Shin Megami Tensai, what the heck could that possibly mean? Translates to New (or True?) Reincarnation of the Goddess. I don't know what that means really. Information I have gathered indicates that the story was originally based on a novel about demons coming from computers, or something. What does it entail? A bunch of role playing games, they're so good too. Much different from the typical "your town has burned, your chosen one, here are your friends, go find a sword of power, you have spiky hair" all that nonsense. Spiky hair is a possibility, as are level ups and genre tropes like that. Otherwise, Megaten games aren't what you expect from a game at all. What's it all about? I'm going to try and tell everyone about the series, as best I can. I can only go by the experiences I've had with them, so games I've not played I'll only briefly mention.
Shin Megami Tensai started off on the Famicom (Another name for Nintendo Entertainment System) as a first person RPG where you wander around gathering a team of demons and battling other demons. Not being released in english, who knows what that could be like. There were two games in that series. As far as I can find, this would be the start of monster collecting games, demon or otherwise. Before Dragon Warrior V and Pokemans. Then after that comes the Shin Megami Tensei series on Super Famicom, again, first person RPGs about demons. Now in that series two were on super nintendo, and the third got released in the rest of the world on PS2. This is where we start.
Shin Megami Tensei 3: Nocturne
My price: 39.99
Known as Lucifer's Call in Europe and simply Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne in the states, this humble game starts with the end of the world and your character becoming a demon. After that you're thrown into a world that I can only describe as dreamlike. D The storyline has something to do with you wandering around trying to figure out what happened, who to partner up with, and Dante is chasing you. Dante from Devil May Cry shows up, which makes sense as the game is about demons and he's a half demon. I'm a good twenty hours in and theres been a lot of vague storyline threads that go all over the place. I really hate to spoil it for anyone, but it has to do with hell on earth, I think. I can't really wrap my head fully around it. I just know I really, really like it.
Gameplay in this is some of the most brilliant and brutal that I've seen in an RPG. It seems like all the enemies from Persona and Devil Summoner are here, plus more. All sorts of demons, ghouls, devils, uglies, ghoulies, and monsters are here. And they all seem to be recruitable to your team. Instead of just fighting them, you can use a talk command and recruit any enemy. Some are more responsive, others just want to kill you. The way you level up is wonderful too. Instead of just randomly assigning stats, you pick what you want. Digital Devil Saga and Devil Summoner let you do that too with all the same statistics too. I really appreciate that. I like being a brute fighter with as much strength as I can handle. My party right now consists of an angel, an elecricity squiggle worm monster, and some ghoulish floating thing, besides my own hero. I'm only a handful of hours in, but when I get the time to play this, I can see it consuming me. Update: I was right. It's all I played for days, it's all I can think about. Even now writing stuff I want to be playing it.
One thing I really don't like is that you can't keep your skills. Your character can switch between different parasites to get different sets of abilities: fire, ice, attack, support, and a ton of others I've yet to find. The problem is, you only can hold so many. It's hard to judge which skill would be the one to keep over another. Just as a rule, my main guy doesn't use boosting moves or healing moves, that's for another character. That's just me though, if you wanted to have your guy be a healer it's probably in there. Magical attacks too.
I found this in the big city for 39.99. I was so excited to find it, I didn't care how much it was. The girl behind the counter was very enthusiastic about the series and spoke a little with me about the games too. On my quest to find the others the same store was listed as having Devil Saga 2, the employees told me that a girl who works there probably snagged it. I'm going to assume it was the same one who sold me Nocturne. She wished me luck my quest to find them all, and then ironicly takes the last one I'm searching for.
About a month later, the internet claimed that gamestop had a copy of Digital Devil Saga 2. Rather than call, I just went there with fingers crossed hoping to stumble on it. Asking the other clerks they told me "Oh there's a girl who works here who has that." I felt bad that I didn't get it, but good that she or whoever might have has it. Find a copy and play this one.
Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga
My price: 34.99
Digital Devil Saga uses the same engine and battle system from Nocturne, but simplifies things and changes them. Instead of having a party full of demons your characters are able to morph into demons. This one has the storyline more up front and feels a lot like a sci fi japanimation cartoon. Its the future. Everyone has funny colored hair. There are several "tribes" all fighting each other. Everyone doesn't seem to have emotion and again the world is dreamlike. In the middle of a gun battle, a pod containing a black haired girl falls down. Several persons are hit with wormlike magic or something that turns them into demons and gives them these odd tattoos. Then it gets crazier from there. I'm only about fifteen hours into it, and I can already tell its my type of game. As the demons, you have to eat your enemies. If you eat them during a battle, you get more experience action points and can level up abilities quicker. At least that's my understanding of the game.
A few more hours in and you're given a skill tree to select from and move around. What this means is a guy who starts off as a healer, can become an attacker or magic user. Or some combination there in, whatever you want. Also cool is that you can select which skills you want at any time, you don't just lose them like in Nocturne. The way you change your characters skill selections at save points is good as well. You pick a set of skills to learn, as you battle you gain points toward a skill set. Then you learn it, then move on to the next skill set. What's great is making my ice guy have fire attacks and eventually not being weak to fire.
A sequel is out there, somewhere. I can't find it. Its thirty dollars on ebay, but gamestop has it listed for twenty. I know you guys like hunting bargains as much as me, and soon as I find it I'll play it to see if it works, then try and finish the first game. Then I'll return to finish this section out. Then I'll come back and write about it. UPDATE: I bought a copy new for 40 dollars. It's yet to arrive.
Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner Raido Kazouqku vs A Red Army
My price: 8.99
This time around its an action RPG set in the 1920s. An action RPG differs from a regular RPG in that the gameplay has a more action oriented feeling to it, get it? Instead of going to a turn based grid, you're put in this area where you can run around attacking the demons with your sword and pistol. From my understanding, the period of time is an alternate history where the emperor of japan that in real life passed away is now in the game world still ruling. Yeah, I can't figure it out either really. But you're a devil summoner who is tasked with defending Japan. The feeling of the storyline this time is like a detective noir and things are divided into "episodes," but there's a storyline that passes through the others that I assume culminates at the end.
Instead of regular RPG battles, you fight in an active battle area. You’re magically transported to a room where you and a single teammate fight your enemies. You run around freely dodging and blocking their attacks, as well as hitting your own attacks. You’ve got a sword and a pistol, something I’m quite fond of in games, and both work pretty well. Your pistol has many ammo variety that can also have elements added to them to help you capture an enemy or destroy them quickly.
This was the first of these games that I've gotten a hold of and have merely sank over a dozen hours or so into. Every bit of it has been fun, even when I wandered around and had to use a guide to figure out what to do after I got exhausted of hunting for where to go and what to do. I usually don't like action RPG battles, but the style and gameplay have me. It's not the bright japanimation the genre usually throws at you.
As the title suggests, you're a devil summoner. You have to physically capture a weakend monster in a battle. Then you an summon one from your little vials at any time. In standard Megaten style, you can combine and fuse your monsters to power them up. You can also set a default monster to travel around with you at all times. During the non-battle times you'll have to summon certain types of monsters to use their abilities. For example, you'll need a flying enemy to go up to a platform and get an item. That type of stuff breaks up the gameplay and really adds to the detective searching for information feeling the story has.
Sequel is coming out the 12 of May. Next week as of this writing. Assumingly what I'll do is pick it up the day its released and play it for an hour or so, then not touch it. I just don't have the time like I used to, sorry. Soon as I play it and get a good feeling for the changes in it or finish up the first game, I'll update this section. June 24 I bought it when it came out, played it that day for about twenty minutes and noticed some major improvements. Soon as I’ve beat the first I’ll be ready to play the second and tell you everything.
Shin Megam Tensei: Persona
Revelations: Persona was an English release for the PS1. If you’ll check the prices for it, you’ll understand why I’m not playing it. One other reason for this is it’s use of the first person dungeons. I always disliked that, but I’m willing to try it out. A play station portable one is coming out this year and I’ll definitely pick that up. Discussions with fans have told me that Persona 2 was the place for a guy like me to start off, and finding out that part 2 was in two parts, I had to get the first part. The first part was never released in English, but was English translated last year by some very cool people on the internet. So I have played 2 Innocent Sin quite a bit.
However: Within a few months a PSP remake is coming out!
Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 2 - Innocent Sin
My price: 0.00
This wasn't released in English for a number of reasons, as I've found out. Minor spoilers I guess, the storyline has to do with neo nazis and Hitler, not to mention the usual demon summoning and high school stuff the Persona games are known for. At the point I got to none of that had shown up yet, but I knew it going in with no problem. This was originally the first half of Persona 2, the second half was actually released in english and takes place after this game. I was told to start with 2 and skip 1, as the first persona features first person dungeons.
Persona 2 features high school areas full of monsters. Gives you a large party right off the bat. Lots of demons to talk to and get cards from. More cards let you buy more persona. More persona mean you kick more butt. More butts kicked means more fun. Typical role playing stuff, except instead of going into fantasy steam punk whatever, you're a high school student investigating things. Not that I hate fantasy space battles with machinegun swords, but the change the settings of this series are one of my favorite things about it. You travel to school to school clearing out demons. The first boss was the high school dean. It’s got a lot to do with this little town and school.
Characters are what really set this out for me. Your main guy is the typical "..." silent character in RPGs. Then there's a spunky blonde white girl, a reporter and her camerawoman (I think?), and then there is Michelle. Michelle is a man, wearing his undies outside his pants. He's the leader of the underpants gang and has a grim reaper persona he uses to attack enemies and other teenagers. It's rather silly to see this character talk and act in this world, and then at a certain point to see some real character growth from this starting point of such a gruff and outrageous character really is great. It's worth playing for the part I saw where something major happens with him, it happens early on so by all means track it down and play it.
One thing that seems to be recurring is the use of Detective's in the games. In Persona 2, you go to an agency to investigate the different rumors. Asking the detectives about certain things brings them into being, such as a hidden weapon shop that I found that way. I need to play some more to for more details, but I believe that's the basics of what goes on there.
The storyline is really awesome. I've never played something this surreal or crazy, at least, before I played others in the series. Rumors are becoming true. Wishes are being granted. Dogs and cats might be living together, I don't know. There's a great deal of mystery going on. I'm about fifteen hours into it, and I got stuck in a bomb shelter. I don't know where to go or what to do. Strategy guides didn't even help me figure it out. Maybe I'll figure it out one day and make some progress and find out what happens. I really really want to get to the outrageous stuff that kept this from coming out in America. The translation is very functional, game ran alright for me. Hardly any problems, other than sound issues. Occasionally sound goes out for me during certain conversations. I really would like to hear all the music and sounds, but that doesn’t bother me.
Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 2 - Eternal Punishment
So this one actually was released in english and in America. Unfortunately, its the sequel to the first half of the game that wasn't released. Everything that happens in the first game was an alternate world that characters can't remember, but it totally happened or something. Your main character from the first game who never speaks, now speaks. The reporter who never shut up, is now the main character who never speaks. Other than that, the Joker character returns as the villain with a paper bag over his head. I'm not joking.
I really want to play this, but tracking down a copy is rather pricey right now. Go take a look on ebay and come back. Even a recent (2008, I think) reprint hasn't made this game all that available to everyone. I will find a copy. I will play that copy. And I'll return with more information. The problem I have really is that I feel the need to finish Innocent Sin first. When I asked someone who knew more about the series than myself at the time which to start with, his answer was Innocent Sin. Having done so really prepared me for Persona 3 and the rest of the series once I tracked them down. I'm suggesting the same for you reading this, start with Innocent Sin then move forward.
One thing I want to mention about the english releases of Persona and Persona 2, they had the name "REVELATIONS" before the title instead of the usual name. I'm guessing they wanted to establish another brand that would make more sense to an english speaking audience. Revelations of course being the apocalyptic parts of the bible.
Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3
My price: 25.00
second copy with box: 15.00
This is the one to get. If you're looking for an RPG and you like these types of games, get this. It's part dating sim and part RPG. By day you're a high school student who goes around talking to people making friends. By night, there's a time of day between 12 and 1 called "the dark hour" and you and your friends fight up a giant tower in this time that just happens to be your school. I highly recommend it. Not as brutal as the others, Persona is actually really inviting. It's easy to get into and pick up. Play for a few hours, put down. Many people put it down for a month or two, pick it back up and play it. It's easy to get tired fighting random battles leveling up, but I managed to do it.
By day you go to school and things are much like a dating sim. Nobody seems to know what that is, so I'll explain. In Japan, there are games where you role play as a character leveling up their social skills and relationships. You make friends with a kid who wants to date a teacher rather early on. That story alone is worth doing, but the others have such wild happenings I need to replay it to see it all. There's so much going on. During the morning is your school work. Instructors show up and give a speech about something, then usually ask a question. These show up later on your mid terms and finals. Some of it can be really interesting like the nurse who talks about magic. One guy talks about samurai periods of history and I found it confusing. In the afternoon you're able to roam around and talk to people. You've three things to max out: charisma, academics, and charm. And then there's the evening.
When you return to your residence, you can go at night and fight monsters. The way battle works is great. Everything has a weakness and strengths, the elementals: Zio (lighting), Bufu(ice), Agi(fire), and Garu(wind) and the two instant ones hama (light) and mudo (evil). Each regular attack is different too, you have strikes, slashes, or pierce attacks. Each teammate has different weapons, one guy has gloves, one girl has a bow, and then there are others who use spears, axes, knives, and guns. Strategy is important here. If you manage to hit a weakness you get an extra turn in battle. It’s fun to experiment with this and try to get a Persona that can be immune to attacks and dish out damage of every type, if only to really mess up the enemy.
Sixty six hours and counting. A short discussion with someone on the internet has dishearted me from playing more of the game. I really, really want to play it and finish it, but another sixty hours is asking a lot. I just don't have the time. One day I will. I know I will. I'll be able to just sit there all day and all night grinding away my levels and talking to people. This next sentence might spoil stuff for someone, so if you're sensitive look away. What stopped me from playing (besides having other games, which really stopped me cold for a few weeks) was that I found out about the last boss. It's twelve parts. With the final part having no resistances. I asked "No resistances? He's weak to everything?" To which I got a grim response. "No, he's weak to nothing." Then they told me they had no time to level up there characters and were essentially going to have to replay it to beat it. I don't want to do that. I want to beat it on this playtrhough. I then told them where I was in the game. I'm still a good ways off from the end apparently. One day I'll find the time for you Persona 3.
I'm sure you don't notice, but months passed between paragraphs. Not game months, real ones. It's now June. I’ve been writing this since April.
I found the time. I was only a few hours away. I got to level 80 and managed to finish the game relatively easy. Over a 100 hours on my save file. I think I got the better ending and upon reading about it online, I interpreted things a little differently than how they occurred. I've still a whole other chapter to play, because I have the FES version. I'm anxious to play it.
June 24 Played it this morning for about an hour and half, it’s a whole other storyline that picks up right after where the part ended.
Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4
My price: 39.99
Still in the plastic. I thought "Oh hey, I'll buy Persona 4 new. Since I'm only a few weeks away from beating Persona 3." No. Wrong. Read the last paragraph above to find out where I'm at and what's going on. I really, really wnat to take it out of the plastic and try it out, but I'll wait. I told myself to wait until I was done with Persona 3 and I'll wait. I don't care how long. An interesting thing about this is that this is the only time I've had a game in the plastic for this long. Unlike some collectors, I'd rather PLAY my games than look at them or just have them.
June 20, 2009 I opened Persona 4. I've yet to play it now. I noticed the price of the game has dropped a little, and I probably should have kept my copy in plastic for resale. But I'm not a resaler. I bought this to play it. And when I do, I'll be sure and talk about it here. June 24, 2009 I'm now playing Persona 4. Today or tomorrow I'm going to buy the new game in the series on DS.
And that’s it for the PS2 games. Or one’s that are in English. Except the one that just got released on DS! And the few gameboy titles. Also the one title on Virtual Boy (seriously) that's related to the series. And maybe a few more.
Being in a Megaten mood today, I also now have English versions of Shin Megami Tensei and Shin Megami Tensei II. I’ve yet to play them, but I will. And as soon as the original Nintendo ones are translated, I’ll play those. The other spin off’s, the If… and whatever else there is (devil summoner on saturn for example), I’ll play it. One title for the xbox of all things is only in Japanese and I can’t find any information on. There’s an MMO I’m going to start playing soon, if you want to play with me e-mail me: email@example.com I’d love to play with some people who are into this stuff. I know I missed quite a few, don’t yell at me. When and if I get time to find and play them, I’ll be sure and update this page.
A full list of the Megaten games on Wikipedia, including English releases.
Hardcore Gaming’s articles on the series.
Gamefaqs of course has information, if you can find it.
Megami Tensei Wiki
If you want to check back from time to time, I’ll be sure and tell everyone when I update this and I fully intend to do so.