Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers is an updated port of the original Sega Saturn release from 1997. It was released this April by ATLUS in the US, and now it’s finally available throughout Europe thanks to NIS America, who brought us some fine titles such as Etrian Odyssey IV and Persona 4.
The original game never got localized in the west, so now it’s the best time for us to see what all the fuss is about and if it stays relevant 16 years after the initial release.
Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers takes place in Amami, a Japanese-futuristic city that is run by the Algon Soft Corporation. This company developed a virtual world (called Paradigm X) which offers the citizens a chance to live their lives through computers. Sounds great? Well, not exactly.
Algon Corporation has plans to take over the city and steal innocent souls for a mysterious purpose, and it couldn’t be easier if everyone uses their network.
Your character joins an underground rebel organization that goes by the name Spookies, and helps them expose Algon’s real intentions.
Without spoiling too much of the story, I would say that Soul Hacker’s plot kept getting better as you progress, and even though it stayed the same as the initial release, it managed to keep up with today’s standards very well.
It’s also funny (or sad) to see that after all of those years we are still dealing with the same problems the game discusses – lack of privacy in the internet era and corrupt corporations that manipulate people.
In terms of localization, ATLUS has done a great work as always. You can clearly understand everything that’s going on, and dialogs don’t seem like they were forced into translation when moving from Japanese. The production is good as well, almost every line is dubbed, so say goodbye to the long script we are so used to read (no JP voice option though)
Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers is one of those games that can demonstrate how far the JRPG genre improved over the years, but sadly it’s not a good thing for a game that takes around 30 hours to complete.
The basic turn-system mechanics are here; when you randomly encounter an enemy you’ll have to attack (sword or gun), use skills/items, summon a demon, talk, guard, retreat or change position, but unfortunately the multiple options make the game confusing even for experienced gamers.
Unlike the Persona series (spin off to the Shin Megami Tensei franchise) where you have your characters linked to their demons, Soul Hacker allows you the opportunity to use up to 4 monsters in battle. It surely gives the player more freedom in terms of battle customizations, although you’ll have to share most of your resources with them.
Overall, Soul Hackers battle system is quite good for those who look for a challenge and don’t mind to play a game that works the old fashioned way. If you are looking for a “Persona” experience, you won’t find it here.
As for the technical side, you can clearly see that ATLUS didn’t improve much since the initial release 16 years ago, especially in the graphic department. The textures are barely comprehensible, given it was ported from a 32-bit machine, and cutscenes are played on low resolution.
Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers is a great addition for the Shin Megami Tensei series, and it’s better to have it late in English than never. Fans of the franchise will get into it quickly, while other may want to skip it due to outdated gameplay mechanics.
+Lots of content
–Old-school JRPG that may not be suit for everyone.
Score: I give this one an 7.5 out of 10 !