Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor Overclocked 3DS
If there is one thing that bothers me when it comes to living in the UK, it’s the late releases of RPGs. Before the 3DS arrived, I was happy to import the vast amount of DS RPGs that were released across the shore in America. The DS was region-free, so I had nothing stopping me but my bank balance to ship these titles to my home and play them. Sadly, I cannot do that now, because Nintendo decided to lock the 3DS for whatever reason, so now I am left playing the waiting game with the rest of Europe. Case in point: The recent release of Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor Overclocked, a port of the DS game Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor, which funny enough also did not make it to Europe, has arrived 19 months after its NA release. Rather than bore you with my rant on how stupid this is, let’s just get to the question about the game: Was it worth the wait?
The plot remains identical to the original title, set in a modern-day Tokyo setting and has the player assuming the role of a no-name, 17 year-old guy and his two friends, Yuzu Tanikawa and Atsuro Kihara. It seems like any normal day for these people until the trio receives gifts from the main character’s cousin, a device called COMP that looks eerily similar to a Nintendo 3DS. Suddenly, a huge outbreak of demons burst into the city, causing havoc and death among the population. Caught in all of this confusion is the gang, who soon find themselves trapped in a section of Tokyo that is in lock down after the Japanese Defence Force quarantines the area. With their new acquired powers of demon summoning, the heroes decide to figure out what is going on, while at the same time trying to stay alive by finding ways to extend their “death clock” past the initial day they have been given to live.
For this 3DS release, the story has now been extended on top of the original game’s seven days. It’s only one additional day, but this eighth day is very special because the outcome depends on what ending you decide to gain at the end of the seventh day. I don’t want to give anything away, but what this means is that you are getting multiple versions of the eighth day, since these can be considerably different depending on your choice of ending. As for the story itself, it’s not the greatest of tales, but it’s written well and sets up the idea of suspense and wonder as you play to figure out what is going on in this lockdown. Also, like with a lot of the Shin Megami Tensei titles, the modern-day setting and demon presence set up the game for an interesting tale that feels refreshing compared to what’s on offer in the market at the moment.
One of the curious aspects of Devil Survivor Overclocked is its multiple path structure. A simple menu is used to move around locations in the sealed off area. Here you can listen for gossip, jump into battles, find out more about the city, talk to NPCs or build your own team’s relationship by finding out more about them (somewhat similar to social links in how they develop the characters in Persona 4). The ending changes depending on what you decide to do, and since the game gives you a time restriction – some actions take 30 minutes from the day – you can’t do everything, so multiple playthroughs are required to be able to see every ending or piece of story content.
At heart, Devil Survivor Overclocked is a strategy RPG – a very challenging one, at that – but what makes it interesting is the fusion of a turn-based, grid system built with the first-person, turn-based combat of the original Shin Megami Tensei series. When a battle is initialised between your units and the enemy, the game is changed to a first-person perspective. This is where the characteristic Japanese RPG mechanics come into play, where your hero and their supporting two demons can pick to attack physically, use magic or defend. Battles require strategy, as most opponents you fight against have an elemental weakness that can be exploited if you have the right demons equipped in your unit, but this is also the same for your demons too, so you need to be careful because this game does not give a crap about tailoring towards your mistake. If you mess up, you will be punished.
On occasion, the jump in difficulty from a general fight to one that includes a hard-hitting boss or a task that requires you to protect someone can feel daunting. It does not help that the AI can sometimes move these friendly units into bad positions, messing up your strategy. Frequently I found myself required to grind out in free battle sections to beat these challenging sections. They might be called free battles – named that way because they do not take time off the clock when participating in them – but the fact is that I feel these “free” battles are a requirement to make sure you are high enough to fight at critical points in the story. They also offer good experience points and additional currency to spend. There is no equipment of sorts in Devil Survivor Overclocked; it is solely based on your demons and the character’s skills equipped. To aid you in your fight, there are multiple functions of the COMP system that provide the player the chance to strengthen the odds in their favour. These options are the auction house and the demon fusion.
Using the demon auction feature is a must if you want to build up your arsenal. The money you earn for fights is spent here, as you battle against AI opponents in a bidding war against demons who are offering their services for whoever is willing to offer the most money. There is always a constant update of new demons after one or two story fights, so it’s worthwhile to check it out. You can easily “break” the mechanics of the auction house by grinding the free battles and putting to use all the money you gain from them. Demon fusion is a cheaper way to acquire new demons, but it means sacrificing two demons to create a more powerful being. You can also carry skills across to the new demon, allowing you to cater them to your needs or help them buff against one of their weaknesses. Including the new demons added to Devil Survivor Overclocked, the game now includes over 150 that are willing to fight alongside you.
Lastly, human characters can learn new abilities by skill cracking demons. What this means is that at the start of a mission you can look at all the available skills the demons have access to and steal it for yourself. The only requirement is that the hero character who is assigned to steal the skill has to kill that specific enemy to get it. If another hero kills it, then the skill is lost. Skills can be equipped and removed at will, so even though the game limits a character to three casting skills and three auto skills, you can improve them with better ones when you gain them.
There’s undoubtedly a lot of time here for your money, as you’re looking at around 40+ hours to finish the game for the first time. Even better is that since the UK never got the original title, playing Devil Survivor Overclocked means you are experiencing all the content of the game for the first time, and that is something that makes the 3DS update more appetising, even if the game doesn’t use the 3DS functions all that much – virtually no 3D support apart from the intro video. Along with the extra day and new demons, Devil Survivor Overclocked includes new music, a lot of voice acting – mostly done well, accept for one or two characters and some generic NPCs. Artwork is upgraded, too, looking sharper on the 3DS screen, but the sprites and backgrounds show its DS lineage. It’s not a title to use to show off what the hardware is capable of.
While the game itself is a great title for anyone looking for a hardcore strategy RPG, it’s not without its faults. Now, these faults aren’t with the Devil Survivor Overclocked but what happened with the product after we waited 19 months for the game. There are some bugs and glitches that have managed to make their way through testing and into the retail product. Some are minor, such as the order of your first name and surname presented wrongly, but there is also a very major one. This problem is you cannot use the power of summoning in battle without the game freezing for three to four minutes. This is quite an important mechanic. It’s not game breaking, as you can still finish the game without it, but summoning is used to replace a demon in battle with another one that you have in your collection, so it can affect your strategy (and your patience). Ghostlight have officially commented on the problem and are hard at work on a fix, but in the meantime, this does handicap the player, and so I feel I have to mark it down for the state it is in when this review was written.
Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor Overclocked is a quality game that is sadly spoilt by the bugs. Even if the title doesn’t feel like a true 3DS game, we never got to play the original Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor, so this enhancement is just the right release for the UK market. It’s a game for the hardcore fans that love complex and challenging strategy RPGs. It’s a very rewarding game, not just in its mechanics, but with the plot and its possibilities of altered scenarios playing out. If you can deal with the idea of one of the game’s features not working correctly right now and you are a diehard fan of the genre, then get the game. Otherwise, wait and see what Ghostlight can do, and pray that they can fix the problems in this PAL release, because I would hate to see a great game become tarnished by such misfortune.