Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga 2

Atlus’s Shin Megami Tensei series gained a decent following with the release of Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne, which critics praised for its uniqueness, among the positive aspects being the Press Turn Icon battle system. Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga received positive ovation as well, being the first of a two-part series that would conclude with Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga 2, which is a solid experience like its predecessor.

Upon starting a new game, the player can import data from the first game, which can influence the player’s final party in the sequel and also allows for selectable difficulty.

The structure of randomly-encountered battles (with players able to increase or decrease the rate with specific items) remains largely the same as in the first game, with the sequel using the Press Turn Icon System introduced in Nocturne, where exploiting enemy weaknesses only consumes half a turn icon and voided, repelled, or drained attacks consume more or all icons. A new type of random encounter in the sequel may occasionally occur during full or nearly-full Solar Noises where the player’s party of up to three active characters is stuck between human and demon form, in which instance they can only attack normally or use HP-consuming physical skills, with the miss rate being higher than average but damage being greater.

The sequel does make more significant characters, for instance, allowing each character to wear a Karma Ring that the player can customize with special jewels for increased stats, with certain Rings having special powers as well. The biggest change is in the Mantra system that allows each character to learn new skills, where all Mantras are now on a grid of hexagons, and mastered Mantras unlock adjacent Mantras for further skill development. The battle system works well for the most part, although there are some daunting bosses towards the end, and Digital Devil Saga 2, like its predecessor, is one of those games where victory is far more dependent upon each character’s skill set rather than standard levels.

The game interface largely remains unchanged with regards to the menu system, Karma Terminals, and handy system of automaps, although there is an added convenience where the player can select a menu option repeatedly to have characters automatically cast healing spells on the party, even if they don’t have them currently equipped in their skill sets. There are still some flaws such as the fact that dying forces the player to slog through all the company screens instead of merely allowing them to reload their last saved game right away, but otherwise, the sequel interfaces well with the player.

The sequel continues its predecessor’s plot, with some interesting twists, elaboration on the first game’s storyline, and even the fact that some choices made in the first game affect events in the sequel. The plot can also be a decent reward at times for tough boss battles. The translation is largely flawless in spite of maybe one tiny error, but otherwise, the narrative and translation are well above average.

Shoji Meguro returns to compose the sequel’s soundtrack, with plenty of catchy techno themes such as the Karma Society Tower music. The voice acting is also solid like in the first game, although there are some instances in battle where it can be difficult to hear what the characters are saying when the battle begins. Otherwise, a great-sounding game.

The visuals are largely the same as they were in the first game, a gorgeous and gothic cel-shaded style, with the only real shortcoming being the jaggies at times.

Finally, depending upon the player’s skills and a little luck, one can make it through the game in as little as twenty-five hours, although replays and other extras can easily pad out potential playtime.

In the end, Digital Devil Saga 2 is pretty much the epitome of what a direct sequel should be, building upon its predecessor’s mechanisms and consequentially feeling different enough to be far from derivative. The battle system, control scheme, solid story, aurals, and visuals are all-around solid, and although the game may be hard at times, even on the Normal difficulty setting, one could easily describe the sequel as rewarding, given the sometimes-long cutscenes that follow tough boss fights, and those who liked the first game will most likely enjoy the sequel as well.

The Good:
+Solid, sometimes rewarding gameplay.
+Tight control with a new healing shortcut.
+Superb story and localization
+Excellent music and voice acting.
+Nice cel-shaded visuals.

The Bad:
-Some enemies and bosses can be cheap.

The Bottom Line:
A great sequel.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: PlayStation 2
Game Mechanics: 8/10
Controls: 8/10
Story: 10/10
Music/Sound: 9/10
Graphics: 9/10
Localization: 9/10
Lasting Appeal: 10/10
Difficulty: Adjustable
Playing Time: 25-40 Hours

Overall: 9/10

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