Fun with demons

I recently picked up a used copy of the Devil Summoner: Raidou Kuzunoha vs. King Abaddon, a Shin Megami Tensei spinoff action-RPG. While the title may be hilariously long, it’s definitely the most mindless fun I’ve ever had with an SMT game. I’ve never played the first title in the series (Raidou Kuzunoha vs. The Soulless Army), but I am sure that this is a tremendous improvement, if only because my two favorite parts of this game’s battle system were apparently not present in the first game.

[[image:cg_raidouabadon.jpg:Apparently, demon summoning detectives in 1930s Japan loved eyeliner.:center:0]]
One of these presumable improvements is the way the battle system manages the use and replenishment of MAG points, which keeps the combat brisk and full of options. Like most SMT games, attacking your enemies’ weak point is practically required to get through even random battles, and Raidou Kuzunoha vs. King Abaddon gives even greater rewards for doing so than normal. When an enemy is hit by an element they are weak against, not only are they stunned, but following up with successive physical attacks will then replenish your MAG. This essentially means that your most powerful attacks restore rather than diminish your MAG supply. While this system is obviously tilted heavily in the player’s favor and might ruin a turn based RPG with a greater focus on resource management, in an action-RPG the ability to easily restore MAG keeps random encounters from becoming a button-mashing chore by widening the possibilities of combat.

This MAG restoration system also encourages coordination with your AI controlled party members. In this game, you directly control the game’s main character and can summon up to two demons to support you at any time. Raidou’s combat options are fairly limited; he can only swing a sword, fire a gun, dodge, or block. On the other hand, the abilities of your demon parties members are basically limitless due the SMT series’ expansive demon fusion system. However, while you can issues specific commands to your demons (along the lines of “attack enemy X with spell Y”), you cannot control them directly, meaning that you will need to assist them to make sure they do not miss an attack and waste your shared pool of MAG. A typical maneuver in battle, for example, is to command a demon to attack an enemy’s weak point, fire your gun to stun the target enemy just before the spell goes off to ensure a hit, then rush in to follow up with physical attacks with your sword to reap MAG rewards. The battle gives you enough control over your party members to not be frustrating, but limits you just enough to create an enjoyable rhythm, keeping the game’s numerous random encounters interesting.

The other great new aspect of the game is the fully-developed demon conversation system. While the amount of random encounters in high, I find myself spending more battles negotiating than fighting. The correct answers conversation trees are random, meaning that you will fail at conversations with demons you’ve spoken to multiple times, but the game balances this by allowing you to choose one of your two active party members to support you. If, for example, you make a Lamia angry with a poorly chosen phrase, you can send in Tam Lin to flirt with her until she calms down.

The rewards for successful demon conversations are high in the form of rare items or new demon party members. New party members are especially useful even if you don’t like their abilities for two reasons. One, like in all SMT games, it’s always good to have a wide variety of ingredients for demon fusion. Two, just having a demon in your reserve party is sometimes enough to instantly end a random battle. It’s a pleasant surpise to enter into a random battle and be instantly cured by a demon who sees you travelling with their friend instead of going through with the fight. The high frequency of demon conversation not only keeps random battles from becoming dull, it makes actual combat in random encounters scarce enough that I am almost always excited for the next actual battle.

While there is no official confirmation, signs seem to indicate that Atlus will localize this game. I’m probably only a third of the way through, but at this point I would strongly recommend Raidou Kuzunoha vs. King Abaddon both to SMT fans and anyone interested in the SMT universe who is put off by their reputation for being incredibly difficult.

6 thoughts on “Fun with demons

  1. RKvTSA was a swing and a miss for me, but I’ve still got my copy and will eventually pick it back up.

    But this? This sounds wonderful.

  2. I’m intrigued. I didn’t play more than a couple hours of RKvTSA before I shelved it but that sounds like a solid game.

  3. The new battle system sounds pretty classy, but the part that really appeals to me and makes me actually excited for it is demon negotiation. It’s a major part of the franchise, of course, but Nocturne was the first game to really “get” it, since it was so repetitive in the older games (though hilarious in the PS1 Personas). The amount of variety and randomness felt just right, and the whole thing was made even better by giving demons assisting conversational skills.

  4. The encounter rate is high, but battles are brisk and unlike the the first game (or so I hear) there are areas without enemy encounters.

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