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REVIEW | “Soul Hackers” Revamp Shows Age, But Still Executes Nicely

By
Posted on May 20, 2013 AT 10:32am

In 1997 the Sega Saturn saw the release of the sequel to the Shin Megami Tensei spin-off series Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers. A decade and a half later Soul Hackers earned itself not only a 3DS port of itself, but also the first time to cross over the Pacific to America. After so many years since its first incarnation does Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers hold itself up well next to the current-gen RPGs?

Soul Hackers takes place in Armani City, a small town that has been revamped into a high-tech wonderland. Our nameless protagonist (you name him whatever you’d like) and his friend Hitomi, members of the hacker group the Spookies, hack their way into a beta program known as Paradigm X, a virtual world where you can gamble, check out art, shop, and chat with other users. The hero then finds himself in possession of the Spookies’ leader’s special gun-shaped computer (known here as a GUMP), and after removing its protecter unleashes a demon named Nemissa. Selfish and bratty, Nemissa takes over Hitomi’s body, and the two fight for control both in battle and for when voices of reason are needed in specific situations.

As the game goes on the protagonist keeps having spiritual animal visions during his journey, giving him guidance towards doing the right thing. This guidance is well-needed, after all, as he finds himself facing off against demons that have mysteriously appeared in Armani City. During your battle, you can try to defeat them with weapons and magic, or you can try you hand at talking to them. If you give them the right answer when chatting, one of four things will happen: they will leave you alone, give you something, ask to give them something, or they will join your party.

Demon battles take place in a turn-based system, and it can sometimes be difficult to figure to really pin down a strategy with the way Soul Hackers does it. Sometimes you’ll go in order, other times it’ll jumble the turns and mess up your game plan, the latter of which can be very frustrating. In one instance I had a few health points left, so I chose to nourish myself to gain more of it back. Instead of having my character healing himself first, an Undead Drag Queen launched his attack first, ending my character’s life and forcing me to redo the last fifteen minutes of the game because the save point was on the way other side of the floor.

Soul Hackers isn’t afraid to show that it’s an unforgivably hard game to master, even on the lowest of difficulties. On many occasions I found myself running back and forth between one battle and a save point, hoping that if I did it enough I could level up my characters faster without fear of losing some of my progress. Doing this also helped me collect more cash, Magnetite, and demons that you can both use for battle or to perform fusion on to create newer, more powerful demons.

Visually the graphics during gameplay look the same as they did in on the Sega Saturn and the PlayStation. While those who were looking for a blast won’t complain those who had the privilege of importing the original back in the day and looking for a new gaming experience might find themselves wishing for more. The anime-styled drawing used during the storybook cutscenes look nice (as does the opening sequence by anime company SATELIGHT), but the actual gameplay could’ve used a more modern coat of paint. That being said the English voice acting is fantastic, with the characters reading off their emotions well instead of it sounding like voice actors simply phoning it in in the recording booth. Storyline-wise the games mixture of cyberpunk and modern technology still holds well to today’s standards.

Soul Hackers will take you a good thirty hours to complete, with another twenty tacked on to fully do everything in the game. Beating the game will then give you the option of starting a New Game Plus, which will let you play the game again with new conditions that, if met, can better the fates of some of the characters the second time around. If you have the patience and curiosity to check out these what-if scenarios it may be well worth going a second round with it.

PROS:

  • Very challenging gameplay mechanics
  • Fun exploring Paradigm X
  • Great voice acting

CONS:

  • Visuals show their age
  • Hard to pinpoint a good strategy during battles
  • Not enough save points

FINAL THOUGHTS:

Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers may not be as shiny as some of the more recent revamps we’ve seen in the past, but it does have that difficulty level that some RPG fans have been looking to come back from the 1990′s time capsule. A fun and challenging experience, Soul Hackers is a nice little distraction for us looking forward to the newer installments of the Shin Megami Tensei series.

FINAL GRADE: 7.5 (out of ten)

Review copy provided by ATLUS

Evan Bourgault is an accomplished music, anime, and video game critic. His passion for discovering new bands, developers, and Japanese pop culture began in his college radio days and continues on today. Evan joined the ElectricSistaHood team in 2008, where he is a contributing editor and host of one of the network's weekly podcasts. Follow Evan on Twitter at twitter.com/King_Baby_Duck


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