Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner is a turn-based RPG originally released for the Sega Saturn on December 20, 1995, and the first game in the Devil Summoner sub-series. In fact, it was the first game from the entire Megami Tensei franchise to be released for the Saturn, and it has been re-released several times since then, with the first being for the Playstation Portable on December 20, 2005, and the latest one being for the Japanese-based Playstation Network in 2010. A live-action TV adaptation was aired in Japan in the early 2000s with 25 episodes, being initially based loosely on the game, but diverging halfway through with some original stuff thrown in that makes it a bit different from the original source in the second season.
The game is followed up (in terms of the canon timeline) by Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers. Two prequel games, Devil Summoner: Raidou Kuzunoha vs. The Soulless Army and Devil Summoner: Raidou Kuzunoha vs. King Abaddon, explore the origins of the Kuzunoha clan and how they were involved in fighting against hostile demons in a post-Meiji Revolution Japan.
The story of Devil Summoner takes place in Hirasaki City in the mid-1990s. You play a normal university student who's living out an ordinary life in the city... That is until he gets reports on the local news that there are witnesses who had reported to the police about sightings of mysterious demons prowling around the city. The city's police force are also in trouble since they are now investigating cases that cannot be solved since the only perpetrators responsible for them are not human. But never mind that now. The student's girlfriend, Kumiko Hatano, informs him that she needs to borrow a book written by Professor Azuma at the city's library in order to read up on his studies regarding the dark past of Japan prior to the 20th Century. After doing a few errands, the students is ambushed by demons and is saved by anti-demon detective Kyouji Kuzunoha and his partner, Rei Reiho.
Despite this event, Kyouji is assassinated under unknown circumstances. Later on, the student is also hunted down and assassinated by a man named Sid Davis, who wants the book Kumiko has borrowed from the library. While his soul was supposed to be transported through the River Styx, Charon informs him that he needs to get back to the real world. Thus, the adventure begins when the student's soul gets planted into Kyouji's body. Together with Rei, they work together to hunt down Sid and eliminate the demons prowling in the city. Along the way, Kumiko gets kidnapped thanks to Sid, and the duo later learns that the city has a dark past tying back to the early history of Japan which explains why Kumiko was abducted to begin with.
Like in the mainstream Shin Megami Tensei games, the core mechanic of recruiting and using demons to fight alongside the player is retained. This involves giving appropriate answers or handing out money and macca to any kind of demon before it joins your ranks. Sometimes it doesn't work due to either their personality or due to the presence of a full moon. Quests are given by the various residents of Hirasaki City due to Kyouji's reputation as an anti-demon detective; most of them advance the story, while some allow the player and the demons to earn experience, money and macca. Demon fusion is also retained, allowing the players to create any kind of demon with specific strengths/weaknesses and skills.
For now, the game is the only one in the Devil Summoner franchise to not have an official release outside of Asia. Atlus did attempt to promote the game for an international release at one point, but they later decided to stop promoting it outside of Japan. There's also a novel adaptation known as Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner - Sealed Soul. A novel side story Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner Side Story - Lamentations of a Requiem centers on Inaruna's past.
As of 2021, there's an attempt to get the game an English fan translation.
Devil Summoner provides examples of:
- Alternate Timeline: To the one seen in Shin Megami Tensei I and Shin Megami Tensei II, with some crucial differences described below in Mythology Gag.
- Bittersweet Ending: Even though the new Kyouji and Rei defeated Inaruna and Sid to save Hirasaki City from a disaster, the former noted that he can't return to his original body since he's stuck in Kyouji's body forever. The "other" Kyouji has to jump from body to body in order to survive. Kumiko can't reunite with the protagonist since he's stuck in Kyouji's body.
- Bonus Boss:
- P. Gargantua, Gargantua, Gargantua Q, Gargantua X, & Gargantua 8. They all drop a Dolly Kadmon on defeat, which is used to create Hero race demons.
- Hokuto Seikun & Lord Nan Dou.
- Enoch, Leviathan, David, & Squall in the PSP version.
- Chance Meeting Between Antagonists: How the protagonist and Sid first meet in Hirasaki City, until the latter bluntly tells the former that he'll kill him for not having the book with him.
- Early Installment Character-Design Difference: Devil Summoner introduces the more familiar designs for almost all returning demons along with being the first game that introduced Kazuma Kaneko's more iconic style, but several demons have different color schemes or slight differences in their designs compared to future games (like Slime, Moh Shuuvu, and Succubus). Handful of other demons (like Pixie) have completely different designs unique to this game. Soul Hackers would introduce most demon's well known color schemes while still having a few unique designs exclusive to it that fits with that game's Cyberpunk theming. Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne introduces the standard design for these demons, which appear in all future mainline games along with Persona (with a handful of exceptions).
- Grand Theft Me: Kyouji attempts this on the protagonist after they go to Hell to get back into his body, but it fails because his soul has been away from the body too long.
- Jesus Taboo: While the name is avoided, this game is nevertheless the sole aversion of this trope in the franchise. The demon Agony, who is exclusive to this game and the Card Summoner spinoff, is a blatant reference to Christ's Passion and shows the man himself carrying his cross.
- Mythology Gag: Gotou and Thorman from the first Shin Megami Tensei game are mentioned in news reports throughout the game. This time, Gotou was arrested by JGSDF military police officers for attempting to create an arsenal of small arms from the JGSDF in order to launch a revolt. The police don't know if he needs psychiatric attention since Gotou's fellow JGSDF officers mentioned in the news that he was acting very unusual prior to his arrest. Meanwhile, Thorman died of a heart attack and was noted for fostering good relations between Japan and the US.
- In the novel Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner - Sealed Soul, the protagonist works with a demon known as Cerberus.
- Police Are Useless: The city's local police force can't seem to get a grip on who is responsible for a sudden rash of criminal incidents since they cannot find human culprits. It gets worse when the detectives learn that Chief Atsushi Nakagomi is Kumbhanda, a mole (and a demon) working on behalf of Sid.
- Sequential Boss: Sid Davis and the Final Boss's two forms are fought back to back.
- Skippable Boss: East Asia TV and the Radio Tower are two connected dungeons. East Asia TV is set up such that you can completely ignore the boss fight there, but doing this will make the boss in the Radio Tower stronger.
- Small Role, Big Impact: Thormann and Gotou from the first Shin Megami Tensei game are only mentioned in news reports as now being out of commission. The impact on this particular Megaten timeline is huge however, as the two can no longer rally the various forces of law and chaos to trigger the apocalypse that leads to the events of the first and second mainline SMT games. It also shows what Shin Megami Tensei if... meant by the events of the first SMT not happening, and the game's protagonist Tamaki as well as Kyouji would later go on to star in the massive Persona spin off franchise. The events of Raidou Kuzunoha would further give context on the timeline shift.
- Split-Personality Takeover: A literal one since the "old" Kyouji is forced to use another body in order to live while the student uses Kyouji's own body.
- Stealing the Credit: Unwitting example — one of the many drawbacks of your soul being stuck in someone else's body is that they get the credit for your work.
- Sword and Gun: How Kyouji and Rei fight against hostile demons aside from magic and siccing their own demons against them.
- Unholy Ground: The city itself whenever parts of it gets distorted by the Alien Dimension thanks to Sid.
- Urban Fantasy: Is one set in modern times away from the mainstream Megami Tensei games, next to the Persona games.