When I bought Devil Summoner - Kuzunoha Raidou vs. King Abaddon as a present for myself last Christmas, the game's future overseas looked bleak. There was a fair amount of concern over whether or not Atlus would bring it over at all, given the mixed reception the first Raidou game received. With the game now confirmed for North America, and English screens popping up, it's time to discuss.
"Chapters in this game are much longer and more loosely organized than in its predecessor, with action occuring all over the city and the rural town which together provide the game's backdrop."
First of all, I need to say this: I was a fan of the first game. Yes, it had its faults, but I didn't care. I just had a good time with it and its soundtrack. Despite the really high language barrier, the first Raidou's style of storytelling was tight and well-paced, so I never had any problems following the action.
This leads me to my main complaint about Raidou vs. Abaddon -- the exposition. It drags on, and on, and on.... It's only in concentrated bursts, but when it's all written out in high-school level Japanese, the expository dialogue turns into a morass of hard-to-understand plot cues and missed connections. At least 15 hours of time on my game clock can be attributed to the fact that I had no idea where to go next, even though other characters had, on second reading, told me exactly that.
Of course, this is one problem that thankfully will be lost in translation, but it does underscore my difficulties with the game as a whole.
Chapters in this game are much longer and more loosely organized than in its predecessor, with action occuring all over the city and the rural town which together provide the game's backdrop. Instead of focusing on a single plot point or adventure, a chapter will cover four or five major events before it's all over. Generally, I gained access to non-combat areas well in advance of when I actually needed to visit them, which didn't help me any either. Other areas, often old levels from the first game, became available through the various side-jobs Raidou can accept through the agency.
"But let's move on to the real time-waster in this game, which has padded my game-clock like nothing else, not even getting lost -- the side-jobs. There are a hundred of these things."
The biggest and most obvious difference this game has over its predecessor is in the way Raidou deals with demons. Instead of forcing them to his will, negotiation is necessary to get demons to sign up. The resulting conversations can often be entertaining as well as vexing, since different demons will react in different ways to the same sort of response. Occasionally demons will just volunteer their services, and other times there will be conversations between wild demons and those in your party.
Battle mechanics have improved considerably in this installment of the series, though there's still a lot of hack-and-slash involved. There's now an option for multiple attack types, following the basic slash/thrust/chop division, and Raidou's special attacks change to reflect his current sword type. My favorite attack so far conjures a giant axe, which Raidou uses in one giant, ground-pounding smash.
Having two demons in battle makes strategizing a little easier, and with large, expanded battlefields things never get cluttered outside of enemy swarm battles. Demon attacks can be pre-set, and the AI is good enough that your demon helpers won't waste too much MAG in pointless spell-casting. This is important, since all special skills now draw on the same pool of MAG. That little fact has provided me with all sorts of logistical nightmares in this game, but there are always ways to compensate.
But let's move on to the real time-waster in this game, which has padded my game-clock like nothing else, not even getting lost -- the side-jobs. There are a hundred of these things. Most of them are simple "get this item" or "give me this demon" sort of stuff, but about twenty of them are actual boss battles of one sort or another. Some are harder than others, and one features a certain demon lord whose appearance probably had to be heavily redacted before this game could have an American release.
There's a much larger complement of enemies in this game, with many more demons to battle or fuse than in the previous game. Many of them are only available after certain jobs have been done or other conditions have been met. The zombie monster type is almost completely absent from this game, which pleases me to no end, because I really got to hating those things after the first Raidou game. My hat goes off to whoever designed the freakiest bosses in the game -- metallic demon grasshoppers the size of a Greyhound bus. With rotary saws.
All in all, I've really enjoyed this game, though there have been several points where I wished the current plot thread would just finish and get things moving again. Ever since I found out that the Triangle button allows you to fast-forward through conversations, I've progressed at a much better pace. I know that sounds kind of sad, but it's not like I was understanding much of the exposition anyway.