Breaking the Habit: February 2012

Note: Due to a New Year’s resolution described here, I am restricting myself to one game purchase per month. This article is part of a series describing my monthly choices and the reasoning involved.

February’s game selection was predetermined. On June 7th, 2011, I placed a pre-order for a game that was going to be released in February. Read on to see what warranted my unnecessarily early pre-order, and to see which games I was forced to skip as a result.

Here is a list of games released in February 2012. I’d have considered Jagged Alliance: Back in Action if my Windows PC wasn’t so outdated. Excluding that and my final choice, I was only interested in two games.

BlazBlue: Continuum Shift EXTEND
Platform: Xbox 360, Playstation 3, PSVita, Arcade
Developer: Arc System Works
US Publisher: Aksys

Description: A 2D fighting game featuring fantastic hand-drawn artwork and a deep combo-heavy game system.

+ I love the 2D art style used by Arc System Works.
+ I enjoyed previous BlazBlue games.
– This is an enhanced version of a game I bought less than a year ago.
– I was still busy learning King of Fighters XIII which I bought in November.
– My local friends are no longer into fighting games.

Conclusion: The BlazBlue community will have moved on to this game, so I need to upgrade if I wish to play online. Maybe later.

Hakuoki: Demon of the Fleeting Blossom Limited Edition
Platform: PSP
Developer: Idea Factory
US Publisher: Aksys

Description: A visual novel filled with samurai, the supernatural, and some romance.

+ I’ve always been curious to try a visual novel.
+ I’m a sucker for Limited Edition artbooks.
+ I usually trust Aksys to localize and publish good games.
– I generally dislike games developed by Idea Factory.
– I’d be embarrassed to admit I’m interested in this if anybody knew what it was.
– It’s intended for a female audience. See previous point.

Conclusion: I used a loophole in my resolution and bought this for my wife as a birthday gift. She likes it so far, but I’ve been hogging the PSP lately. I’ll probably try this game at some point.

My Choice:

Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2
Platform: Nintendo DS
Developer: Atlus
US Publisher: Atlus

So, how is Devil Survivor 2? To put it simply, it’s a good tactical RPG that is very similar to Devil Survivor 1. DS2 features tactical RPG game design mixed with traditional RPG combat. As you would expect from a sequel, the game mechanics have been refined, and there is more of everything: more demons, more characters, more skills, more save slots, etc.

Compared to DS1, the story in DS2 is more character oriented. There is less focus on mysterious revelations in the plot and more on character interactions and side stories. The party tags along with a government agency chasing off some unknown threat, but I don’t feel the sense of impending doom as much as I did in the first game. The story is okay at best, but it successfully provides context for the combat scenarios.

Despite being one of the few tactical RPGs where terrain has no effect, the scenarios are well designed and have a lot of variety. Sometimes you are trying to protect a point on the map, protect people, destroy enemy spawn points, escape, assist a potential ally, or do several of these things at once, and the numerous movement-affecting abilities on your demon allies can be used in clever ways to achieve those goals.

The difficulty feels more balanced than in DS1, and the spikes are less dramatic. However, the game is still challenging and has a lot of strategic depth, so a poorly setup or poorly utilized team will be forced to grind. I am halfway through the game, haven’t done any free battles (grinding), and have only lost one scenario, but I’ve lost teammates in many battles and there have been plenty of tense moments. That is exactly what I want a first play to feel like.

How could the game be improved? Selectable difficulty options to accommodate players of various skill levels would be great. The ability to save load-outs for character skill sets would be wonderful; it is often very time-consuming to set up your party before a battle, and the expanded skill list only makes that task more cumbersome. A scoring or ranking system would also be welcome, and could increase replay value for the people who like to get the best rank in every scenario. Maybe we will see some of these additions in a sequel.

That’s about all I want to say, but here is a full review if you want more than a quick look and comparison. Devil Survivor 2 is an overall improvement and the story is stand-alone, so I would recommend this game to any experienced gamer who wants a tactical RPG for their DS or 3DS.

2 thoughts on “Breaking the Habit: February 2012

  1. We’ve spoken of my frustrations with Devil Survivor, but I like what you’ve said here. We do have DS2. I will give it some thought.
    But really, don’t miss out on Hakuoki. It is amazing, and really not as ‘female-centric’ as people think it is (aside from maybe the Harada storyline, he’s a romantic). Most people who enjoyed Rurouni Kenshin should enjoy Hakuoki. It’s very well written and entertaining.

    • You might appreciate that DS2 has a system similar to Persona where you Rank Up with different characters for watching their event scenes, and you gain bonuses from doing so. New fuseable demons, elemental resistances, etc. Perhaps the best of these bonuses is the Joint Skill Crack ability which awards the skill if the assigned character or their skill-cracking-buddy defeats the designated monster. Really smooths over a rough spot in DS without eliminating the need for player strategy.

      Regarding Hakuouki, I like to believe that my resolution to buy fewer games will leave me with enough time to play it someday. Comparing it to Rurouni Kenshin works in it’s favor, but you already knew that if your memory is good.

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