Review by samuraigaiden
"Soul Hackers is a good game, but it struggles to go beyond that."
I've just finished my first playthrough of Soul Hackers on the Nintendo 3DS XL, using a copy I bought on sale on the eShop last year. My experience with the game has been good, but never really great. The game has a certain 90s charm, an interesting plot premise and a deep battle system, but the story failed to unfold in any meaningful manner and the combat gameplay ended up feeling less polished than other, more recent SMT games.
The New Game+ save file says I beat the game in 37:20, but the Activity Log on the 3DS says I played 53 hours and a half of the game. This discrepancy is caused not only by the many deaths in dungeons, but also because I had to start the game twice. At my first attempt, I didn't realize that the main character would have no magic and I completely messed up on the stats distribution. This caused me to die numerous times in the beginning of the game. In my second playthrough, I fixed the stats distribution <spoiler>by putting all points on Strength, Endurance and Agility</spoiler> and had a much more enjoyable time in the dungeons.
The story starts interesting and has a pretty good development in terms of plot twists, but it ends in a weird way, almost by accident. The ending in itself really doesn't solve any of the many questions posed in the game. In this aspect, Souls Hackers feels like a game that was intended to be a beginning of a series. The last section is abrupt, with little story build up to it and a very unfulfilling conclusion.
The best thing about this game is the combat system, which is clearly somewhere in the middle of the evolutionary line of the SMT series. It's constantly challenging and it will keep you interested while you look for the way to better use the resources available in every battle. Compared to the more recent SMT 4, Souls Hackers feels slightly less optimized and rough in places, but it's nonetheless the very good set of underlying systems that kept me going in the game above all else.
Souls Hackers has more than one ending and a few different things that can be explored in the New Game + section. For JRPG fanatics that have played everything else on the system, this is one of the games that should already be on their list. For newcomers to JRPG games or just casual JRPG gamers, this game is probably not the best option on the 3DS library.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 05/01/14
Game Release: Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner - Soul Hackers (US, 04/16/13)
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