Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 Record Breaker Review (3DS)

Making spin-offs of beloved series tends to be a risky business. And while some spin-offs manage to be unique and enjoyable while retaining the core elements that make the original series work (e.g. Pokémon Pinball, Pokémon Ranger), there are plenty that fail to be good games, both in their own right or as a representation of the series they derive from (see Pokémon Dash). Thankfully, Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 Record Breaker falls into the former category.

Record Breaker falls into the category of strategy RPG, though assigning it such a label undermines where the game succeeds in its marriage of SRPG gameplay and classic Shin Megami Tensei conventions. While character movement and supporting skills play out on an isometric grid, combat lifts cues from SMT with its fast-paced, 3v3 single-turn encounters that encourages tactical thinking since enemies can only be defeated within a set-amount of moves. The game also rewards strategic play by either granting the player an extra turn to maneuver and/or penalizing enemies by ending their turn prematurely. The system is equal parts thoughtful and satisfying; a fully realized concept top to bottom that never ceases to be engaging even with all the frequent encounters.

Outside of combat, Record Breaker exudes a quirky personality that helps differentiate it from other games of its genre while introducing legitimately novel concepts to reinvigorate gameplay. The Skill Crack mechanic, for example, is one of these fun ideas that proved to be one of my favorites. At the start of a battle, each characters selects a specific enemy’s abilities to crack and if said character manages to land the last hit on their designated target, this skill will then be added to the character’s own repertoire of skills. Your demon camaraderie may only have a finite skill flexibility, but human characters can grab nearly anything from this big ol’ ability potluck and allows for limitless customization even on the fly, which is crazy. Having trouble against a pesky Zio-user? Just dig deep into the skill grab bag and snag one that improves lightning resistance. Don’t have that one yet? Just find the corresponding enemy that provides it. Better yet, skill cracking means players aren’t forced to rely on certain party members with exclusive abilities. In fact, your party formation will really boil down to personal preference and pure stats and fortunately most characters are statistically comparable as is. Unused units gain experience even when not actively used, so swapping out party members never comes down to, “shoot, A-kun has hella luck, but B-chan is a higher level…” Besides, there’s always a reason to use A-kun.

Devil Survivor 2 Record Breaker

Important, bubbly decisions.

Off the battlefield, you spend time by chatting it up with your hip teenaged party and doing so improves their Fate Rank, which is like the YOLO-obsessed cousin of Social Links from the Persona series. Increasing a character’s Fate Rank is all kinds of useful if not totally necessary since the process yields some of Record Breaker‘s better skills that are all but required for more involved fights down the line. However, talking to your pals consumes precious time which plays an integral part in this game, so knowing when to hold your tongue is key. If you spend too much time shooting the breeze about Armani suits with Joe or prod one too many vending machines for freebies with Daichi, you’ll inevitably miss important events or battles, and that means characters will die. YOLO-obsessed cousin indeed. But, truth be told, that’s okay because it assigns more weight to the player’s decisions than Persona does and that’s cool because the stakes are real. And to some extent, this adds to the game’s replayability since it allows the player to explore other choices in subsequent playthroughs, but at the same time maxing out every character’s Fate Rank in one go feels near impossible without some kind of inhuman foresight or a walkthrough. That isn’t so much of a qualm as it is personal observation though, and I do genuinely commend Record Breaker for placing (digital) people’s fate in the player’s hands.

But with any RPG, there is this issue of the grind and how it is treated. Record Breaker dabbles on the grind-til-you-drop side of the spectrum and oftentimes the only way to counteract a boss is to grind a few levels beforehand, which can lead to mixed results considering the game’s brutal difficulty. Fusing stronger demons is also a viable option, but that can lead to financial woes faster than you can say “housing market crash,” but then again Mara — that saintly prince — doesn’t fuse himself. Changing to a easier difficulty can alleviate these obstacles for the most part, but good luck on high levels where things get dicey in a hurry.

Those who have already played the DS version, Record Breaker boasts a wealth of new and enticing additions that’ll unquestionably make it worth your while even a second time. All of Record Breaker‘s dialogue has been completely relocalized and fully voice acted, making it one of the biggest 3DS games currently on the market when it comes to sheer file size, so it’s probably worth picking up a physical copy if you can, otherwise invest in a sizable SD card. But it doesn’t end there! On top of that, there’s a brand new 30-40 hour chapter available right from the start that follows the events of the original Devil Survivor 2, adding nearly an entire new game on top of the 50-60 hours of content that was already there. Record Breaker was delayed several times during its development, but it’s easy to see why. This isn’t just a port of a 2011 DS game, it’s a fully realized and supremely well-presented 2015 3DS game that used its original iteration as a springboard for bigger and better things, and it shows.

If you haven’t played Devil Survivor 2, or even a Shin Megami Tensei game, Record Breaker comes highly recommended. And although it’s a remake, the game is unquestionably one of the most innovative SRPGs on the 3DS and it has been metamorphasized into an ridiculously entertaining portable SMT experience teeming with polish and worthwhile new content.

Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 Record Breaker is available now in North America for $49.99 (CA $59.99). First-print copies will come bundled with a number of goodies including a snappy CD featuring music from Shoji Meguro of Persona fame.

[BUY Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 Record Breaker]
Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 Record Breaker Review (3DS)
Gameplay9
Presentation8.5
Lasting Appeal9
Catchy Menu Music10
Pros
  • Unique Battle System
  • Fun Character Interactions
  • Formidable In Difficulty and Length
Cons
  • A Bit Too Formidable at Times
9Overall Score
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About The Author

News Reporter/Game Reviewer

Jacob Rifenbery is a content writer for Always Nintendo. While first and foremost a fan of strange rhythm games, he enjoys playing and writing about a wide variety of titles.