Sunday, July 27, 2014

Review #133: Shin Megami Tensei - Devil Summoner - Soul Hackers

 Surprise review(I was 6+ hours in by the time I had access to my computer, so I skipped the impressions)!
 It's no secret that I'm  rather fond of the Shin Megami Tensei franchise, so as soon as I heard that Atlus was porting one of the many games that hadn't reached stateside, I knew I had to to had it. Soul Hackers is a first person RPG set in present-ish day Japan, as in most SMT games, you are to obtain the aid of demons in your adventure.

 As per usual, you take the role of a silent hero, with a name and last name of your choosing. In this particular instance, you are a member of the Spookies, a group of hackers that live in Amami City, a city that thrives in technology and information transmission. Very early in the game, a new virtual city game launches, Paradigm X, and you alongside Hitomi, a fellow member of the Spookies, hack your ID into the beta testers... soon enough you ran across Kinap, a spirit that sends you on quests through the eyes of dead people, and Hitomi gets possessed by the Demon Nemissa, and then demons start appearing on certain locations... Yes, it's Shin Megami Tensei alright. I found the story to be just the right amount of interesting and engaging to keep you pushing on, but by SMT standards, it's not too deep or long(I clocked 25 hours before finishing the game without altering the difficulty), but most of the main cast are deep enough with different personalities to make them endearing.
 When inside dungeons, the game takes place in first person, as you go around exploring. Dungeons start off pretty straight forward, but get progressively more complex as you go along, the complexity never spikes too hard which is a good thing. Another thing I kinda liked is that dungeons are quite long, now a days dungeons tend to last 20 minutes or so, not here, and the random encounter rate isn't too big. Battles are turn-based, and you get plenty of options. your main character can talk to demons, to negotiate with them and try to recruit them, hit with a sword, hit with a gun, use items or summon demons, Nemissa/Hitomi can use a sword, a gun, items or magic while you can order your demons yourself or have their AI choose their moves, they can't use items though. Both enemies and allies have different resistances and weaknesses, sometimes this translates into draining or even reflecting a source of damage, these are innate to each demon, but on humans it depends on what armor pieces their are wearing. It's a fun combat system, but sadly before the "press turn" mechanics that are so fun in modern SMT gams.

 Defeating enemies will reward you with experience points and the most important currency in the game: Macca. Macca can be sold for money to spend in shops, it can be used to negotiate with demons, you need it to fuse demons(Demons don't level up, so you must fuse or recruit new demons in order to maintain a good party) and you need it to summon demons. Yes, summoning a a demon(Placing them from stand by into your party) costs a certain amount of Macca depending on the demon, and just having them on the party consume Macca for each step you take in the dungeon(Which is why you should only fill all 4 demon slots on boss fights only). Honestly, it's not as annoying as it sounds, Macca was never an issue for me. What is annoying, however, is the Loyalty system. Demons have different personalities, and these reflect on how they want to be commanded("dumb" demons should be allowed to do what they want, "Sly" demons like casting spells, "Wild" like to attack,etc), and unless they hit Loyalty level 5, there's a chance that they might not listen to your orders. But what is annoying is that sometimes, even with maxed loyalty, they will refuse your order and do whatever they want, and these will cost you loyalty! "Grinding" for loyalty on your demons, to have them at optimum loyalty for boss fights, isn't much fun.
 The main character carries a "COMP", a miniature computer slotted on his arm, which is where you carry your demons(Demons are data). There's a maximum slot count, which you should keep in mind, but the best feature of this COMP is that you can slot it with different chips. Some are merely cosmetic, but others provide useful qualities, like healing you as you walk or allowing you to save anywhere. Speaking of saving anywhere, that one is kind of a must, seeing how cheap the game gets on the latter dungeons. Latter dungeons have enemies spamming Hanma, Mudo or Stone-inducing attacks. Y'see, if the main character dies, the game is over, even if you have other allies alive. Hanma and Mudo, if they hit, are 1 hit KOs, and if you main character gets petrified, it's game over as well. Now, you can nullify these depending on your equipment, but having resistance to all three is either impossible or crippling your defense. It gets borderline frustrating just how much enemies love spamming and targeting the main character with these by the end of the game, which is why the Save Anywhere feature is so useful. Going back to the COMP, very early in the game you get "Hacks", which allow you to decrease or increase the difficulty(As far as I could tell, it affects the damage you receive? I didn't test it much as I preferred to stay on the default difficulty), allow you to see the enemies weaknesses and strengths among other goodies.

 As for the presentation.... this looks like a DS game A pet peeve of mine is when people say that a game looks like "A game from X Console", X usually being a console from a previous generation, but in this case, it's true. Graphics are very dry and lack any kind of animation, it's not ugly by any means, but it looks very dated. The 3D does nothing for the game, might as well not even bother. Music was pretty good, not the best of SMT's soundtracks, but it's good, fitting music. As for the voice acting... every scene in the game is voiced, and the voice acting is excellent, every performance was believable. Lastly, while the game is rather short for an SMT game, finishing the game unlocks "Extra Game", a six mini-dungeon romp with extremely hard bosses, if you want a real challenge, and you can't save until you are done!

 Soul Hackers is a really good game, but rather short by SMT's standards. Thanks to the "hacks", it's pretty accessible if you aren't familiar with SMT, although the latter dungeons can get pretty annoying with all the instakill spell spam. It's hard to recommend over other SMT games, but it's still a good game.
 7.5 out of 10.

No comments:

Post a Comment