Saturday, September 18, 2010
Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga 1 - First Impressions
Having played countless JRPGs in my life, I'm always on the lookout for something new and interesting to add to the list. Only recently did I start playing some of the Atlas RPGs for the Playstation 2. I started and finished Persona 3 FES a while back, and I can admit to having dumped many all-nighters into it trying to do everything I wanted to the first time through. I bring this up, because I feel it is relevant to Digital Devil Saga in the way that from what little I've played, they share similarities.
Persona 3 struck me as an odd looking game when I first started it. It seemed very underdesigned graphically. I don't mean to say I MUST have great graphics, I just thought there was an unfamiliar softness to the models, and the details put into all of them. This is carried on into Digital Devil Saga, but with much more complex looking characters. Being taller, more anatomical, but still having that soft cartoonish look about them. Honestly, I can say I like it, but at first they clashed badly with the dark environments around them. Aside from that the graphics in the game are decent, the enemies, NPCs and Environments all seem to have had a good bit of thought put into them. Some enemies seem to be recycled from the Persona 3 models which gives the game a more familiar feel to it rather than hurting anything.
Gameplay is somewhat trickier, but a lot more stable than I would have expected from this game. The protaganist moves fast and fluidly, sometimes outdoing the requirements of camera angles/speeds, or narrow rooms. The menus are all pretty basic, and players of other PS2 JRPGs should easily be able to wrap their heads around them from the very beginning. Many aspects of other shin megami tensei titles reoccur however, which could probably cause confusion to people unfamiliar with them. Good examples would be Agi, Dia, Bufu and the like.
Your party in this game consists of 3 active units. Upon entry to battle they are each in a Demon form, and must be manually changed into humans at the cost of a turn if that's what you wish to play as. I can't see any benefit so far from NOT being a demon, but I'm sure there will eventually be some explanation as to why you might wish to change.
Interesting things about the mechanics in this game are the ways your characters level up. You have 2 Exp bars at the end of battle, one unique and growing at a different rate than the main. The standard EXP bar of course, dictates when your character goes up in level, and stats are increased. I noticed so far, that you are only able to fully manipulate the stats of the protaganist, being allotted 3 bonus stats per level to spend as you please. Other characters however, seem to get random stat bonuses per level. The second bar, determines when your characters develop new skills. I have only had this happen twice in the hour or so that I've played. When your character earns new skills, you must manually set them in a list of 4 possible skills for use in battle via the main menu.
The sound in this game is so far, pretty average. Like all Atlus titles I've played, the music is good, and that is a plus. So far it's been entirely instrumental, being variations of electric guitar leads. I haven't been able to hear enough of them speak to make a real judgment on voice acting and dialogue, but right now I want to say it seems very stiff and unreal. The dubs so far are alright with the exception of Steve fucking Blum being a main character. I don't know how this guy keeps getting work as a voice actor, but I honestly can't stand him at all. He has almost no personality to him, and you have my word that if it can be efficiently done, I will never use his character.
Sadly that's all I can say. These are after all, only my first impressions. I'm pretty sure that I've gone no further than an official demo copy would have allowed, so there isn't much to go on right now. But for a bit of a final scoring I'd have to give these ratings.
Story N/A (would be entirely unfair to rate)