LET it be known that by now Atlus knows what its fans want. The developer who gave us the popular Persona and Shin Megami Tensei series is back and hoping that the revival of their 1997 game, Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers can the new Soul Hackers 2 cut it in 2022.
Originally released only in Japan for the Sega Saturn and later ported to the PlayStation in 1999, it wasn’t until 2013 that western regions experienced the Soul Hackers series when it was released onto the Nintendo 3DS, initially a spin off for the Devil Summoner series. All of the JRPG games are spins offs for the Shin Megami Tensei series and feature the same demons that the previously named and Persona series which is perhaps its most well known title nowadays. But what sets Soul Hackers 2 apart?
Well, we are no longer in High School any more. Soul Hackers 2 is set in the far future and with bright neon lights, the city is popping with bright and fantastic colours that make it a joy to explore.
You play the game as Ringo, a higher form of AI being and an agent of Aion, who served the purpose of stopping an apocalypse by saving a Devil Summoner known only as Arrow, who is an agent of the warring Devil Summoner faction Yatagarasu who are at odds with the Phantom Society. Ringo herself has been downgraded with her companion Figue to a human so they may infiltrate the world undetected and intervene.
When you arrive at the scene to prevent Arrow’s death, you realise that you have found him too late, end of the game! (I’m joking of course) It is here that Ringo feels she must use all her powers to complete her task to save the end of the world by ‘Soul Hacking’ Arrow’s dead body to bring him back to life. As this occurs she delves deep into the psyche and relives their final moments and gets a glimpse of the actions that lead to what had just transpired.
After the resurrection, it is here that Ringo gains the devil summoners powers, able to make deals with demons to bring them along and aid in their battles ahead. The story then progresses and you need to save a further two more devil summoners to aid you in your cause.
It is from here that the map will open up and allow you to visit Ringo and Figues place of origin, the Aion. This is the computer digital world where you can expand on your new companions, Arrow, Milady and Saizo’s bonds. Since you ‘Hacked’ them, the bond between yourselves grow through a labyrinth of personal dungeons, expanding the individual stories of each character. These obviously serve their purposes in the overarching stories and can be a bit of relief for the fans out there that just want to grind and grow their ‘COMPS’ to make greater demons.
It is here where franchise veterans of Persona and Shin Megami Tensei will feel at home. Initially, you will just have a hangout area where you can rest and cook recipes of food dishes you find along the way but it is at the bar where you will deepen your ‘Soul Matrix’ with each of the characters over long talks and many beers. You can also purchase meals to take back to your hideout to buff your stats before you go out on missions.
As the story progresses you will dig deeper into the ongoing feud between the Phantom Society and Yatagarasu realising that the leader of the Phantom Society ‘Iron Mask’ is well aware of this doomsday plot and wants to help it come to fruition. So obviously, he has to be stopped, right?
These missions open up the map further and along the way there are many side quests to take on for money and items required to upgrade your weapons. These require a bit of sleuthing as it will not tell you right away where you need to go as you will need to discuss these with the civilians scattered across the map and require reading the updates to help you pinpoint where it is you need to go.
Soul Hackers 2 features deep customisation as any standard affair that you would be used to in an Atlus title that has spun off from the original Shin Megami Tensei so long time fans will feel right at home. Battles take place with random enemies and bosses, where your team of four will fight other demons. As you take turns in battling, it’s turn based, after all, you will find out who has weaknesses and as you find these, you can stack up to give one last final blow to the round to hopefully take down your enemies.
It is in this respect that there is a certain level of strategy required per battle. Once you know their weaknesses, you will remember them for the next battles. These will include, fire, ice, lightning, poison and standard weapon attacks to mention most. These will all use up MP from your meter so make sure to have some items to replenish these on hand for the bigger dungeons.
While there are way too many demons throughout the game to mention, long time fans will notice them all immediately, starting with the lower level demons such as Fairy, Tsuchigumo and Dormath, as you progress through the dungeons you will acquire many more than being able to visit Victor at the circus to fuse them into more powerful demons such as Jack O’ Frost Sandman and Apsaras. All being tied to their types like fairys, femme and elements. Once they are in your compendium of demons you will be able to purchase them or just gather more to be able to fuse them again to be more powerful.
Voice acting within the game is really good, I’ve always found in previous spin off’s of the series that there has always been one or two annoying characters and in a game where you spend most of your time speaking, it was refreshing to have such great voice talent and characters to speak to throughout the games lengthy campaign.
Lengthy it is but still remains fun throughout, if your battling demons that are not really worth your time if you are too overpowered, you can simply attack them, knocking them down and skip them entirely, leaving you to focus on the main goal of reaching the end of the dungeon as defeating these enemies will only reward you with items and money, you can’t unlock more demons from that battle, this is achieved by finding many friendly demons throughout the dungeon of whom you can gain the services of for money or HP (health points) this definitely assisted with removing the grind from previous games of having to battle to acquire more demons to your cause.
There is a lot to this game and can definitely serve as a light introduction to any Xbox fans out there finally getting their hands on the incoming release of the Persona series that will be gradually releasing over the next year or so. Atlus has crafted an amazing futuristic Japanese Metropolis brimming with bright colours and fun and likable characters; this game comes recommended to lovers of previous games in the Atlus back catalogue and new fans alike.