Digital Devil Saga: Avatar Tuner 2 Hands-On

The sequel to Atlus' unusual RPG about the search for a promised land was on display at TGS, so we promptly put it to the test.

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TOKYO--Atlus' Digital Devil Saga: Avatar Tuner 2 is a direct sequel to the original role-playing title that was released just two months back in Japan (and slated to ship later this fall in the United States). We had a chance to put this next installment of the unusual, new series through the paces at the Tokyo Game Show. While there didn't seem to be major changes in the game's graphics or characters since the original, we were able to confirm a number of new additions to the game systems in Avatar Tuner 2.

In the original Avatar Tuner, your characters could switch between human and demon forms, which had various strategic consequences in battle. In Avatar Tuner 2, they can also transform into a demi-demon mode in which they're half human and half demon, although it seems that you can't enter into this state on your own will. The demi-demon mode has its pros and cons; you can execute powerful attacks that ignore the enemy's physical protections, but you'll also be a lot more prone to damage when you get hit. Aside from this, Avatar Tuner 2 has made some changes to the original game's mantra system, which was something like Final Final Fantasy X's sphere grid that you use to obtain new skills. This time, the mantra board is drawn in hexagonal cells, and you can completely customize your own route rather than being forced to follow a given path. The result seems to be a high degree of open-ended character-building.

In the demo we got to play at the show, we explored around a warehouse and fought against monsters--typical RPG-type stuff. Our party featured a new member named Roaldo, who's a tall gray-haired guy with glasses who can also transform into a demon, very much like Serph and his friends.

Story-wise, Avatar Tuner 2 looks pretty interesting. The promotional opening video that Atlus ran at its booth showed that the citizens of Nirvana apparently were all turned into stone in the streets--with looks of despair on their faces, no less. One of the petrified men could actually be seen pointing a gun at his mouth, which really makes you wonder what had happened in the city that was supposed to be a promised land. The mysterious should, of course, unravel during the course of the game, which is slated for release in spring 2005. For more updates, be sure to check GameSpot's coverage of the Tokyo Game Show 2004.

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