The Devil Summoner series is one of ATLUS’ most prolific franchises within the greater Megami Tensei universe. Players in Japan saw the first Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner title release in 1995 for the SEGA Saturn. Devil Summoner began a new series with a different dynamic compared to the post-apocalyptic nature of the mainline series. Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers continued in the predecessor’s footsteps and released in the west, becoming a cult classic cyberpunk RPG. The long-awaited sequel, Soul Hackers 2, brings another Megami Tensei experience to the forefront of modern-day JRPGs.
Initiating Soul Hack
Soul Hackers 2 centers around the story of two human constructs, Ringo and Figue, created by the technological entity, Aion. In the mid 21st century, Aion has overseen humanity head into an era of stagnation and conflict. The Phantom Society and Yatagarasu engage in never ending conflict that will inevitably drive both Devil Summoner factions into ruin. To avert the end of the world, Aion creates Ringo and Figue to directly intervene with humanity. However, unforeseen consequences await Ringo and her crew in this captivating tale.
Ringo is accompanied by a diverse group of Devil Summoners: Arrow, Milady, and Saizo. Arrow represents Yatagarasu, a Devil Summoner organization aligned with the Kuzunoha lineage. Yatagarasu seeks the best interests of mankind and wishes to see evil vanquished. Milady represents the Phantom Society, an organization deeply rooted in nefarious plans dating back to Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers. The Phantom Society’s main goal is the end of the world. The third party member, Saizo, is a freelance Devil Summoner that takes jobs from both organizations.
The Soul Hackers Distinction
In previous Devil Summoner titles, the protagonist was usually joined by another Devil Summoner or a whole host of demons for a total of six party members. Soul Hackers 2 takes a traditional, character driven approach with Ringo, Arrow, Milady, and Saizo making up a playable party of four. Equipped demons act as an extension of the character’s power, granting them attacks and abilities to use through a COMP, the Devil Summoner’s choice weapon. The core of the Megami Tensei combat system remains intact with a few new twists for Soul Hackers 2. Some of the changes create a more unique distinction between the gameplay systems of Devil Summoner, Shin Megami Tensei, and Persona.
Soul Hackers 2 features the Sabbath, an all-out attack initiated when attacking the weak points of enemies. An amount of demons are poised for the attack depending on Stacks created by certain Summoner Skills and weaknesses targeted. Once the player’s turn ends, Ringo unleashes the Sabbath on her enemies as all the demons begin a collective attack. Further into the game, players will strengthen the Sabbath attack with new Summoner Skills, COMP upgrades, and demon abilities. Sabbath becomes more powerful with stronger demons thanks to the signature demon fusion system.
New and Familiar
A satisfying Megami Tensei experience with challenging battles lies at the core of Soul Hackers 2. As stated previously, the demon fusion system returns in its glory with a vast compendium of demons to fuse and strengthen. Victor returns from previous Devil Summoner titles to give players the tools to create such wicked demons at the Cirque du Goumaden. More demons are unlocked through progression and recruited through dungeon exploration. Demons and the party may become more potent due to a wealth of COMP upgrades. With the adequate materials and the right fee, the COMP Smith is a boon for the party.
In Soul Hackers 2, demon negotiations are available outside of combat as the all-new demon recon system scouts for recruitable demons. Additionally, demon recon allows Ringo’s demons to search dungeons for items and heal the party’s HP/MP occasionally. Meals eaten at the party’s safehouse may enhance the effects of demon recon alongside general combat conditions. Alongside the addition of demon recon, Ringo has Commander Skills at her disposal. Commander Skills are powerful skills that may be activated during combat such as increased Sabbath stacks or an additional turn for a party member. Overall, the unique Megami Tensei gameplay loop remains just as addicting with new twists added in.
A Dynamic Cast
Arrow, Milady, and Saizo have their fair share of beliefs and differences that cause friction. The dysfunctional group of Devil Summoners forms out of common goals and life-altering circumstances. Players have a glimpse into the characters’ pasts by traversing the Soul Matrix and completing Vision Quests. The Soul Matrix acts as a recurring series of dungeons that unlock as Ringo increases the Soul Level of the group. By hanging out with the crew, progressing the story, and increasing the Soul Level, Ringo is able to learn more and understand her party members.
Although Ringo is an A.I. turned into a human construct, she acts as the neutralizing force for the party and helps them cope with problems. The player is rewarded for deepening the relationships between characters with more content to explore in Soul Hackers 2. Furthermore, characters become stronger with new abilities by progressing through the Soul Matrix. Soul Hackers 2 provides an interesting source of synergy between the main story, the game’s cast, and its content.
What Lies Beyond
After completing Soul Hackers 2, New Game+ unlocks with new content to pursue such as demons and more requests from Madam Ginko. Players can expect a 40 to 50 hour-long journey through Soul Hackers 2 on a first playthrough. A second playthrough provides a great opportunity to explore the game’s DLC with various high-leveled demons. A thorough completion of the Soul Matrix is unlikely within one playthrough, so players can take advantage of New Game+ for that as well. Soul Hackers 2 has the replay value JRPG fans can expect from an ATLUS title.
ATLUS will release roughly $40 worth of DLC for Soul Hackers 2’s launch in similar fashion to Shin Megami Tensei V. However, the presence of day-one DLC caused some doubts about Soul Hackers 2’s overall content offerings. Fortunately, the base game of Soul Hackers 2 is a complete package with a rich amount of content to explore just like previous Megami Tensei games. Although DLC is optional, it contains demons that are normally seen in traditional Megami Tensei games such as Mara and Zaou-Gongen. A lot of valid criticism may be drawn from DLC and the exclusion of demons, and ATLUS should consider it to improve its games.
A Worthy Devil Summoner
Soul Hackers 2 brings a new vision for the Devil Summoner franchise while preserving the cyberpunk legacy of the first Soul Hackers title. Most importantly, it’s a well-crafted Megami Tensei title from start to finish with its main story, lore, characters, and gameplay. Whether coming from Shin Megami Tensei V or a Persona title, Soul Hackers 2 is worth trying out for players wanting a familiar JRPG experience with a new atmosphere and blend of content.
Soul Hackers 2 releases August 26 for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and PC via Steam.
Disclaimer: ATLUS provided Final Weapon a review copy of Soul Hackers 2 for PlayStation 5.