The Shin Megami Tensei series has a couple of themes that are usually characteristic of every release - demon recruiting, relationship building, dungeon exploring, and characters with impeccable fashion sense. Besides the Persona spinoff games, the Devil Summoner titles feature those very same elements for JRPG heads such as myself. It was quite the shock when the followup to Devil Summoners: Soul Hackers got announced - most folks (including me) figured the next Persona game would have already been made official during that game's proclamation. After getting the chance to hop into this brand new JRPG romp, I'm glad that this shocker of a release is an actual reality. Now let's delve a bit deeper into my Soul Hackers 2 review.
'Soul Hackers 2' Review
'Soul Hackers 2' Review
The premise for Soul Hackers 2 starts off on a pretty impactful note. As the embodiment of advanced computer intelligence, you enter the human world with a vast mission entrusted to you and your fellow "Aion" teammate - prevent the impending apocalypse and the end of civilization as you know it. As soon as you step foot into the human realm, you find out you're too late to save someone whose survival is crucial to that arduous task. Thanks to the supernatural abilities tied to your character, you use your powers to revive your future party member. That hot start then opens you up to a plotline full of warring demon summoner factions, surprising revelations about your closest mates, and a bunch of other astonishing reveals that offer great payoffs for sticking with this game all the way through.
To be quite honest, I got way more satisfaction out of all the character interaction moments that come from Soul Hackers 2's social simulation mechanics. I always looked forward to having a deep convo with my buddies at the bar and exploring their inner consciousness to learn even more about everything that makes them tick. The benefits that come from deepening your bonds with each party member are many - new subplots become available, new abilities unlock for everyone, and more floors become explorable within each character's mental dungeon space. Players will get immense satisfaction from all the memorable moments that bring them closer to their three closest allies.
I have to hand it to Soul Hackers 2 - there's a respectable amount of drip attached to all its leading players. On a visual level, you'll get a lot just from soaking up all the cool designs attached to the protagonists and antagonists you'll come across during this game's lengthy adventure. While the overall presentation here isn't as mindblowing as Persona 5's, there's still a great number of eye-popping character designs and scenery to bask in. The varied explorable hubs that split up Soul Hackers 2's world all look striking enough and the jazzy/rock tunes that accompany your travels become immensely catchy as time goes on. My only complaint that's aimed at this game's art design is the drab dungeons you'll find yourself in more often than not. All of them have a central theme, such as an abandoned train station or grid-based expanse, that they stick to much too closely without offering something different to freshen up each landscape. The uninspired designs of each dungeon look so dead regular in comparison to everything else that looks like a lot more love and care were put into their visual arrangements.
To the surprise of no one, Soul Hackers 2's strongest features come in the form of its demon collecting and battling segments. The same sense of euphoria that comes from capturing a rare Pokémon is the same feeling I always got from strengthening my loyal demons and fusing them to create even more powerful recruits. This JRPG's many systems coincide with building out your army of demons - characters gain the ability to acquire new status buffs from the equippable gifts provided by leveled-up demons, for example. Mixing and matching up each party member with assorted demons becomes an addictive activity as you look to build a varied party that has a higher chance of targeting the weakness of every foe they face. And as your human mates grow stronger, so too does the selection of demons you can bring with you into battle.
When it does come time to head into combat, Soul Hackers 2 shines bright. The familiar mechanics that have made playing Shin Megami Tensei and Persona so hard to put down are here in fine form here. The cycle of successfully targeting an enemy's weak point and gathering up enough demons to pull off this game's version of an "All-Out Attack" always satisfies. As the game lingers on, you'll get introduced to exciting new features that keep the combat from growing tiresome. Just make sure you're prepared to do a whole lot of EXP farming - the boss encounters you'll come across in this game are certainly tough conflicts to overcome. Thankfully, exploring each dungeon thoroughly, getting extra aid from your demons while you run around each one, and widening your repertoire to stand a chance against each big boss never feel like annoying chores.
Soul Hackers 2 is one of those JRPGs that hit you extra hard as soon as it kicks off and keeps you tuned in as you dive deeper into the fashion-forward world that this game abides by. The plotline is captivating and the personal relationships you'll explore are fascinating. And on the combat side of things, there's so much to love about all the demons you'll bring to your side and mash together to create entirely new allies that'll quickly become your favorites. The turn-based action that unfolds during each battle offers enough attributes that manage to keep things interesting hours after you've learned all the basics. While the uninspired dungeon designs left me dismayed, my mood was lifted as soon as I got back to the outside world to see this game at its graphical best. Trust me when I tell you - this JRPG is worth the long time investment it asks of you. And that ladies and gentlemen is my Soul Hackers 2 review.