Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor Overclocked Review
One of the best tactical RPGs on the DS gets perfected.
Back in June 2009, Atlus released one of the best tactical RPGs on the DS; one of the most awaited Shin Megami Tensei games of the time: Devil Survivor. Two years later, the lackluster library of 3DS games gets a major boost with a remastered release of the game with Devil Survivor Overclocked.
For those who haven’t had the pleasure of playing the original, SMT: Devil Survivor is a tactical RPG, but unlike a typical game of this genre, Devil Survivor also combined non-linear story progression with equal emphasis on traditional RPG elements as well.
The basic premise of Devil Survivor is that a group of friends is caught in the middle of an incident where demons are entering modern day Tokyo and threaten to destroy the city, or at least a specific part of it. These teenagers are then given the ability to capture and then summon demons to fend off against other demons. This isn’t Pokémon, so bear with me. Everybody inside that sealed off area in the middle of Tokyo has a Death Clock on their heads (that only demon summoners can see) which says that within 6 days everybody is dead. Our heroes, and those who accompany them have even less time, but as you defeat more monsters, you change your fate, thereby delaying your death; hopefully avoiding the whole debacle altogether.
The sense of immediacy is scaled very naturally, with people getting scared and angry and confused as more and more missing elements are found out, either by meeting new people, or getting more info out of central characters we already know. The sense of foreboding never stops, as everyday you’ll receive emails telling you what bad incidents will occur throughout the day, most of these being a clue as to when you’ll be having boss fights.
The game adds further depth to the whole demon collection by adding the Demon Auction House feature, where you have the ability to bid, or buy out new demons. Most of the time you’ll have collected enough money after one or two battles to simply buy out powerful demons without having to bid on them. And then, there’s the whole Demon Fusion system, whereby you can combine demons in order to create new and more powerful demons. Of course, you can preview what demons (and their abilities) you can create before accepting the changes. This level of transparency comes in really handy when deciding how to grow your team over the course of the game. And between these two, you should be able to own all of the 150 demons in Devil Survivor Overclocked, compared to 130 in the original.
So let’s go over some of the major changes that have been introduced in Devil Survivor Overclocked compared to the original DS release. Apart from the 20 new demons, we have higher-resolution artwork, which goes hand in hand with the full voice overs for all the characters in the game (excluding the main character, i.e. you) and even grunts and howls and roars for the demons. Clearly the increased storage capacity of the 3DS cartridge is showing its benefits here. Arguably the most important change is the addition of an 8th day after the end of the 7 days of the original game. I’m not going to spoil how they have managed to shoehorn in another day into the main architecture of the original game, but the 2 years of development time has given the developers enough time to expand the story nicely.
Now the original Devil Survivor gave me hell near the end of the game as it got way too hard, but with Devil Survivor Overclocked, we’re given the ‘Easy’ difficulty option in addition to ‘Normal’ from the original game. And unless DSO is the only game you’re going to be playing on your 3DS for months, I strongly suggest you go the Easy difficulty route to avoid some frustrating grinding. Outside of battles, you can save at any point in the game. However, some battles take so long, that if you screw up near the final few steps, restarting will be a painful thing to go through. Even with the Easy difficulty, though, Devil Survivor Overclocked is no easy game to beat, but the experience is ultimately very rewarding.
And that’s what makes Devil Survivor Overclocked such an amazing game, that even without the new additions it’s an extremely engaging and deep tactical RPG, with multiple ways to progress through the story and different endings. You’ll care about the characters because of how realistic, if annoying at times, their behavior is. The demon auctions and fusion system adds another layer of depth to the tactical experience, outside of the battles. And the plot itself is decent on its own. Top this up with better artwork, full voice overs and additional game content, and you’ve got yourself one of the best games on the 3DS that is a must play for everyone.