Devil Children PSX impressions
[03.31.02] » What do you get when you breed a Game Boy with
a PSone? If Devil Children is any indication, it's a SNES.
The Shin Megami Tensei games not only has always
featured the ability to capture, raise, and combine creatures as part
of its central gameplay, but the series is also famous for creating
more spin-offs than sequels. So, it was only a matter of time before
Atlus offered up a Pokémon flavored version of the core gameplay.
The original two Devil Children
games were enough of a success to spawn a cartoon series, a collectable
card game, and a sequel in
Japan. Now Atlus has found an even more creative way to milk the series'
success by porting the two original Game Boy Color games to PlayStation.
Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Children: Black Book / Red Book combines
both those games and adds in a few new extras.
No, "Devilizer" is not the name of the
new Rob Zombie album.
The story and gameplay of Devil Children remains
totally unchanged from the original. The separate releases on the
GBC each had a unique lead character; though the two games share the
same basic plot and settings, many of the side quests and all the
monsters are unique to each version. The PSone release mirrors the
originals by letting players chose from the main menu between the
Red Book, starring Mirai and her griffin sidekick Veil, or the Black
Book, which features Setsuna and his cerberus partner Cool. Both the
games remain self-contained and save to a diffent data file.
The two next-door neighbors are attendees at Harajuku
Elementary School. When the neighborhood is invaded by demons, they
both find themselves whisked off to another dimension, where they
naturally get involved in a fight against the powers behind the invasion
and do plenty of monster collecting. Both of the titular Devil Children
soon come into the possession of a "Devilizer," a gun like device
that allows them to capture demons and summon them in battle.
Like the other MegaTen games, new creatures are recruited
during battle by talking to them. Devil Children uses a much simplified
conversation system, similar to the one used in the Last Bible games
(another series of MegaTen spinoffs for Game Boy). Your monsters themselves
do the talking and the enemy's reaction is shown by simple emoticons.
Recruiting other demons is mostly a matter of finding a compatible
match between your current menagerie and creature you hope to capture.
The Devilizer can only hold six demons at a time, but others can be
stored back at the Vine Center for later retrieval. A handy Pocket
Computer stores and analyzes the data on the creatures you've already
encountered, providing a sort of Pokédex for the game.
Like the conversation system, combat is purely
the devils' work in Devil Children - Setsuna and Mirai don't participate.
The battle system is a simplified version of the one used in the standard
Shin Megami Tensei games, but it still offers a bit more flexibility
than most Pokémon-type games. Demons have access to standard
attacks, magical abilities, and powerful skills that can only be used
at the cost of some hit points. Though only two creatures can participate
in battle, one of which must be the lead's sidekick, the others will
leap in to fill a vacancy when a demon falls, or players can take
a turn and swap them out manually. The battle system is serviceable
for a Game Boy Color game, but doesn't carry over well to the big
This, naturally, is Devil Children's main problem
- it's still just a GBC game blown up to full-screen proportions.
Nowhere does this stick out more than the graphics. If readers happen
to remember the Super Game Boy, the Nintendo add-on that allowed you
to play Game Boy games on the SNES, then Devil Children is a bit like
playing a Super Dooper Game Boy. The tile-based graphics have been
resized and recolored, but the entire game still bears the legacy
of its low tech origins. There's even a bit of screen tearing when
the maps scroll. The battle graphics fare somewhat better with completely
redrawn and adorably cute versions of the standard MegaTen creatures,
plus the use of some well done, if low key, spell effects.
A few changes, however, have been made to take
advantage of the better technology of the PSone. The game now features
an original animated introduction as well as cinema scenes at key
points in the story. These were produced by the same studio behind
the Devil Children anime series, and they add immensely to the games'
charm. Devil Children also makes use of the actors from the series
to provide voiceovers for all the game's major characters. The voice
acting isn't too prevalent - and it seems to drop out of the games
a few hours in - but, again, it helps add some personality to the
otherwise low-tech game. Finally, full screen character portraits
have been added for all major conversations.
Altus has dropped in a few other additions for
the PSone version. In addition to twenty new demons in the main game,
the company has added a new battle mode which can be played using
data from either the Red or Black Books. Players can assemble teams,
name them, and face off against other players or against the computer.
Victory in battle can earn you new items and creatures to take back
to the main games.
Beyond these small changes, Devil Children is basically
what you'd expect from a GBC to PSone conversion. Though the game
lacks the stylish visuals and deep gameplay of the main series games,
if you're the sort of rabid MegaTen fan who gets giddy at the thought
of exploring an entire town populated by Jack Frosts, there's still
a lot to like about Devil Children. However, importing will likely
be the only way to play Devil Children; the game's winning combination
of 8-year olds with guns summoning demons and horrible graphics make
it the least likely localization candidate we've seen in some time.