This is the true Shin Megami Tensei x Fire Emblem.
One of the best games on the Nintendo DS was Atlus’s retelling of the classic Shin Megami Tensei mythos for the system in the form of Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor, a title that took the longstanding conceit of the series, and translated it to a new, far more accessible and immediately palatable form. Devil Survivor was a great game- its gameplay systems, storytelling, and the atmosphere it wove all coming together to deliver a memorable experience. It was a standout game, so it wasn’t a surprise when a sequel was announced for it. Unfortunately for that sequel, Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 released on the Nintendo DS well after the 3DS had released, and had started to pick up, leading to it being greatly overlooked.
Much like the original Devil Survivor game was given an enhanced remake on the 3DS in the form of Devil Survivor Overclocked, so, too, is Devil Survivor 2 getting another chance to shine. Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 Record Breaker (henceforth never referred to by its full name, because its full name is ridiculous) is such a thorough and extensive remake of the original DS game that it renders that version thoroughly obsolete.
The entire full original game is available in Record Breaker, with almost all of it being voiced, and voiced extremely well; there is support for multiple difficulty settings, which can moreover be switched on the fly; and, perhaps most importantly, it features a new expansion, the Triangulum scenario, an FES style 40 hour long addition to the story which is completely massive and enhances the story of the original tale (referred to in this game as the Septentriones scenario) in multiple ways.
"The entire full game is available in Record Breaker, with almost all of it being voiced, and voiced extremely well; there is support for multiple difficulty settings, which can moreover be switched on the fly; and, perhaps most importantly, it features a new, expansion, the Triangulum scenario, an FES style 40 hour long addition to the story which is completely massive and enhances the story of the original tale in multiple ways."
The Triangulum scenario is available to you right off the bat- if you are one of those rare people who did play through all of Devil Survivor 2 back when it first launched, you will appreciate that it is not needlessly locked behind some requirement to complete the Septentriones campaign first; right at the onset of the game, it asks you which one you would rather play.
That said, for almost everyone who will be playing the game, it is advisable to play through the Septentriones first- Triangulum (which is a sequel/alternate universe plotline to Septentriones) is best understood with full knowledge of what happened in the former, and in fact its storytelling expects complete familiarity. Even veterans of the original Devil Survivor 2 would be best advised to give Septentriones another run before tackling Triangulum- it’s been three years since the original Devil Survivor 2 released, after all, and you might have forgotten important details.
It helps that playing through Devil Survivor 2 is such a joy. A large part of this has to do with just how immediately compelling the story is, and the characters, though sometimes suffering from the anime trope syndrome, largely believable. The game weaves an atmosphere of dread and intrigue, and the compulsion to know what happens next keeps the player playing long hours into the night.
But even the best story would falter if the game simply was not fun to play, and happily, Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 Record Breaker obliges greatly in that area-the gameplay systems are immediately accessible, but unimaginably deep, giving players early positive reinforcement to keep them playing, and then later on, ensnaring them with just how much there is to consider with everything that goes on in the game.
"But even the best story would falter if the game simply was not fun to play, and happily, Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 Record Breaker obliges greatly in that area. "
Record Breaker, much like all games in the Devil Survivor series in general, plays a lot like a strategy RPG- think of Fire Emblem, and you will get the idea. Battles take place on a grid, and each character’s positioning matters. You move characters around the map and engage them with enemy characters. But it’s when you enter those battles with enemy characters that things change- rather than the expected, canned attack animations that are the norm for SRPGs, Record Breaker takes you into another battle screen, this one a more traditional first person turn based battle setup, where the party the sprite of the character you were controlling on the map represents faces off the party of three of the enemy sprite.
How do you have one character break down into a party? Well, this is Shin Megami Tensei, so you probably guessed how- each character wields some demons, and those demons are also used in battles against other demons, or users of demons. Demon recruiting works differently in Record Breaker than in traditional SMT, but all the central tenets are here. Later on, you will find you are wielding a ridiculous amount of demons, all of which you can take into battle with you, leading to some respite in the more difficult scenarios.
So- the demons metagame, turn based traditional battles, and the SRPG battles. There is already a lot going on in Record Breaker to keep track of, but the game does not relent. The entire adventure and how it plays out is dictated by how you play it. Record Breaker believes in giving the player almost unprecedented agency for a Japanese game- the entire narrative and what happens in it is decided solely by how you play it. There are the larger underpinnings of Law and Chaos that are a mainstay of Shin Megami Tensei, sure, but even the smaller things matter here: after each encounter, you are given multiple options of where to go, but you can obviously only go to one place.
Each place that you go to leads to the passing of time, and a lot of options available to you now may be time sensitive- meaning choosing one of them means you cannot choose the others. This leads to difficult decisions- do you want to try and save the life of someone who is in danger in the subways, or run to the edge of the city to try and follow a lead about everything that is going on? You can only do one, and doing either one means the other is lost forever, lending each decision some impact and meaning. Entire sections of the story, and characters and party members, can be lost based entirely on your decisions.
"Entire sections of the story, and characters and party members, can be lost based entirely on your decisions."
All of this holds true for the Triangulum too- while from a story perspective, it represents a major addition to the game, from a gameplay mechanics perspective, it is just more of the same. That’s not necessarily a bad thing at all, especially since ‘the same’ was so great to begin with.
Really, there isn’t much to complain about when it comes to Record Breaker. It is an incredible package- as a ‘remaster’ release, it clowns the lazy efforts put forth by other publishers and developers on the market. As just a package viewed in isolation, it provides over a hundred hours of gameplay, a pretty great story, and some great gameplay mechanics to keep you going.
Complaints can be leveled at the graphics, which still harken back to the DS era, and the voice acting, which while universally great, may sometimes get grating for certain characters in certain situations, but on the whole, you can’t go wrong with this game. It’s probably going to find itself a home on your 3DS for a long, long time to come.
This game was reviewed on Nintendo 3DS.
Hours upon hours of content, engrossing and addictive gameplay mechanics, great, atmospheric story
The graphics are largely DS era, the voice acting can get grating sometimes
Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 Record Breaker is probably going to find itself a home on your 3DS for a long, long time to come.