Sunday, January 26, 2014

Game Review: Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers

RPG; Nintendo 3DS; Atlus; 2013
Continuing my on going quest to reallocate all of my available funds directly towards Atlus, I have come to the 3rd longest game title I have ever run across: Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers (oddly enough, the 2 longest game titles I've run across are also Devil Summoner games). This 3DS remake of a SEGA Saturn game that was later ported to the PSOne (Like most of the Saturn library), has never before been seen outside of Japan, namely because it was made during a time where playing a game about killing God and punching out the devil was thought to have been "too extreme" for US audiences. But now, one of the long lost entries in the famous Shin Megami Tensei series has finally hit US shores. Is it worth the wait?

Meet [insert name here], the main character of the game who doesn't talk. Like at all.
Amami City: The pinnacle technological achievement. Not only is there a computer in every household, but all computers are fully integrated into an advance network and is even connected to the Virtual City: Paradigm X. It seems like the perfect place to live, especially the highly skilled team of hackers known as The Spookies. As a member of this team your life has been peaceful enough, that is until a mysterious handheld PC in the shape of a gun falls into your hands and upon activating it your childhood friend, Hitomi, gets possessed by a demon named Nemissa. Now you see demons around every corner and the once benevolent company maintaining Amami City appears to be a front for a secret organization of Devil Summoners with a plan to steal people's souls. Your only line of defense is to become a Devil Summoner yourself and trust in the demons at your disposal and the demon that inhabits your friend's body. What secrets lie when this team of hacker dig deeper than they probably ever should?

Like most games in the SMT franchise, the story to Soul Hackers is solid, though some elements do come off as a little dated. The characters are many and for the most part likable, the story is interesting with a lot of unique elements to help tell the story, and of course it has that flair that only the SMT series can provide. My only real gripe is that a lot of the story is thrown at you at the very end of the game in rapid succession. It's not as bad as say Dark Cloud 1 or Lords of Shadow, but it does feel like the pacing took a shot in the leg for the last few dungeons. But overall it is a really good solid story that is only out shined by the fact that there are other SMT games.

Get used to this view, you will see it a lot.
The best way to describe Soul Hackers is that it is an old school SMT game through and through. All of the elements of the older games are here in spades, without much of the improvements made post Nocturne. The game is a first person dungeon crawler, where your map is filled in with every step you take and encounter rates range from tolerable to absolutely ridiculous. When you do enter a battle, in addition of just killing everything you see, like many SMT games you can talk to the demons you see and make them your allies by either answering their questions correctly or by giving them enough money, MAG (A consumable resource required to summon demons), or a good enough item. If you fail, then either they just don't want to talk anymore, they run away, or they straight up want to murder you. Combat is your basic turn based affair, your team of up to 6 characters (You, Nemissa, and up to 4 demons) with two 3 people rows, fight similarly organized enemy teams. Certain attacks can only hit certain groups of enemies (for example, most melee attacks can only be used in the front row and against the enemy's front row), but what you really have to keep in mind is your demon's personalities. Some demons love to just wail on their enemies, while others prefer magic, and some still just want to guard and heal. By commanding them to do actions they prefer, the demon's loyalty to you will increase, but it will also drop if you command them to do actions they hate and will even ignore your orders if their loyalty is too low. Outside of combat is your usual SMT activities, buying new equipment and items, and fusing new demons. Later in the game you can also fuse demons into your swords to create more powerful weapons, and also give demons away to other Summoners in exchange for new demons and information. New to this 3DS version is of course 3D dungeons, as well at the ability to "hack" the game giving you full enemy information, a full map, or even raising or lowering the game's difficulty, as well as the ability to fight one particularly famous Devil Summoner that any fan of the SMT franchise will know.

"What have I gotten myself into?"
Unfortunately, with the old school nature of Soul Hackers, there is quite a few old school elements that keep it from being one of the best SMT games. The most noticeable aspect of this is the battle system. If an enemy in the front row is killed they will be replaced by the enemy from the back row that directly behind them; however, this only happens at the end of the current turn. Thus if all enemies in the front row is dispatched, then any and all characters who can only attack the front row will have their attacks completely whiff. This makes battles last a little longer than you'd like them to, especially when you start getting into the enemies who Null, Absorb, or Reflect certain attacks. This is compounded by the fact that later on in the game, you will not only start to run into encounters that involve multiple waves of enemies, but also have encounter rates so freakin' high that you can't take 3 steps without fighting another enemy. This makes the last few dungeons completely tedious if you don't have any Repulse Water or the CAPS LOCK app equipped. The 3D effect in the game is also pretty bad. For the most part it doesn't add much, it just pops the menus and dialogue boxes in front of the static backgrounds. In dungeons you won't really notice the effect, except for when you encounter a character, who is a 2D image, standing in front of a wall, because the character is drawn at a distance GREATER than the wall he or she is standing in front of, this creates an effect that makes your eyes bleed trying to figure it out.

As much as I love the SMT series, Soul Hackers has to come with a Limited Recommendation. While I did thoroughly enjoy the game, I got into it knowing what older SMT games where like (I've played Shin Megami Tensei I after all), and because of that I knew what kind of limitations I was going to encounter. The battle system is dated, the dungeons are huge and you barely have any note taking ability with your map, and the encounter rates will just drive you insane by the end of the game. If you are willing to overlook these drawbacks you will find a worthy addition to your SMT collection. If not, then give this game a pass until you are able to. Soul Hackers gets my Limited Recommendation.

Until Next time.

-Crescent, You may be Captain Paradigm, but you're no match for Captain Ressentiment!

No comments:

Post a Comment