What's new in Shin Megami Tensei Devil Surivivor 2: Record Breaker
The original Devil Survivor 2 was released on the original Nintendo DS after the enhanced port of the first title - Devil Survivor: Overclocked - had launched onto the new 3DS handheld system (in North America, anyway). It didn't take special precognition to guess that this, too, would find itself arriving on the latest hardware eventually. And sure enough, Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 Break Record was announced back in March of 2013.
Things fell silent for awhile as not a word was said for more than a year after that. It wasn't until last September that the title finally reappeared at Tokyo Game Show with a 2015 release date. Atlus USA confirmed a North American localization a few months later, and NIS America announced a European release just last week for the Fall.
I've had the chance to play through Record Breaker, having previously completed Overclocked but not the original Devil Survivor 2. The entire package was 'new' to me, and there were a lot of things to like. Of course, the game is structurally very similar to Overclocked: strategy RPG-style gameplay with Shin Megami Tensei first-person battles. If you enjoyed the gameplay structure of the previous game, you'll be happy to hear that things are largely the same on that front.
The very first thing to catch my attention was the musical score. This time around, the soundtrack is done by the duo of longtime SMT and Persona series composer Shoji Meguro and SaGa/Seiken Densetsu veteran Kenji Ito. I personally wasn't much a fan of Takami Asano's score for the original Devil Survivor, and right away I found myself attached to DS2's compositions - the melodic menu themes, catchy map tracks, and upbeat battle music.
Devil Survivor 2 also introduced a few small components that have significant effect on the game's structure and gameplay. Most distinctly is the FATE system (see relevant post here). This is like a 'Social Link-lite' from Persona 3 and 4, where you can initiate conversations with party members and learn more about them. Doing this not only fleshes out the characters some, but also can unlock a status resistance for that character, unlock demons for fusions, as well as Dual Skill Cracks. This might be the best new convenience of them all as skills become much easier to obtain. Keep in mind that potential party characters can and will die if you put off important plot events to chat with your buds, so think carefully how you decide to spend your time.
The FATE system ties into the multiple endings of the main game, as character loyalty is crucial to who is available in your end-game party. Rather than only unlocking character-based endings based on who you talked to like in Devil Survivor 1, this time, the ending branch you choose can split the party. FATE will determine who you can persuade to stick with you, the player character. At the completion of the game, depending on your accomplishments, you can unlock bonuses for New Game Plus.
Those are all elements found in the Septentrione side of Record Breaker, that is, the enhanced version of Devil Survivor 2. Much like in Overclocked, all cutscene dialogue is now fully voiced in English, which helps to set each character's personality. If you don't care for voice-overs, these can be turned off in the menu and the game can be played with text-only, of course.
New to Record Breaker is the Triangulum side, what effectively acts as a sequel to the aforementioned events. While not quite as long as a full game in itself, it's certainly more than just a playable epilogue. It comes complete with a continuation of the main story, new FATE events and multiple endings. However, they are a little more cut-and-dry this time around. Most of the music is the same, but there are a couple new battle themes for new foes.
Triangulum is a standalone half, and your characters jump back to a starting level around 20. If you play through the Septentrione side first, as I did, you can create a clear file and bring in aforementioned bonuses into Triangulum. You will be able to keep your compendium, macca (currency), and super demons into the second part of the game. This will break any semblance of difficulty, so you may want to play through Triangulum without bonuses if you are looking for a challenge. The game allows players to start with this new mode if they choose. Completing it will also add a clear save, in which you can take bonuses back into the original Septentrione story - the game is pretty flexible like that.
There will also be DLC available to help players get experience, skills, and macca. Similar to the content available for Shin Megami Tensei IV, these optional battles are essentially ways to 'cheat' in boosting your party, which can be nice if you need a quick jumpstart. Once again, this may ruin the gameplay balance if you abuse it.
Lastly, there are two difficulty modes included in Record Breaker (for either Septentrione or Triangulum) - Blessed and Apocalypse. Apocalypse is for SMT veterans, and while not tricky enough to pull hair, it will require some smart party coordination and strategy in battle. Blessed is an easier mode for those who want to experience the story with a little less difficulty.
Full impressions of this enhanced release will be posted shortly before the game's release in the coming days.
Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 Record Breaker releases in North America on May 5th and is available for pre-order. First copies will come with a special collector's box and four track OST sampler.