Shin Megami Tensei is a series that may have more spinoff games than any other. There’s the core series, of course, but even that has been overshadowed by the Persona games. Of the other series, such as the Devil Summoner and Devil Survivor series, one of the more unique games that only saw one entry in 1997 was Soul Hackers. Unlike the other SMT games and spinoffs, this series went more in the sci-fi and cyberpunk directions rather than modern or historical settings while still keeping the core devil summoning gameplay.
Soul Hackers 2 coming so long after the original and with so much innovation and newfound popularity for Atlus JRPGs thanks to Persona may cause some confusion for those expecting something similar to those games. Yes, many mechanics and systems will look familiar, however, Soul Hackers 2 isn’t just Persona with a neon aesthetic. While some things have been simplified, others are made a bit more obscure or function differently than they do in other games. Hack in to these tips and tricks before starting your quest to save the world in Soul Hackers 2.
Stacks on stacks on stacks
The SMT and Persona games all feature a similar style of elemental combat that rewards identifying and exploiting enemy weaknesses. That’s also true for Soul Hackers 2, but not in the same way. Persona players will likely be expecting the press-turn system to come back, which is where hitting an enemy with their elemental weakness does more damage but also knocks them down and skips their next turn. If you knock down the entire enemy team, you can unleash an all-out attack for massive damage.
That isn’t the case with Soul Hackers 2. The only similarity is that hitting enemy weaknesses will deal more damage, but it no longer knocks them down, and all-out attacks are now replaced with the sabbath mechanic. Each time you or a teammate hits an enemy’s weakness, you gain one “stack” displayed in the upper-right corner of the screen. Once your team’s turn is over, the sabbath will automatically trigger and deal an extra blow to the entire enemy team as long as there is at least one stack. The higher number of stacks you can rack up on a single turn, the higher the burst of damage will be.
Thankfully, unlike Persona or SMT games proper, the enemy teams can’t use sabbaths against you if they hit your team’s weaknesses.
Use your Commander Skills
Commander Skills are brand new to Soul Hackers 2 and won’t be unlocked until you progress a few hours into the game. These will be unlocked as upgrades for your COMP (more on that below) but should be your top priority when spending your money and resources.
The main reason for this is the fact that, at the start, no character in your party, even Ringo, can swap demons during battle. That means if you’re unlucky, you could start a fight without any demons equipped that let you exploit the enemy’s weaknesses. That’s where Commander Skills come in, with one of the first unlocked letting you finally change demons during battle.
Another early one you get makes it so each time your team deals damage to an enemy, regardless of whether or not you hit a weakness, you gain a stack. If you do hit a weakness, then you will gain two stacks at once, really letting you rack up the stack counter for huge sabbath damage.
These skills work on a turn timer system, with each one having to “charge” in a sense for a certain amount of turns before you can use them. You can see which you can use or how many turns you need to wait until you can by hitting R1 on any teammate’s turn.
Make friends with everyone
Instead of social links, Soul Hackers 2 has the Soul Level system. While not quite as deep or expansive as social links, it is still very important to progressing through the game. You will also want to do your best not to play favorites since reaching different Soul Level thresholds will unlock new areas in that character’s specific Soul Matrix dungeon.
Soul Levels will grow in different ways, such as dialogue choices and spending time getting to know them at the bar. You will always know which character will gain Soul Levels based on the choices you make before you pick it, so there’s no guesswork involved, and you can always run down the entire cast whenever they’re available to hang out at the bar — unlike Persona games where you only have a certain amount of free time in a day.
Take all the requests
Very early on you will gain access to Club Cretaceous. While this might sound like a place to relax, it’s actually where you need to go to pick up all the requests, or side quests, to do in the real world (we’ll explain that choice of words soon). New requests come in all the time as you progress the story and even complete other requests. These can be simple “go here and beat X demon” to answering trivia questions. There’s no reason not to stop in and grab every single request available even if you don’t intend on doing them all. You might just complete a few accidentally and end up getting an easy reward.
Rewards are almost always money or items, which are never a bad thing to have more of. If you are actively taking on these requests, make sure to check their recommended levels before going on a hunt. Also, try and pay attention to requests that are in the same area so you can double up on them without having to jump back and forth to the same area. The only way to track requests is through the menu, which isn’t the most convenient when you’re juggling a few at once.
Enter the Soul Matrix
Another type of request can be taken and exclusively completed within the Soul Matrix. These are the same in all but name, though they can have much stricter requirements like beating a tough enemy without having access to a specific party member. Again, these should all be taken no matter what, unless you don’t feel leveled up enough to handle some of the harsher ones.
That being said, these optional dungeons are all related to your party members, with each one having its own “version,” though they all have an identical look. You can start off exploring the first section of each member’s Soul Matrix right from the start but will eventually hit gates that won’t open unless you have a high enough Soul Level with that character as mentioned before.
Also, in the main hub section of the Soul Matrix, you can talk to a representation of Ringo to unlock passive skills. These are some of the most valuable skills in Soul Hackers 2 since, unlike demon skills, they are persistent and always in effect, but best of all, they’re free! More will continue to unlock as you progress, so talk to Ringo here every chance you can to make sure you’re giving yourself as many buffs as possible.
Upgrade your COMPs
COMPs are your party’s weapons and tools for demon summoning. Each member has their own COMP that takes a different form, from guns and swords to even sai. While no character can get a new COMP, everyone can upgrade theirs in different ways.
The COMP Smith will make itself available to you as part of the early goings in Soul Hackers 2, but you won’t be able to fully take advantage of it for a bit. That’s because COMP upgrades are among the most expensive things in the game. Not only does it cost a ton of cash, but you also need specific materials from beating demons to get different types of upgrades. They’re all worth it, though, especially raw damage increases and elemental buffs.
Ringo’s COMP should be your priority, though, since this is where you can unlock those Commander Skills we talked about.
Don’t play favorites with your demons
Every demon you get comes with its own skills, elemental affinities, weaknesses, and level. Each party member can use one at a time, and as you use them, you will level them up, increasing their stats as well as unlocking new skills. This might lead you to want to find one demon you like and stick with them to power them up, but that’s not how Soul Hackers 2 wants you to play, and the game will eventually present a massive roadblock.
Not only do demons stop scaling well with increased challenges as you get further into the game, but they can only learn a few new skills. You do want to level each demon up enough to learn all their skills since this will usually reward you with a Mystique, which is an item that each character has one slot for. These typically increase elemental damage that is handy to squeeze out extra damage.
However, once you’ve gotten everything a demon has to offer, swap it out and level up the next one to unlock its skills and Mystique. This will also come in handy later for fusing purposes, which is how you will stay competitive with higher-level enemies.
Always chat with your demons
Whenever you enter a dungeon, a small scene plays out where Ringo sends all her demons out to scout the area. Scouting is actually a pretty poor term for it, in most ways, since they don’t uncover the map, find enemies, or anything to that extent. Instead, they will appear in different spots on the map waiting for you to approach and talk to them. Whenever you see a friendly demon on the field, always make the detour to speak to them.
No matter what, you will get some benefit from talking to your demons in the dungeons. In some cases, they will find items for you — sometimes money or a new demon to recruit — or can even restore HP and MP to your party. What they will offer can be gleaned based on the icon above their heads, but these don’t show up until you’re relatively close anyway, at which point you’re already committed to speaking to them.
Register your demons before fusing
Yet another SMT staple returns in Soul Hackers 2, and that’s the art of demon fusion. It will take a little longer than usual to reach the Goumaden and unlock fusion, but it is about as straightforward as it always is once you get there. Pick two demons to fuse together into a new, more powerful one to join your ranks.
However, never forget to register all your demons before you start fusing. By registering your current demons, you essentially add them to stock at their current level that you can purchase them from again if you need to. Most of the time, you will have multiple ways to fuse a new demon, but you won’t have all the demons necessary to make either pair, at which point simply buying to re-summon them right then and there is much much faster than having to go out and try and recruit another of that same kind.
The system is so streamlined that you can even create a new demon using registered demons right from the fusion screen and simply pay the difference without having to remember which demons you need, go to the registry, find them, pay to summon them, and then go back to the fusion menu and set up the fusion again. As long as you register everything as you go, you shouldn’t be stuck fusing new demons, so long as you’re a high enough level to control them, of course.