If you were one of the gamers that fell madly in love with Persona 3 last year, but had never played a Shin Megami Tensei game before, you may not realize that there is a whole world of similarly-flavored gaming at your very fingertips. While there’s no dating sim action in Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner: Raidou Kuzunoha vs the Soulless Army (I know, longest name ever), you may just see some familiar faces.
Of course, memories of Persona 3 are far from all that Devil Summoner has to offer: a uniquely Japanese storyline, addictive real time battles, and of course demon summoning are only three of the features you can rock out in this game. Add in that you can pick up a copy from used game retailers for around $20, and you have yourself a steal here.
Hit the jump for more.
Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner: Raidou Kuzunoha vs the Soulless Army
An RPG Draws Near!
For the sake of clarity and to keep hardcore SMT fans from killing me, I want to first mention that there is a difference between SMT: Devil Summoner and SMT: Devil Summoner: Raidou Kuzunoha vs the Soulless Army. The former was in fact a Japanese-only Saturn release, which came out in 1995 and was ported to the PSP in 2005. I doubt your average Gamestop drone would be confused by the difference as he likely has no idea the first game even existed, but you never know. The import fanatic at my local Gamestop is memorably obsessed with details, and in a situation like that knowing the difference could save you a twenty minute lecture on the fundamentals of the Japanese original.
If you are the kind of RPG gamer dying of thirst for a game that is not in a medieval or neo-medieval setting and features pretty boys whining, a game such as SMT:Devil Summoner: Raidou Kuzunoha vs the Soulless Army could very well be the elixir you need to make you care about roleplaying again. Some of the men in the game could be considered pretty, but they act like men, which is somehow ten times more appealing than the Tidus approach.
The game begins on a unique note for the series: it is set in the 1920s and is an action roleplaying title, which sets it apart from the previous Devil Summoner titles. You play as Raidou Kuzunoha, a sleuth working for the Narumi Detective Agency alongside Detective Narumi. A mysterious client named Kaya contacts the agency, asks that they meet her, and then is kidnapped before their eyes by men in red capes. Following the trail, you discover that her disappearance is linked to a much bigger story, which even involves real life figure Grigori Rasputin, better known as the Mad Monk. That tidbit alone ought to have history buffs fapping in their pants.
After just having played an action RPG in which I found the combat frustrating, I was reminded that this title does it right in every way a game can. Battles are random, as you will suddenly see a flash of light while walking and find yourself ready to fight, but the similarities to a turn based RPG stop there. Once in the fight, you have a few options: a normal attack, a spinning attack which is quick to execute and therefore rather handy, and a gun which you can use for ranged attacks and load with different types of bullets.
Aside from your own attacks, you have another option, which is where a lot of the fun of the battles lies. Being a Devil Summoner, you can capture demons and train them to fight for you. If you have played Persona 3 and not played any other SMT games, this is where the similarities will show for you. Alp and Pyro Jack are some of the familiar faces that you can coerce to fight for you, and you can level them up as you can in the other games they appear in. You can also increase their loyalty to you by fighting with them often.
You can actually capture demons by weakening them first, which you must do by attacking them with an elemental force that they are susceptible to. Once they are weak, you jam the B button and have a shot at making them a part of your arsenal. However, there is a gauge at the top of your screen that shows you the fullness of the moon, and the closer it is to being full, the harder it is to capture the demons (when completely full, they are too strong and you cannot capture them at all). This lends a lot of fun to the game as you must watch your timing and be prepared for what element to use and when to make your attacks.
In addition to capturing demons, you can also visit the town’s resident mad scientist (cleverly stationed in the basement of an antique shop) to fuse them, creating stronger demons. You can catalog the ones you have captured as well, so no worries about losing them when you choose to fuse them — as long as you have the yen for it, you can summon them back at anytime.
For me personally, this game has most of the qualities that get my panties in a bunch, and it executes the combination with taste and style. If you enjoy the average RPG setting and don’t like to deviate from it, this is probably not the game for you, as it goes for something very different than the Kingdom of Blah Blah Blah and all that business. However, when it comes to a unique approach, SMT:Devil Summoner: Raidou Kuzunoha vs the Soulless Army has got it in spades.
>Attack: If you are fed up with traditional RPG settings and want something different, if you need a break from turn-based battles, and if you love the Japanese flavor of the other SMT titles. +2 to strength if the appearance of a real life figure in a fictional story makes a tent in your pants.
>Parry: If all that talk of Japanese locales just makes you want to get a burger and a beer, you like talk of kingdoms, and your RPG experience is incomplete without whining pretty boys. -4 to agility if you have reoccurring nightmares of Rasputin raping you while you wear a nun costume.