There are two kinds of people that will pick up Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 Record Breaker: those that played the original DS version released in 2012 and those who haven’t. Let’s get the latter out of the way first. If you’ve never played the original Nintendo DS game and want to know if it’s worth picking up this enhanced version on 3DS instead, the answer is yes. Buy it. Buy it at launch and get some cool goodies; buy it whenever Atlus has one of their many great eShop sales; buy it later on Amazon on the cheap—it doesn’t matter. Just buy this version and get the most out of Devil Survivor 2. This is the better version of an already great game.
Now, with that out of the way, we can tackle the returnees that may be interested in the new Triangulum arc of the game. Are the new story arc and enhancements to the game really worth shelling out 50 big ones?
The setup for Devil Survivor 2: Record Breaker is that in this version of the story the 14 protagonists were able to set aside all their differences and band together instead of separating into 3 different factions. As one faction they were able to kill Polaris without suffering any major casualties. Afterwards, Alcor the Anguished One takes over Polaris’ throne and becomes the new Administrator, overseeing the universe and watching mankind’s progress. Alcor’s first act as the new Administrator is to regress the world back to how it was before the 7-Day Trial began—bringing back everything swallowed by the void and all the lives lost. This new reality is one where humanity can finally reach its unseen potential, and where humans don’t have to fear being eradicated by The Administrators. Fate, however, is cruel, particularly if you’re a protagonist in a Shin Megami Tensei game.
At times, the story in Record Breaker reminded me a lot of the two Persona 2 games: Innocent Sin and Eternal Punishment. The start of Record Breaker is probably where the resemblance is the strongest as the Hero is the only one who can remember the past reality where they fought demons. Everyone else has been reset and is blissfully ignorant of the life-or-death crisis they once faced. Throughout your journey you meet up with all the previous characters and are able to reawaken their memories and enlist their help. This is one of the more fun aspects of the Triangulum arc, as you are able to pretty much use every character you want, regardless of alliances. Everyone is on your side this time, and you don’t have to worry about anyone leaving or dying.
The whole group stays together for the duration of the story, too, and there’s no punishment for missing something or not raising their FATE rank enough. Everyone is here to stay. Well, everyone but two actually, as Alcor is MIA, and Yamato Hotsuin seems not to even exist anymore, almost like he was wiped clean from reality and replaced by a new character—Miyako Hotsuin—who now leads JP’s instead.
There’s a part of me that feels I liked the new Triangulum arc more than the Septentrion arc, which is the original Devil Survivor 2 story. What could have easily been a simple rehash of the original story with just new invaders really becomes something far more ambitious. It’s a crazy ride with a few great plot twists here and there. I don’t want to give it all away, but let’s just say the Triangulum are only the beginning, and that the plot quickly shifts gears to something greater. There are even three different endings to the new arc, and I honestly liked all of them—each one felt satisfying to me. It took somewhere around 37 hours to complete my play-through of just the Triangulum arc (Devil Survivor 2: Record Breaker contains both stories) although I did end up taking the longest route and spent more time than I would want to admit in The Cathedral of Shadows (I was trying to make all my favorites demons, okay).
My ballpark estimate is that most people should probably get around 30 hours sunk into this story. Overall, it’s a generous length for an extra story, and covers a lot of ground, with some real fun moments with the cast, especially while watching characters interact with other characters they barely got to talk to in the previous story, or seeing how their relationships have generally changed in this new reality. For example, the Hero, Daichi, and Io are all old friends who’ve known each other for years already in this world.
Other features to note include the new easier difficulty, Blessed, that will make the game accessible to people that are more interested in the story or just don’t have the luxury of being able to spend too much time on games. The original difficulty returns as well, under the name Apocalypse, and you can change between the two freely whenever you want. There is no penalty for choosing easy, so you won’t miss anything for using Blessed either. Meanwhile, aside from the two difficulty options and the Triangulum arc, there’s another great new feature: the new voice-acting. The game is almost 100% fully-voiced, and the only non-voiced portions I noticed are when you’re in a battle, and that’s usually only 1 or 2 sentences that provide vague hints on how to beat the boss. It really is an impressive sized dub, so you’re getting a lot of quantity, although the quality is a bit uneven.
Now, I don’t mean to say that the dubbing is bad. I just felt some actors weren’t the best fit for their characters. Overall, though, this is good work, and after a while the more awkward performances did start to click with me. Joe’s voice, for example, was one that struck me as way too young sounding when I started playing, but over time I came to appreciate how well his actor was able to pull off Joe’s lame jokes. That said, I could never get over how Jungo sounded, no matter how much time passed. It just did not work for me. The silver lining, though, is that there are some absolutely great performances in here, and honestly, I thought they outweighed the more awkward ones. Daichi’s actor is phenomenal. He really gets the character down to a tee, and may just be the best performance in the game. Fumi also sounds great and equally really got her character down. I also thought the actors for Alcor and Ronaldo were pretty close to character and sounded fine as well. As expected, there is no option for Japanese voices, although there is an option to turn off the voice acting entirely if you would rather play the game without voices.
So, was Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 Record Breaker worth the 3-year wait? Ultimately, that will depend on how much of a fan you are of the original game. If a well-written “What if” story that reunites the cast excites you, you’re in for a treat. Most of the other changes just really streamline the game and help it fit in better with other modern Nintendo 3DS titles out now. At its core, Record Breaker is still obviously a Nintendo DS game with a few new bells and whistles. There’s no question that this is the superior version when compared to its original DS release, though, and to be entirely honest, I found the Triangulum arc a better addition than the 8th Day added in Devil Survivor Overclocked. Overall, but the upgrade will ultimately appeal the most to those that love the characters and story of the original.
Food for Thought:
1. Just like with Devil Survivor Overclocked, the original 6-character limit is kept. If you’re a person who loves to use your real name when playing these kinds of games and also happens to have a name that’s longer than 6 characters like I do—tough luck. I ended up naming the hero Hibiki Kuze—the name the anime adaption used for him—because of this.
2. Another frustrating aspect retained from the Nintendo DS era is the lack of a fast-forward function. Now, you do get to speed up the dialogue like you can in visual novels and games such as Zero Escape but there exists no option to do so in the battles. It’s not like the fight animations take that long, but nowadays I’ve just been so spoiled by games like Fire Emblem: Awakening and Bravely Default where the pace doesn’t have to be slowed down to a crawl. Call me impatient if you want, but after the first 2 or 3 enemy turns I really don’t care anymore. Sitting through 6 or 7 enemy battles clustered together back-to-back with no fast-forward on the battle animations is ridiculous.
3. You start the Triangulum arc at level 20 and the Hero has 20 points to freely allocate to whatever stats you like. The 3 starting demons you get this time are Bai Suzhen, Dionysus, and Sarasvati. Most of the features like The Devil Auction, The Cathedral of Shadows, and The Demon Compendium, are very quickly made available soon after the start. Most of the end game boss fights see you fighting against demons with Levels that reach the mid-60s.
4. So uh … pro-tip, when you start the game, crank the voice volume up in the options. Whoever did the audio mixing really did a pretty terrible job. For the first 20 minutes (before I could access the menu) I couldn’t hear anything anyone was saying because of the LOUD MUSIC. It was like the default sound option was voices on “whispering” and music on “front row concert seats”. Save yourself the trouble and remember to adjust the audio settings as soon as you can.