Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner
PlayStation 2
Reviewed: 11/12/2006

Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner – Raidou Kuzunoha vs. the Soulless Army is not only the leading candidate for the longest name for a video game in recent memory, but it is also the first installment of the Devil Summoner offshoot of the Shin Megami Tensei series to reach North American shores. The game certainly has its faults, but is overall worth playing, especially for series fans.

Devil Summoner is set in the early 20th century in Japan. This unique premise allows for some really interesting settings and plot points. The storyline casts players as Raidou Kuzunoha the 14th, the latest in a long line of Devil Summoners that have protected Japan from a demonic overthrow. However, this prestigious line of work is one that the average citizens of Japan must not have revealed to them, and so Raidou goes undercover, posing as an agent in the Narumi Detective Agency. Over time a couple cases start to come in to the agency and Raidou sets about investigating them. Inevitably, they lead to some rather nefarious discoveries, including some that lead to trips into the darker side of the Capital.

Screen Shot
Raidou may be the strong silent type, but this look says it all.

The story of Devil Summoner is very well thought out. The interesting setting itself is reason enough to enjoy the storyline, but the mystery throughout the game makes it highly engaging. Players will lead Raidou to new discoveries and uncover new truths throughout the game. These various tidbits of information combine to make a huge overarching plot that is superbly engaging.

Devil Summoner‘s battle system is unique to the Shin Megami Tensei series. It claims to be an action system, and it certainly is, but what is unique about the battle system is while it all takes place in real time, it feels very turn based. At any time, players can pause the battle by pressing R1 to bring up the menu. Players will have direct control over Raidou, who can use either his gun or his sword to attack enemies. His gun can be equipped with various elemental bullets that, if they hit an enemy’s weakness, can momentarily stun the enemy and allow Raidou and/or his demon familiar to critically attack it.

Another large part of the battle system, and indeed the game itself, is the demons that Raidou can summon. Players can capture hordes of demons (though they can only hold a limited number at once), in order to use them in battle or on the field. In battle, players can choose from their captured demons to bring in the best devil for the situation. On the field, some NPCs players talk to can be influenced to give further information if Raidou uses the correct demon’s abilities to “persuade” them. Furthermore, the demons can be used to explore areas that Raidou cannot go. Playres can also fuse demons to create new ones, allowing for even more powerful combinations to be made. The implmentation of demons in most aspects of the game is highly appropriate, and also very intuitive.

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The battles are fast paced and can light up the screen.

While some may argue that the battle system is too repetitive, it cannot be said that it is not strategic. Players must constantly monitor the abilities and weaknesses of enemies, and bring in their own demons to best combat the enemies. They must also control Raidou, and although his moves are limited, they must either attack with sword combos, switch out elemental bullets, or attempt to capture demons that have been stunned. It’s a very fast paced affair, and it’s a lot of fun, if indeed repetitive. Levelling up Raidou allows players to increase one of his stats by one point, giving them some control over how he develops. Demons, however, have their stats automatically allocated.

Exploration in Devil Summoner is directly based off previous entries in the series. The system gives players a little icon representative of Raidou to move around on a city map. Upon discovering an area to enter, players go through the environments and talk to certain NPCs, gathering information and finding items.

The graphics of Devil Summoner are about average. They retain the style held in previous Shin Megami Tensei games, and so the demons and characters all have a really unique look to them.

The soundtrack of Devil Summoner is superb. The music still has all the same types of things as previous games in the series, the dark, forboding tones, the interesting use of guitar, and everything else, but they also threw in some era-style music. The fusion of jazzy undertones with the standard Shinn Megami Tensei music is very suitable for the game. The only real complaint here would be the lack of voice acting, which in recent years has become rather standard, especially for RPGs.

Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner – Raidou Kuzunoha vs. the Soulless Army is yet another unique RPG in a series that has churned out some of the best titles in recent years. Series fans will be pleased by many returning elements, as well as the superbly told story. New fans to the game will find its unique style and setting huge draws. While it may not be the best installment of the series, Devil Summoner is a solid offshoot that takes the series in a new direction.

-Joseph Wartick

Score Breakdown
Very Good
Out of 10
See our Review Criteria
Gameplay Very Good
Story Great
Graphics Good
Sound/Music Great
Replay Value Average
The Verdict: 7