Rend... Slaughter... Devour your enemies! There is no other way to survive. You cannot escape your hunger, Warriors of Purgatory!
—Digital Devil Saga Intro
A Spinoff of the Shin Megami Tensei JRPG series for the PlayStation 2, divided into two parts. Developed by Atlus, the first game was released in Japan in 2004 with the second following in 2005.All is not well in the realm of the Junkyard, a wartorn land living under blackened skies and perpetual rain. An endless war is being fought between six Tribes struggling for dominance over the Junkyard. The Karma Temple, a neutral party that moderates the war, has decreed that the Tribe who defeats all the others to control every sector of the Junkyard shall be awarded the ultimate prize: the right to ascend to Nirvana, a mythical paradisefree of war or strife.The Embryon Tribe, led by the calm and silent Serph, is locked in a stalemate with the nearby Vanguards Tribe. During one of their skirmishes, they encounter a mysterious egg-shaped relic that neither side can identify. Neither Tribe acknowledges ownership of the device, and both demand the other remove it or risk considering it as provocation for war. Before they can act, the relic explodes, sending out beams of light that pierce the bodies of the combatants and transform them into bloodthirsty demons. Regaining their senses and awakening to a bloodbath, Serph and the Embryon investigate the crater left by the relic and discover a young girl with black hair and no identifying Tag Ring.Soon afterwards, the Karma Temple issue a new decree: that the Tribes must use their new-found demonic power- known as "Atma"- to break the stalemate of the Junkyard and devour their competition. They also add a new condition: that the winning Tribe must capture and present the black-haired girl to the Karma Temple in order to be allowed into Nirvana. But demonic strength was not the only thing granted to the inhabitants of the Junkyard; they have also awakened a new power called "emotion".The members of the Embryon are:
The second game follows directly from the events of the first. The Embryon have triumphed and ascended to Nirvana. However, what they find there is not paradise, but a new hell in which the rays of a blackened sun have turned the entire population of the world into stone statues. The only survivors are those who live underground or under the thumb of the Karma Society. To make things worse, Sera is their prisoner and Heat has turned Sixth Ranger Traitor on you. Fortunately, two new members join the Embryon:
Fred: The Tagalong Kid. Has black hair. The son of the previous leader of the local resistance movement. His duty now is mostly bugging Roland to sober up and do his job properly. Not playable.
The two games are mostly dungeon crawlers with bits of plot driving the action in-between. The combat system marks the return of the Press Turn system from Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne. Each character can set up to eight skills, and unlike Nocturne any skill that has been learned is retained permanently. Skills are learned by buying "Mantra" from Karma Terminals and earning enough Atma Points to complete them. By learning one Mantra, advanced Mantra of that type are unlocked. Hunt skills can be used to greatly increase the amount of Atma Points harvested from an enemy at the risk of developing a stomachache and gaining none.A save game from ''Digital Devil Saga'' can be carried over to ''Digital Devil Saga 2'' to gain additional bonuses.There is also a series of novels written by Yu Godai called Quantum Devil Saga: Avatar Tuner that ties in to the story of the games.The character sheet can be found here
This game provides examples of:
Absurdly Spacious Sewer: Admittedly DDS1 at least doesn't need to give any reasons as to why they shouldn't be huge, since the entire world is a virtual reality, but the ones in DDS2 make no sense.
After the End: In DDS2, we find out that most of humanity was killed off five years ago, when God started turning everyone human who was touched by the sun into stone. The Junkyard also seems to be built on the ruins of a dead civilization, although that turns out to be false.
A God Am I: Serph Sheffield's master plan was to gain God's power, but hoo boy did that backfire. Horribly.
Apocalypse How: The events of the series are kicked into motion by a Planetary-scale Civilization Disruption. Brahma attempts a Planetary/Physical Annihilation Apocalypse in Digital Devil Saga 2.
Arbitrary Head Count Limit: No, we never get any rationale for why you can only have three people in your party. Presumably the remaining two plus whatever hang-ons you currently have are hanging in the back, scarfing the leftovers.
He doesn't use Megidolaon if you don't use any skill or items that counters or protect against his ice attacks. But getting hit by Megidolaon spam is better than getting your party frozen all the time... unless you are playing in Hard mode and you aren't overleveled (in that case Megidolaon spam means certain death).
Beehive Barrier: Whenever an attack is reflected, whether it be physical or magical.
Beneath the Mask: The Atma is a person's true character and the virus merely awakens the demonic data inside a human.
Betty and Veronica Switch: Between Sera, Serph and Heat in the game's backstory: Heat genuinely cared for Sera, but found it difficult to express his feelings and always ended up displaying a hostile exterior whenever she was around. Serph appeared to care for her, but in reality he was a Manipulative Bastard and saw her as little more than a tool for his own gain.
Biodata: Everything is made up of Data and said data travels back and forth between Earth and the Sun, which is how reincarnation is possible. This is also why people are able to become demons via the Atma Virus: a human's data also has the code for the demon data that exist inside them.
Bi the Way: Some players interpret Heat this way because of how he calls Seraph "cute" when you talk to him at The Sun.
Blank Slate: Everyone in the first game. After gaining the Atma they awaken to a single powerful emotion and develop from there.
Blessed with Suck: The Atma virus grants one the power to morph into a powerful demon, capable of using magic and physical feats. The price one pays is that one must devour other people and demons, but one can never be fully satiated. If a person goes for a prolonged period of time without feeding, he/she becomes a demon permanently, insane and attacks anything and anyone.
Bloodier and Gorier: Possibly the bloodiest Eastern RPG s ever made and certainly the bloodiest of the SMT games. The first cutscene of the first game shows a man being sliced in half and eaten on-screen. The many, many, character deaths can get quite nasty as well. Especially Roland's. It should be noted that the gameplay is still entirely bloodless, though.
Bonus Boss: Several. Killing the ones in the first game nets you a bonus in the sequel. The first game's strongest enemy, the Demi-fiend (from Nocturne), is probably the hardest Bonus Boss ever to appear in a RPG, although a GameFAQs poster called Red Star found a weakness that makes the fight easier. "Easier", in this case, means that after you've managed to do enough Level Grinding and farming of randomly dropped stat boosting items to hit the statistic caps (though hitting the max luck stat actually makes the battle HARDER), you might actually be able to win the fight on your third try instead of your thirtieth (with each try lasting more than 1 hour). Satan, in the second game, manages to be almost as difficult, not least because he only appears in Hard Mode.
Boss Bonanza: The final dungeons of both games had five to ten bosses and/or sub-bosses within them.
Boss Rush: One sidequest pits you against the 4 archangels in an abandoned research facility. The last fight in the quest has you fight Uriel, Raphael and Gabriel again before you face Michael.
Boring, but Practical: Hunt skills. They do double damage (quad if you land a critical hit) on frightened enemies and are not affected by null/repel physical.
Cannibalism Superpower: Due to the Demon form requiring more magnetite than anything else to continue living, they have to eat others with large amounts of Magnetite, which are humans and other demons.
Character Development: Quite visible throughout both games, but most especially in the first. The characters start off emotional blank slates, awaken to a single powerful emotion, and develop from there. Argilla goes from initial horror and disgust about her situation to grudging acceptance to eventually being quite at peace with herself. Gale takes the longest to emotionally awaken since he's a calm tactician, but by the end he's grown far beyond what he once was.
Cielo: What happened to "I do not comprehend?" [Gale's Spock catchphrase]
Gale: Some things cannot be comprehended, only felt.
Chest Monster: Besides the regular kind there is also one door in the second game that looks like a Save Room, but is actually a trap set by the enemies. Instead of a save point you find an unavoidable battle against 2 waves of baddies...and you're probably half dead by this point to begin with if you haven't been keeping up with your healing.
Curtains Match the Window: Everyone in the junkyard. Actually a plot point, as their eyes only start matching their brightly-coloured hair after their emotions awaken. Before that, they're all a uniform flat gray.
Which leads to fridge brilliance. Serph's eyes AND hair are both grey. He has no real emotions since Sera didn't know his personality.
Darker and Edgier: Amongst the darkest games in the SMT series. Game 2 is this to the original.
Dark Reprise: The music when fighting Heat and some other bosses in Digital Devil Saga 2 is called Hunting: Betrayal, which is a reprise of the regular battle theme from the first game.
Demonic Possession: This happens when the personality of the Atma Avatar overpowers the personality of the human. Examples include Beelzebub, Metatron, Gabriel, Raphael, Uriel, Michael and Satan. Especially heart-wrenching in the case of Metatron because the human who transforms into Metatron was desperately searching for his girlfriend and tried to fight Metatron's influence unsuccessfully.
Eleventh Hour Superpower: In the sequel, Serph and Sera merge on their journey to the Sun, becoming the androgynous being, Seraph. Keeping with Hindu overtones, Seraph's demon form is Ardhanarishvara, or Ardha for short.
Evil Feels Good: Somewhat. Heat's expression when he transforms the first time.
Evil Tower of Ominousness: The Karma Temple in the first game. A unbelievable huge tall tower that is a dark white color with blue lights and serves as the first games final dungeon.
Eyeless Face: All of the mayor characters Atma avatars lack any sort of eyes and at most have some kind of colored marking where they should be.
Fashionable Asymmetry: The Maribel Tribe have this going on. Most noticeable with their leader and her Atma Avatar, while others either have paint on one side of their face or missing sleeves or part of their pants on one side.
Foreshadowing: The story of the two princes and princess in the amusement park in the first game, particularly the scrambled parts that call into doubt the real motivations of the "Good Prince" and "Evil Prince." In their previous lives, Heat was the only one who genuinely cared about Sera, while Serph and the others were just manipulating her. Interestingly, it's not until the second game that it becomes relevant.
A bit more minor but a skill you can obtain in the first game is named "Black Sun", hinting of the situation in the second game.
Talking to a lot of characters through the game give hints that there's something up with the Junkyard, from people talking about Government, schools, music, etc. All of which are things not found in the Junkyard.
The Four Gods: All four appear as optional bosses in the first game under their leader Kohryu and each has taken over a part of the Junkyard.
Guide Dang It: To get Heat in DDS2, you have to make specific dialog choices over both games. Also, where to get the red key in the first game (an optional area that floods every now and then).
Funny enough, most players stumble upon the specific dialog choices in DDS 1: you just need to pick the 1st choice in all of them.
The Jack Frost quizzes in 2. Half the questions can be answered if, for some reason, you were paying very close attention to literally everything that's happened throughout both games. The other half require information that is not present ANYWHERE in the games, such as the names of the various characters' Atmas, which are different from the names of their demon forms (Serph's Atma is Water Crown, while his demon is Varna).
Hermaphrodite: You know what Sera's mother and father have in common? They're both Jenna Angel.
Sera and Serph also become one towards the end of the second game. Like mother/father, like daughter/son?
Heroic Mime: Serph. Lampshaded by Heat, who criticizes him for not speaking up enough.
Not only is it Lampshaded by Heat "You know this wouldn't happen if you'd just speak up more", it's also done by Gale in the second game "It's ok, you don't have to say anything" (funny because DDS2 is the game where we actually do get to hear Serph talk)
Healing Checkpoint: Large Karma Terminals do this. Small ones normally don't, but some Small Terminals might have a Life Terminal next to them to do the same job. (Small Terminals can also transport you to a large one if you need healing enough that you're willing to walk back.)
Heroic Sacrifice: All main characters die in the most badass and heart crushing way. By the end of the game, you won't have any tears anymore.
Margot Cuvier in regards to how she treats Sera and Heat.
Honor Before Reason: The Wolves are mentioned by a NPC to choose to die fighting and being eaten rather than surrender to the Brutes. Even after Lupa's defeat some of them state they are still loyal to only Lupa.
Horror Hunger: A side-effect of the Atma Virus. Infected have the choice between indulging in cannibalism on a regular basis or turning into mindless raving monsters.
Human Resources: The Meat factories in the sequel produce food for the demonized inhabitants of the world by grinding up the people who aren't deemed worthy enough to live there.
Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: This happens to a lot of characters: Heat gets stabbed by Bat, Serph gets stabbed by Heat, Gale and Angel impale each other, Cielo getting impaled by a piece of air plane wreckage . . . and then there's Chernobog who impales himself during certain attacks.
Incredibly Lame Pun: The skeletons in the theme park dungeon of Coordinate 136 are quite fond of these.
Skeleton: I'm sure you've already figured out that you're boned... Skeleton: Tired of falling yet? Aww, I'm just ribbin' ya.
I Need You Stronger: Roland reveals in the first game that the tribes of the Junkyard were forced to kill each other and ascend to Nirvana because the winning tribe's data would be copied and programmed into microchips.
Injured Vulnerability: A lot of the demons are easier to Devour once their Health's low enough, and there are actual devour skills/stat boosts that work better that way.
Jive Turkey: Some of the Brute tribesmen speak this way.
Kill 'em All: Twice! Nothing is left of the Junkyard at the end of the first game, and, by the end of the second, every last member of the Embryon is dead—the last dungeon is inside the sun, after everyone's been killed! Good thing reincarnation is a very real thing in this particular series...
La Résistance: The Underground City residents in the sequel. They call themselves the "Lokapala" (Guardians of the Gods)
Late Arrival Spoiler: The fact that the first game is in a computer is pretty blatant by the name of the upcoming cellphone prequel Test Server.
Lethal Joke Character: Cielo and Null Sleep. In the first game, Cielo's absymal stats and weakness to ailment attacks make him The Load. Null Sleep is a skill that causes you to automatically dodge any attack, but only if you're under the Sleep ailment: a skill so conditional that it's a waste of a skill slot. The two intersect if you choose to fight Bonus BossDemi-Fiend, where Null Sleep is required to avoid defeat and Cielo's weakness makes him the best candidate to use it.
Cielo actually was intended to be like this all the time. His bizarre stat point distribution is intended to work with immunities to individual ailments (this requires you to realize all enemies in a given area tend to specialize in the same ailment) and the Press Turn system to cheat enemies out of their turns. Nobody reasoned how on earth this was supposed to work, so Atlus gave him one or two extra levels in badass in the second game to help clarify how Cielo was meant to be played.
Level Grinding: Has a minor form, Skill Grinding. Certain dungeons are made easier if the party has the right skills equipped, and you may have to grind to get them. The Karma Temple at the end of the first Digital Devil Saga requires certain skills to avoid the combination death the random encounters throw at you.
Lip Lock: Even though the voiceactorsareveryexperiencedin voicingforeignanimation, the dialogue has as much awkward pauses and speed variations as other examples in this page; the care put into the lip matching with the Japanese dialogue certainly doesn't help. It's less noticeable when the characters are in their demon forms, but the rest of the time.... yeah.
Doubly so for Serph. Not only is his name pronounced like "surf" (his affinity is with water/ice), see the spoiler for Messianic Archetype below for a second meaning.
"Bat" in the first game is the name of the human whose demon form is Camazotz, a giant bat. This probably sounded a little cooler and less literal to the developers since English wasn't their primary language.
Subverted for Seraph who isn't associated with Expel-type attacks.
Nerf: Drain skills when compared to Nocturne, especially those that drain MP. In Nocturne they where classified as Almighty meaning they always work, but here they are classified as Mute meaning that if an opponent is immune to status ailments it won't work.
Nintendo Hard: Although the games are relatively easy compared to many other Megaten games, they're still harder than most JRPGs. (On the other hand, the two Bonus Bosses noted above are insane even by Megaten standards.)
One Game for the Price of Two: The two games each contain only half the story, and are not intended to stand alone. Fortunately, each volume contains enough content and the thematic division is strong enough that it doesn't seem like a mere Revenue Enhancing Device. Taken together, you're pretty sure to get some 140+ hours out of the games.
There are also a significant number of changes to the gameplay system: a new character advancement system and the ability to equip Rings, to name two. Oh, and Cielo is no longer The Load.
Orochi: Appears as a optional boss in the Samsara Tunnels, deciding to make the Embyron his next meal since the other one got away. Unfortunately the beautiful woman who escaped died after inside of the Brutes Base.
Painful Transformation: When the Junkyard inhabitants go berserk after being infected with Atma at the beginning.
Past Life Memories: Everyone in the Junkyard remembers their past to some degree after being infected with the Atama Virus. How much depends on the individual.
Then there's the demon data inside a person. Due to the activation of the data several demons begin to remember their past and start to dominate their human self until they take complete control. Examples include the Four Archangels, Metatron, Megananda. Others cause some to view it more akin to a alternate personality like one member of the Solids who couldn't decide whether to live as either his old self or Cu Chulainn.
Half-subverted in that teaching a character mantras from his opposing element is actually more effective, as attack spells and resist spells tend to come bundled.
Petal Power: The physical special ability, "Sakura Rage".
Pigeonholed Voice Actor: Crispin Freeman provides the voice of Heat, and Steve Blum is the voice of Gale in the games' US release.
Also, Yuri Lowenthal is Serph and Schrodinger, Dave Wittenberg is Cielo, Amanda Winn-Lee is Argilla and Wendee Lee is Sera. Pretty much all of them are seasoned Mega Ten voices, most notably Yuri and Dave.
Played for Drama: A lot of the things you take for granted because DDS is a videogame; for instance, the Junkyard's complete lack of backstory form plot elements.
Power Tattoo: The ability to transform into a demon is marked through a tattoo on the user's skin. In the picture above, Serph's is on his left cheek, Argilla's is above her breasts. These glow when the user transforms.
Pity the woman who has her tattoo on her butt cheek.
Quirky Miniboss Squad: Subverted. You fight the Tribhvana a few times, and each time, they run off. Then you run into one of them alone... with blood dripping out of his mouth, patting his stomach ominously. Turns out he killed and ate the other two members to gain their powers.
Reincarnation: Almost every member of the Junkyard was once a person in the real world. It's arguable as to whether most of your main party members are reincarnations, or newly created souls modeled after formerly living people in the real world. Made even more confusing by Lupa, whose real-life analogue was Fred's dad and the former leader of Lokapala, who died after the Junkyard was apparently created. How would Sera have even known about him, anyway?
What happens to the Embryon at the end, as they did not achieve enlightenment themselves. The same goes for Sera and Serph who reincarnate while Seraph does not, as they did not achieve it as individuals.
The Junkyard also has its own system like this. Whoever dies and remains of them is eventually broken down and becomes the clouds, which then becomes rain and leads to the creation of rookies.
Ridiculously Cute Critter: Nasty effects aside, it's hard not to admit that the bat form looks really cute, especially when compared to the rest of the game.
Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: Averted. If you know your metric prefixes, you know that 945.56 zettabytes per second is a huge amount of data transferred per unit time. For comparison, Wikipedia says that the rate of data generation worldwide is about one zettabyte per year. In DDS, everything is made of data, so when that much data from Earth is uploaded to the Sun, the results are... not good.
Serious Business: The motto of Johnny the Mad-Mart Express owner in the second game. Justified, in that he usually appears where there are enemies everywhere, and someone has to deliver the items...
Shoot the Dog: Quite a few, but most notably Jinana and literally Lupa.
Shout-Out:If you talk to the prisoners in the Human Resources prison/factory one of them says "If you devour me I'll become more powerful than your digestive system can ever imagine"
Single-Use Shield: The "Void Element" spells. Technically they last for a whole turn rather than one hit, but the way the Press Turn system works, it's highly likely that getting an attack nullified by a Void spell means the attacker's side's turn immediately ends. Especially early on, they are absolutely critical to keep from being horribly butchered in boss fights (and some regular fights).
So Long, and Thanks for All the Gear: Inverted, characters who leave will master their currently equipped skills if they leave the party, no matter how long it would normally take.
Something Completely Different: Most of the Shin Megami Tensei series is about collecting demons (or in the case of the Persona series, collecting Personas). Digital Devil Saga bucks the trend by having your protagonists be demons themselves, and instead of collecting enemies to get new abilities, you simply destroy them to level up. It's oddly much more like a conventional console RPG in this manner (though the subject matter is anything but conventional).
Super Power Lottery: The Atma Virus grants you the ability to turn into a demon but you have no control over what demon form you get. Results range from gigantic nigh-invulnerable golden dragons to pathetic amorphous blobs.
Dialogue suggests that those who changed early (like the core members of the Embryon) got stronger forms than those who were infected late, and those who were already tribe leaders and in positions of power in their tribe were more likely to get a powerful form. The Embryon being relatively democratic at its upper echelons and present at the virus's release into the Junkyard contributed to the tribe securing five Asuras instead of one or two. It may also have something to do with more of the real people's data being used in constructing their Junkyard counterparts, so tribe leaders and their seconds got purer strains of demon data.
Taken for Granite: Sunlight turns every normal human to stone in the sequel. Very few humans escaped petrification and those so affected are irreversibly dead, due to them being turned into extremely crumbly statues. Yes, it's just as creepy as it sounds.
Also, Stone attacks. If you get turned to stone, then hit by a melee attack, it kills you instantly. Some bosses like to use their multiple actions to inflict petrification and then bash someone. (Fortunately any spell that blocks Death effects also blocks Stone.)
The Cake Is a Lie: Nirvana exists, but it's far from the paradise the Embryon imagined.
Took a Level in Badass: Cielo in the second game. His weakness to ailments was toned down, making him much more useful, and he gets some pretty great scenes such as taking down three fighter jets with his body. Of course, it's a Heroic Sacrifice.
Sera too. When Serph is presumed dead, she literally becomes his Distaff Counterpart and assumes leadership of the Embryon, until Serph returns.
Unexpected Shmup Level: In the second game there is a bonus minigame where one can play through 3 shmup levels with Cielo featuring Beelzebub as the final boss.
Vendor Trash: The Cells in the first game and varied plants in the second. Any time you get a Cell from a box, they are noted as materials sought by the Karma Temple, and living plants are just that valuable in Nirvana. Interestingly, this foreshadows the fact the Cells, as commented by a surviving Wolf in Ajna, are unnatural to the Junkyard, and are implied to be some sort of probe sent to analyze it.
Wham Line: The first game is full of them, but the most notable one is delivered by Lupa and then you realise that there is something seriously off about the Junkyard.
Lupa: Have you ever seen a child here in the Junkyard?
What Is This Thing You Call Love?: The members of the Embryon (particularly Heat) struggle to make sense of why they feel anger, remorse, and affection towards themselves and each other after gaining their Atma.
What Happened to the Mouse?: Presumably Jinana and Lupa are reincarnated, but it's left pretty uncertain as to just exactly what happened.
What Have I Become?: Argilla, at least at first, seriously dislikes Prithivi's Horror Hunger and the emotions she brings out. To be fair, it was a terrible day and Prithivi wasn't helping.
What The Hell, Villain?: Close to the end of DDS2, Gale, who is created from the solar data of Jenna's former lover David, calls Jenna on her actions, reminding Jenna of the promises Jenna made to David to help mankind. Jenna does not take this well.
You Gotta Have Blue Hair: In an interesting take on this trope, everyone in the Junkyard has an improbable hair colour except for Sera, whose black hair is utterly alien to the inhabitants – it's even Lampshaded near the start of the first game, when the various Tribes are ordered to locate "the black-haired girl". Those who are living in the real world, such as Roland and Fred, have more realistic hair colours.