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Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner:
 Raidou Kuzunoha vs. The Soulless Army

デビルサマナー (Devil Summoner)
葛葉ライドウ対超力兵団 (Kuzunoha Raidou vs. The Super Army)
Japanese Release: March 2, 2006
Retail Price: ¥6,800 (¥7,140 with tax)
US Release: October 24, 2006
Retail Price: $49.99

General Game Information

Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner is the Western title of a Japanese game known as Devil Summoner: Kuzunoha Raidou vs. The Super Army. It is the third title in Devil Summoner series, which is itself a spin-off of the Shin Megami Tensei series. While previous Devil Summoner games involved a first person viewpoint, turn-based battles and were based in more modern times, this title instead relies in a third person viewpoint, real-time action based battles and takes place in the early 1900s. However, the game does maintain many connections to the previous titles, despite the change in time period. The game can be seen as a prequel to the previous titles in this sense as it retains some of the same bloodlines.

The game itself is divided up into twelve separate chapters that tell the story of Raidou, his case involving Kaya and the involvement of the Soulless Army (which is the Western moniker for the "Super Army").

Battle System Information

As mentioned earlier, Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner makes use of semi-realtime battles. I say "semi" because switching bullets, summoning demons and viewing demon weaknesses are all selectable from a pop-up menu. This menu can be brought up by pressing R1 and freezes all on-screen action, creating a game with both realtime and turn-based elements. Despite these alterations, battles still randomly occur and are instanced. You will not see enemies on the field before you fight them. In addition, battles occur regularly (at about the same rate as Nocturne), even within towns.

Within the battle screens, Raidou is able to run about freely. Within battle, he makes use of both a sword and a gun. Beyond normal attacks with these weapons he also has a handful of special moves including a three-hit sword combo, a three-shot gun combo, a thrust that can interrupted enemy attacks and a spinning slash that can harm all surrounding enemies. On the defensive side, Raidou's main skill is the ability to block. Thanks to this system, battles are rather quick compared to previous, fully turn-based entries in the series.

In order to stun an enemy so that Raidou may attempt to seal it (and capture it as an ally), their weakness must be taken advantage of. These weakpoints are generally taken advantage of by your demon's magic or by Raidou's equippable elemental bullets. If you do not wish to seal the demon, you can instead take advantage of this short pause to stick in some more powerful attacks. Demons are also immune to certain spells and attacks, however, so keep that in mind. For more on demons, including further information on battle functions, see the following section.

Following battles, both Raidou and his demon gain experience. At level-ups, the player is able to distribute Raidou's stats freely, such as in Nocturne.

Demon Information

Devil Summoner's demon system has comparisons to the one within Nocturne, but has several aspects to it that keep it unique. As in Nocturne, demons gain experience through battles, gain stats automatically at level-ups and learn new skills at set intervals.

The main difference between the two titles is how demons interact, battle and are brought to your side. Devil Summoner's battles to do not involve conversations. If you want a demon on your side, you must first hit it with its weakness and seal it into one of your special vials while it is stunned. This action involves quickly tapping circle as a gauge in the upper left corner empties. This is not as easy as it sounds, as the demon will be fighting against you in a sort of "tug of war".

If you successfully deplete the meter within the set period of time, you'll seal the demon and it will become a new member of your party. However, successfully doing so also depends on three other factors: one, sealing cannot be done on the night of a full moon; two, the enemy's HP (the lower the better); and three, Raidou himself must be the same level or greater than that of the demon.

If successful, the demon will be drawn into the vial and available for future use as a team member. Demon allies may fight alongside you in battle after being summoned, one at a time. They can be summoned freely through the R1 menu during battle (although doing so requires MAG, which you get at the end of fights),but they will have a will of their own and are not completely player directed. Accessing the previously mentioned R1 menu allows you to give the demons general commands such as "heal", "attack" and so forth. In addition, demons also have a "tension" meter which fills up as they do well in battle and take advantage of enemy weaknesses. A full tension bar allows the demon to pull off a special attack.

These same demons also have abilities that may be used on the field in certain situations; for example, some demons have spells which can calm down irrate townspeople and others can read their minds.

In addition to this, Raidou must also worry about his relationship with these allied demons. Unhappy ones will not listen to his commands. In order to win them over, they must be summoned regularly in battles until a strong bond is formed. A strong bond between Raidou and his demons allows for magical and physical combos between the duo against other stunned enemies. A strong relationship may also lead to demons giving gifts to Raidou following battles.

Loyal demons may be fused together at the Demon Unification Facility, forming new, and hopefully more powerful, creatures. Skills and stats can be carried over through these unions. In addition, a third demon may be sacrificed, allowing that demons stats and abilities to be factored into the equation. Demons may also be fused with Raidou's weapons, allowing them to increase in strength and switch between various elemental properties.

Presentation

Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner makes use of fully polygonal characters on pre-rendered backgrounds, somewhat similar to earlier Resident Evil titles. Thanks to this, an incredible amount of detail can be given to the environments and more processing power can be lent to characters on screen. Unlike the last few Playstation 2 Megaten titles, this one forgoes a stylized animated look and instead opts for a far more realistic approach. Either way, fans will see a lot of familar demons and Kazuma Kaneko designs througout the title.

Being set in the 1910s and 1920s, Devil Summoner's style is heavily based on the period. The overall look seems to be a combination of Japanese and Western culture at the time. This is especially evident in the styles worn by various characters, which is most obvious with both Narumi and Tae. Other characters (in particular, various townspeople) seem to skip this more "trendy" attire, sticking with more traditional Japanese clothing.

Release Information

Devil Summoner: Kuzunoha Raidou vs. The Super Army was released in Japan on March 2nd, 2006. Its US release was officially announced during E3 2006 in May, where the game was retitled Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner. The game was only present in its Japanese form and an English translation was not yet available.

The game was subsequently released during the following Fall.

Sources: 1Up, RPGamer and Atlus's Devil Summoner site.


© Tony

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