A Journey Through Many Worlds to Prevent the Apocalypse
Did a game ever get your attention because you saw the awesome trailer at a convention? That is basically how Soul Hackers 2 got my attention, it was the trailer that was being shown through out Anime Expo 2022. Even though I didn’t get to play it, the trailer left a lasting impression on me. Come launch day and it has lived up to my expectations and more.
The latest entry in the Shin Megami Tensei series, Soul Hackers 2 takes the experience to a mythical cyberpunk world. Once again players must work with a party of devil summoners in an attempt to prevent the end of the world. While a familiar story, the experience itself is one that hits all the right marks.
Future for Devil Summoners
Soul Hackers 2 takes the foundation that has made the Shin Megami Tensei series iconic and brings it to a cyberpunk setting. Players are introduced to a futuristic world connected by advanced technology and artificial intelligence. Behind the scenes, there is a world where humans and demons co-exist. However, this world is being torn apart by a war between two factions of devil summoners (the Yatagarasu and the Phantom Society). Both have different ideologies on how humans and demons should co-exist and the role of technology.
According to Aion, an AI based in cyberspace, this conflict will eventually result in an apocalyptic event. To prevent this from happening, it manifests Ringo and Figue, so that they may operate within the human and demon world. They need to find Arrow (a member of the Yatagarasu faction) Milady (a member of the Phantom Society) and Saizo (a freelance summoner) as they are key to preventing the end of the world.
Players take on the role of Ringo and must work with Arrow, Milady, and Saizo to stop the apocalypse. To do so they must venture through the human world and demon world. However, it will not be an easy task as the forces at work will do whatever it takes to bring about the end of days. At the same time, the summoners must overcome their past while working together despite being from different factions.
Traversing Through the Soul Matrix
Right away, I have to praise Soul Hackers 2 for being welcoming to new players. As with most Shin Megami Tensei games, you don’t need to have played previous titles (but you should have because they are fun). This is the fifth game in the Devil Summoner subseries but you don’t need to have played the previous games to understand what is going on. Almost everyone is a new character and the world itself is radically different. However, there are Easter Eggs scattered throughout the world as a gift for devoted fans.
From a narrative perspective, it strikes the ideal balance between telling a compelling story and being a fun game. The plot itself is standard but digging into each character’s past is intriguing. Almost every SMT game is about preventing or after the end of the world. Soul Hackers 2 allows players to better connect with each character on a more interpersonal level. Thus the narrative’s best part is learning about each one’s past, regrets and watching them grow (via the Soul Matrix). At the same time, you also share their emotional pain when they confront those who wronged them.
But the plot itself overall is only interesting if this is your first Shin Megami Tensei game.
Forging a Contract
The combat system and gameplay mechanics are easy to learn, regardless of how familiar you are with the series. Players will form a contract with a demon whose power could be used in combat. Players could enhance or upgrade their demons for better results. Combat is the standard turn-based system while exploiting an enemy’s weakness could unleash an all-out attack. Characters can also be enhanced by upgrading their stats or their COMP system. It may all sound overwhelming at first but it’s easy to follow.
The cyberpunk world is one rich in experience but also perfectly balanced. It’s not too massive or padded with unnecessary fluff. Instead, it has found the perfect balance between the main story, side quests, and exploration. Fighting through the main story is fun but exploring your squad’s past in the Soul Matrix and doing side jobs are equally rewarding.
Of course, one will also be mesmerized by the overall world. Its colorful but grim visuals have successfully brought this cyberpunk world to life. This is a dark world but it’s also a fascinating one and it has all the right cyberpunk looks. Complementing the design of the world is the soundtrack that only adds to the overall tone.
You Can’t Change Fate
My biggest gripe with the game is that it takes some time for everything to open up. One of my peeves in an RPG is when it takes some time to unlock all the basic gameplay features. Soul Hackers 2 is guilty of this as it took awhile before a lot of the main gameplay could open up. I prefer to have access to all the main gameplay elements after 15min into the game.
Another issue I had are the boring dungeon design and layout. Yes; the game is visually mesmerizing with its colorful but grim visuals. The dungeons themselves fail to capitalize on this. Instead, you have some boring designed levels. Not the dullest I’ve seen but they could have been better given what the game is aiming for.
Finding A Bond
Its solid narrative and characters that you will get emotionally invested in, combined with a mesmerizing world is enough to get your attention. The user-friendly combat system and gameplay mechanics along with its intriguing journey will keep you playing for hours.
Soul Hackers 2 takes everything that has made the Shin Megami Tensei series beloved and brings it to a mythical cyberpunk world. It hits all the right marks when it comes to being an unforgettable JRPG and cyberpunk experience. At the same time; it provides a familiar experience to fans while also being welcoming for new gamers. Overall; it’s an unforgettable adventure for everyone.
Disclaimer: FortySeven Communications provided the game used for this review.
This review is the critique and thoughts of one writer. If you want to see how other critics felt then check it out on OpenCritic.
8Bit/Digi is an independent media outlet that provides an insight into gamer community of the San Francisco Bay Area.
Soul Hackers 2 (PS4)
- Solid narrative with characters that you will get emotionally invested.
- Easy to learn combat and gameplay mechanics.
- An ideal balance between the main story and side quests.
- Visually colorful but also a grim world complemented by a killer soundtrack.
- Being a stand-alone story makes it welcoming to everyone.
- Plot is not that intresting unless it's your first SMT game.
- It takes sometime for everything to open up.
- Boring dungeons that fail to capitalize on design, visuals, or setting.