Devil Summoner Soul Hackers is a 3DS port from the Japanese exclusive Soul Hackers from the PS1 and Sega Saturn and it is the latest instalment of the Devil Summoner franchise. The control system has been improved and the user interface tweaked to accommodate the 3DS. Other technical improvements are quicker loading times and better animation. Devil Summoner is a mystery and thriller centric game. In addition to the occult themes and supernatural elements, cyberpunk aesthetics is a noted addition. The Devil Summoner games are also notable for its unique take on the demon human relationship.
The game is set in Amami City, an internet connected city in Japan where many technological marvels have been introduced. You play as a hacker affiliated with the group The Spookies, who illegally signs up to take part in Paradim X which is a reminiscent of late 90s, internet especially underground forums.
The Phantom society that was introduced in the first Devil Summoner game plays a more central role in Soul Hackers. They are the illuminati like group that controls Japan with their main goal being world domination. The Spookies find out some very unusual information when a mysterious native god appears. There is a strong sense of paranoia and feel of underground culture as expected from a cyberpunk especially one from the 90s.
The combat for a turn-based game is very fast paced. You can set it in auto combat mode and decide what kind of commands you would like your party to execute. You can negotiate with enemies and have them give you either their services or an item. The phases of the moon could influence whether the demons would attack you or join you. You can have up to 6 party members at a time while in combat but that will take up a lot of magnetite everywhere you go in dungeons. The 3DS version adds in 30 new demons that were not in the original. You could change the difficulty unlike in the original game and it's also an easy game, perfect for newcomers.
You can mod your pc to add stuff in the game like being able to save anywhere, show the map, enemy encounter rate, and add the fusion search on the go. But in reality, this stuff is very practical that should have been added from the get go instead of having to unlock it as you progress. The localization of this game is even better than the one in Persona 5 and the dialogue is a very solid translation of the original Japanese version.
There is also a good amount of variety in the game. The theater is the entertainment hub of Paradigm X. You could take part in a matchmaker game or visit the Casino and take part in gambling and you could win prizes. The e-bank is where you could deposit and withdraw money and as time goes by the money increases. You could interact with other members of Paradim X like you could on any other online forum.
The anime cutscenes by Satelight were great but the CGI didn’t mesh in well with the hand drawn style. The graphics haven't aged that well. You had to backtrack sometimes and go to place to place aimlessly. The random encounters were very annoying and sometimes occurred every few seconds. The dungeon designs lacked variety and were visually bland. The sneak up attacks from enemies was really unfair. It's really annoying having your magenite drain in certain areas of dungeons every step you take as a result from having a full party. The musical score actually sounds really good and fits in with the overall atmosphere of the game.
The dialogue choices do not matter and is something that has been plaguing the series. The characters weren’t really that particularly engaging and they made really stupid decisions that made the story drag on longer than necessary.
One of my biggest pet peeves is you have to buy weapons and armor in different stores. Another annoyance is that the terminal and health restoration are separate yet during vision quests, you can do both all together through knapp. Boss fights repeat occasionally with not much differences but stat buffs.
This was a pretty good JRPG overall that needed some modernization.
It gets 4 out of 5 stars.
I really enjoyed the story and the mystery style of Devil Summoner.
Side note Persona 5 scramble is not the first action oriented smt game that would have to go to the 2 prequels that Devil Summoner has on the PS2.