2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
A good introduction to the complex world of MegaTen,
This review is from: Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga (PS2) (Video Game)
DDS is one of several games in the Shin Megami Tensei series (or MegaTen for short) which have made it to the UK in the past few years. They are all fairly hardcore RPGs, so someone who struggles to cope with the comparatively simple gameplay of the likes of Final Fantasy might find themselves a little out of their depth to begin with. This game is well worth persevering with however. The first PS2 MegaTen game to arrive in the UK was Lucifer's Call, AKA Nocturne which I started and found extremely difficult and frustrating. This initially put me off DDS, but I needn't have worried because the difficulty and complexity of this game is not as high.
The other reviews go into a lot of detail about the storyline and characters so I won't repeat those except to say that both are a strong-point for this RPG and the themes are quite a lot darker and more adult than most games. Digital Devil Saga is the first in a 2 part series which means that you won't get a complete plot experience, but the story and characters are strong enough that you would probably want to play the sequel and see how everything resolves.
Graphically, this game looks pretty good for its age and the design of the various demons and monsters is both original and memorable. Many will be familiar to people who have played other games in the series and a lot of the enemies are taken from various religions and mythologies around the world. The cut-scenes are well-spaced out and exciting enough and the voice acting is excellent throughout. Musically, the game is outstanding, with several really memorable themes. At first it might seem that the music doesn't really fit with the graphical design of the game, but you soon get used to it and it grows on you quickly. Some special editions of the game came packaged with a soundtrack CD and this is worth getting hold of if you can find it cheap enough. (The sequel also has this.)
Gameplay is the most important thing about any game and with an RPG, it's all about the combat system. DDS and most MegaTen games use a traditional turn-based system with a twist. Basically, every character and enemy in the game has strengths and weaknesses, whether elemental (eg fire or ice) or status-based (eg poison). If you attack an enemy with something they don't like, you can get an extra turn. If you attack with something they are strong against, you will lose some or all of your turns so the trick is to find an enemy's weakness as soon as possible and keep exploiting it. Of course, your enemies can do exactly the same to you so you can find yourself sitting there being repeatedly attacked by an enemy who is chaining together attacks by exploiting your weaknesses.
To develop your character and learn abilities at an advanced rate, you can use the Devour attack to get a large number of development points so this is something else to bear in mind in combat. The development of stats and abilities is fairly open-ended which means you can tailor your party as you wish, although each character does have a loosely pre-defined role as a fighter or magic caster.
The combat system keeps you thinking and paying attention and no two battles are the same. This is just as well because the random encounter rate for this game is ridiculously high. In some areas you can literally take 2 steps and be flung into another battle which can make progress slow and frustrating at times. It has to be seen to be believed. This is a shame because it will probably put a lot of people off the game. I don't know why it has to be so high, unless it is an attempt by the developers to artificially prolong the lifetime of the game.
The game will last you quite a long time, depending how much attention you pay to upgrading your characters and finding all the secrets, but it isn't excessive for an RPG. You are probably looking at 25 hours if you race through and nearer 50 if you really take your time. Some of the bosses are tricky but once you figure out a strategy they can all be beaten. They are nowhere near as cheap and difficult as some of the ones in Nocturne.
Overall, this game would make a good and fairly gentle introduction to the weird and wonderful world of MegaTen and I would recommend it to seasoned RPG players, but probably not to someone who has never played a game of this genre before.