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on October 12, 2006
While Shin Megami Tensei Devil Summoner: Raidou Kuzunoha vs the Soulless Army isn't actually an SMT game, it is a member of the franchise. It is actually part of a family of spin-off games in the MegaTen series that is just using the SMT name to establish connections between the different series in the franchise finally appearing in America. While not too many people are familiar with the games past, this one takes the series in a new direction.

Devil Summoner is the first game in the MegaTen franchise that has moved past the traditional or tactical RPG style combat and gone straight into the action/RPG genre. In this game you play as a young man who has just attained the title of Kuzunoha Raidou the 14th, the successor to a long line of Devil Summoners tasked with the protection of the capital city. With his ability to see and control demons, Raidou must solve a mystery that becomes increasingly more and more twisted as the game progresses.

The story begins with the player earning the Raidou name (essentially this is the tutorial) and being assigned to work at a detective agency in the capital. One day you get a mysterious phonecall from a girl pleading for help and wants to meet with you late at night. Reluctantly Raidou and his partner at the detective agency head out to meet her. They find out the girl who contacted them has an odd request; she asks them to kill her. Before anyone can respond, she is kidnapped by mysterious men in red and so sets forth a tale of demons, evil, and curses.

Essentially the game progresses much the way you would expect a MegaTen game to, you travel to different locations via world maps and explore the different locations on larger area maps. While wandering around the areas searching for clues and information, there will be several random encounters (the franchise is known for high encounter rates) that will allow you the opportunities to capture new demons for aid. More on that later though. While exploring the areas you are able to have a demon deployed to follow you around (keep in mind the normal people can't see it though). Every demon type has special skills that can be used in the areas such as flying to reach far items, scouting to find hidden items and enemy info, and even mind reading to get some extra information from people. These skills are essential to getting the information you need, so it is wise to keep a demon of every type as often as possible.

Now for the battles. This is where fans of the series will either love the game or hate it. Gone are the pressed turn systems used in Nocturne and Digital Devil Saga. Instead they are replaced with real time action battles. You directly control Raidou and can use combinations of sword strikes and gun shots to defeat your enemies. Raidou can't use magic, so the only way he can deal elemental damage is using special bullets. Luckily for him though, he is able to have a demon deployed with him in battle (but only one!). It will typically act on its own, but you are capable of assigning it specific orders or general strategies. By using your monsters in battle, they will grow in loyalty to you. When their loyalty is maxed out, they will often give you bonuses and can then be used in fusions to create new demons. Essentailly the system can get a little bit repetitive and while it will takes a while to get used to, once you do it becomes a matter of knowing what enemies are weak to which attacks. Once you figure that out though, it's just a matter of keeping your levels high enough and capturing and fusing demons to keep gaining strength.

The style of capturing is brand new as well. Gone is the negotiation system used in Nocturne and the original SMT games. Instead it is replaced by a system that forces you to exploit enemy weaknesses. When you hit an enemy with an element it is weak too, it will become stunned and give you the chance to capture it by repeatedly pressing circle until a meter empties out. You must empty the meter before the creature revives or you will not capture it. The easiest way to do this is to wear down its health ahead of time before attempting a capture. One note though, you will automatically fail to capture if the enemy is a higher level than Raidou, the moon is full, or it is a boss battle.

The graphics and music in the game are a little different from what was seen in previous SMT releases here in North America. It still uses the same form of cel shading, but they are a little bit more defined and detailed. Nothing too major, but it is enough to really change the visuals overall appearance from the other games. Also, this game is not as dark and gritty as Nocturne or DDS. In fact it has several amusing scenes and is much brighter and more vibrant overall. This is greatly illustrated by the music which is often much more lighthearted and is comprised of a lot of horns and brass instruments. Not nearly as dark and brooding as the other two games. But since this game takes place in 1920's Japan and not a post-apocalyptic world this time, it fits in quite well.

Overall, Devil Summoner is a new spin on an old franchise. While it does display that full action battles aren't as well suited for the style of the game, Atlus was able to do it well enough that it still remains fun and keeps the game enjoyable. For a lot of people who found the turn based systems of Nocturne and DDS overbearing and cumbersome, this could be a nice way to ease into the world of the MegaTen franchise. While it is not nearly as epic as the previous games, it holds its own and the story alone is enough to keep a fan of the franchise sated long enough to finish the game off regardless of whether or not they like the change of style. Definately not the best game in the franchise, but a nice refreshing change that is fun none the less.
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on December 5, 2006
To avoid becoming stale, Devil Summoner, the fourth game with the Shin Megami Tensei name to be released on the PS2 in three years, had to change its focus. The other MegaTen games for the PS2, as well as the PS1 spin-off series Persona and the gameboy's Demi-Kids series, were all challenging turn-based, dungeon crawling RPGs. Devil Summoner, while retaining some of the characteristics of previous MegaTen games, has largely scrapped tradition by throwing out the strategy-heavy turn-based system for a more frantic action-oriented battle system. As the story uses a heavy 1920's detective motiff, it also incorporates elements of PC adventure games. Change is not always for the better, as Devil Summoner makes a mess of most of its attempts are innovation because the game has the absolute worst flaws of the console RPG and PC adventure game genres.

The battle system, while likely to please fans of action games, will most likely turn off MegaTen veterans as being too simplistic. Raidou, the main character's, set of skills is very limited. He can block, fire his pistol, and used 3 different sword techniques. As the screen is quite small and the game enjoys filling the screen with enemies until it overwhelms the PS2's processor,causing annoying slow-down and obstructing the player's view of what is happening on the field, most battles quickly devolve into into a mindless hackfest. The system of exploiting enemy weakpoints from previous MegaTen games is still there but the frantic nature of the battles and the fact that Raidou and its demonic allies are heavily outnumbered means that the player won't be exploiting the system so much as the enemies will be hammering away at your ally demons, who are controlled by a rather dim AI.

The best thing related to the battle system is, of course, the demon recruitment and fusion aspect. Raidou can stun and trap almost any demon he encounters in battle and make it fight along side him. Some enemies are too power to capture though, and to get the best allies, he must fuse two demons together to make a new more powerful ally. The new ally may pick up skills it normally wouldn't have from its "parents".

The story is highly entertaining. Raidou, a young devil summoner, is charged with protecting the capital of Japan by the gods of Yatagarasu. He moonlights as the detective solving all kinds of supernatural cases. One night, he encounters a school girl who claims to be possessed by a demon and begs him to kill her. Before he can react, she is kidnapped by the military. It's a very interesting tale, told in twelve chapters, that involves killer cyborgs, mutiny, and inter-dimensional travel. Easily the game's best aspect, because if the battle system doesn't put you off, the exploration system will.

This game plays out like a PC adventure game. As a detective you'll be traveling all over the city, talking to witnesses and gathering evidence. Unfortunately, most people want you do something for them before they tell you anything, so you will be going back and forth, back and forth between the various neighborhoods of Tokyo alot. These fetch quests can be utterly ridiculous at times, as the game will tell you go somewhere to talk to someone, then that person will tell you to go find something, but before you go looking for it you have to report in to Raidou's boss. It just fills like busy work. However, as Devil Summoner features very few actual dungeons, enemy encounters happen in town. And the encounter rate is high, sometimes with only a few steps between fights. That's right. Enemy attacks happen just about anywhere. Luckily, Devil Summoner is a short game. Even with all the nonsense it has to pad the play time, it should only take about 25 hours to complete.

There really isn't that much else to say about Devil Summoner. It's technical aspects are average or even a little below average. Sound and visuals aren't terrible or outstanding. It's interesting enough to play to completetion, but this is a game most people can safely live without.
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on November 2, 2014
The Shin Megami sereis continues to be a great RPG series. Rivals the more highly known Final Fantasy series. This one was about as good as it gets for a PS-2 series at the time that it was released.
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on April 5, 2013
I'm a big fan of the Shin Megami Tensei franchise, and this game was a perfect addition to my collection. It's a fun and immersive game. It's a bit different from other SMT games, but that only adds to how enjoyable it is. It's definitely worth buying.
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on March 6, 2015
Great story, fun gameplay and interesting functions. You're able to call out a demon to assist you in battle to take down the soulless army. This game isn't too difficult and you'll definitely be interested in the end game.
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on June 15, 2008
I've rated this game highly although compared to the other games in the same series it's probably the weakest. But it does hold a lot of fun. The story sems to be touted as a deep dark mystery in official descriptions but I found it very sparse and not gripping at all. Basically a young man called Raidou is a "devil summoner" who can control demons and he uses this skill for good. He is hired by a detective to seek out some missing girl and of course this trail leads to a threat to the whole of humanity, blah blah. What makes the story hard to follow is the very uncompromising Japanese locationalization of it. All the place names and character names are Japanese, which for a western speaker like me, led to no end of confusion, as many seemed remarkably similar to my uneducated mind. A lot of times when a character told me I had to go and speak to a certain person to get the next clue, I had to resort to talking to EVERYONE just because I had no idea who they were on about. I guess that's my failing though.

Anyway let's get on to the mechanics of playing it. You might be surpised when I tell you, but the whole game plays out against - wait for it - pre-rendered static backdrops. Like the original Resident Evil games. This was a bit of a shock for me, and with games as advanced as they are now it left me a bit disappointed. Of course they are beautifully drawn, but so were some old PSX games years ago! However if you can put that behind you theres is a lot of fun to be had in the fighting. Basically, Raido keeps a collection of demons that he can summon anytime he falls into battle. Fights are random, RPG style, you are thrown from the static world that Raidou walks around in, onto a small area where the fighting plays out. Now Raidou can be accompanied by any one of his stock of demon buddies at a time. All you do is bring one out and watch 'em go. Now the battles are random, but fighting is real time. You run around whacking things with a sword or shooting as gun and the demon will use magic or status -changing attacks, or just plain brute force. You can pre-program their tactics to a certain extent - there is a menu of about 5 options (plus an option to give them every single command - but that takes far too long), and you can replace the summoned demon with another one at any time during battle. But that's about it. However, if you played and enjoyed "Lucifer's Call", you should enjoy this. Demons have to be captured when they fall weak in battle. Plus they level up. Plus they can be fused at a special location, so that two demons can be converted into one new one. Hooray! Because this was by far the best aspect of "Lucifer's Call", and it works just as well here. I was in that fusing place for ages experimenting with seeing what monsters I could come up with. It's definitely the best aspect of the game.

Which is handy, because there are lots of weaknesses in other areas. Apart from the static backdrops of the general gameplay, the battles also take place in a small, square arena that is only viewed from a fixed, south-westerly corner. No dynamic camera control exists in the entire game. Sometimes, on the battlefiled, you will be behind other enemies and you can't even see what Raidou is doing! This is a serious flaw. A rotatable camera would have made these fights 100% more fun.

But on the whole they do mostly seem pretty easy to cope with. Generally the game seemed quite easy to me. There are some bosses, however, who are just plain evil. You have to be smart in this game, as brute force is often not enough, especially with bosses that can charm and confuse you, banish your monster pals and genrally mess you up totally. So that was good - challenge is good. Most random battle enemies can be won fairlty easy...bar the ones with monsters that can turn you to stone. One physical hit while you are petrified can lead to instant game over - how mean is that when you're miles from a save?

It's also very short and with a pretty small world map. And it only has one side quest! But if you enjoy monster hunting and gathering all manner of wild and whacky team mates - check out the ghost car! - you will have fun playing this. I do think though, that the decision to use pre-rendered backdrops was a mistake. Gamers today expect more. But it still kept me interested right until the end, even if I didn't really know what on earth was going on.
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on April 23, 2013
First of all, I am ecstatic to have been able to purchase this game for under $90.00 due to the recent re-printings, and am very grateful to the seller for having made this available(with free shipping, no less!) Despite being criticized for being a short game, I find this Shin Megami Tensei game to be very fulfilling. It is one of the more lighthearted games in the Shin Megami Tensei series, and I find the overall style and time period to have been portrayed beautifully. I bought this game because in my opinion, it is very different from other Shin Megami Tensei games in style, and I find it to be unique among them. Despite consisting of random-encounter battles and pre-rendered enviromnents, the gameplay was also done nicely, and the demon-fusing capability and multiple routes/endings make it all the more satisfyingly complicated. I greatly enjoyed the story, which more than met my expectations as a branch-off in a very highly regarded series. I definitely recommend this game to Shin Megami Tensei fans and newcomers alike.
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on April 18, 2009
While one of the older Shin Megami Tensei games it is still fun to this day. Gameplay is fun and enjoyable. The fusion system is here in this game and is terrific. You feel quite a bit of joy when you find that you will soon be fusing two into a certain demon that you have seen in the game and know to be strong. That is bosses.

The game offers tactical gameplay in the form of elements. Each demon essentially has a weakness to an element and you have different bullets for you gun which you can shoot till you find the certain one. But wait some are immune to your bullets and thus you have to have the a demon which has that element with you. All demons can be registered and resummoned after fusing or discarding at a price. Then you have the demons abilities as well. Ranging from sneak which I needed to go back and get a demon that had this to get into a small area, to fly. They are used appropriatly and not as a gimmic as in other games.

The characters are fun and the game will easily run for hours and hours and not get boring. Characters are identafiable and their mottives reasonable. From the evil general to the main character to the Uncle of the girl you will meet on a bridge at the very begining. The game does this aspect well.

Now you have gameplay the bread and butter of games. The game has it here as well. From the Real Time battles to the investigating to well everything. The game does it well and with quality that still holds up today. Which is called doing it right. I would definitly recommend this game to anyone. It is and will be a great game.
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on November 19, 2006
Being the 4th SMT game for the PS2, SMT: Devil Summoner is probably the easiest spinoff of the core series that which players can get into. And here is why:

Rather than relying upon a traditional turn based RPG battle system (or the innovative press turn icon system that SMT: Nocturne started), the battles in the game are all action oriented. They are all in real time, and there are no turns involved at all. You also have the ability to of course summon demons during battle and have them aid you in the fight.

Sadly, the downside of this is that you can only summon one demon at a time, and the moves that Raidou has at his disposal during battle is rather limited. He has three basic sword attacks (a swinging combo, a running stab attack similar to Devil May Cry's "STINGER" attack, and a charged 360 degree radius sword attack similar to Link's from Legend of Zelda.) Beyond that, Raidou can use his gun, and equip various ammos in the gun to give it status and elemental attacks. This in turn can be used to immensely help battle, and in some cases, make the game a lot easier. Your demons in turn can use their basic attacks and magic. This seems fine until you realize however that the battles in the game can become repetitive due to Raidou's limited number of attacks, and his demon's as well (the demons can only learn about 2-3 attacks, as opposed to the 6+ in SMT: N or Digital Devil Saga.) In addition, the number of enemies that can be on screen can dwarf you at times, and lead to all out chaos, which can at times be confusing. This combat situation is not entirely bad however, but it just goes to show that Atlus could have perhaps spent more time giving Raidou more moves to use in combat (I.E. JUMPING) in order to make the game a little less monotonous.

As for outside of combat, SMT:DS offers a unique perspective not found in the previous playstation SMT games. The setting of the game is the capital of Japan during the 1920's, and you are free to explore practically all of it. The areas in the games are loaded with people to talk to, and numerous sights to see (and demons to kill.) In addition, you can also summon your demons outside of battle and actually have them follow you around in town, or even better, send them out on their own and let you play as them. This lets you use the demons to collect information; talk to people Raidou normally could not talk to, or gather things just out of Raidou's reach.

In order to recruit the demons mentioned above, the game offers two avenues. Players can try to "steal" the demons in combat by stunning them and then cramming them into Raidou's confinement tubes. This method is extremely easy, and the only hindrance to it will be that some demons cannot be captured (I.E. bosses and "trash" monsters like zombies.) The other avenue requires more thinking, and is the part that players will most likely find more appealing: Fusing demons. By using a laboratory located not too far from the game's starting location, Raidou can take in the demons he has collected and fuse them together to get stronger/different demons. This is probably the bulk of where the player's useful demons will be obtained, as fusion allows players to put skills on demons that they normally could not obtain through standard leveling. In addition, players can fuse demons that they otherwise could not obtain from fighting. Players who have experienced "SMT: Nocturne" will be very familiar with the fusion system in this game. It is almost identical to the one in Nocturne, save a couple new features and a slightly easier set of rules.

One last thing to mention about the demons: There are many demons in this game, but many of them are unique to it. There are still many from SMT: N and DDS, but there are others that which are exclusive to it. Despite the large number however, there does not seem to be as MANY demons as there were in SMT:N. Almost all of the demons also have exploitable weaknesses, so players will not be able to fuse an "unstoppable monolith" until perhaps at the very end of the game.

The music in the game has a distinctive "Hyper-Active Detective" flair that features numerous smooth jazz instrumentals and "Dragnet" style chords. The battle music itself is however classic SMT, with fast paced guitars and pulsing keyboards. The music however does not have as much variety or atmosphere as SMT: N or DDS had, which in the end is slightly disappointing.

The game also features practically no voice acting whatsoever, save the couple of noises that each of your demons make when they "talk". Aside from the demons, all of the spoken dialogue in the game is just plain text with cinematic having instrumentals playing over them. While some players may not be bothered by this, others will be somewhat disappointed especially after the plethora of voice acting that was featured in DDS.

Generally speaking, the game's atmosphere is light compared to the feel of Digital Devil Saga and (especially) Nocturne. Many of the demons are still religious figures, but they do not play a very large part in the game. The game itself does not take itself too seriously, and there are many instances of comedy throughout. The most specific is Raidou's constant companion, a talking cat. The demons themselves say many hilarious things, especially when it comes to fusing them or, just about anything

The final thing that should be noted is that the game itself is relatively short. Aside from the amount of time that can be spent fusing demons, building levels and money, there are almost no side quests or optional things to do. The game is linear and is broken into "chapters" which last about anywhere in between 2-8 hours. In all reality, a player could probably finish this game in about a week, with a playtime of about 40-50 hours.

Therefore, while Devil Summoner may not be as detailed or long as the previous SMT entries, it is still unique. It has a much lighter atmosphere and a more positive and clear cut storyline. The game also features a combat engine that is unique to the SMT series. The ability to "play as" your demons is a major plus. SMT fans should definitely look into this if they have not yet, as this will probably be, the only thing Megaten related coming out for the PS2 until Persona 3 hits the US next year. Other RPGers should look at this as well, as it is a good "crash course" in getting to know Megaten.
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on April 3, 2009
This is a great game with great gameplay. Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner, like most Shin Megami Tensei games, is a dark rpg. However, the gameplay is a little different particularly in the fighting. The fighting in this rpg is done in real time, as opposed to other MegaTen titles where the fighting is done by taking turns. This is very nice since you can change or use demons, ammo, items and things like that whenever you want without having to wait for your turn. The setting in this game takes place in the early 1900s and that is very refreshing since not a lot of games of this type are like that. The game is very innovative in the way you deal with demons and fuse them and makes it interesting to see the results of those actions. Devil Summoner is an entertaining game that will keep you playing for hours and if you are a fan of Shin Megami Tensei (MegaTen) games, then this one is definitely recommended.
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