Before I start reviewing Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor Overclocked, I should admit one thing about myself. This was the first time I left the scholastic confines of Persona 3 and Persona 4 to see what else the Shin Megami Tenseiseries has to offer. Thusly, playing through this game felt like a culture shock to me, even though so much of it was familiar. But there's one thing that Devil Survivor Overclocked has in common with those Persona titles: good old monster-slaying fun.
As the game begins, you and your two best friends, otaku extraordinaire Atsuro and the motherly Yuzu, receive interesting handheld devices called COMPs from your cousin, Naoya. Once Atsuro tinkers around with the device, your party of three is able to summon demons, which will become your tools of battle. But, suddenly, Tokyo is placed under lockdown after the result of a mysterious emergency. The COMPs tell you that everyone in the lockdown, including yourself, has seven or fewer days to live. Devil Survivor Overclocked takes you through those chaotic seven days of lockdown.
Once you have your COMPs, the battles begin. Each party member can hold up to two demons. These demons team up with that party member, who is designated as that team's leader. Each party leader (friend, enemy, or third party) will take turns in battle, moving a certain number of squares on the map grid (in similar fashion to other Strategy RPGs). When two opponents are near each other they can choose to enter battle. Battles can be up to 3 on 3 confrontations between demons and their team leaders. As in past Shin Megami Tensei titles, most demons have weaknesses which can be exploited by use of attacks with particular elements (such as Physical, Fire, Ice, Force, and Electric). Finding and exploiting the opponent's weak points while covering your own weaknesses is critical to coming out victorious.
You can defeat all the demons to raise your Macca (money) and EXP counts, or, if you're in a pinch, you can merely defeat the team leader, which clears the entire unit from the field. This creates an element of strategy - going for more EXP risks your team's life, but will make them stronger, while only defeating the leader of every team makes it easier to survive, but you won't become more powerful.
In most missions, success will not be judged simply by clearing out all the enemies. Extra conditions are often added, such as protecting all civilians, keeping a certain character out of harm's way, not defeating a certain enemy until a condition has been met, and persuading a character to join your cause. So while you're contemplating the best method to raise your demons and avoid death, you will also be given several other responsibilities to juggle at the same time. This can sometimes be frustrating, but often feels rewarding once you complete the mission.
Demons can be acquired chiefly in two ways. The first is the Auction House. Demons put their services up for auction and demon tamers bid against each other to win that particular demon. The Macca you win from battles is used to compete for these demons. A star ranking system of 1 through 5 shows how good they are in comparison to their normal stats (4 and 5 are better, 3 is about average, while 1 and 2 are generally lower than average). You can choose to buy them without an auction if you have the Macca available to you, which can sometimes be useful for powerful monsters with high values. Building up an array of demons then leads into the second acquisition method: Fusion.
A staple of the Shin Megami Tensei series, Fusion allows you to combine demons together to create more powerful demons. Since your demons grow at a slower rate than the party members, Fusion is necessary to keep up with the ever-increasing power of the enemy forces. When two demons are fused, you can choose up to 3 of their spells to assign to the new creature. This means that the new demon can be crafted to either specialize in attacking, magic, or healing, or as a jack of all trades, allowing you to strategize for individual missions, further deepening the scope of the game.
While all of this demon battling is occurring, the situation within the lockdown grows more dire by the day. Throughout the game, you'll meet up with various characters who are also victims of these unfortunate circumstances. As the game progresses, your fate will become more and more intertwined with their fates, to the point that certain actions will affect their end result once the game is complete. You have only a certain number of activities per day, in which you must fit both battles and character interactions, so it becomes necessary to manage your time wisely if you wish to complete the game while helping as many people as you possibly can. What decisions you make will lead you to one of the game's multiple endings. If you weren't satisfied with your ending, or want to see more, you can play again and achieve a different ending, which improves the game's replay value.
Seven days of torment in the lockdown clearly was not enough, so Atlus added an eighth day to this 3DS port of Devil Survivor. This day serves to tie up some loose ends in the story as well as add new content for veterans who played Devil Survivor on the DS. Between all eight days of gameplay, it could take you anywhere between 30-50 hours to complete the main quest on your first playthrough. That time figure depends on how much time you spend leveling at certain times, and how long it takes to complete certain missions that provide a greater challenge. Ultimately, while the addition of the eighth day is nice, and adds more meat to the game's bones, it does not necessitate a re-purchase for previous players.
Audio is another category that was improved in Devil Survivor Overclocked. The background music does a very good job at setting the mood, whether it be a quieter overworld event or a more dramatic battlefield. New to the 3DS version is voice acting. The majority of lines are now voice-acted, and, for the most part, are voiced very well. It is a nice addition to the game, as the voice actors further push the idea that this is a trying and catastrophic situation where time is of the essence. The exuberance or trauma in the voice inflections push the highs in this game higher and the lows lower, which can tug on your emotions and make the experience of Devil Survivor Overclocked more meaningful.
Graphics remain unchanged from the previous release of Devil Survivor. But that's not a problem; the visual style fits right in with previous Shin Megami Tensei titles. Demons are still varied from the silly to the ferocious to the villainous, each giving you a good idea of their power just from the aesthetics. The backgrounds aren't going to win any awards, but they get the job done. Players who focus on graphics may not enjoy this game, but everyone else will feel just fine about what they are given.
Since this game is ported from the DS, Atlus opted not to use 3D in the vast majority of Devil Survivor Overclocked, only adding 3D in a few places, such as the intro movie and the demon fusion sequence. Certainly, it is a disappointment that Atlus did not opt to add more 3D to this port to take advantage of the new hardware of the 3DS. But, throughout the game, it will not be missed. Devil Survivor Overclocked does just fine without the 3D effects.
In the end, Devil Survivor Overclocked fills the RPG gap in the platform's early library and does so splendidly. The monster-battling gameplay is classic Shin Megami Tensei, the story will have you invested in the survival of yourself and the other characters, the atmosphere will keep you hooked, and the multiple endings will keep you coming back for more. This is a game that all RPG fans should be playing.