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Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner Review

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Latest installment of the mystery, role-playing, monster-battling game.

★★★★★

Like an unholy blend of role-playing, detective gaming and Pokémon – with slavering demons rather than cute pocket monsters, of course – the latest Shin Megami Tensei keeps the weirdness levels high and punctuates your relentless search for clues with an avalanche of beastly battles. But while previous editions have helped establish the series’ good name outside Japan, Devil Summoner is plagued by aggravating flaws that soon become unbearable.

The action is set in an alternative 1920s Japan – where humans live side by side with supernatural demons – and exploring the streets instigates dozens of random battles with shadowy monsters. But while the combat is thoughtful, complex and allows you to summon and use the demons you’ve captured in previous skirmishes, the high frequency of battles soon becomes tiresome, especially when you’re beating a path to solve a puzzle but are halted every third step by a two-headed dog who wants to scrap and won’t take no for an answer.

The game’s quirky plot is also overly clumsy - giving little background to the main players and providing little incentive to see how the story ends - and the Resident Evil-style prerendered backgrounds can be disorientating when the camera perspective unexpectedly swops sides when you enter a new location.

Fans of the series will doubtless rush to Devil Summoner’s defence and be willing to put up with its irksome shortcomings to assemble an army of imaginative fiends. But if you’re new to the world of Shin Megami Tensei, there’s little here to keep you gripped until the last mystery is solved.