Atlus is developing a thing for long titles, at least when it comes to Shin Megami Tensei(SMT) spin-off titles. Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner 2: Raidou Kuzunoha vs. King Abaddon is the sequel to the cult favorite (and equally long-winded) Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner: Raidou Kuzunoha vs. the Souless Army. Though it isn’t much of an advancement over the original game, it is still a solid offering.
It’s no surprise that the PS2 is starting to show its age, at least when it comes to trying to match realism. Madden’s loss is Devil Summoner 2’s gain as more artistic games have flourished on the system. Although set against a real-world backdrop of 1920’s Japan, the art style follows other SMT games. Backgrounds are pre-rendered, similar to the Resident Evil series, and strike a nice balance between real and stylized. A few backgrounds are reused, but what do you expect for a game that takes place so close to the original? Human characters look okay, but the real stars are the demons you’ll call into battle. Each is just as imaginative as the next.
As with every SMT game, the soundtrack is upbeat and enjoyable. There’s a bit of an electronic flavor running throughout the soundtrack, but it maintains the same jazzy/ rock beat found in the first game. Though most of the tracks are new, a few from the first game are carried over. I liked the continuity, but it does get a little annoying when familiar tunes start droning around in your head.
When Japan is threatened by a dark threat (aren’t they always?), the Yatagarasu, a secret watchdog organization decides to send Raidou Kuzunoha, a devil summoner, to investigate. Along with his talkative feline companion, Gouto, Raidou sets up shop at the Narumi Detective Agency. The Agency is eventually hired by Akane, a young (but suspicious) woman who asks Raidou to track down a man named Dahn. What at first looks like a routine missing persons case eventually pulls Raidou into something much deeper.
Devil Summoner 2: Raidou Kuzunoha vs. King Abaddon doesn’t deviate too much from the first game’s format. The Agency serves as your base of operations as you take on several investigations. Some are directly related to the story, while others are simple side-quests that will bring you in contact with more demons to capture and additional abilities. Everything is very straightforward, adding a great “old school” feel to the entire experience. Most quests involve discovering what is happening around the city, though you’ll spend just as much time stocking up on demons.
Growing a large army of demons is important. Taking demons into battle increases their loyalty, which in turn allows Raidou to collect more demons and achieve higher rankings, unlocking better side-quests. The more demons you have, the more options you have in battle. Some demons will help during investigations. You can also fuse demons together in Victor’s lab, though splicing demons together is risky. You’re just as likely to produce a dud as a winner, but it’s the only way to unlock some demons, or at least more powerful versions of demons found in the wild. Victor can also create new weapons for Raidou.
Aside from a few wayward demons, Devil Summoner 2: Raidou Kuzunoha vs. King Abaddon is a straightforward JRPG. Dungeons aren’t monstrously long, but you’ll spend a lot of time roaming around battling enemies. I wasn’t thrilled to see random encounters, but at least they aren’t overly frequent. You’ll fight plenty of enemies, but at least you’re given a chance to breathe. How you fare in battles depends on your cadre of demons and level. Expect a good bit of level grinding, though I was expecting a little more considering how “back to roots” the rest of the game is.
Agency side-missions are disappointing. It’s assumed you won’t be able to keep track of details, so everything is overly-explained multiple times. Even with numerous summaries, your actual goal isn’t always clear. You’ll have a general idea of the direction you’ll need to head in, though what you’re supposed to do is murky.
Combat is more action-oriented in Devil Summoner 2: Raidou Kuzunoha vs. King Abaddon than other games in the SMT series. When you come across random encounters in dungeons, you have direct control over Raidou as you slash and combo your way though enemies. Raidou gets a little backup in the form of demons he can summon during battle. Demons attack on their own, but respond to commands from Raidou. Demons feed off Raidou’s MAG gauge, which is refilled by attacking weakened enemies. Every demon has an elemental attribute, so the trick is to summon demons who are strong against your enemy’s element. This requires a large group of demons in your corner.
In order to get a demon to join your side, you need to negotiate conditions. First you’ll need to talk to the demon and convince him to join you. Once he accepts, you’ll have to meet special conditions, like offering an item or life points, before he joins your party… sort of. Demons aren’t known for sticking to their word, so even if you manage to win him over he may bail on you. I understand the point of the system, but it adds a little too much frustration to the process, especially when you consider some of the conditions you need to meet.
Despite a few frustrating missteps, Devil Summoner 2 is still fun. It won’t appeal to every RPG fan, but if you’re looking for something quirky, or enjoyed the first game, you’ll like what Devil Summoner 2 has to offer.