More often than not, the idea of a group of highly skilled hackers running around calling up monsters from the underworld will be met with apprehension. Fortunately for the Spookies, the elite hacker clique “Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers” revolves around, their demon-summoning antics are exactly what the doctor ordered.

Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers

B-
Nintendo 3DS
Atlus


“Soul Hackers” takes place in Amami City, a futuristic cyber-utopia that has benefited heavily from the ominous company Algon Soft. At Algon’s expense, the tech giant installed city-wide intranet throughout the formerly sleepy, no-name town and provided each household with a PC. Their next big idea is to launch “Paradigm X,” a virtual city where the citizens of Amami can do just about anything — the computer-generated streets boast everything from pet shops and beaches to a love matchmaking service, and even a casino.

Players control an individual known simply as “the protagonist,” whose name can be personalized early on in the game. Alongside his girlfriend, he succeeds in remotely accessing the Paradigm X and granting himself access. It’s around this time that everything starts to go to hell for the Spookies — literally.

As it turns out, a vaguely revolver-looking piece of junk the Spookies’ leader recently picked up is really a computer with the capacity to summon demons. This gun-shaped PC, or “GUMP,” allows its user to store and call upon otherworldly monsters in battle. The protagonist finds himself in a unique position after acquiring the GUMP: Now at odds with the Summoners, a group of individuals also capable of summoning demons, he must unfurl the mystery of Algon Soft and the demonic intrusions both in the physical Amami City and the virtual Paradigm X.

Fortunately, the enemies in “Soul Hackers” aren’t the faceless, mindless hordes players have become used to in games like “Resident Evil” and “Halo.” Instead, demons brim with personality and depth. Affected by a variety of factors, be it decisions made outside of battle, the lunar phase or the composition of the current party, demons can interact directly with the player during battle. The turn-based battle system allows for the summoning of up to four demons alongside the protagonist and his girlfriend, and a talk option leads to a variety of interesting conversations.

More intelligent demons can grill the player with questions or question their motives. Demons under your control will occasionally leave the party as they see fit, though more loyal — or drunk — demons will enthusiastically heed commands. While their human counterparts level up in the traditional sense, demons must be fused together to become more powerful.

For a re-release, “Soul Hackers” does a pretty solid job taking advantage of the current hardware. Environments are carefully layered and the bottom screen displays the local map, with the option to turn on additional hacks to make the game easier. The pseudo-3-D of the 3DS merges seamlessly with the virtual-reality aspect of the game, with half of the action taking place within Paradigm X. The sound design leaves little to be desired, with much of the character dialogue being voiced for the first time and a badass high-octane soundtrack pumping throughout.

The updated graphics don’t do an exceptional job of keeping the game competitive with its peers, and lazily differentiated textures make every environment feel more or less the same. The game’s strict first-person camera and limited mobility instills a sense of claustrophobia at some points, but regular battles and interactions keep monotony from setting in.

Providing gameplay that’s radically divergent from the norm, “Soul Hackers” delivers a genuinely entertaining experience in a heavily fleshed-out and detailed world. While the environments aren’t exceptionally distinct, the depth of combat and demon summoning will keep players enthralled throughout.

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