Ah…my first GameCola review. This should be fun.
Shin Megami Tensei is a game that never came to the US (perhaps not even out of Japan) due to a little bit of xenophobia in the game and a lot of “occult” themes. Lucifer, demons, God, and other such garbage that crap like Xenogears has used to make big bucks are all in there.
So you’re probably wondering what the hell Shin Megami Tensei is. It’s a Super NES (Super Famicom in Japan) RPG. No, it isn’t a BAD SNES RPG that had religious themes thrown in at the last minute (see: Chrono Trigger). This game is right up there with Treasure Hunger G and Final Fantasy V (damn good games).
Anyway, enough of this ass-kissing. Shin Megami Tensei owns. You start off wandering through a hazy maze. (You’ll go through mazes for the majority of the game; it takes place in the first-person view). After a bit of automated wandering, you meet a giant stone face that asks what your name is. After talking to him, you meet a guy on a crucifix and a guy with a demon on him. After that, you meet a girl named Yuriko. Then you wake up. (IT WAS ALL A DREAM.)
Shortly after waking, you receive an e-mail. The e-mail is…odd, at best. It claims that the world will soon be overrun by demons of old. To utilize their power, the writer of the message attaches a Demon Summoning program. Thus begins your fight.
Speaking of fighting, Shin Megami Tensei‘s battle system is better than most. Upon engaging an enemy, you don’t have to fight. You can run (which is an actual action; you run back one space) or even converse with the demon. Upon engaging combat, the main character can attack with a sword (most of which are knives early in the game) or gun (which you can get rather early, but not use due to the fact that you need ammunition), use your computer to summon a demon, defend, or use an item. You other comrades can’t use a computer, so they have magic.
I’m sure I mentioned before that you can talk to the demons. Anyway, if I didn’t—well, you can. You can talk to them to the point of convincing them to join you, unless you’re stupid (literally).
You see, various things play a role in this game. You’ve got the typical RPG stats (HP, Strength, Agility, etc.), Moon Phase, and Alignment. If you don’t pay attention to these stats, chances are you won’t get very far in the world of Shin Megami Tensei. I’m guessing you already know what the basic RPG stats do, so I’ll outline the unique features of this game:
Moon Phase: Something that makes this game truly unique is the Moon Phase thingy. The phase of the moon affects random things. Some demons are more willing to join you on certain moon phases, and on a full moon, demons ignore you entirely.
Alignment: There are two alignment axes: The Dark-Light axis and the Law-Chaos axis. In the game, these two axes play a very important role. Conversation with other people, what kind of weaponry you can equip, and what kinds of demons you can summon are all affected by your Alignment.
This game also presents something other games don’t have these days: moral ambiguity. There isn’t some idiotic “good vs. evil” bullshit here. Instead, you are presented with the views of two factions: The Mesians and the Gaians
The Mesians believe strongly in the word of law and that if everyone followed it, there wouldn’t be any problems. Good shit, eh? Problem is, if you don’t believe in their god, they’ll kill you. And the Gaians are also pretty cool. They think that people should be free to do whatever they want, not bound by laws, but rather by chaos. The downside is that with no laws, there would only be survival of the fittest, natural selection, and fuckloads of violence. Plus, the Mesians and Gaians hate each other. I don’t think there is a way to impress either group while joining the other. Pretty lame, eh?
But wait! There’s a third faction: the Neutral guys. They don’t have a name that ends in “ians,” but they’re still okay. They believe that ideas from both factions should be used, on a case-by-case basis. Pretty open minded, eh? The bad news is if anyone goes toward either extreme, they’ve gotta go. I personally go with these guys, not because of my beliefs, but because I like being able to summon lots of different demons, and I get more experience due to me killing both factions (oops, pissed ’em off). The MAJOR downside of Neutrality is that you have to try really hard at it. It’s easier to conform than to go the way of the underdog in this game; you’re oftentimes presented with situations where both sides attempt to woo you with their brainwashing bullshit.
If that isn’t complicated enough, you can also fuse demons with each other in this game. (You can even fuse them with swords.) Don’t worry, though; the process was thought out quite well, and you’ll probably get it down in about 30 years (inside joke—you’ll get it if you play the game).
Another thing that was thought out quite well was the music of this game. You won’t get the boring tunes of Breath of Fire 2 nor the…oh, who am I kidding? There are only three songs that I like: the Battle Theme (RAAAWWWWWK), the song in the Kongokai, and the…uh…no, that’s it. Only two. The rest are mostly ambiance/mood adjusters. The rest of the songs lend to the environment like they should, but…there are only two songs that I like! Final Fantasy X has twice as many, and I haven’t even played the damned game (due to my ban on all FF games past VII).
At least the sound in this game works. Guns sound like guns should, sword slashes are slightly convincing, magical flaming death/psychic waves/magical lightning bolts cast at enemies sound like what magical flaming death/psychic waves/magical lightning bolts should…etc.
And the controls…well, they aren’t THAT bad. You turn left using Left, you go forward using Up, you turn right using Right, and you do a 180 with Down. At times they’re a tad unresponsive, but that could be my controller. Then again, this game is more strategic and slow-paced than most RPGs where you can equip the Red Mail and a Hit Ring and beat Giga Gaia with Frog only at level 16. (CHRONO TRIGGER SUCKS BALLS.)
Speaking of Frog, he’s ugly and stupid. Ozawa could kick his ass. You don’t know who he is? THEN PLAY SHIN MEGAMI TENSEI, I CAN’T EXPRESS THIS ENOUGH. THE GAME IS REALLY DAMNED GOOD.
…Sorry. Anyway, the people in this game look like actual PEOPLE. The demons…well, they’re ugly inherently. The artists did a good job portraying many mythological creatures, although the game suffers a bit from the cookie-cutter syndrome. I’ve seen a lot of palette-swapped enemies and places that look the same, but that’s the price you pay when you pack so much goodness into a game. If anything, I like this game because it doesn’t have that “style over substance” credo that CerTain (NOTE THAT LETTERS C AND T ARE CAPITALIZED. COULD THIS BE SOME KIND OF HINT?) other games have. This game is the real deal.
Yes, Shin Megami Tensei is a game that can safely be called the best damned game EVER.
At least until Shin Megami Tensei 2 gets translated, anyway.