Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor Hands-On

Demons are on the loose, and it's up to us and our DS to stop them.

The Shin Megami Tensei series and its spin-offs are not always linked, but they do have one thing in common: demons. Devil Survivor is the first of the series to come to the Nintendo DS, and it appears to be yet another engaging and captivating role-playing game by Atlus. Set in the bustling city of Tokyo, Devil Survivor combines several elements from the role-playing and text-based adventure genre to create a strategy RPG adventure hybrid. This works out well, in case you're wondering, and it's easy to get into because you need to know only the very basics of SRPGs to jump right in.

You play as the quiet 17-year-old whose genius programmer cousin, Naoya, hands off three "COMPs"--communication tools that basically looks like a DS--to you and your friends, Atsuro and Yuzu. Atsuro hacks into these COMPs, but to his surprise, he summons three vicious demons that are ready to rip you all to shreds. Luckily, with your DS lookalike, you are able to defeat the creatures and tame them. With a feisty demon at your service, you and your friends investigate the city and all of the strange events that have been happening. The story isn't hard to follow, but it's very bizarre, like most SMT games and their spin-offs. Your COMP receives mysterious e-mails that predict the future, as well as cryptic messages from Naoya. There's some kind of demon invasion going on, and it seems that only COMP holders have the power to stop it. There's also a countdown number by everyone's head to indicate how many days they have left to live.

The story unfolds like a text adventure in which you spend a good amount of time sifting through dialogue, but once in a while, you'll get the chance to choose what you want to say. Your decisions throughout the game will affect the ending, so there's replay value here if you want to see how many different ways it can pan out. Exploring Tokyo is just a matter of selecting which district you want to go to via the COMP menu, and locations that will move the story forward are marked with a timer. There are free battles to fight in case you want to level your characters a bit, but it doesn't seem like you ever have to worry about being jumped because even upcoming battles are marked.

Devil Survivor's battle system is an intriguing one. Once a fight begins, you'll have to determine where you want to place your characters on the grid, like in a SRPG. You and your friends Atsuro and Yuzu can each have up to two demons cohorts, so when you're setting your characters down, you're actually determining where to put a team of three. Once you move next to an enemy and initiate an attack (get attacked), you switch to a first-person turn-based system and get one shot before the round is over. Extra turns are given to those who attack first, but you can lose this advantage if the battle doesn't go well. For example, if you exploit the enemy's weakness and it attacked you first, it could lose its extra turn. Your enemies also come in groups of three, and if you take out the ringleader in the middle, that fight is over; the same goes for you.

The first demons that you encountered formed a pact when they were defeated, but this isn't always the case. To acquire more help, there is an interesting feature called the demon auction, in which you can bid on demons that are available. An e-mail sent to you in-game explains how this auction will save you from having to form pacts with the devils yourself. Other bidders can bid against you, so you have five seconds to try to win it. If more than one person is interested, you go into a final bid in which you have one more chance to win. We didn't get a chance to experiment with this in our play time, but you can also fuse demons together to create a more powerful beast to accompany you in battle.

Bid on your favorite demons and fuse them together for a more powerful one.

There's always a sense of style when it comes to the SMT games, and Devil Survivor is no exception. The character designs have a sleek look, but if you're familiar with Suzuhito Yasuda's manga or Kazuma Kaneko's previous SMT games, then you can see where the influence is coming from. Takami Asano's soundtrack is also very good, with metal-influenced tracks to keep the vibe edgy and sinister.

Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor looks set to be an excellent addition to the franchise and was clearly, judging from the story, designed specifically for the DS. The narrative starts off strong and sucks you in early on, so we're eager to find out how these young teens plan to fend off hoards of demons and save Tokyo. Look for our full review when Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor is released on June 23.

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61 comments
TeenGamer92
TeenGamer92

It looks okay, I'm just not big on the traditional RPG battle format. I'm more for instant action.

tymaster_59
tymaster_59

Holy crap this game is freaking awesome, I've been playing it for two days and have fallen in love with it. I've never actually played a Shin Megami Tensai game but I think I might try some others now. I also noticed the similarities with "The World Ends With You", like the location, details, and some other small things.

LongShot42
LongShot42

was hoping for this to be on the psp too since i dont have a ds. that sucks

Hachibei
Hachibei

Damn, I can't wait. Hopefully this'll end the onslaught of crappy/mediocre DS games that have been coming out of late. =/

Syluvan
Syluvan

SMT for the DS? Definitely checking it out.

no1gamefan
no1gamefan

Going by this preview the game deserves to get a decent score. I will definitely be getting this game.

Elfstrum
Elfstrum

Looks great and it is rated T instead of M as some of the others are rated

bnwchbammer
bnwchbammer

I've got my hands on a Jap version of the game. So far, it's impossibly hard to play without being able to understand instructions on the insane battle system. But the classic Shin Megami Tensai really shows, and Atuls is gonna bring us another great game.

wogboypaul
wogboypaul

its going to be the best on ds. :D cant freaking wait.

Flipyap28
Flipyap28

this looks good and fresh...hope it gets a good review as I might get this game

Obamamaniac
Obamamaniac

I'm going to wait for the review. If it gets an 8 or above I'm picking it up.

ocdchild
ocdchild

Looking forward to this one, concidering I've always enjoyed the series. Hope it's good!

Payback7
Payback7

Why can't they bring RPG's to the Wii - the DS has HEAPS! Although i'm very thankfull for that :P Back to Fallout 3! HAHA

MikeInJapan
MikeInJapan

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

13thGuards
13thGuards

alright, another megaten! hopefully this will pan out in a good way

RockStarGame
RockStarGame

looks kinda complicated, it sure is a good game but i'll stay with Advance Wars :)

PNC123456789
PNC123456789

Huh...I heard about this awhile ago, probably a few months. But I completely forgot about until just now lol. I immediatly began considering it once I read the story, even though it wasn't all that much. Though, now that I managed to get a nice view of the gameplay I really think I might get it. I just hope it'll be long enough for me... Anyway, looks pretty good to me~

Grim_Heaper94
Grim_Heaper94

I've never played a Shin Megami Tensei game before, but this one looks cool.

poorisaac
poorisaac

You can say whatever you want about it but the fact of the matter is Atlus might come out with some pretty lack luster titles, ALOT of lack luster titles. But when it comes down to the Shin Megami Tensei franchise they deliver. I think this might end up being a pretty good selling title.

darksongbird
darksongbird

Doesn't look like my cup of tea really. But I like the music. ♪

TXMostWanted
TXMostWanted

Looks like the World Ends With You....so yea, must buy...

advocacy
advocacy

Wonderful, probably the first must-have new RPG title for the DS this year.

ROK3RO
ROK3RO

Gimme a good game to get for the DS not another shytty boring cheap game that only fadboys get.

Rebelzource
Rebelzource

The DS is overloaded with games similar to this. But it seems like this one has some cool features which makes it worth picking up!

Magnol49
Magnol49

SMT+SRPG= me giving Atlus more of my $$$

Yoweeh
Yoweeh

I'll probably get it.

Distinctive_Fin
Distinctive_Fin

Ummmmmm. . . Give me The World Ends With You's sequel instead.

MikeInJapan
MikeInJapan

blargh. SRPGs are a damn a dozen here in Japan, and this one may be the worst one out in a while. I can't bring myself to drop the yen on it, but judging from the boring battle system and the half-assed visuals, this is another easy-bake-oven coulda-been game from another lazy Japanese developer. If you're looking for a good Japanese SRPG, do yourself a favor and import Shining Force: Feather, or cross your fingers for an American release. It's seriously the bomb. An SRPG with a fresh battle system, a sleek, cool look and some memorable characters.

beny_pimpster
beny_pimpster

oh yeah if you loved atlus's ogre battle 64 this one is like it :) except the partial nudity part where i dont get :)

SmartGhost
SmartGhost

wasnt this on the ps2 when it first started it had dante where can i get a copy..?

beny_pimpster
beny_pimpster

I pity the fools who think this game is bad! this game goes gold when it comes out

X-Remnant
X-Remnant

This one looks like it could go either way to me, but I'll keep my eye on it.

ice_idol
ice_idol

Ds still alive babe . ( RBG lover )

sakaiXxX
sakaiXxX

at first i thought this is a persona game but i'm glad it's not......

LDNLDSNHS
LDNLDSNHS

It dosen't looks bad RPG for DS game.

Zacek
Zacek

I can't wait to have this game! Many good RPGs for the DS! It's impossible to buy and play them all...

Taren366
Taren366

Hmm the battle style reminds me of the original Shining Force games for the sega, they were incredibly addicting so if anybody likes the early 90's roleplaying games than this should be a welcome addition to those new games with just a splash of the old school spice.