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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Review: 'Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers' - It's Finally Here!

Admittedly I never played the original Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers. It released for the Sega Saturn in 1997, when I was only eleven years old. I do vaguely remember watching a friends older brother play it, but that's really about it (he learned Japanese for the sole reason of being able to play Japanese imports).

When the news of the 3DS remake made its way to my inbox I had to get my hands on it. I'm always up for a quick trip to my childhood, especially with gems I know I missed.

Thanks to the fine folks over at Atlus I was able to obtain an early digital copy of Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers, and I have to say in all honesty, it's a truly fantastic role-playing game.

First things first: Soul Hackers for the 3DS is still very much the same game we saw in 1997. While the loading times have been quickened, and graphics have been improved, don't go in expecting anything next-gen. I actually recommend heading into the game in the same mindset we all had in the late 90's - story first, graphics later.

You play as a citizen in Amami City, which is set in the future. Every household has a computer connected to the internet, a virtual world called 'Paradigm X' on the horizon, and of course the inevitable eye of Big Brother always watching.

Paradigm X is a sort of central hub that has everything you could ever want. The game opens quickly with a rundown of what Paradigm X will encompass, giving the citizens of Amami City the opportunity to join the beta test should they be chosen. That's not good enough however, as you and Hitomi (your best friend) decide to hack into the system and gain early access.

As you can imagine things go south from here, and before you realize what has happened you're in a demon-filled world, fighting for your life alongside your hacker group, the Spookies.

One of the first things that caught my eye was the method of travel. Rather than walking around a 3d world, you're restricted to a first-person view where you travel along a grid (shown on the bottom 3DS screen). In typical JRPG fashion you encounter random enemies, only this time there's a slight twist - you can convince them to join your team.

No, you don't capture them (ie Pokemon). You strike up a conversation during your battle and have to answer their questions correctly if you want them on your team. For example, a demon might ask you "What fun to destroy?", in which you can respond with "Buildings", "The social order", "Nature", or "I'd rather create".

If you choose correctly and the demon takes your side, its now your job to gain their loyalty. This is a fairly simple process, requiring you to learn their likes/dislikes and command them to do so during battle. This is by far the most fun part of Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers, as it truly brings out the personalities of each demon. If you command them to do something they don't like, they will either ignore you or choose another attack completely.

They sure are stubborn when they're young aren't they.

There is of course 'demon fusion', as this is a Shin Megami Tensei game after all. It really never grows tiresome joining together two demons to make something completely new (and hopefully completely awesome). Being that demons don't level up, this is really the only way to make them stronger, so start experimenting early.

This is all old stuff however, what about the new additions, right? Outside of improved graphics, faster load times, english text/voice overs, and a 3d screen, there's a StreetPass feature. This is actually a phenomenal addition in that you can use your Nintendo Play Coins (you know, those coins you never actually use) to purchase new demons and upgrade them as well.

It also helps that these demons are new to the 3DS version, so even fans of the 1997 release will have something to look forward to.

Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers is a truly incredible role-playing game, especially being that it's now sixteen years old. It was far ahead of its time in '97, which is now evident by how well it has held up. Just keep in mind that being a MegaTen game it can prove difficult. Which, to be honest, is a true role-playing gamers fantasy.

 If you're a fan of the MegaTen games this is a must buy.

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