SMT: Nocturne had a problem: spiking difficulty levels. When you had the right monsters in your team and a good build for the hero the game was only moderately difficult. But if you didn’t, or the enemy got lucky with a mass status or death spell, you were toast. Digital Devil Saga 1 partially adressed that problem by letting players add/drop skills from all of their party members, and by rebalancing death and status spells, but they broke the story.
“We must reach Nirvana by conquering the other Tribes! But they are too strong! So we will trick them with X! Oh No they found out our secret plan we are doomed! Oh look the conveniently placed tribal leader! Our only chance is to usurp his position!” Ad nauseum. This was partially alleviated by colorful characters and fun cool dungeons but it was still a bit of a drag.
The skill system also lacked versatility - it was pretty much maximally efficient to have each character max out their weakness element, the hunt skill tree, karma acrual, and a support tree of some sort since the trees weren’t shared and the top most skill sets were insanely overpriced (1-2 mil per person, when the average end game fight nets you 1-3 thousand). The game was less tilted than Nocturne but still.
Enter DDS2 - same characters, contined and much improved story, and a revamped mantra system. Now instead of a tree the system is a giant hexagonal grid, with each finished mantra activating most adjacent spaces. The catch is that the best skills are in specialy locked spaces that need all adjacent mantras mastered, but they can be split between multiple characters. Though I am not far into the game yet, the first locked spaces feel like they are much more closely in line pricewise than the equivalent skills in DDS1. So far it looks like the best SMT game in the current generation yet, but I’m withholding final judgement until I get further in.
SMT: Nocturne 8.5/10
SMT: DDS1 9/10
PS: Atlus, thanks for finally bringing over SMT to the US. We’ve been good little consumers so far, so could you perhaps consider bringing over your updated SMT1-2 ports for the GBA/DS? And the upcoming Devil Summoner game too? Just thinking out loud here.