Devil Survivor 2: Record Breaker: A demonic obsession

May 4, 2015


When it was originally released in America in 2012, Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 was largely overlooked. That’s not surprising: it was an original Nintendo DS title launching nearly a year after its successor hit the market, and it came just six months after Devil Survivor Overclocked, which, despite being a half-measure in many ways, was a much-needed complex RPG for early 3DS adopters who had little in the way of quality titles.

With a 3DS re-release, Devil Survivor 2 has another chance to capture the attention of the game-playing public. And it should, because Record Breaker makes an already-great game even better.

In many ways, Devil Survivor 2: Record Breaker is identical to its DS iteration. The plot of a Shin Megami Tensei game always relies on a certain amount of suspension of disbelief, but the basic premise has you rounding up allies, summoning demons and using them to take down lots of other demons in an attempt to save everyone and everything. I won’t spend too much time talking about the story, partly to avoid spoilers but mostly because it doesn’t matter that much. Devil Survivor 2 is much more about the moment-to-moment character interaction than it is the overarching narrative, and outside of those moments, you’ll be much more absorbed with the process of refining your team of demons than you will with anything else.


If you’ve played any Devil Survivor game before, you’ll be familiar with this setup. You bring four humans into battle, each accompanied by two demons, and you can swap out these demons as much as you’d like. You can buy new demons in the auction, fuse two together to make a stronger one, replicate previously-owned demons for a fee and explore all these various combinations until you end up with a dynamic crew. There are the adorable ones that you desperately want to use but they’re just so weak, the adorable ones that you desperately want to use but they’re too strong for you to fuse and the positively hideous and gruesome ones that just happen to have great stats for your level that you end up resigning yourself to so you can get through the next battle.

About those battles: Devil Survivor uses tactical, turn-based maps, all based on various areas of Japanese cities you’re trying to protect. The game does a good enough job of varying these so that, for example, the subway platform feels different from the park. You can just walk up four tiles and hit a demon in the face, and you’ll do a lot of that regardless, but the level of depth comes in when you’re using Skill Crack and fusing demons with movement abilities.


Downloadable content

Record Breaker will offer both paid and free add-on missions in the weeks after launch. Of the two free ones, Beginner’s Brawl is generally useless, but Lost Demon Rescue scales to your level and lets you grind and get a free demon in the process. The paid stuff is what you’d expect: ways to earn more money, experience, skills and add-ons for demon fusion. They are what they are — time-savers — and you can pay a buck apiece if you want them.

Skill Crack is, well, how you get skills for your human characters. You do it by choosing a skill and a character beforehand, and if that character kills the demon with that skill, it’s added to your options. Demon fusion can let you move longer distances, slip through obstacles, move again after attacking and snipe from afar. These two elements will reshape your formations and tactics from map to map, making battles only occasionally devolve into mindless kill-fests.

Record Breaker may not totally remake the DS game, but the amount that’s been added is much more than in the still-quite-good Overclocked. The big news here is the Triangulum scenario, a sequel campaign to the original Septentrione adventure. You can jump right into this from the start if you’re a Devil Survivor 2 veteran, but newcomers should certainly take on the original quest first. In fact, returning players should, too. It’s been overhauled with a new translation and voice acting, as well as some new choices that can affect the game’s outcome. The Triangulum content is about half as long as the original game, which… is still about 20 to 30 hours. There’s a lot of game in this game.


That’s not all for the changes, though. If you’ve found the previous games just a bit too punishing, you’ll appreciate the implementation of a new “Blessed” difficulty setting. The original game balance, retained in what’s now called “Apocalypse” mode, can be rather punishing, and the new easier setting still provides a challenge but allows you to grind a little less and smile a little more. There are also new demons made available through SpotPass, as well as a StreetPass mode that has the underwhelming effect of giving one of your demons one extra stat point in something. That could’ve been more interesting, but we’ve also seen worse.

There’s so much depth and replay value to Devil Survivor 2: Record Breaker that it’s almost ludicrous, and it manages not to sacrifice a well-designed experience for extended play as games of its type tend to do. The 3DS is home to some truly stellar strategy titles, and Record Breaker shows it deserves to be in that category.

Pros: Demon fusion is fun and strategic, battle tactics are varied
Cons: The plot’s still inscrutable, StreetPass could be better

Score: 5/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.