While you are always fighting in Devil Survivor 2, the skirmishes have a variety of goals, some of which can even change in mid-fight. Some battles simply ask you to eliminate all enemies, while others have you rescuing hostages or making sure foes don't escape, among a myriad of other goals. While these varied objectives keep combat from growing stale, they also contribute to some serious fluctuations in the game's difficulty, because some objectives are much more challenging than others. This inconsistency can be frustrating at times, practically necessitating grinding in optional free battles to build levels in order to conquer the next story mission.
Maintaining good relationships with your friends yields benefits in and out of combat.
Another element that makes the game interesting is the broad variety of skills at your disposal. There are hundreds of demons (many new to this sequel) you can recruit in the game, each with a unique skillset and strength/weakness array. These companions can be acquired through a specialized auction house where the demons offer their companionship in exchange for money from the highest bidder. It's possible to get some fierce friends this way, but the most powerful demons come from fusion. When you combine two of your demon companions, you get a new fighter with a mix of abilities from the two characters. This allows demons to learn extremely useful and beneficial skills they wouldn't be able to obtain simply by leveling up.
Items can also be used during fusion to bestow skills and stat upgrades of your choosing, but since these items are removed after use, they must be used wisely. The complexity of demon fusion seems overwhelming at first, but a tremendously helpful interface lets you easily look up which demons you need to monster-mash together to get a desired result. Creating your otherworldly army and dividing it into two teams plays into the game's deep mix of strategy, but the human characters can be extensively customized as well. While most human characters excel in set stats, you're free to set an array of learned skills on them as you please. Deciding which skills best benefit which characters--and their teams as a whole--is crucial to excelling in combat.
Travel to faraway places, meet interesting people, and perform strange rituals with them.
Devil Survivor 2 does a great job of building on the strong foundation its predecessor set, but it still retains one rather aggravating issue from the original. The game offers multiple endings, and choices made and actions taken at the beginning of the game can have a serious effect down the line. You might find yourself saved into a corner you can't get out of if you're not very careful. You can even get characters killed off permanently by taking too much time or making the wrong decisions during story scenes, and some of those choices don't offer obvious consequences. A bit more transparency to the game's consequences would have been ideal. If you want a perfect playthrough, you're best off keeping multiple save files across various points so you can return to one if you make a critical mistake.
Even if you just play through to see where the story takes you, however, Devil Survivor 2 is a great game. Combat is strategy-laden and engaging; amassing and preparing your demon companions is loads of fun; and the story is filled with memorable characters and set pieces that keep your eyes glued to the dual screens. With multiple endings and story paths, there's also a considerable amount of replay value, making this a nigh-irresistible package for any genre fan. It may be tailor-made for older hardware, but Devil Survivor 2 is every bit as excellent an experience as the best of its higher-powered brethren.