Two years ago, Devil Survivor came out on the Nintendo DS. It was a unique twist on the Shin Megami Tensei franchise and strategy genre as a whole, merging sRPG and regular turn-based RPG concepts together into a fairly cohesive package. Devil Survivor Overclocked is a repackaging of these elements, with a few new added elements, but nothing that should spurn owners of the original into running out and purchasing it.
When an entire area of Tokyo gets locked down, you and your buddies find out that some very weird stuff is going on. Stuff that involves demons, cults, apocalypses, and motives. Everyone has their own agenda, and as you play through the game through its eight days, you must sort them out to find what path you want to take in a place where there is only the law of strength. Like many Shin Megami Tensei titles, the story is a little more grim than most.
The game takes place on a schedule: talking to someone or participating in battles (essentially, progressing the story), takes half an hour of time, and your time is limited. Sometimes, you'll need to make a choice about what you want to do, as some events will disappear. The events you have a very, very strong effect on the ending you'll be getting by the end of the lockdown, and as there are six endings that can come into effect, there will be many-a-choice to make. Free battles, combat where you can just earn some experience and macca, the currency of the game, don't take time.
Though it's a little annoying that there is literally no way to know when events end, which means sometimes just randomly selecting events based on who you want to talk to, the game is built around replaying the game again and again, offering a new-game plus mode that makes things easier the second time around, for those who want to see the rest of the game.
Battles are the meat and potatoes of Devil Survivor, like any tactical RPG. This game has a fairly unique take on the strategy, however, incorporating elements of traditional turn-based RPGs into the mix: each 'unit' is composed of a leader and two demons. Every time a unit attacks another unit, you play out a turn of combat for each side, selecting an attack for each creature in combat and watching the battle play out. If a combatant strikes an opponent's weakness, or the opponent uses and element that the combatant is strong again, there's a chance of an extra turn (but only one), where those combatants have another move.
What this does is create a strategy that's based less around the placement of units, as there is rarely the ability to attack more than one space away, and more around what creatures are in those units. Take a group of fire-weak demons against a living flame, and you're going to find yourself being used to mop the floor. So you need to balance what you're fighting with what skills your demons have, and planning battles likewise. It makes battle preperation almost more important than the battles themselves. It's a really interesting twist on the genre, but if you're looking for a more traditional strategy RPG, with attack ranges and such, you may want to look elsewhere.
Gaining new demons has both new and familiar elements in the SMT franchise. Actually obtaining fresh demons means going to the auction and purchasing them, spending macca. Though these demons range in quality, with some being pretty good, the best way to get demons is via fusion, something any fan of the series will know about. It essentially means taking two demons and merging them into a newer, more powerful demon. Aside from the fact that you can transfer over skills from the component demons, this is also the only way to get a wide range of demons that aren't available in the auction.
Also, something that I just love about the game, you're able to actually choose which skills are transferred, both the active attack skills and the passive bonuses that many demons have. For those who haven't played the series before, this is a wide departure from the typical norm, where the new skills would be randomly chosen from the skills of the components. I'd love to see this is more SMT games (but I'm not holding my breath).
Now, that was just Devil Survivor: Vanilla edition. Overclocked isn't so much of a new game as it is a small expansion. There isn't too much new here: some more demons, a better graphical resolution, voice acting, and, the most important edition, the eighth day. See, in the original, the game ended after seven days, period. What the new edition of the eighth day does is show you a sort of 'epilogue' to your actions and choices, revealing to you the consequences of what happened and how you've affected the world. This is something I like, don't get me wrong, but it's not enough of a reason to purchase the game again, if you've already played through the original. Incidentally, the voice acting is alright, though sometimes grating in a couple characters' cases. Low-budget jRPG translation kind of grating.
Devil Survivor Overclocked is a pretty good game, simply because it builds upon a pretty good game. If you've never played the title before, but are a fan of the series, I'd recommend picking it up, at least playing a bit of it to see how you like the new combat system. Tactical RPG enthusiasts might be turned off by the unique style of combat, but there is a whole lot of strategy beneath the surface, in that switching up your demons, even just a couple of them, can mean the difference between a complete failure and a steamroll of a battle. If you already own Devil Survivor, there isn't much here to entice you unless you're a hardcore SMT fan. If you don't own it, check it out. It's a fun title that does a lot of things well.