Digital Devil Saga
is one of those games that feels like I should have been playing it years ago. The
Persona games that were on the PS1 were a taste of what was to come, so if you enjoyed
those then without a doubt you would enjoy Digital Devil Saga. It’s got a very
basic battle system, a great story, and some surprisingly stellar voice acting.
The games are also major time sinks, each story arc taking at least 40 hours to
complete, and then there is quite a large amount of hidden stuff in the game
that makes it worth exploring completely. I haven’t been this compelled to
complete a game entirely since Final Fantasy X.
Digital Devil Saga
starts in a place called The Junkyard, where tribes of people are at a constant
state of war. You assume the role of a leader of the Embryon, Serph as you try
to figure out why the people of the Junkyard have started to turn into demons
and devour each other. All of this will lead to the goal of each tribe, to
reach Nirvana and escape The Junkyard. The first game is a little bit light on
the story, but when you start the second game the story really takes off and
will make you want to continue through the game as you discover that Nirvana
isn’t everything it was cracked up to be.
While Nirvana may not be the greatest thing in the game,
there are a lot of things that do make the game great. First of all this game
is very easy on the eyes, the use of color is very simplistic and drab to
reflect the actual situation of the game, it’s a very dark and somber place The
Junkyard is, with rain clouds always above. Sometimes the game look like it
relied on gourad shading techniques, but the character models, enemy models,
and locales are all very good looking. Granted it’s not going to win any
accolades in terms of graphics, but it’s a game that can be appreciated in its
Music is also on the simplistic side as well, with rock
tunes being the order of the day. Though I must say the music for battles in
the first game doesn’t seem all that interesting, but the second games music is
exponentially better, since it gives you a sense of urgency in your battles,
because really, each of the battles in the game is a fight for your life since
the tables can turn literally on a moments notice.
This game is notoriously difficult, which is keeping this
game from scoring higher. Towards the end of the first game I found myself
massively under-powered for the final boss and had to spend about another 10
hours farming for levels, but it was also during that time that I found a large
number of secrets the game was hiding from me which made the final boss a
cake-walk. So it really pays off to explore. The battle system also heavily
encourages playing on your enemies weaknesses, as it will give you extra turns
Random encounters will run you into groups of enemies. Battles
are on a turn based system. Each side is given a point for each member of the team;
your team is given a static three points. Each action from a player uses a
point, or you can pass a turn. Or if you’re really savvy on your opponent’s
weaknesses you can exploit them to get more points. Land a critical hit and
you’ll earn another point. If you’re really good, you can scare your opponents
by using their weaknesses or repelling their attacks. This will give you the
prime opportunity to devour them. I forgot to mention that Serph and his crew
are also able to turn into demons. This happens for every battle but every now
and again you may get surprised and have to start the battle in human form.
It’s a functionally sound battle system that just has a bit of tuning issues to
it. For one, enemies are very keen on your weaknesses and they don’t have a
problem exploiting them. So if you’re not going into every fight like it’s a
boss battle then you are going to have a hard time. I really cannot count the
number of times where I ran around not at full health only to get stomped when
the enemy landed a critical hit on me and used it to get some extra turns.
Fortunately it is very easy to reverse the attacks against and is essential to
survival, each of the characters has a realm that they specialize in and can
earn a skill that reflects a specific element.
Remember the grid system in Final Fantasy X? Remember how
stupidly difficult it was to navigate that grid sometimes? Well confusion be
damned with Digital Devil Saga. As
you defeat monsters you earn macca which the currency in the game. At every
save point you can select a new discipline to learn, want the main character to
be a healer, you can do that. Each time you want to start a new discipline then
you just head to the start of the grid. You will learn new skills by acquiring
atma, which is done at the end of every battle. You can acquire it at an accelerated
rate by devouring your enemies. There are a number of skills that allow you to
devour your enemies, some have a higher success rate than others, but you’ll
always want to devour them when they are frightened. You’ll figure that out as
you play the game.
Like I’ve said before these games are difficult, and the
game doesn’t cut you any slack during the transition between Digital Devil Saga 1 and Digital Devil Saga 2, you will have to
relearn all your skills, and re-level. Which is a big stinker when you consider
a game like .Hack allowed you to carry over all of your stats and items. Digital Devil Saga has a few story elements that pertain to how
you respond to specific situations, but it’s not anything absolutely major.
This little end-game gripe and the difficulty are the only things I think keep this
game from getting a higher score. Everything else in the game is fantastic,
music, story, battles, all of these things combine to make for an epic
Digital Devil Saga is one of the standout RPGs in a year
without a Final Fantasy. If you picked up the first Digital Devil Saga earlier
this year then for completion of the story alone you must get your hands on the
second title. You will not be disappointed.
One of the standout RPG's for the year, if you like Final Fantasy style RPG's you need to own both of these titles.