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Alternative Names

Megami Ibunroku: Devil Survivor



Atlus Co.



Release Dates

06/23/09 Atlus
01/15/09 Atlus
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Owners: 88
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Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor Review

17th Jan 2010 | 1,736 views 


User Score

Presentation - 8.0
Gameplay - 9.0
Value - 9.5
Fun, fresh and deep all in one cartridge.

Atlus’ long running Shin Megami Tensei franchise has been gaining fame as of late thanks to their highly acclaimed Persona games. What made the Persona games astonishing was their seamless execution on blending two genres to create one great, addicting game. Atlus takes a similar approach with their latest installment to the series, Devil Survivor, where it mixes ordinary first-person RPG and tactical RPG elements, but how well does the game merge them? Does it create a fresh, addicting experience like Persona, or is it an unsuccessful experiment?

You take the role of a nameless protagonist and his two friends, Yuzu and Atsuro, who are given modified portable computers called COMPs by the protagonist’s cousin. After Atsuro hacks the COMPs, the three immediately receive an unsettling email about a death and a blackout occurring later that day. At first, the trio is unsure on whether to take this email serious or not, but then the events listed on the email happen. Not only that, but there is a demon outbreak which causes Tokyo to be in a complete lockdown. You are trapped in the demon infested Tokyo with no communication to the outside world. How will you survive? Fortunately, the COMPs you possess are able to summon demons to fight the ones terrorizing Tokyo, and they can also foreshadow deaths including your own. You must take advantage of the COMPs' features in order to survive.

While the story starts off simple, it quickly evolves into an exhilirating and immersive experience you won't forget. Every day gets worse and worse for everyone in the lockdown as stronger demons appear and resources become scarcer. Panic runs through the civilians, and they’re willing to do anything in order to escape. You’re left wondering what else can go wrong. Like many, if not all Shin Megami Tensei titles, Devil Survivor throws in some mythological tales including the Tower of Babel and the demon Belial which makes the story more mature and unique. The game does a fine job tying these tales right into the story and not making them feel out of place.

What makes the narrative very entertaining is the branching subplot. Survival is the game’s main objective, but the problem is you and your friends don’t have much time. The Laplace Mail (email) in your COMP informs you about the death clock – a number that appears on top of people’s heads indicating the number of days they have left before they die. Every day, the Laplace Mail warns you about events occurring that day with specific times. You must prevent these events from happening in order to raise your death clock and live another day. Before the time comes, you are free to do whatever you want, and this is where the branching story kicks in.

Every action you take on the map screen, whether it’s chatting with NPCs or battling (except free battles), eats up half an hour in-game and is crucial to the game’s story as you can open up numerous side stories. There are a lot of routes to take, but you don’t have enough time to explore them all. This causes the story to be unique for different players. You might be following one story while another player might be pursuing a different route. It's possible to have a unique story experience on your second run. Some of the side stories might include life and death situations. Failure on saving someone’s life causes that person to disappear forever, and it affects both the game’s ending and that certain side story.

Not only do the actions you take on the map screen affect the game’s story, but also the action you take during battles. Without going into too much detail, there’ll be times where you’ll have to decide on whom to attack or defend. The game does an incredible job playing with your mind and leaves you with the impression, “did I really do the right thing?” Devil Survivor keeps you immersed to the story and compels you to carefully select your next action. While Devil Survivor does have its fair shares of clichés (high school teenagers being the main characters), it’s refreshing to see a JRPG with a mature and unique plot, delivered in an interesting way. The only downside to the narrative is the cutscenes where they’re presented in a visual novel fashion (still background and character portraits). This style might bore some players especially considering that Devil Survivor is dialogue heavy.

Accompanying the game’s magnificent story is the unique hybrid SRPG/RPG combat. Characters are placed and move on a grid-based battlefield like Disgaea or Final Fantasy Tactics. You can have up to four characters placed on the battlefield, and each character can be accompanied by two demons thus making you have four distinct parties. Once you’re within the enemy’s range and select ‘attack,’ the combat changes into a traditional turn-based first-person battle system where both sides attack, so players who aren’t strategy-RPG fans might still find some enjoyment in this title. The top screen shows the enemies’ strengths, nulls and weaknesses while the lower screen will shows images of the enemies along with everyone’s HP/MP. It’s dull to look at, but fortunately these confrontations are fun, fast and strategic, making you forgive its unappealing presentation.

The entire party is defeated once the party leader is killed - no matter if the demons accompanying the leader are alive. The key to winning these battles is by exploiting the enemy’s weakness. Exploiting the enemy’s weakness gives you another turn to attack and can also eliminate the enemy’s extra turn; landing a critical hit or having high agility can also grant you an extra turn. If you blindly attack an enemy with his strength, you’ll provide him with an extra turn, so the game obliges you to pay attention to bring the appropriate skills. Once the two rounds are over, you are taken back to grid battlefield. In here, you are able to heal and revive party members or swap demons before ending the character’s turn. Devil Survivor is a challenging game, and there's a ridiculous difficulty spike towards the end which causes you to grind for a while.

Demons can be obtained via the demon auction and fusion. In the demon auction, you bid against three different AI bidders for demons; you also have the option to buy the demon without entering the bidding war. The problem with the demon auction is that it can be easily manipulated. You can end up winning the demon auction with your first bid, at a price slightly lower than the ‘buy-it-now’ tag. The bidding rarely, if ever, goes above the ‘buy-it-now’ price, so you’re left convinced you’re not taking a risk when you enter a bidding war.

Fusion, on the other hand, is one of the game's highlights. For those new to the series, fusion allows you to fuse two demons in order to create a stronger demon that isn’t available in the demon auction. Tweaks have been made to the fusion system. First of all, the game shows you the fusion combination list. For example: if you want to make a Thor, you can find him via the search function, and the game will give you a list of the two demons you need to fuse. Another improvement is you can select the skills you want the fused demon to inherit. No longer must you wait for the skill you want to show up on the demon’s skills list. These improvements make fusion a more pleasurable and addicting experience. You'll spend hours trying to craft the perfect party.

Along with demon customization, character customization is also present, and it's one of the remarkable things in Devil Survivor. Devil Survivor utilizes the skill crack system which allows all four characters to select a skill from an enemy’s skill list to learn it. To learn the skill, all you have to do defeat the enemy with the character who is trying to learn that spell. Once you’ve cracked a skill, it is then added the skill inventory which can be distributed to only one character. If you’re ever having trouble with a battle, you can change your characters' skills to alter your battle strategy. It is important to note each skill has stat requirements, so a character can’t equip the skill if he fails to meet the requirement. The character customization doesn’t end there. You can freely customize the main protagonist’s stats and build him the way you want to; everyone else’s stats are pre-determined.

Mission objectives are incredibly varied, so the game doesn't repetitive. There are escort, escape, prevention missions and boss fights, and you’re sometimes given the option to select the mission objective. Missions aren’t lengthy, but if you’re short on time, you can save during battles.

Devil Survivor’s main problem is the trial-and-error in a few of these missions. Let’s say you have to wipe out some enemies while protecting civilians. The civilians and enemies are typically set on the opposite side, so you’ll be inclined to move towards the enemies while leaving the civilians behind on their own. In the midst of the battle, reinforcements arrive close to the civilians. The civilians are then wiped out before you reach them, so the next time you start the mission, you know exactly where you’re supposed to be to prevent another game over. It's incredibly annoying having to redo the mission for something which could've been easily prevented.

Graphically, Devil Survivor isn’t a technical powerhouse, but the game shines through its art-style with its fantastic character and demon designs. The rock, guitar wailing tunes are excellent, and it pumps you up for a fight. Unfortunately, Devil Survivor’s soundtrack selection is small, so if you don’t like the first few tunes you hear in the game, you better get used to them as they’ll be constantly repeated throughout the game. The game lacks voice-overs which is shame considering how fantastic the voice-overs are in most Atlus published games, but it's understandable.

Despite a few issues, Devil Survivor is a well-crafted RPG with a fascinating story and nice blend of tactical and traditional turn-based elements. The game should take around fifteen hours to complete, but it warrants multiple playthroughs thanks to its branching story and multiple endings. Devil Survivor has an incredible amount of depth which makes its $30 price tag quite a steal.

Shipping Total

150,000 Units
As of: July 31st, 2009

Opinion (22)

MrT-Tar posted 13/07/2011, 11:35
If the 3DS remake also isn't launched here in Europe, I'll import this no matter how expensive it is
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Jumpin posted 09/01/2010, 11:14
I got this one for Christmas; this is a fairly awesome Neo-JRPG, but the best Neo-JRPG is probably still The World Ends With You.
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IxisNaugus posted 05/11/2009, 10:20
PAL release date please
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whacker41 posted 19/09/2009, 02:52
I've got a hunch that says those US sales are overtracked.
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Tayne posted 10/08/2009, 05:08
Holding strong in the DS-only chart. I'll pick it up after I beat a few other DS games first or it gets a price drop.
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Words Of Wisdom posted 03/08/2009, 11:47
The tactical part is like giving a monkey a blow torch. Sure it might be amusing at first but the cuteness wears off, it doesn't really make anything better, and in the end everything just ends up on fire.
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