Many gamers are familiar with the Shin Megami Tensei media franchise as well as Persona, its massively popular spin-off series. But the Devil Summoner games have been a bit more of an iniquity over the years. Despite the fact that most of the series has been translated to English, it’s managed to remain out of the spotlight as much as its flashier peers.
That doesn’t mean the Devil Summoner games are any less exciting than the rest of the Megami Tensei games, though. Not by a long shot. In fact, they’re some of the most interesting the MegaTen franchise has to offer, especially when it comes to the latest entry, Soul Hackers 2. Soul Hackers 2 is technically a sequel to 2012’s Nintendo 3DS remake of the 1997 Sega Saturn title Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers. The first game followed a hacker group called the Spookies as they worked to investigate demonic attacks throughout the city of Amami by way of the online game Paradigm X.
Soul Hackers 2 takes a much different, more modern approach to its storytelling as well as its overall presentation, bringing it more in line with the Persona series and its stylish menus and character designs. While this game is a sequel, it’s night and day to the original Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers. While both games are excellent in their own right, Soul Hackers 2 elevates the formula in a way that makes the Devil Summoner series more accessible and enjoyable to newcomers while still satisfying veterans.
Soul Hackers 2 Review: Story and Gameplay
As Ringo, part of a collective superintelligent hivemind known as Aion, you’re a non-human entity navigating the world in an organic body along with a partner named Figue. You’re sent to investigate a rift between two groups of Devil Summoners: the Phantom Society and Yatagarasu, warring organizations clashing over the eventual end of the world. Both continually clash with each other using demonic allies that they can summon at will and fight in turn-based battles.
The Phantom Society wants to collect powerful entities known as Covenants in a bid to resurrect an all-powerful being that will usher in the apocalypse. The Yatagarasu want to thwart their plans. Ringo and Figue are assigned to follow two individuals that Aion believes are the catalysts that will eventually bring on the apocalypse. Together, the two Aion agents must unravel the mystery behind the events that could lead to the end of the world.
It’s obvious from the first few moments of Soul Hackers 2 that the game was given a cyberpunk facelift to bring it more in line with what players know the Persona series for: it’s excellent character designs, slick interfaces, stylish gameplay, and a killer soundtrack. It’s all here from the moment Ringo opens her mouth. She’s an instant favorite, and a pleasure to embody throughout this adventure. Despite being an artificial being by all counts, Ringo is more human than even some of the allies she meets along the way.
Especially interesting is the Soul Hacking mechanic, where the game draws its namesake from. Ringo can dive into the soul of the deceased to essentially bring them back to the world of the living, to her own detriment. If she fails, she could be lost forever. This adds an additional layer to the narrative when you realize even characters previously thought to be fallen could very well still add something to the story—or even join your party.
Soul Hackers 2 Review: Combat
The game is split into a few different segments. You’ll spend a glut of your time investigating dungeon-like areas with maps that automatically complete as you explore. Here, you’ll clash with enemies and their demonic companions as you work to stop those who want the world to come to an end. Ringo has a special digital device known as a COMP that can be used to summon her own demons. They’ll attack and defend alongside Ringo and her party members in turn-based skirmishes, just like in the previous MegaTen and Persona games.
When you first enter a dungeon, the demons Ringo currently has in her party will perform Demon Recon. They’ll go and take a look around the dungeon and appear throughout it with items, propositions for you to make friends with a demon, or special buffs. Other than that, dungeons are made for combat as you complete various sections of the game. As you meet and befriend different demons (either by paying them, answering questions, or handing over certain items), you’ll earn new abilities to use in battle.
Many of these include magic abilities tied to elements. For instance, Zio is a lightning-based move, while Bufu is an ice move. This is all standard fare for MegaTen and Persona fans, but it’s easy to get used to and understand. When you strike an enemy that’s weak to a certain element, you start building a stack for Sabbaths, which replace the Persona series’ All-Out Attacks.
Sabbaths rely on successfully stringing together attacks that target weak points At the end of the turn, Ringo will call forth a Sabbath attack where all demons involved with those attacks launch an offensive on every enemy. It’s a great way to wrap up a battle quickly, as are the options to auto-battle so the game can handle smaller conflicts for you. There are plenty of complexities within battle and outside of it to tinker with, including choosing which enemies to assign your allies, which equipment you’d like them to use, as well as their individual COMPs’ abilities.
Soul Hackers 2 Review: Additional Content
Outside of dungeon exploration and combat, there are some social elements, but not to the degree of a Persona game. It doesn’t really need it with the intriguing storyline, because that might just as well have dragged down the momentum. There are ways to build up relationships with companions while increasing their Soul Level, however, which means you can further explore their individual Soul Matrix. Solidifying the bonds between party members feels satisfying, and this happens throughout conversational choices. You don’t have to worry about ruining your relationships or managing your time, though. All of these things can be done at a pace that feels comfortable to you.
Beyond the main campaign, there are also plenty of side quests, ways to interact with the overall world, and story beats that will enrapture anyone who’s familiar with the overall Shin Megami Tensei series. This is an engrossing world with a polished exterior that feels like a natural evolution of the Soul Hackers continuity, with plenty to offer those familiar with the series and those who might be curious coming off of the Persona series looking for more.
Soul Hackers 2 Review: Verdict
If you’re looking for a slick, wonderfully produced adventure that combines the best of the Shin Megami Tensei series with the modern theatricality and attitude of the later Persona titles, Soul Hackers 2 is it. There’s plenty to love here, and it only gets better as the game progresses. Atlus has found the sweet spot for bringing the past and future together for MegaTen fans, and this certainly bodes well for the future of the series as a whole.
Soul Hackers 2 will release August 26, 2022, on Xbox Series X, Xbox One, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4 and PC.