Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor Overclocked
3DS | ATLUS | 1 Player | Out Now (North America)
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18th September 2011; By Patrick
! NOTE ! When the term "SMT:DSO" is used, it can also relate to SMT:DS unless specified.
Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor was released in 2009 for the DS (one of my favourite video game systems) and is, like every SMT game, an RPG (one of my favourite genres of games). So, it may take a bit of critical thinking for you to come to the conclusion that SMT: Devil Survivor was one of my favourite games. And maybe if you run the equations for a bit longer, you'll find out that I enjoy the 3DS remake even more. You know, just if you carry the √23.
SMT:DSO is a very unique "end-of-the-world" JRPG for one main reason. In most JRPG's you are the "Chosen one", and are the last hope to save the world. Don't even try to deny that. But in SMT:DSO, you are hardly special at all. You are just a high school student entering the 11th grade when your cousin gives you a video game machine. The government locks down Tokyo with you inside, unable to escape the Yamanote circle. Until the very end of the game, the idea of helping everyone is never allowed to be your priority. Your goal is to save your own life, and those of your friends.
This take on the idea of a world in devastation is only the beginning of what makes this game unique. You control "HERO" (which can be renamed), who is travelling around with his two school friends, Yuzu (nicknamed Yoohoo) and Atsuro. You meet up on the 0th Day (Prologue) and your cousin, Naoya, gives you and your friends modified COMPs, which are effectively 3DS's with email functionality. Atsuro manages to hack into the COMPs and they start summoning demons, which understandably terrifies the characters. After you beat them, they form a contract with you and fight with you. This is only the beginning though. There are 7 more days of this, in addition to the Overclocked-exclusive 8th Day epilogue, which gives a full sense of closure to the story.
Another function of the COMPs is that as soon as you beat the first set of demons, you will begin seeing a number floating above most people's heads. This is called the Death Clock. The number will correspond to the amount of days that person has left to live, unless they have 10 or more days in which case they have no number. It is disconcerting to make a new friend, then to see that they will die the next day, and even more disconcerting when you realize that nobody enforcing the lockdown has a number.
Of course, these numbers can be (and in some cases have to be) changed. For instance, your first number is 2, but you have to make it through to see the ending! So no number is set in stone. You will get an email every morning (The LaPlace Mail) and it will tell you about any deaths or negative events occurring that day, as well as the cause. This allows you to step in and save peoples' lives if you pay attention to the in-game clock. But if a character dies, that cuts off certain story elements, leading to one of the varied endings and epilogues.
One of the new features of Overclocked is that most dialogue lines are voiced. Basically, anything by a human character will be voiced while demons will laugh, grunt, or vocalize, but not speak. While this is very nice, and really helps the story come alive, some of the inflections by the voice actors and actresses made me chuckle at some questionable quality. This is made hilarious by the fact that the voice cast has MANY similarities with the cast of ATLUS USA's localization of Catherine (X360 and PS3), which had amazing voice acting. The other funny thing is that characters will talk to or about you, but the voice actors read the line differently, saying "he" or just skipping over your name altogether.
However, as this is an RPG, most of the gameplay is in the combat system, which is also very unique. You can bring three fighters (one human, two demons) into any party, and have up to 4 parties in one battle. The battle field is set up in a standard SRPG fare, with you selecting a unit to move and where to move them, taking turns based on Agility stats. However, as this is an SRPG/RPG hybrid, once you enter combat, you enter a vastly different combat system.
Devil Survivor, and Overclocked like it, have a unique "EXTRA TURN" battle system. The way this works is that you see up to three enemies, and you can choose who to attack with whom, with attack order being decided by Agility. However, if you were the one that started the attack or got a critical (or another small factor), you will get an "EXTRA TURN" and be able to attack again after the first round. If you destroy the enemy in the middle, then you will win that skirmish and the other two will be destroyed. After the round is done and the "EXTRA TURN" round is also over, you return to the battlefield.
Each battle will set certain completion conditions. Sometimes you will have to destroy all the enemies but keep some people alive, sometimes you just have to be the last one standing, and sometimes you just have to get to the other end of the screen. Either way, this game is not easy. Overclocked features two difficulty levels: Normal, which is the high difficulty level of the original, and Easy, which is meant for people new to RPG's or SRPG's or people who found the first game too difficult. One other thing to note about the difficulty, though, is that if this is your first SMT game, you probably will have a harder time getting into the game just based on some of the alienating terminology (e.g., Bufu is Ice, Agi is Fire, Zan is Wind, etc).
As I alluded to earlier, there are two key ways to gain new demons. The first is the one that you will be using the most, and that is the Devil Auction. You use the Macca you get from enemies that you defeat to bid on demons that put themselves up for auction. You can either pay a set amount and not risk losing, or enter a five-second quick-auction with AI's that respond to your bids and actions in real-time. You can also fuse them together in the Devil Fusion feature to create a new demon, inheriting certain abilities and levels from the source.
The game offers a very nice depth without ever forcing you to use all of it. For instance, the game has a feature in the battle system called Skill Cracking, which involves you selecting an ability for your character or demon to gain that a certain enemy has. The character that wants that ability then also has to be the one to defeat the enemy, before you are able to gain that ability.
There is also a deep way to increase how you get Macca, the in-game currency. There's are bonuses for extra turns you gain (+5% x turns), for finishing a round without taking damage (+20%), for defeating three enemies with a single attack (+30%), for losing allies (-30% x victim), and when you or an enemy defends from an attack (+/- 20%). You do not have to even focus on these bonuses, or alternatively, you can use them to plan all your strategies. It really comes down to what you want to get out of the game.
The only other thing of key importance is the grinding system. Yes, as this is a JRPG, you'll probably have a hard time going through the full game if you don't fight extra battles, and there are no random encounters in this game. This means that you must specifically seek out battles in non-story related areas in order to be strong enough to handle some of the bosses, especially. Grinding is not huge in this game, but it does exist.
The character art is fantastic, all with beautiful 2D Animé-esque drawings. For the most part, they are static images that (sometimes humorously) change to reflect their current expression. In the SRPG sections, it is all sprite-based, but they do look nice and are slightly more detailed than the DS original. It is true that 3D is kept to a minimum, being used only during fusion scenes and the intro video, but seeing as the original took place mostly on the bottom screen and given the type of game it is, I'm not sure that making it 3D would make it any more worth it.
The music is also a blast to listen to, with the entire soundtrack being rock-guitar inspired. The only problem I had with the DS version was that the one song I disliked and found grating was the song that took place during uneventful dialogue and moving from location to location (done via selecting a location from a list). However, due to the implementation of voice acting, this problem is completely fixed!
Overall, this is an utterly amazing title. Not only is it a great remake of the 2009 DS release, but it is also an astounding standalone title. My only problem is not with the title itself, but the scarce quantity. (If there is a high enough demand, ATLUS is likely to reprint though.) But I am saying that this is a game that is very much worth seeking out, because it is not only the first RPG on the system, it is one of the best games on the system currently, and will presumably be in my list of favourite 3DS RPG's for the entire system life.
29/30 - Excellent
Gameplay 10/10 - Astounding mix of SRPG/RPG tactics, huge quantities of depth that you can use as much or as little of, mature story strings it all together
Presentation 9/10 - Great soundtrack, sprite-based graphics more detailed, 2D character art beautiful, 3D missing but wouldn't greatly help
Enjoyment 5/5 - Something for everyone, great to play especially if it's your first time, extra content allows for a deeper enjoyment
Extra Content 5/5 - Major addition of voice acting stands out, 8th Day epilogue provides even more gameplay and adds closure to the story
Equivalent to a score of 97% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)