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Shin Megami Tensei (SMT) is a long running game franchise in Japan. The series launched in 1987 with Digital Devil Story: Megami Tensei and is still going strong today. Like Devil Summoner, the popular Persona games are a spin off of SMT.
It might seem like I’m just doing a history of the games here, but I have a reason for this exposition. Soul Hackers 2 feels like a template made from the hallmark traits of all the SMT titles. This is both good and bad.
Your main characters blink into existence at the beginning of Soul Hackers 2. Aion, a sentient AI that hides in the world’s data, creates Ringo and Figue to help humans stop the end of the world. Once you’re out in the city, you team up with three devil summoners known as Arrow, Milady, and Saizo. We’ll skip any more information about the game’s story as to not spoil the experience for players.
What’s in a game
It’s easy to sum up game mechanics for SMT games. You control a team of players who can summon devils. The devils have different powers that align with different elements, such as ice, electricity, or fire. The demons you find while exploring will sometimes join you for a price. You can fuse demons together to make new, more powerful summons for you to control. Demons have their own set of skills but can also inherit skills from those used to create it.
When exploring a dungeon, you fight people and monsters to earn items and experience. Outside of the dungeons, you talk to teammates, share meals, upgrade equipment, and fuse demons. That’s basically it. And, with a couple of exceptions, that’s the entirety of Soul Hackers 2.
For many, me included, the SMT games are enjoyable because of their combat mechanics. Loads of crazy demons wait around every corner, ranging from gross to cute, to fight and collect. This is no different in Soul Hackers 2.
Dungeons? More like fungeons! I’ll see myself out
Ringo sends out your demons to scout and collect items when you enter a dungeon. You’ll see them standing around waiting for you as you explore. Talking to them will give you a chance to recruit a new demon, an item, or heal your party. Once a demon hits its top level, they will give you a present for your loyalty.
Fights are turn-based by design. Demons have strengths and weaknesses based on the element charts. New to the series for Soul Hackers 2 is the “Sabbath” mechanic. Hits on demon weak points summons some of your demons to the sideline. At the end of the friendly turn, all sidelined demons pile on to any enemy demons left standing. It’s a satisfying combat mechanic that adds a little flavor to each fight.
The dungeons in the game have a couple of different purposes. The standard story dungeons are what you’d expect — wandering through an area rife with monsters, looking for a boss. On the other hand, you have the Axis dungeons.
Connected to the Aion main base, the Axis dungeons represent the human character’s soul. As you develop deeper friendships with your companions, you can unlock deeper parts of their psyche to explore. It’s an interesting way to grind for experience and get to know the main protagonists. Progress in these dungeons offers special skills to the individual you have been exploring.
Hangin’ out; killin’ demons
Outside of dungeons, you spend most of your time shopping, performing demon fusions, or talking with your companions. Social events pop up at the bar in town, offering more opportunities to deepen your bound with your team. Also, your party can eat together at your hangout to give the characters a minor combat bonus.
Soul Hackers 2 is the first SMT game on the current generation of consoles. It’s a nice looking game, but it doesn’t do much with the processing power it has available. In fact, minus the voice acting and higher resolution graphics, this game would be right at home on an older handheld.
I have enjoyed my time with Soul Hackers 2. I’m a fan of the SMT series dating back to when they first came to America. This game has, as we’ve discussed, all of the features of any SMT game. The overall problem isn’t that it’s a bad game — it just doesn’t do much to stand out.
Is that bad? Not necessarily. The story is interesting, the characters are likeable, and the voice acting is good. If you enjoy the core game loop for the SMT games, you are getting exactly that. Just don’t expect a huge new experience with a lot of new gameplay concepts.
Rating: three stars out of five.
Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers 2 is out on August 26 for PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S|X, and PC. Atlus provided us a PC code for this review.
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