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March 8, 2016

Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 first released in 2011 for the DS in Japan, arriving in North America the following year and then in Europe in 2013. Record Breaker is a remake of the original Devil Survivor 2 that released last year for the 3DS. It contains full voice acting, a new story arc, a fresh translation for the original story, new skills and demons, DLC and a new character. I never played the original, and only picked this up because my best friend wouldn’t stop talking about it. Having now finished it, I’m glad I followed his advice.

The first Devil Survivor 2 had you take control of a nameless protagonist just before their home of Tokyo was destroyed and beset by demons. He and his friends discovered a demon summoning app had suddenly been installed on their phones. They used this app to prevent their own deaths, sent to them in a video by a mysterious website known as Nicaea. The friends worked to drive out the demons and the powerful beings known as Septentriones, which were attempting to bring the world to ruin. Record Breaker adds to this story with a new scenario that continued from one of the multiple endings from the first game. The new arc has you defeating the similarly world-rending Triangulum.

Record Breaker allows you to select whether or not you want to start with the Septentrione or the Triangulum scenario when you begin. This allows those who never played the original to start from the very beginning, while veterans who want to jump into the new plot line can do so immediately. Each scenario has multiple endings and achievements to unlock, providing ample reason to replay the game for those who want to. I found both of the stories compelling, with the first in particular eliciting strong emotions from me, something not many games can do.

Devil Survivor dialogue

What really made the story was worth it were the characters. The localisation was brilliantly scripted, and the voice acting is some of the best I’ve ever heard in a game. You could talk to your characters between plot events to learn more about them and their histories, watching them grow and became noticeably more mature as the two story arcs progress. Combined, they all contributed to the game’s lively atmosphere, making the characters feel unique — like they could be real people. Atlus totally nailed everything about the characters and their development in Record Breaker, and it was beautiful to watch.

Talking with your characters and progressing the plot consumes time, which is limited in Record Breaker. It also raises their FATE level with you, unlocking all kinds of bonus effects both in and outside of battle. The game features free battles that can be challenged at any time and as often as you like. Free battles take up no time, and so can be used to grind if you’re stuck or just want tougher demons.

Just as thought out is the way Record Breaker handles difficulty. ‘Blessed’ is the easier of the two, where you deal more damage, take less damage, and gain more EXP and money than you do in ‘Apocalypse’. The two can be swapped at any time between events and battles. I tried fighting a couple of battles on Blessed and then Apocalypse to see how it changed, and there is substantial difference; where I breezed through the fights on Blessed, I only got through by the skin of my teeth on Apocalypse. I loved being able to change them at any time as it meant I could swap to Blessed whenever I needed to level up, and then back to Apocalypse when I resumed the story, reducing the amount of time I spent grinding. This could be done without any penalties, allowing you to play the way you want to.

Record Breaker is a turn-based strategy game, with battles taking place on a gridded map. You fight with a party of up to four characters, each flanked by two demons. A single unit on the map is similarly comprised of two side demons and their leader in the middle; these side demons raise the defence of the centre fighter. Units will disappear when the leader is defeated, so you can either go straight for the centre character with their raised defences or pick off the demons on either side first.

Skills for humans are shared between the party, meaning you can’t have multiple people with the same skill. You gain new skills in battle with the ‘skill crack’ function. At the beginning of a battle, you can assign skills possessed by your foes to each of your characters. If you beat those opponents with the character you assigned to them, you will earn that skill. It’s an interesting system that lets you take control of which abilities you get to acquire, and I enjoyed it.

Devil Survivor menu

You gain new demons in Record Breaker by buying and fusing them, doing away with the demon negotiation seen in other Shin Megami Tensei games. You’ll unlock new tiers at the auction house as you buy more demons, giving you access to even better ones. These, in turn, can be fused; you get to transfer some skills, abilities and bonuses to the demons you fuse, making them more powerful and malleable than the bought variety. The game prevents you from combining demons of a higher level than the protagonist, and some of the more powerful demons need to be unlocked before they can be fused. It’s fun to just check all the different combinations you’ll get by combining different demons.

Fusion allows you to create the same demon with a different set of skills, and as such, you can register one sample of each demon species in your compendium. These can then be summoned again whenever you like and as often as you like so you’ll never lose access to your favourite build for each demon, provided you have the money to summon another copy. There’s a huge of variety of demons at your disposal, each divided into different classes with their own unique characteristics and special class skill.

The skills your party uses will consume either HP or MP, depending on the type of attack; as a general rule, physical attacks consume HP and magical ones MP. I really like this system as it means physical attackers, which are usually low on MP, are able to keep using their special abilities as it consumes their more plentiful health pool instead. They can keep using these attacks more than they could have it if were draining their meagre MP pool, as would generally happen in other games.

Devil Survivor combat

Record Breaker’s soundtrack is superb, having been crafted by series veterans who have worked on the Mana series, Shadow Hearts, previous Shin Megami Tensei and Persona titles and more. I’ve enjoyed listening to the music both in and outside of the game, with some tracks in particular standing out as favourites.

The game’s new game plus mode unlocks after completing either scenario for the first time and allows you to carry over as much or as little as you want to the new game. Each scenario contains multiple endings and achievements (“titles”) to collect, all of which will take a long time to gather. I spent a little over 67 hours with Record Breaker just to beat the main storylines for both scenarios, and I’m missing a lot of titles. It also has a lot of DLC, leaving this game with a huge amount of content for anyone who wants excuses to keep on playing.

Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 Record Breaker is a game that gets everything right. It looks and sounds great, with a wonderful soundtrack and some of the best voice acting I’ve ever heard. Between its engrossing story, deep character development and excellent design choices, Record Breaker is one of the few games I feel confident recommending to just about every gamer I know.

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