Age is a demon we must all face, the same can be said about Digital Devil Saga, the PlayStation 2 Shin Megami Tensei RPG. Now a decade since it’s initial Japanese release date, Digital Devil Saga thoroughly shows its age, but it still has a wicked sense of style that stands in defiance of the hands of time. Here we are with the digital PSN re-release of Digital Devil Saga and the game invites a new generation into The Junkyard for a devilish journey they are likely not to forget.
Digital Devil Saga takes place within The Junkyard, a desolate wasteland that serves as the battleground for the war between a multitude of tribes all vying for ascension to ‘Nirvana’. During a troubled battle between tribes, Serph and his companions become ‘infected’ by a strange force. Shortly after they each gain the ability to transform into devils, from there the battle for ‘Nirvana’ takes a hellish turn.
Seeing how these characters deal with the situation they have found themselves in makes for some very compelling storytelling and the inner struggles that they are faced provides the player with some moral issues to contemplate. The philosophical exploration present in Digital Devil Saga is arguably some of the most intellectually stimulating prose ever seen in gaming.
While the Shin Megami Tensei franchise is known for its intense difficulty and complexity, Digital Devil Saga bucks this trend with highly simplified combat, navigation and character building systems. All though these systems are scaled back from those in other Shin Megami Tensei titles, they feel intuitive and give the player enough control all the while never confusing or overwhelming them.
The game plays out rather linearly and has a very traditional RPG style that hasn’t aged very well. Random encounters are far too frequent and at times grow very tedious. The combat mechanics are not exactly revolutionary and while the whole ‘press turn’ feature does give you more goes at attacking per turn phase, it doesn’t really add any strategy to play.
Digital Devil Saga’s dark story is definitely a highlight of the game and the desire to progress through it does exist, however with lengthy battles that are far from fun it can become a tiring effort pretty quickly. However if you are willing to stick it out, the revelations and developments that lie ahead are genuinely satisfying and feel rewarding considering the tough road to them.
Aesthetically the game doesn’t hold up after 10 years. It looks very rough graphically and the design work is somewhat sloppy. The setting and backgrounds do have a certain atmosphere to them but the finer details are missing which leaves it a little empty. However where the graphics fall flat, the soundtrack soars the epic heights with brilliant compositions one after the other. This may very well be one of the best soundtracks I’ve seen in a game and the English voice over work is solid all round. I was thoroughly impressed by the audio portion of this game and of all the things that has stood the test of time with this game, it is that.
Ultimately Digital Devil Saga is a bit of a difficult game to recommend to those who have not been initiated into the Shin Megami Tensei series. This is definitely a classic of the PlayStation 2 and a must-play for fans of the franchise and for those that played the game originally nearly a decade ago, this is one hell of a trip down memory lane. So whether it is for nostalgia or for the love of the Shin Megami Tensei series or just great RPGs in general, Digital Devil Saga on the PSN is well worth a look-in. It may not have aged well visually, but as far as the story goes, it’ll never get old.
You can pick up Digital Devil Saga from Ghostlight Games here.