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Developer:
Atlus
Publisher: Atlus
Platform: PS2
Release Date: October 10, 2006

by Josh Ferguson




Since Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne hit U.S. shores in 2004, the series has managed to pick up quite the following among American RPG gamers. The series has been praised by both critics and fans alike for its dark and twisted storylines, which easily help set it apart from other RPG series, such as Final Fantasy. The latest installment in the series, entitled Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner - Raidou Kuzunoha vs. the Soulless Army, is a little different than previous games. Different is good, right? Youíll have to read on to find out.


The storyline in the game follows an up and coming Devil Summoner who has recently been appointed the title of Raidou Kuzunoha the 14th. With the boundaries between the human realm and the Dark Realm becoming unstable, Raidou is sent to help secure safety in the capital. In order to aide in his investigations, Raidou is sent to the Capital undercover as a Detective, working under Shouhei Narumi, Chief of the Narumi Detective Agency. Everything is going well, until one day the two receive a phone call from a mysterious girl begging for them to meet her at the Ushigome-gaeri Bridge. Reluctantly, Narumi agrees, but only because she had said please. Later that day, the two detectives head to the bridge and meet the young girl, who oddly enough asks for them to kill her. Naturally, the two are shocked by the request, but donít have much time to react when a bunch of individuals in red suits show up, abducting the young girl. Confused by these events, the two decide to work the case and discover the mystery behind the girl's abduction.


As I said earlier, one of the things that has made the Shin Megami Tensei series so unique is the game's dark storylines. While the overall context of Devil Summoner may be dark, especially when compared to the RPG norm, in comparison to the previous SMT titles, Devil Summoner is far lighter. Everything about the game feels less dark, whether it be the way the characters look, the actual storyline, or the look of the game's environments. Although the game may feature a darker story than many RPGs, if youíve grown accustomed to the style of the SMT series, you may be a little disappointed.


One of the biggest differences between Devil Summoner and the previous installments in the SMT series is that this title is an action-RPG, rather than the traditional turn-based RPG. When combat begins, Raidou will appear alongside the enemies on the screen. To defeat his enemies, Raidou comes equipped with both a sword and a couple of guns that can be equipped with different elemental attacks. Using his sword, Raidou is able to pull off a slash attack, a spin attack, and a thrust attack to punish his enemies. Sadly though, aside from the few attacks with his sword and shooting his guns, Raidou really doesnít have any other attacks. Considering that Raidou is very limited in his attacks, and that combat occurs very often, the fighting can become a bit repetitive after a while. If there were some other abilities or something, this might mix things up a little, but luckily Raidou does have the ability of Devil (or Demon) Summoning.


With Raidou being a Devil Summoner, it is obvious that he is going to be able to summon demons. Whenever battle begins, Raidou will be able to summon one of these demons to fight at his side. The game allows Raidou to set a default demon that will automatically appear at the beginning of battle, but it is also possible to return that demon and summon a new one during combat. Unlike Raidou, the demons are the ones that basically have all of the abilities. While the demons have their basic physical attacks, they can also perform different magic attacks and often certain protection spells. When a demon appears in battle, for the most part it will be AI-controlled, but it is possible for Raidou to issue out different orders, including to use a certain spell, save their MP, or to perform however they see fit. For the most part, the demon AI is fairly intelligent and will perform fairly well, but at times they will become trapped between enemies, and rather than moving away, they will often just sit there and take the attacks. The game allows you to call your demon to your side by pressing the L1 button, but sometimes this doesnít work too well and, unless you rush over to their side, you may be losing an ally.


As for the process of actually obtaining a demon, this is fairly easy. The basic premise of combat is similar to the other SMT installments, where you want to exploit an enemyís weakness to your advantage. Well, each of the enemies in the game will have a certain weakness, whether it be to ice, fire, bullets, force, lightening, and so on. Once you use the type of attack that an enemy is weak against, they will become temporarily stunned and stand still for a moment. This is when Raidou must run to their side and use the circle button to trap them in one of his tubes. The difficulty in trapping one of the demons depends on how much HP that individual demon has left. When you begin to trap that demon, a bar will appear and you must repeatedly press the circle button until the bar is depleted, which will allow you to capture the demon. Aside from in battle, Raidou is also able to summon his demons while roaming around towns and other areas outside of combat. When Raidou acquires a demon, they come equipped with a certain investigation skill. These skills donít really have any use in battle, but outside they can help obtain hidden items and at times are key to continue with storyline events. For example, one type of investigation skill includes flight, which allows demons to fly to certain locations that Raidou could normally not reach. These demon investigation skills also come in handy in obtaining information from townspeople who are being a bit stubborn. One skill, known as ignite, allows the demon to set the individual on fire, which will cause them to become a little more open on the subject. There are also certain demons that can read characters' minds, which obviously will help in obtaining information. When these demons are summoned outside of combat, Raidou can also send them on solo missions to travel around the screen and unlock doors, obtain information, or perform certain actions that Raidou could not do himself. During these solo missions, the demons can also encounter random battles, which might be a little more difficult, but this also gives full control over all of your demons' combat actions. These solo missions mix things up a little, and it is kind of interesting to be able to take complete control over one of your demons in combat, rather than just sending out different commands.


Similar to Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne, the amount of demons that you are able to carry in your party is limited. Even though the game features a large cast of obtainable demons, players will still only be able to carry around a max number of twelve. With such a large number of demons and such a small amount of room, the player will be forced to pick and choose between who they want to keep and who they would like to place aside. However, even if the player kicks a character out of their party, the player can still bring that demon back at a later point in time. The game allows you to record all the stats of your demons, and if desired, you are able to repurchase that same demon even if it was removed from your party. Similar to Nocturne, the game also allows you to fuse your demons together to create a completely new demon. If youíre planning to acquire all the demons in the game, then the whole fusion process can take quite some time. Plus you will have to fuse to acquire some of the game's more rare demons, but acquiring and searching for the large cast of demons is interesting and adds some value to the game. Aside from fusing demon to demon, players are now able to fuse demons into Raidouís sword, powering it up and making it even more powerful.


Graphically, Devil Summoner is an overall good-looking game. The game features a large cast of demons, many of which are completely redesigned and look better than ever. Many of the demon forms are quite unique looking, and anyone who enjoyed the previous looks of the characters in the Shin Megami Tensei series should love the artistic styling of this game too.


As far as the sound department goes, Devil Summoner is sort of a mixed blessing. Donít get me wrong, the game features an excellent score, with much of the music fitting the game perfectly, and some sounding like something that would come straight from a sort of detective television show. The problem, though, is that the game doesnít feature any voice work whatsoever. While voice acting isnít something that makes a game, these days it almost feels odd to not have it in a video game. Plus, the game almost feels like there should be voice acting in different parts. During much of the game's conversations, I was sitting there and at times almost expected to hear something come out of Raidouís mouth, but I continued to sit disappointed.


While Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner - Raidou Kuzunoha vs. The Soulless Army is an overall solid game, fans of the series might be a little disappointed with the lighthearted story and mediocre action-oriented combat. However, if you enjoyed the large amount of demon recruiting in Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne, then you will surely love it in Devil Summoner. Plus, with its great soundtrack and good graphics, Devil Summoner makes for an interesting RPG experience.


Final Grade: 77%




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