Bargain Gaming – Devil Summoner 2: Raidou Kuzunoha vs. King Abaddon

Posted on Nov 04 2011

All right guys, we’re almost there! We come now to the number two Megami Tensei game on my list, and probably the most variant of the group, Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner 2: Raidou Kuzunoha vs. King Abaddon. The sequel to the excellent Devil Summoner: Raidou Kuzunoha vs. The Soulless Army, the game managed to refine the formula that was present in the previous title while still retaining the best elements of the earlier game. And while I love RPGs as much as the next gamer, there is something to be said about a fun action game with RPG elements. Great examples of such games can be found in abundance, with classics like Kingdom Hearts springing to mind. As such it really wasn’t that surprising when the Megaten franchise decided to make an attempt in this direction. What was a surprise though was how well they managed to pull it off with little previous experience in the genre, to the point where my own brother believes the Soulless Army title to be the best in the series. But this review isn’t about that game (much to his chagrin), as I believe that the sequel is the better of the two games that are available, so we’re going to delve into it instead.

I’d actually like to start by looking at the game play before anything else, as it is the one aspect that deviates from the classic Megaten formula the most. As I mentioned before, the game is an action RPG, and as such your character’s stats are only half of the story. The other half is your actual skill in battle, as in difficult fights it is up to the player to safely maneuver through the incoming attacks and time their own offensives in order to gain the advantage. This can prove frustrating to the standard RPG player, yet on the other side of the coin it has the advantage of letting you take on stronger enemies if you’re skilled enough.

And once you learn an enemy’s pattern you can grind a lot more efficiently as well, as you can take on enemies much stronger than you, or not grind at all, as you manage to overcome the more difficult enemies through sheer strategy and skill! And while at some point a certain level of strength is definitely recommended in order to progress, the game provides you with all the tools you need in order to fight effectively, including the ability to hide you allies from combat and block and dodge as needed. Throw in a combination of gun and sword attacks depending upon the enemy type, and you have all you need to counter almost any attack strategy.

But this is only looking at part of the game play, as the other half of the game revolves around your character’s in-game exploration. After all, Raidou is a detective, meaning that you spend quite a bit of time gathering information and looking for clues that will allow you to progress through the game. Yet this is more complicated than it sounds at first, as you must also rely on your demon companions here. It is only through the use of their special abilities that you can discover certain pieces of information and what might otherwise be untraceable clues after all. Whether this means reading someone’s mind or freezing over a section of river to access another area, there are all sorts of tricks available to your devil summoning prowess. As such you must balance your demonic roster between combatants and more utilitarian demons, always keeping an eye on your party lest a new fusion rob it of a crucial ability. It adds a fun element to your otherwise arbitrary party selection, as the extra slots actually take on a role beyond fusion fodder, forcing the player to actually think about who they keep in their active roster.

As I mentioned before, Raidou is a detective with ties to demons, a spirit detective if you will, who works with the Narumi Detective Agency as it’s convenient. The game’s story opens up with said agency taking on a case from a mysterious young woman named Akane Tsukigata. She wants you to find her brother who has supposedly disappeared under mysterious circumstances. But surprise surprise, things are not what they seem to be. As you are pitted against a mysterious new enemy, you are forced to fight a new type of opponent that can manipulate people’s luck through strange insects. You must overcome this new limitation while simultaneously figuring out what is actually going on, hopefully before the world is plunged into peril. And that’s about as much as I can get into the story without getting into major spoilers. There are many twists throughout the game, even from the beginning, to the point where the entire premise of your case drastically shifts by the end of the game. But it is done in a realistic manner, as each revelation from your ongoing investigation opens up new twists that eventually reveal a stranger and stranger situation, that you never feel overwhelmed by the shift in tone or setting. It really is a fun story to play along with, as it is unlikely that you will be able to guess how things will play out up until the very end.

The game’s music is also top notch, but those of you who’ve been reading these reviews may have noticed a bit of a trend in that regard. Composed by Shoji Meguro, the game combines many new tracks with several redone tracks from the Soulless Army, creating an excellent soundtrack that, unfortunately, was only included with the game’s Japanese release. The graphics are also rather nice, pushing the Playstation 2’s capabilities in order to create one of the most visually impressive games in the Megaten series. And as always the game’s cut scenes are also rather impressive, though that’s more icing that substance. But overall the game has a rather pleasant aesthetic element for it, with the different areas having distinctly different feels depending on whether or not you are exploring in the human or demon realm.

While all of these factors are rather interesting, it really was the game play that made this title stand out for me. Don’t get me wrong, the story and aesthetic elements are all top notch, but the change in pace really set this game apart from the other titles in my opinion. Add in a few minor variations such as the addition of a second demon in combat and I feel that this is a rare case of the sequel surpassing its predecessor, hence its inclusion on my list as opposed to the Soulless Army. But they are both excellent games, and if you feel the itch to play them in order, feel free to pick up both titles. It’s not necessary in order to enjoy the game, but some of the references will make more sense if you’ve played the first game.

As such I highly recommend this game to any fans of the action RPG genre and Megaten fans in particular. It’s in my number two slot for a reason after all. But next we come to the number one game on the list, Persona 4, so if you’re waiting to see what could’ve surpassed even this little gem then stay tuned.

I can BEARly wait.

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