this game was going to be good. But having completed all endings in the original release, it was the addition of a brand new arc worth 15-20 hours of game time and a fully dubbed storyline which really helped make this enhanced port stand out significantly from its predecessor. I see Devil Survivor 2: Record Breaker as a satisfying JRPG from start to finish.
A digital review copy of Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2: Record Breaker was provided by Nippon Ichi Software America for the purpose of this review.