Reviews: Shin Megami Tensei
Shallow, Pretentious Stories, Archaic Gameplay
This year, someone insisted that I was being unfair for judging the entire SMT franchise by the example of Strange Journey. So, with the aid of various emulators, I've every mainline title but IV, and I've ragequit every last one of them. Let's get this out of the way right now: the stories are awful and overwhelmingly shallow. The first game at least has the excuse of breaking new ground and trying new things, but none of the others move out of its shadow or evolve in any way. The characters are shallow and gormless stereotypes, devoid of character. The philosophy is shallow and sophomoric, offering nothing but the indicator that ludicrous, unrealistic extremes of behavior are bad, m'kay? The shallow, formulaic Order vs. Chaos but they're both dicks ending the world plots (or rather, plot, for there's just the one plot over and over) never develop beyond that. And, of course there's the whole shallow, tasteless use of my faith, and the faiths of countless others (but not, naturally, their home-grown religion) for shock value without any real substance. So, the storytelling's a complete and utter wash across the board. But games are still games, and one can still enjoy the raw gameplay experience of a title with a weak, pretentious narrative. And I'll say this: the core of the gameplay is quite good. It takes the traditionally-useless RPG mechanics (instant death, buffing-debuffing, status effects, etc.) and makes them versatile and useful. Crits and elemental weaknesses give you additional turns for more depth. In practice, though, it's all weighed down by the difficulty. When I lose a well-designed game, I feel like it was fair. I didn't prepare enough, or use the right strategies, or bring the right party. I feel like there were ways I could stop my loss next time, so I want to try again. This is the right way to craft a challenging game, one that is, to be blunt, fun. None of the SMT titles I played stayed well-designed or fun. It's all a frustrating, random mess. When it feels like it, the game'll cheat and kick your ass, and there's nothing you can do to stop it. Maybe you've got a higher tolerance for that kinda thing than I do, but I find that the poor, barely-improved design of the series is insurmountable, and the story offers no motivation to try anyway.
Shin Megami Tensei: Why it's amazing
The Shin Megami tensei series of games are any history lovers dream, as literally every demon is based of a god or deity from some world religion throughout history and they all have personalities based of the myths that surround them. Ever wanted to see what would happen if Thor fought against Loki? You can recruit one and see how'd that end up. What if you wanted to see Saint Michael The Archangel fight Lucifer? Then side with law or chaos and kick some ass. There's not just great fights with good mechanics, there's amazing stories too. The main series normally has the immediate plot based around demons invading Tokyo/Destroying Tokyo/Destroying the world and you play as a high school student who/Arena Fighter/Apprentice Samurai who get mixed up in the conflict, which is orchestrated by the two big bosses of the SMT Universe, YHVH and Lucifer. That's right, you get to fight under God (yes, That God), the king of the demons, or just not give a damn and kill them both! I'm not joking, play SMT 2 and you get to KILL GOD AND LUCIFER! This series doesn't get nearly enough love, as it's normally overshadowed by its equally amazing spinoff series, Persona. It's a shame, because there aren't really that many games that deal with religion and moral ambiguity as well as this, and those that try it normally suck (I'm looking at you Final Fantasy 13). everyone should play these games, just because of how unique they are in theme, setting, atmosphere and mechanics. P.S. The first Megami Tensei game came out on the NES BEFORE Pokemon. We did it first, your welcome Nintendo.
Shin Megami Tensei
Man these games are great. An amalgamation of mythologies, hard as hell, and leaves none of its questions unasked. Also, better than Final Fantasy, I can only ask for that. It's these games that kicked forward my interest in mythology and the concept of chaos (the Chaos alignment helped that). Though I gotta say I've been getting my head wrapped up in understanding them, and I must confess that I may have taken some things too seriously, but I think I'm done gazing too deeply. The games are still utterly enjoyable to me, and that's all I ask (other than that last thing I said was all I asked for, but don't think too much of it).
One of the greatest and most thought provoking RPG series today
Ah, Shin Megami Tensei...where to start? The simplest way to describe it is "Pokemon with Demons, Angels and religious metaphors", but that's only the surface. See, while the demon summoning mechanic is very similar to the concept of Mons, SMT games are much different from most games of that type. For one thing, it's much darker; Profanity, blood, and (oftentimes graphic) death are commonplace in this series, and these aren't cute pokemon we're talking about here, these are actual demons and creatures from almost all forms of mythology. Thor? We got that. Shiva? We got that. God, Satan, and Lucifer? They're here too, and they all have an interest in humanity...for better or worse. And that brings me to the second main aspect of SMT, and that's the alignment system. See, in each of the "main" games, you must align yourself to one of three moral outputs:
- Law: Emphasizes order and stability. The main alignment of God and the Angels.
- Chaos: Values personal freedom above all else. The main alignment of Lucifer.
- Neutral: The belief that humanity doesn't need either angels or demons to survive.