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 simplicity.
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 in battle.
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 experience.
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.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.
In a past life I worked with Interplay, EA, Harmonix, Konami, and a number of other developers. Now I'm working for a record label, a small arm of casual games in a media company along with Gaming Nexus, and anywhere else that sees fit to employ me.