Digital Devil Monogatari: Megami Tensei
Welcome to the first part of this Megami Tensei Retrospective! I don't intend to cover all the games in chronological order, but I thought it would be a good idea to begin with the game that started it all: Digital Devil Monogatari: Megami Tensei, released for the Famicom in 1987.
The story of this game is based on the Digital Devil Story novels by Aya Nishitani. Akemi Nakajima, a computer genius, wrote a program that somehow turned bad and summoned an army of demons. Accompanied with her friend Yumiko, who can cast spells because she happens to be the reincarnation of the Shinto Goddess Izanami, Akemi enters the Tower of Daedalus to put an end to the chaos that he created himself. For a 20 years old game, I thought it was a pretty cool story. It's kinda funny that such a computer genius is stupid enough to not expect the terrible consequences of creating a demon summoning program.
When you start the game, you have to allocate 15 points to your stats. However, for Akemi, if you don't allocate most of the points in strength, you won't be able to kill anything. For Yumiko, if she doesn't have enough psychic power points, she won't be able to cast Dia (healing spell) from the beginning, so you'll be pretty much screwed. With this in mind, the point allocation system doesn't leave much room for customization, but it's still a nice touch.
The first floor of the Tower of Daedalus is some kind of village populated by strange people. Right from the beginning, compared to the other Megami Tensei games, you can notice that the setting is more fantasy based. This is kind of a disappointment for me, because I really love the modern urban setting that characterize most Megaten games. As usual, you can find in this village a store, a healer, and a place to fuse demons.
After buying some equipment, I decided to enter the dungeon. The first thing I noticed was the music. This is probably the most badass 8 bit music that I ever heard. I can listen to it in loop for hours without getting tired of it. I was also surprised by the quantity of elements of this game that still remains in modern Megami Tensei games. The moon cycle is there, you can recruit monsters in battles by talking to them, and the spell names are the same.
After wandering around for a few hours, I finally encountered a boss. Since he was pretty huge, I was sure he was the final boss. I thought it was a pretty good length for a 20 years old game, similar to the first Wizardry games. But I was completely wrong. I was sooooo far away from the end. This game is absolutely HUGE.
Realizing that the game wasn't over yet, I went back to the first floor to heal myself and to fuse demons. Then I decided to go deeper into the Tower of Daedalus. After a while, the graphics and the music suddenly changed. I was pleasantly surprised, because I didn't expect that much from a Famicom game. After exploring a bit more, I met a small Viking that asked me to give him a shield in order to let me pass to the next area. By pure luck, I happened to find the shield earlier, so I gave it to him.
In the next area, after killing the boss who actually is a medusa that turned the entire area into stone, everything returned to its normal self so I could explore further. After that, I met a captain who explained me that this area is not a dungeon, but a ship. By talking to him, I could travel to different areas in the game. I thought it was a pretty cool concept for a dungeon crawler.
However, this is where the hell started. The next dungeons are absolutely huge and chaotic. In other Megaten games, there is something called Automap that draws a map for you, so you can know where you've been. In this game, there is a spell called Mapper that creates a really small 3x5 map, but it doesn't helps that much since everything looks the same. I guess I'm supposed to draw maps by myself on a piece of paper but, as oldschool as I am, I don't feel like doing that. Still, even drawing a map would be really difficult to do, because sometimes I get warped to a random area and completely lose track of where I am. On top of that, occasionally, there are complete parts of dungeons that lead to absolutely nowhere. Imagine going through a labyrinth for 5 hours just to end up facing a wall. What the hell were they thinking when they made that game?
In spite of that, there is, from time to time, some pretty interesting stuff going on in those dungeons. For example, after wandering in circle for countless hours in a dungeon, I ended up meeting one of the weirdest things I've ever seen in a video game. Some strange pink girl with three empty eye sockets and tubes going all over her body is talking to me: "The Nakajima crewc You went through a lot to get therec Because I made a pact with Lucifer, I became like this. Please release me from this mask." It's not Silent Hills, but I thought it was pretty creepy for a Famicom game.
At some point during my painful exploration, the music changed again, so I guess I was at the end of the dungeon. However, another stupid little Viking was waiting for me! This time, in order to pass to the next area, I needed to give him a swordc I wanted to finish every single Megaten game, but I guess I'll do an exception for this one. If I'm going back to those endless dungeons to search for, room by room, a sword that could be anywhere, I fear that I might reach bankruptcy for destroying too many controllers. Therefore, this is where my Digital Devil Monogatari: Megami Tensei adventure ends.
Even if I'm complaining a lot about the crazy dungeon designs, playing this game was still a good experience. The story was great for its time and the music was just badass. I also need to mention that the deep and complex demon fusion system was really impressive for its time. It was great to experience the roots of Megaten. If you are a Megami Tensei fan and want to see where the series started, you should give it a try. Just pretend that the game ends after the first boss!
Herefs Daedalus, my favorite track of the soundtrack, remixed for the Super Famicom remake.
Listen to Daedalus