Atlus’ latest JRPG to grace the 3DS is a mouthful. In fact, Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers may have the longest title of any game I’ve ever played. To go along with the long title is an interesting history. Since this game’s original release on the Sega Saturn way back in 1997, it has gotten as many re-releases as it has colons in the title. The first being on the PlayStation in 1999 and now in 2013 it finally comes to North America on the 3DS. For anybody who has avoided this series up until now, it is fairly similar to most of your standard JRPGs. There is an in-depth battle system and – of course – a weird story, but also a few interesting changes to mix things up, such as the opportunity to talk to many enemies to either get them to join you or pay them to leave you alone, or a host of other options not given to you in most JRPGs. Let’s get into it.
This Story Might Have Gotten Better With Age
The story of Soul Hackers is an interesting one. The game takes place in Amami City, a “futuristic” city where every citizen has his or her own PC with high speed connections. The company who makes the government-issued PCs is also in the process of creating a virtual reality city called Paradigm X, which is currently in its closed testing phase. What might have been a crazy futuristic world when this game first came out in 1997 now seems in some ways behind ours and in other ways ahead of us. There is a strange kind of charm to that.
The protagonist acquires a PC in the shape of a gun and after being shown how to use it in a vision, he unleashes a demon who takes over the body of his best friend and learns that he himself can summon demons. After demons are introduced, the story picks up. You quickly find yourself fighting the evil Phantom Society and trying to uncover what connection it has with a mysterious sickness that appears to be connected to the computers.
I’ll admit this sounds ridiculous, but in the context of the game, this story really works. Lastly, the characters you interact with are cool, with your partner being one of my favorite characters in a while.
Demons Are Like Pokemon, But For Adults
I may have had much more fun with the use of demons in this game than I should have. Your party at all times consists of the protagonist and his partner, Nemissa. That leaves you with four open spots to fill with demons as you please. To recruit most demons, you have to talk to them mid-battle. During these conversations you may be able to win them over by just saying the right things or they may want you to pay them to join you.
After a demon has decided to come along, you have to work on its loyalty. This is done by commanding it in battle according to its personality type. For example, a “wild” demon just wants to always attack while a “dumb” demon appreciates you letting it decide what to do. On top of that, you can fuse your demons together to get stronger creatures and can even turn your demons into special weapons. This all left me with a sort of “catch them all” feeling similar to Pokémon games, except more complicated.
Opposite Of The Story, Visuals Are Much Worse With Age
There are a few points throughout the game with short CG cutscenes. These look like they came straight from the PS1 era, which makes sense because they might have. This isn’t that big of a deal; the rest of the game looks okay. It was just clear that this “updated” release should have paid a little bit more attention to this area.
Dungeon Design Lacking
With the story exclusively taking place in a futuristic city and the villain being a big computer company, most of the dungeons take place in an office building or a warehouse or some other industrial setting. This leads to them looking just bland and boring. Everything in this game is from a first-person perspective and these uninspired dungeons are where that becomes a problem. Boring walls are almost the only thing you see while exploring these dungeons, with the rare exception of a boring door for you to walk through.
Overall, this is a fun game and I’m glad it finally made it’s way over here. Although in some regards it has aged since its first release 16 years ago, the gameplay still remains solid. If you’re looking for a good on-the-go JRPG for your 3DS, there is a lot of fun to have here. This is also a great game to get yourself in the right mindset for Shin Megami Tensei 4 in a few months.