While Atlus has released a slew of new titles this year, Devil Survivor proves the company is still giving its Shin Megami Tensei line the creative effort it deserves. The new RPG-tactics hybrid manages to maintain many of the elements that hooked players on previous titles like Shin Megami Tensei Persona 3 and 4, while offering a fresh plot and new mechanics that make it a solid purchase for seasoned fans.
The action follows three high-school students whose programmer buddy gives them new portable computers just before Tokyo gets locked down by a military quarantine. The city is infested with demons, and the teens discover that their gadgets let them summon demons to fight on their side.
True to the name, the key to the game is surviving. Exploration is done through a menu screen where you are often forced to choose how to use your limited time. You’ll quickly discover that chatting in one end of town can have dire consequences when you don’t have time to stop a demon attack in another zone. Luckily, there are always battles where you can power-level while off the game clock.
Combat plays out on a traditional tactics grid as you maneuver a maximum of four demon tamers into battle. But when you actually attack, you enter a turn-based combat system, where your human and a pair of demons use a combination of magic and physical assaults to exploit your enemies’ weaknesses. The AI is great at moving enemies into ideal positions and using out-of-combat spells efficiently, but once you get into a fight, monsters seem to attack nearly at random.
Beyond the game: Devil Survivor has multiple endings, but it only lets you have one save file, so if you want to see everything, you’ll have to start over.
Worth playing for: The skill-cracking system lets you unlock certain abilities by having one of your characters defeat a specific enemy, often forcing you to weigh the advantages of a quick kill vs. prolonging a battle for long-term gain.
Frustration sets in when: You lose a mission over and over because the NPC you have to save takes the stupidest actions possible.
Final judgment: The combination of monster-collecting, tactics, and disturbing plot are sure to keep players’ heads in the game.