Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2: Record Breaker Raises the Stakes

Atlus’ Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2: Record Breaker is less than a month away from its release on 3DS, and from what we’ve played, it’s shaping up to be much more than an appetizer for the imminent Persona 5. As a grid-based strategy RPG it’s different than what many Persona or Shin Megami Tensei fans will be familiar with, but those who played its predecessors, especially the 3DS remaster of the first Devil Survivor, will know exactly what kind of quality and difficult decisions to expect. As good as 2011’s Devil Survivor: Overclocked was, however, Devil Survivor 2: Record Breaker iterates and improves upon it in a number of ways that elevate the experience to something greater.

For starters, Devil Survivor 2 takes the demon-battling gameplay of its predecessor on the road, traveling throughout Japan instead of staying cooped up in Tokyo. That’s a luxury the characters in the first Devil Survivor didn’t have, of course; they were barricaded inside Tokyo’s Yamanote train line along with hordes of bloodthirsty demons. The freedom of Devil Survivor 2 might make its plot sound less bleak in comparison, but that constant travel is only necessary because this time around the disaster isn’t localized to Tokyo — it’s devastated the entire world.

Whereas the first game focused on the societal breakdown inside the Tokyo quarantine zone, this enhanced sequel emphasizes the personal struggles of each character and their individual acceptance of the unbelievable disaster and tragedy surrounding them. Society isn’t crumbling this time around, mainly because there isn’t a society left to crumble. It’s heavy stuff, but because Devil Survivor 2: Record Breaker is a standalone sequel, in no way influenced by the events of its predecessor, it’s not held back by convoluted continuity and is also a perfect place for new players to jump in.

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You’ll have plenty of opportunities to hear how the situation is affecting Japan’s survivors, as whenever you’re not duking it out with demons you’ll be gathering intelligence and searching for the individuals depicted in the mysterious Death Videos that keep coming to your phone. The videos act as a warning of a preventable future, and from there it’s up to you to listen carefully to the times and places your characters deduce throughout your investigations. Every visit to an area, no matter how short, eats half an hour of your time, so if you dilly-dally too long you may find yourself with a dead comrade.

Unfortunately, I didn’t realize the severity of this system until far too late. I came across a heroic chap in a unique hat during a day out in Nagoya, and couldn’t wait for him to join my ranks. His death video arrived shortly, but I was confident I could locate the venue of his demise quick enough to step in successfully. As it turns out I was a little too confident, as after succumbing to the seduction of a particularly tantalizing conversation topic with another character I fancied, I was simply too late to rewrite the future. He was bludgeoned to death before my eyes, and I never got the chance to learn more about him and his relations with the other members of my team. His entire character was wiped from my campaign. It was a devastating blow to my pride and morale, but it also made me seriously consider how I spent my time from then on.

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Shin Megam Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 also introduces the Fate System to the series, a setup similar to the Persona series’ social links. You’ll occasionally have chances to improve your relationship with a character in your team through intimate conversation, and should you make the right conversational selections, your Fate level will increase and unlock new abilities and perks that aid you in combat. It adds a tangible element to a system that lacked major payoff in the first game, and becomes one more facet to consider when planning your day.

Anyone who played Devil Surivor 2 on DS will be quite familiar with all of those elements, of course, but Atlus has you covered too. With Record Breaker, the venerable Japanese developer has included not only the game’s original campaign — enhanced with a fully-voiced and re-written script — but also a brand new epilogue chapter that nearly doubles the game’s length. It’s a little pricier than a standard 3DS game, ringing up at $49.99, but from what we’ve experienced, Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 Record Breaker might just be worth it.