Saturday, March 3, 2012

Review: Devil Survivor Overclocked (3DS)

Demonic Pokemon. Demonic eBay. Deceptively deep and devilishly hard.

Overclocked's cover. Image from NintendoLife.
Devil Survivor Overclocked is not a sequel to 2009's Devil Survivor. It is not a remake. It is not a traditional RPG, nor is it a DS game. What it is is an enhanced port of the original game to the Nintendo 3DS, using the same graphical style and plot while adding multiple elements, the most notable being full voice-acting and a playable "8th Day" epilogue to multiple endings. Read on for the review...

Overclocked takes place in modern-day Tokyo, on a perfectly ordinary day. The unnamed teenage protagonist and his friends are contacted by his cousin Naoya, asking to meet up. When they do, they are given Communication Players (COMPs for short), multimedia devices shaped like 3DSs. However; theirs are altered: on the protagonists' COMPs is a "Demon Summoning Program". From there, the protagonists are caught up in a week-long lockdown of Tokyo, fighting demons, humans, and more to survive and find a way out of the lockdown.

The plot is excellent. Don't let the brightly-coloured anime aesthetics fool you: Overclocked is anything but cheerful. Humans' responses to crises are examined here, from those who gather in shelter to those who take advantage of chaos to those who panic and attack indiscriminately. The game eventually brings in religious elements, and while they aren't preachy--it does not promote religion--easily-offended players may want to stay away.

The characters' reactions to the Tokyo Lockdown are realistic,
and the game handles humans in crisis quite well.
Image from NintendoLife.
Spoiling as little as possible, I will say that the presentation of the games' ending was somewhat disappointing. The multiple endings are determined by the characters you side with; the route I took was Naoya's. Up through the final boss, the plot was utterly fascinating, a great study of humans in crisis and moral dilemmas. Once I beat the first seven days, however, I could not help but feel let down due to Atlus, the game's developers, resorting to an exposition dump, which was rather unusual for them. Don't let this turn you away from the game, though; the rest of it's a wild ride. The 8th Day for Naoya's route alleviated some of my disappointment, and though I haven't played through it, I've read that the one for Yuzu's route is also excellent.

The characters range from annoying to rather grounded, and while I can't say that any of them felt like my friends by the end of the game, I didn't particularly dislike any of them. Each of them bring something new to the table, from the protagonist's mysterious cousin Naoya to the cosplay fanatic Midori to the amateur hacker Atsuro. Every character in Overclocked has something at stake besides their own lives, and none of them feel extraneous.

Overclocked features voice acting for every line in the game, so much so that Atlus was worried they wouldn't be able to fit the game on the card. It ranges from mediocre to excellent, but overall it really brings more life to the characters and I'm glad they put it in. One character in particular is especially grating, although her personality is supposed to be. Demons are not voiced, however; when their speech is shown on-screen, it is accompanied by various sound effects, from chuckles to groans to roars.

The music in Overclocked generally tends toward rock-styled tracks, the game's main combat theme a frenetic cacophony of guitar chords. The majority of the game's music is less uptempo, and unfortunately, most of it is rather unmemorable. It suits the game, but there was nothing I would listen to outside of playing, unlike other games in the franchise.

The game's graphics tend to err on the more simplistic side. Character portraits are expressive, but their sprites in events are small and undetailed, though not ugly by any means. Demons during battle are not animated beyond a slight shake when hit, which makes for some dull-looking combat; the system is enjoyable enough to make up for it, but it's still a slight disappointment. 3D is used exclusively in the game's intro and fusion screens, so if you're looking for abundant three-dimensional graphics, Overclocked is not your game.

Battles take place on the lower screen,
with the top reserved for demon stats.
Image from TinyCartridge.

The game progresses in 30-minute increments through a menu; any plot-related event takes up time, although there are areas in which one can freely battle to grind for macca--the game's currency--or experience. Multiple events are available at any given moment, and choosing to interact with one character over another could cause players to allow another character's death. The game lends itself well to multiple playthroughs because of this, and for those who are only interested in seeing the different endings, Overclocked has three save slots. Keep in mind, however, that choices during the game may affect which endings are available.

The combat is a hybrid of strategy RPGs and traditional turn-based ones. Players start each battle by choosing their teams and selecting positions for each character, then proceed to move in turns around a grid-based battlefield. When the option to attack an enemy is selected, the perspective shifts into a first-person turn-based battle, similar to Dragon Quest. Exploiting an enemy's weakness will give the player an "Extra Turn", which allows them a second action after the initial skirmish.

Enemy teams generally consist of three units: two demons and a Demon Tamer, or just three demons. Defeating all three enemies in one team nets players the most experience, though killing just the central enemy removes the team from the map and gives that character half the experience of the entire team.

Players can buy and fuse a wide
variety of demons. Image from TinyCartridge.
Enemy teams are not the only ones that have more than one character: every player-controlled team has two demons and one human leader. Demos can be gained through the Demon Auction--think demonic eBay--or through Demon Fusion, which is rather self-explanatory: two demons can be fused together to make a new, generally stronger demon. Upon doing so, players can determine which skills of its parents a demon can inherit, including passive skills to change resistances or increase damage, as well as active skills: spells and physical attacks. Different demons have different innate resistances to the types of attacks in Overclocked, and each demon race has its own special ability, whether it is to move across the map faster, ignore any battlefield obstacles, or heal others.

The game is surprisingly deep when it comes to gameplay. Fusing demons together to create new ones seems rather straightforward, as does the hybrid strategy/turn-based gameplay, but bring a demon with the wrong resistances or abilities and the entire battle can go south. Strategy is essential in Overclocked, and it makes for quite the hard game. If a challenge scares you, this game might be something to avoid although the majority of the story is fantastic; I played it on Easy mode, myself, after getting stuck in the original Devil Survivor, and I still had a hard time in multiple fights. It provides a great sense of accomplishment when one finishes a particularly tough battle, but some may think the difficulty is a little too much.

Devil Survivor Overclocked is definitely a game I'd recommend to RPG fans, even if they dislike strategy RPGs. The story is excellent, the gameplay challenging but rewarding, and the voice acting lends quite a bit to the characters. With multiple endings, several with playable epilogues, the game will last you quite a while. A single playthrough on Naoya's route, after the 8th Day denouement, took me approximately 36 hours.

-Engaging plot that explores human morality and beliefs
-Challenging gameplay that requires lots of strategy
-8th Day and voice acting add quite a bit for players of the original

-Presentation of the ending is a slight let-down
-Combat can be too challenging at times
-Voice acting is hit-or-miss

Play it if: you enjoyed the original Devil Survivor and want to hear characters' voices and get a bit more to the story, or if you're a fan of RPGs with heavier plots.

Overclocked belongs to the overarching Shin Megami Tensei franchise; in North America, the game is officially titled Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor Overclocked, but the "Shin Megami Tensei" title has been omitted from this review for brevity.

The game was completed on Easy mode taking Naoya's route through the 8th Day.


  1. I only played the DS version, without the 8th day and also went for Naoya's ending. I actually wanted to play through all routes, but after seeing that one ending I was so massively disappointed that I didn't touch the game again.

    I very much enjoy Devil Survivor 2 tho, I'm only on the 2nd day so far, but I like the game a lot more than the first already. I feel more connected to the characters, and while some of them seemed annoying at first, I started to warm up to them soon. :)