Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner
Lovely art style and tweaked gameplay from Koei.
So, Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner - Raidou Kuzunoha vs the Soulless Army - well, that's a title, for sure. Here we have another addition to the Shin Megami Tensei series, which broke onto British shores last year with Digital Devil Saga - a good, though difficult RPG.
This time around, things are a bit easier and the game itself is less of a traditional RPG, instead offering real-time action during battles. Something to keep me awake, at least. The game is very pretty, with some wonderful style prevalent throughout - the Industrial English/Traditional Japanese look that goes on is an interesting one and adds some nice eye candy. It's fun to capture and customise demons. There is a decent enough story going on behind everything, once it gets going at least. But it's still one of the most annoying video game experiences that has ever existed. Why?
"Those who have a shorter temper, and like to play games without CONSTANT THREAT FROM EVERYWHERE AT ALL TIMES may wish to look elsewhere..."
The game sees players taking control of a young chap called, well, whatever you want him to be called. He soon takes up the mantle of Raidou Kuzunoha the 14th: battler and capturer of demons extraordinaire, and soon enough sees himself and chums, including the mystical cat protector/wisecracker Gouto, on an adventure to stop lots of bad things happening. Pretty standard fare, told in an interesting way and through some top-notch translation work. The story takes a good few hours to actually go anywhere though, after the intro sequences at least, and Raidou's work in the local detective agency can prove to be a bit dull. Once things kick off though, there is certainly a story worth persevering for and dozens of hours til completion.
But the battles. My word the battles. Whilst they are handled well, with simple, effective controls complementing a relatively deep demon summoning system, fights can be a bit overwhelming, with too much going on and enemies suddenly eight thousand times more powerful than the player, no matter how much forced grinding they've done. Demon counterparts can be infuriatingly stupid too - I said heal me, you dumb flying bint! Ahem. These problems don't confound the system though, and all in all it is a pretty good one. The main problem comes in the fact that the battles come every few steps. Kind of like how I've mentioned that every other sentence. Just preparing you for the flow, is all.
The demons are, as with other Shin Megami games, the main draw here. Players capture and use many different types of demon for their own purposes, and the specific skills of each demon can be used in both battle and normal worlds, from attacking and healing to mind reading and everything else, these little scamps do come in useful. The design of the characters is excellent, and there are some real delights that are sure to become favourites with fans of the series. The demons are by no means a gimmick, and just like in Pokemon, you will want to catch them all.
"Kazuma Kaneko's inspired artistic design is something else altogether."
Those who will like it will already know they want it, those who aren't sure should probably give it a try at least. If you have a stress-induced brain haemorrhage within the hour, it probably isn't for you.