I think for me, a lot of why I personally gravitate toward DR2 a little more has to do with the visual storytelling. When DR1 plays with your gut, it's with anime tropes -- you apply shorthand from your cultural experience and then you get it wrong. I'm not *quite* enough of an anime nerd to get Got by this. By DR2, the game is using the visual and textual language it built up in DR1 and weaponizing that against you a little, and on the whole the game-reader relationship feels more intimate.
You raise a really good point!
DR1 was a lot of Western fans’ primer on Japan’s internal stereotypes, so while for someone like me the reveal that the gyaru was the mastermind all along was like “WOAH,” there’s less of an impact on a player who’s missing those pre-existing assumptions.
The punch from the story and the really meaty underpinnings of the social commentary kind of got lost in the translation–sorta how some people insist to this day that Battle Royale has nothing to do with Japan’s education system, despite that if you’ve been in contact with it at all you can plainly see it does.
There is a LOT of clever subversion going on in DR1, but if you aren’t aware of what’s being subverted, it’s difficult to appreciate.
By SDR2, however, Kodaka could start messing with his own fans specifically. Now he wasn’t undermining trends in Japanese media and culture, but specific elements of the series itself, which returning fans DID understand intimately and therefore felt more connected to.
You raising this point reminds me of an article written recently by a localizer about how he fears the West’s reception of Persona 5 will not keep in mind that it’s a Japanese game about Japan, and will instead try to force it to fit it a Western lens.