I take back a little of what I said back in my first impressions. The game does take a good while to start, but I did end up enjoying it on a whole. It’s pretty standard and easy as far as tactical RPGs go, with an added monster collecting aspect.
Being 10+ years old, the story is on the unpolished side. It takes a long while to get interesting, and while it does have some good concepts, they aren’t executed well. For much of the first half, it’s the “ominous-looking soldiers clad in black want this girl with unusual powers, so we must take her and run from them despite meeting her less than a day ago” plot that fails to present anything new, nor provide characters likable enough to enjoy the cliched journey with. However, it did get more interesting by the last third of the game, where the plot moves at a much faster pace and revelations are thrown out left and right. Even the more interesting fraction contains story elements that are pretty much a genre staple by now though, so don’t hold your expectations too high.
I still stand by the opinion that Summon Night 2 introduces too many characters and provides too little time to make them interesting. By the end, most of the cast is reduced to one-liners while the plot advancing is done by the protagonist, Nesty, or Amel. I like how the game gives you the option of having private chats with party members at the end of a chapter, and how there are various scenes scattered around town that show some interactions between the characters. Unfortunately, most of them are as flat as cardboard and not very entertaining, so most of these scenes felt like a drag. I did manage to like Nesty a lot by the end, because strict, glasses-wearing dudes are my moe. He’s also very important to the plot, got development, and is the closest to the protagonist. Even if the character development was predictable, I liked it.
More than the story or characters though, I liked the world. It’s a nice concept, and I can see why later installments in the series can turn out good. Hopefully Summon Night 3-5 have better characters, because I’ve added them to my long list of games I want to play.
The gameplay is standard SRPG fare, except for the fact that you can summon familiars using summon stones. There are 5 different worlds from which you can summon familiars, and you can equip them onto compatible units to use their magic. Some familiars can actually be called out as a battle unit themselves, but I barely used them because human characters have better stats. Other than equipable magic, each character also has two different waiting modes. They can be put on defense to receive less damage from enemy attacks, or on counterattack to perform a counter when an enemy within a reachable distance attacks. Of course, enemies have these options too. Otherwise, the game plays similarly to other SRPGs. Experience distribution takes place at the end of battle, and exp can be stored up and saved for later, so keeping a evenly leveled team is a easy task. The DS version which I played experiences several slowdowns in battle. Battles themselves are rather easy, so the game has something called a Brave Clear, where you get bonus party points if you clear a battle with all characters under a certain level and no incapacitated units. Party points are used to equip party skills, which are passive effects on the entire party (like critical + 10% or HP + 10%).
The game is old, so the visuals are dated and most of the music is annoying. The DS version also has no voices or gallery, which were features in the original PS1 game. Overall, it was enjoyable enough, but not a big deal to be made out of. It’s the kind of game that you can play when bored, but won’t miss out much by skipping.