Whenever Atlus, Inc. releases a new Shin Megami Tensei, fans are generally excited to see what the company brings. This time, however, is a little different. Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers is actually a port from the Sega Saturn in 1997. It was later ported to the original Playstation in 1999. Both versions never made it to American shores until now due to Sony blocking Atlus from bringing the Playstation version to North America.
Story/Setting: The game takes place in Amami City, a futuristic utopia all inter-connected by a server called Paradigm X. You play as a member of the hacker group, the Spookies along with the character’s childhood friend Hitomi. Hitomi is later possessed by a demon named Nemissa. Along with Nemissa and with the help of the other hackers in your group, you will run around Amami City to uncover the purpose of a group of Demon Summoners called the Phantom Society.
The game has a futuristic feel to it. While traveling in the city, the fact that the lights are always on and that it is always nighttime adds to the city’s utopian feel. While travelling in Paradigm X, you can interact with members of forums, go to a casino, or a theater. While this is a view of the future from the 1990s, the game tries to create a setting and story that reflects a technological paradise. Unfortunately, it falls flat as the story and setting aren’t as memorable as they could be.
Graphics/Aesthetics/Sound: One thing to keep in mind is this is a port of a Sega Genesis/Playstation game. Even though this game takes place in a futuristic city, the amount of gray in the game is ridiculous. The textures are quite grainy as well. However, the cinematic scenes are quite short and fully animated. They have an anime style to them and work fairly nicely with the 3D. Almost all of the dialogue is fully voiced. Some of the voices, specifically the demons, might be irritating however.
All in all, the graphics, aesthetics, and sound are fairly dated, but are serviceable.
Gameplay: The game itself is a first-person dungeon crawler. Everything from navigating the map to inputting commands in battle is done in first person. You command two human characters (yourself and Nemissa) along with up to four demons, for a total of up to six characters. The battles come down to attacking the enemy’s weakness and protecting yourself from attacks. Demons can be obtained by fusion, negotiations during battle, or as prizes from NPCs. While they don’t level up from battles, demons are an integral part of many battles and can make or break your experience while battling.
Overall: While the North American fans of Shin Megami Tensei would enjoy this missing entry of the series, others probably will not enjoy some of the dated aspects of the game.