Devil Summoner 2: Raidou Kuzunoha vs. King Abaddon
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Devil Summoner: Raidou Kuzunoha vs. The Soulless Army was an interesting departure for Atlus and their Devil Summoner series. Coming from a company typically known for in-depth role-playing sagas, Soulless Army still had MegaTen-style RPG underpinnings, but then contained an action-oriented combat system and more adventure-esque exploration in a project that reminded me of what Square had attempted many years before with Parasite Eve. While not without faults, it was a fresh take on the series and held a lot of potential should Atlus see fit to give the idea another try.

And try they have, resulting in Devil Summoner 2: Raidou Kuzunoha vs. King Abaddon, the sequel to Soulless Army that picks up one year after that game’s events unfolded. Once again we return to 1920s-era Japan, as the young up-and-coming tamer of demons Raidou Kuzunoha the 14th, along with his feline sidekick Gouto, return to the Capital to stop a new uprising of the forces of darkness. Joining back up with private detective Shouhei Narumi and ace reporter Tae Asakura, Raidou soon finds himself in the middle of a mysterious outbreak of “luck” in the Capital, as some folks seem to have come upon outrageously bad fortuned while other have become notorious for their ridiculous streaks of success. These changes in luck appear to have begun in conjunction with the arrival of mysterious masked men, and Raidou’s encounter with these strange foreigners starts him on a path that leads to far more sinister outcomes.

King Abaddon cemented two feelings inside of me; my unquestionable love for the Shin Megami Tensei world, and my original theory that Atlus had something special brewing in this departure from their safety genres. Even thought I came to the MegaTen franchise a little late in the game–via the original Persona in 1996–I’ve still been exposed to its numerous games countless times over the years, and yet it’s amazing how engrossing and one-of-a-kind the entire mythos still feels in King Abaddon. How it is that I still get excited the first time I run into demons like Jack Frost or Lilim, yet I’ve dealt with them in no less than three other games in like the last year or so? The reason is simple: what has made the MegaTen series so strong and so beloved by players such as myself is the time, effort, and care Atlus has put into enriching and developing every aspect of these games. When throw-away characters in a game like King Abaddon radiate more personality and charm than main character in some other titles, that tells you something.

Keeping that in mind brings us to one of the major improvements Atlus has put into place here over what we had in Soulless Army: the return of demon negotiations. One of the core ideas in the original game was working together with the demons that you tame, not only as allies in combat but also in helping you to interact with the people you’ll meet and in solving the various puzzles and obstacles that crop up to block your progress. For Soulless Army, these demons were collected in almost Pokemon fashion by encountering them in combat, weakening them, and then trapping them inside special demon-collection tubes. For King Abaddon, bringing the game’s various demons to your side of the battle is done instead through pre-combat conversations with them, and the responses you (or your current demon allies) give to their questions will determine if the demon you’re chatting up will want to be your friend or have you for breakfast. For us longtime MegaTen folks, the return of demon negotiations–a gameplay aspect that has become a trademark of the franchise thanks to its including in a number of previous games–feels like a return home, and is a most welcome addition to King Abaddon. For more casual fans, while you might not fully appreciate the change they bring over Soulless Army, it’s still a change for the positive and makes for a more entertaining experience.

Atlus also addressed one of the biggest complaints people had about Soulless Army: the combat. Attempting to craft a MegaTen game that centered around fast and furious fights instead of turn-based battles was indeed an interesting decision, but the problem was the engine created for those fights just didn’t have the polish and perfection it needed. To help address the criticisms players had, Raidou now has a wider variety of offensive and defensive abilities, as well as the option to not only upgrade to better katanas, but also swap them out for completely different melee weapons. As well, this time around, you can now summon two demonic partners to aid you in battle instead of the previous game’s solo support, providing for far more strategic possibilities due to the increase in available skills (as Raidou himself cannot use skills, and must rely on instructing his demons to do so).

Devil Summoner 2: Raidou Kuzunoha vs. King Abaddon is a title that can, and does, exist on two levels. For those long-time MegaTen fans, it is a game that brings to fruition the ideas and concepts that were originally presented in Soulless Army, resulting in a game that is more robust, more enjoyable, and more along the lines of what people like us wanted the first time around. If, instead, you’re somebody who doesn’t know a “Soul Hackers” from a “Digital Devil Saga”, King Abaddon is a fabulous action / adventure / RPG experience that will present you a lot of highly-developed characters, creatures, and concepts that provide for an enthralling journey and just might make you interested in seeing what else the Shin Megami Tensei series has to offer. Oh, and don’t worry if you’ve never even heard of the original game: King Abaddon stands very well on its own, and knowledge of Soulless Army and its events is in no way a requirement.

Rating: A


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This entry was posted on Monday, May 18th, 2009 at 2:18 am and is filed under A, Adventure, PlayStation 2, Review, Video Games. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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