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Digital Devil Saga
Platform: PS2
Publisher: Atlus
Developer: Atlus R&D1
Genre: Turn-Based RPG
Format: DVD-ROM
Release: US Summer 2005
Japan 1/27/05



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A different looking Serph...
 
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Uh, hey, what's up?
 
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Ooh, flare effects!
 
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The new skill grid?
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Mark Tjan
First Look Preview
04/05/05
Mark Tjan
Editor's Note: As Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga 2 is a direct sequel, there are slight story spoilers in this preview.

A Brief History of the Saga

The macabre has been a genre largely untouched by the RPG industry. Relatively few RPG titles exist which pay tribute to horror, in contrast to the more populous action oriented titles such as Resident Evil and Silent Hill. But one developer in particular has, for a number of years, been serving up one tale of the dark occult after the other: Atlus. Spearheading their titles is Shin Megami Tensei, which began as a project by Namco but was later bought by Atlus and refined into the product North American and European fans have only recently enjoyed. The games often deal with moral ambiguity, open-ended choices as to how a character will develop, and artistic direction which can only be described as alien.

It is in this same vein that Atlus presented Digital Devil Saga, just this month to American audiences. Now, hot on the heels of the original comes a sequel, Digital Devil Saga 2, continuing the story of the protagonist Serph and his eccentric companions.

Digital Devil Saga began with Serph and company in a place called the Junkyard. The group went on a quest through this dismal realm in an attempt to reach Nirvana, a proverbial Promised Land. Junkyard itself was little more than a wasteland city, in which tribes of youth fought with each other for supremacy. Like many others, Serph - leader of the Embryon tribe - sought to reach the pure heights of Nirvana and escape the dismal city below.

With this second installment, players find that Serph did in fact reach Nirvana, but something went wrong. All the inhabitants of this paradise have been petrified, and now the protagonist group must uncover the mystery behind this phenomenon.

And Now, the Show

The graphics in this sequel have remained largely unchanged from the first game. This should come as little surprise since the two titles have been released so close to one another, but by no means is that a bad thing. DDSII features a smooth, airbrushed look to its shading which creates the illusion of cel-shading without the hard black line around everything. This is perhaps the closest Atlus has ever come to recreating the designs of series artist Kazuma Kaneko in the 3D realm, which suffice to say, is no small feat.

Kazuma Kaneko has been the series artist for almost all of Atlus' Megami Tensei games, sporting a minimalist, avant-garde style. With lots of pastel colors offseting characters' hair and accessories in sharp contrast to their darker outfits, the entire ensemble resembles a Parisian fashion show. It's a unique look that can't be found anywhere outside of Atlus' celebrations of the bizarre.

As with the SMT series, DDSII continues the fine tradition of invoking supernatural beings to aid you. In most of the SMT series, players were given the option to bargain and discuss terms with their enemies during battle. In DDS and DDSII however, players have an alter ego to develop, similar to the system used in the Megami Tensei side-story series, Persona.

This alter ego is developed using the "Mantra Flow" system (MFS); a system which has changed fairly dramatically from the first game. In DDS, the MFS worked akin to Final Fantasy X's "Sphere Grid." This time however, the MFS is arranged as a series of hexagonal squares allowing players to choose whatever path they wish to develop their powers on, rather than following a fixed route. Proceeding across the MFS requires the use of points earned in battle. Once enough points have been acquired, new talents can be learned and the alter ego strengthened.

Sadly, there's very little to be said for the game's musical score. The original DDS sports Etro Anime as a feature group performing its opening theme "Dangerous," but DDSII has no musical composers that have been publicly listed yet. The same applies to the vocal talent.

A Final Word of Things to Come

Digital Devil Saga II is set for a summer release in North America, swiftly following the original, which was released April 5. Featuring Atlus' trademark dabbling with the occult and bizarre stylization, the game will come just in time for the summer heat. If players can get away from the outdoors for a moment, there will be a profound, lengthy treat waiting for them.



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© 2005 Atlus.
All Rights Reserved.



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