Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner: Raidou Kuzunoha vs. King Abadon ReviewBy D.F. Smith - Posted May 14, 2009
If you buy video games based on the length their titles, then 'Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner 2: Raidou Kuzunoha vs King Abaddon' is for you! Seriously, though, fans of the occult series will wonder whether they should be excited or dubious about the new game. Find out in this X-Play Review of the new PlayStation 2 RPG.
- Improved action combat system
- Dozens of demons to develop and fuse
- Lots of cool period detail
- Demon negotiation gets repetitive at times
- It's easy to get stuck during the main quest
Persona 3 and Persona 4 have gone a long way towards bringing the Shin Megami Tensei games to a broader audience. There’s nothing wrong with that, either – there’s something to be said for giving the series some friendlier character designs, a brisker pace, and a fresh kind of gameplay. At the same time, it’s good to see Atlus isn’t letting the series’ roots die away. Devil Summoner 2, in many ways, is a Megaten game of the old school, something for fans of Persona 2 or Shin Megami Tensei III.
It has a complex “negotiation” system from those older games, where a conversation can sometimes take the place of a fight, and art direction by Kazuma Kaneko, whose arch, slickly-executed airbrushings give the characters an otherworldly feel. That’s not to say it doesn’t keep up with the times, though. When negotiations fail, the action combat system is even more fun than the one in the first Devil Summoner.
If you’ve just played the recent Personas, this will be a bit of a shock to the system. Long-time fans, though, will definitely appreciate it, and it’s not so unfriendly that newcomers won’t find a lot to like as well.
Set The Wayback Machine
Like Raidou Kuzunoha’s first adventure, this Devil Summoner is set in Japan during the 1920s. Back then, the country was about halfway in between its traditional past and the heavily Westernized present, and the setting’s a good fit for a story that’s stuck between supernatural fantasy and hard-boiled mystery. Raidou, if you missed the first game, comes from a long line of demon hunters trained to protect the city of Tokyo. (His full name is Raidou Kuzunoha the 14th – the family’s been at this for a while.) He carries a sword and a trusty revolver, but his most dangerous weapons are the demons he can subdue and command to fight for him.
Gameplay-wise, Devil Summoner has a foot in two genres as well. In the daylight version of the city, it plays like a traditional RPG or adventure game. Raidou explores the city, interacts with different characters, and pulls together the threads of a complex conspiracy. Behind the everyday Tokyo, though, there’s a demon-haunted dark version of each neighborhood, and battling demons there plays more like a 3D action game.
When Reason Fails…
The combat system makes it easy to use all of Raidou’s different weapons. His gun is handy for stunning demons with a few quick shots – then you can close in and hack them up with quick sword combos or slower, more powerful strikes. Meanwhile, his demon allies can dish out a lot of punishment in the background, especially now that he can summon two at a time (instead of just one, as in the first Devil Summoner).
Recruiting new demons, though, means avoiding a fight altogether. Before most battles, you have the option to negotiate with an enemy instead. Navigate the resulting conversation carefully – with some help from supporting demons, useful items, and other factors – and a demon will agree to tag along with you. Then you can summon them to fight, or take them to an underground laboratory and fuse them together to create new, more powerful allies.
Negotiations can be a little slow and tedious sometimes, but the rewards are usually worth it in the end. Besides providing useful backup in a fight, or a timely assist during negotiation, different kinds of demons have skills that come in handy during Raidou’s investigations. Some can read minds, for instance, which helps for squeezing information out of townspeople, while others transport him over impassable barriers.
Some of the game’s quests are more than a little difficult to unravel, and require a lot of trotting back and forth across both versions of Tokyo to work out all the steps that eventually lead to their resolution. It’s easy to hit the wall and thrash around trying to figure out where to go next. Luckily, there’s no shortage of ways to pass the time while trying to get yourself unstuck. The game offers a wide range of side-quests (in the form of extra case files at the Narumi Detective Agency, Raidou’s temporary home base), and each has its own reward at the end of the job. Just wandering around the Dark Realm is always worthwhile, too, since it lets Raidou build up a store of extra demons to use in future fusion experiments.
Each new twist in the story is its own reward, too. There’s a lot of flavor to Atlus’s depiction of period Tokyo, and all the people in it as well – shopkeepers, cops, gangsters, politicians, and some others who aren’t exactly the usual fixtures of a traditional detective story. A smoothly-edited English script gives everyone a touch of extra personality.
Likewise, the folks hanging out on the dark side have their own kind of charm. Demons in the Megami Tensei series have never just been the personification of evil – some are bad, some are good, some are just plain weird, some are downright silly. Getting to know them has always been one of the best parts of playing these games, and it’s just one of many reasons to enjoy Devil Summoner 2.
More than a Mouthfull
Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner 2: Raidou Kuzunoha vs. King Abaddon may not fit on a t-shirt, but the game packs in more content than most next-gen RPG’s. While it may not convert any of the role-playing non-believers any time soon, this demon collecting game is everything a good sequel should be with more content, improved combat, and everything players loved about the first one. Maybe next time we’ll get a version that will fill out my HD television.
Article Written By: D. F. Smith