Review Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Review Copy Provided By: Atlus
Release Date: April 16, 2013
Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers is a first-person Japanese RPG dungeon-crawler that puts you in the shoes of a teenage hacker smack dab in the middle of the super high-tech Amami City. You’re tasked with finding the secret behind a magical society who holds humanity’s fate in the palm of their hands.
Originally released on the Saturn in 1997 (man, I was still riding around on bikes and picked on girls during recess in 1997), the 3DS port is special because despite the fact that it was re-released in 1999 for the PlayStation, this marks the first time that Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers is available, translated into English, outside of Japan. So, was developer Atlus able to bust out the big guns for Soul Hacker’s North American debut?
In many ways, yes they were. That being said, there is an elephant in the room with this game and I’d be doing you a disservice if I didn’t mention it. So, I will just get it out of the way immediately. From a technical level (graphics, sound quality, animations, sprites, etc.) this game is extremely outdated. I know that’s a bit expected because hell, the game originally came out in 1997, but still. I expected there to be a lot more improvement in that department then there was.
I’m not saying that things don’t look solid in the game. It’s clear that the developers put forth a lot of effort to make the world detailed (by 1997’s standards). It just is a bit strange to me that from a technical standpoint, things didn’t seem to be changed much. To give an example that irked me frequently while playing, when exploring dungeons your character is only able to move in four directions: forward, backwards, left and right. That may not seem like a big deal, but think for a second what it was like walking around in the original Doom. Now take a second to think about what it’s like running around in Halo 4. Now imagine how fun Halo 4 would be if your character’s movement was the same as in the original Doom..
Being able to move around in all manner of directions is something we modern day gamers take for granted (I can’t type that without letting out a chuckle) and Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers showed me that.
The sound was another thing that peeved me over how obsolete it was. The majority of the background tones, from the sound during the battle sequences to the off beat clicks during menu navigation, sounded dull and lifeless. That being said, I did dig the game’s soundtrack. It was incredibly cheesy, yet perfectly matched to the sci-fi theme of the game.
Phew. Now that I cleared that elephant out of the way, I can tell you that apart from the fact that technically, Soul Hackers is outdated, the game is awesome. The gameplay and battle experiences are JRPG through and through and as such, they are incredibly detailed and extensive. Like any true JRPG though, the game is complex. Very complex. Complex to the point that if you try and just jump into the thick of things, you’ll be put off. Luckily for you, Soul Hackers does an excellent job of acclimating you to the experience. It offers you help and game mechanics in little bits and pieces, never shoving too much down your throat until you’re ready to take things to the next level.
Which is great, because you won’t appreciate how incredible and unique the story of this game is until you have an understanding of it’s many complexities. At first, the gameplay might even seem silly at times, but once you progress through the story and figure out what everything is about, you’ll come to realize the fact that everything has a distinct purpose. What’s even better is that everything thing not only has a purpose, but a satisfying purpose. It’s a refreshing change of pace, I can tell you that much.
Overall, Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers is a bit of an interesting find. From a technical standpoint, some of the factors of this game can be tedious and annoying (graphics, sound, etc). Yet at the same time, the story is incredible and very engrossing. If you’re in the market for a solid title to tide you over until the next big game to come out, then look no further.