Thursday, March 15, 2007
Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga 2 review
Megami Tensei is probably one of those under-rated series you have never heard about. Compared to the marketing budget that series like Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, Suikoden or even .hack can afford, the developer/publisher Atlus are very well known for producing very limited numbers of their games, in order to minimise losses (remember the E.T. scandal?) as well as recognising that the the Japanese role-playing games genre belongs to a small niche market, dominated only by a single franchise Final Fantasy, at least in the UK. Perhaps it makes sense from a marketing point of view, but it doesn't help in introducing a great series to people.
The original Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga spin-off was one of my favourite RPGs of last year, at least in terms of tactical gameplay - particularly the Press Turn combat system. It was actually the first Megami Tensei game I ever played thanks to the chance encounter at Gamestation, then a quick review check at Eurogamer. Since then I have also gone through Shin Megami Tensei III: Lucifar's Call (Nocturne Maniax in Japan), the third game in the canonical Shin Megami numbered series. The games are so fucking rare, especially in the UK, it makes me want to clutch my copy of these future collectors even harder.
Digital Devil Saga 2 is a direct sequel to Digital Devil Saga and it is probably essential to be able to play the predecessor rather than jumping straight into this game. You will also get to import the save file from Digital Devil Saga for bonuses. I won't explain any plot details here out of fear of spoilers (plus the plot is complicated enough to try to fit into a small essay, but it essentially revolves around a band of tribe called Embryon lead by this guy called Serph and their constant war with other tribes in order to ascend to Nirvana). Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga 2 attempts to tie up any loose-ends from the first game (in which there are plenty) and providing more back story to each factions, then expanding those into a story worthy of a singular standalone game.
One of my favourite aspect of both Shin Megami Tensei III: Lucifar's Call and Digital Devil Saga are the stunning visual style of the games. As Digital Devil Saga 2 uses the same engine, Kazuma Kaneko's demonic character design is once again the highlight, as a unique visual characteristic of the game. I have always been a fan of these demonic art style ever since I started reading serious gothic style manga (not sure what those are called) during the mid-90s. The visuals are rendered in 3D (naturally) with cel-shaded look and simple textures, not unlike that of killer7. The original bleak and post-apocalyptic cyber-punk look of the original has been retained and the environment effect has been improved. There is also the distinct voice acting which surpasses anything Square-Enix has ever managed (bar Dragon Quest VIII of course).
After the fantastic but relatively easy Final Fantasy XII, I am looking forward to playing this proper, hopefully in Easter. Digital Devil Saga was awfully difficult and challenging, and it looks to be the same with Digital Devil Saga 2. It is unfortunate that such great games often goes overlooked by the public. Looking at the rather depressing UK game charts you can't blame Atlus for the lack of care when it comes to promoting this (and their other titles). The game is available at most stores for a low price of £15 (or £25 with a limited edition soundtrack), a shocking price considering it has been out for less than a month. A crying shame.
Import the NTSC version from Play-Asia or buy this Amazon UK today