Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 has an all new plot and characters, which lets players dive right in even if they haven’t played Devil Survivor. But those who have won’t find much original in Devil Survivor 2.
Your protagonist and two of his high-school classmates have gotten into a creepy new fad, signing up for a website that sends subscribers video clips of people they know dying. After you and your friends see a clip of yourselves dying in a train derailment, you manage to avoid your demise by making contracts with demons. Unfortunately, the wreck was just a symptom of a worldwide disaster, and every other morbid resident of Japan seems to be dealing with demons too.
Subsequent events are initially blamed on earthquakes, and the animated scenes of devastated streets and buildings provide a poignant look at the impact of the 2011 earthquake/tsunami that devastated Japan. There are also some genuinely heartfelt scenes, as the characters try to help and express their emotions to each other. But too many of the events play out the same way they did in Devil Survivor. Order breaks down and looting begins. Some people abuse their newfound control over demons and become thugs that must be beaten up in order to rescue civilians who are so helpless, they’re a major liability in combat. Even many of the characters seem to be different in name only, as your hero in both games is accompanied by his goofy best friend, an emotional female classmate, a guy who seems a little too eager to dispense violence, and a buxom, boisterous heroine.
Devil Survivor 2 does provide tangible rewards for getting to know your party members, unlocking new abilities for them as you build your relationships. The mechanic combines well with the hard limit on how much you can do in a day as established by the game’s clock, meaning you’ll have to decide who’s most important to spend time with.
The game uses the original version’s blend of tactics grid with turn-based RPG menu, rewarding players with extra turns and currency for choosing the right demon and powers to defeat their enemies. You’ll get plenty of practice, since you’ll need to do a good deal of power-leveling to handle the game’s brutal boss fights. Fans of the first game’s gotta-catch-’em-all nature are sure to delight in the fact that there are even more demons to buy and fuse together here. The addition of a compendium, like the one used in Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey, improves the experience by letting you summon demons you’ve already made and save versions of your best demons to bust out when you need them. Devil Survivor 2’s mechanical changes make it a better game than its predecessor, and the stories offer the same level of quality. It’s just a shame that so much of the sequel feels more like a second playthrough, rather than a new game.