As the devil known as "desire" grows, anxiety born from uncertainty has brought forth the teachings of "Gaia", which espouses the birth of a new world from the ashes of the old; and the "Messiah", acting on behalf of God
What is it that people seek? To create a millennial kingdom of order ruled over by God as promised by the Messiah? Or the destruction of God's kingdom, and with it, the birth of a world of chaos?
The first game in the Shin Megami Tensei JRPG series, and Spiritual Successor to Megami Tensei. It was released in Japan in 1992 for the Super Nintendo and later released for the PC Engine Super CD-Rom and Sega CD. Remakes for the Playstation and Gameboy Advance came out in 2002, which was eventually ported to iOS in 2012. It later got a direct sequel in Shin Megami Tensei II.
It's a fairly average day for you in Tokyo, aside from the vaguely prophetic dream you had the night before. The dog needs to be walked, your mother wants you to run down to the cafe and pick up some coffee, and you received an email claiming that a portal to Hell has been opened and that demons are invading the world.
Things quickly go from bad to worse as Tokyo is placed under martial law and you are thrown into jail accused of murder. Your only weapon against the ensuing chaos is a Demon Summoning Program: a mysterious piece of software that allows you to converse with and bind demons to your service. Soon you manage to meet up with the allies you saw in your dream and La Résistance, learning that not only is a Japanese general attempting to use the demons to commit a coup-d'etat, but America is threatening to "solve" the demon crisis by dropping a dozen nukes on the city. However, all is not as it seems, and soon Tokyo has been destroyed as part of a greater scheme.
This is only the beginning.
The real meat of the game takes place thirty years After the End in the ruins of Tokyo. Two factions are trying to create a new world in their image: first, the Messians, whose goal is to establish a Thousand Year Kingdom of God under the (rather unforgiving) guidance of the angels. Opposing them are the Gaians, who wish to return the world to a primal state of anarchy with the demons. Having been thrown forward in time to escape the destruction of Tokyo, you must now become The Kingmaker and decide just what shape the world shall take.
The first four main characters have no default name; however, they were later given a number of "official" names:
- Hero - The silent main character. Possesses an innate talent for summoning, which allows him to use the Demon Summoning Program successfully.
- Heroine - Leader of La Résistance. Action Girl. Has very strong magical abilities. After the End she goes missing, but eventually becomes your main female companion and your only human companion.
- Law Hero - A young, idealistic man who you meet while he's looking for his missing girlfriend. Possesses a fierce willpower. After the End, he gravitates towards the message of peace broadcast by the Messians.
- Chaos Hero - A young, arrogant punk. When you first meet him, he's getting the crap kicked out him by Ozawa and his gang. Despite his tough talk, he's a wimp on his own. After the End, he fuses himself with a demon to gain incredible power and dumps you for the Gaians.
- Stephen - A crippled genius in a wheelchair who created the Demon Summoning Program. Later gives you upgrades that allow you to store and summon more demons. Totally not Stephen Hawking.
- Yuriko - A beautiful woman who appears in your dreams and pledges to be your "eternal partner". Quickly shows her true colors. Doesn't mind disposing of any romantic rivals.
- Ozawa - A gang leader who is first shown kicking around Chaos Hero. Later shows himself to have some talent at Demon Summoning and joins up with the Gaians. After the End, he's a cranky old man who struck a deal with the demons so he could rule over Shibuya.
- Pascal, the Hero's dog who fuses himself with a demon to aid the Hero.
Shin Megami Tensei is a first-person dungeon crawler much in the same vein as the RPGs of its time, such as A Bard's Tale or Wizardrynote . It uses a turn-based battle system, though you are given the option to talk to a demon before you battle to see if you can endear yourself to it. By winning the favour of a demon, you can ask it for money, items, healing or to join your party. However, demons do not gain experience points so the only way to strengthen your party is to fuse two or more demons together at the Jakyou Manor, creating vastly more powerful demons that can exceed your own level.
Your Character Alignment is a huge focus of the game. Depending on the choices you make, the demons you recruit and the missions you accept, the main character's alignment will change to Law, Balance or Chaos. This mainly affects the ending you receive, but also affects what demons you can recruit (Law demons will refuse to join you if you are Chaotic and vice versa), what items you can equip and what healing stations that you can use (each faction has its own healing station; using an opposing faction's healing station will cost you more). There's no "right" path to follow- in fact, the game strongly encourages the player to find their own philosophy and treats you as the hero no matter what side you follow, if any.
The graphics aren't that great and the game itself is Nintendo Hard. It also suffers from some baffling design choices, like having to go through three menu screens to access a sorely-needed minimap. But it was a revolutionary game for its time: in an age where seemingly every RPG was linear, had little plot and was stuck in the medieval high fantasy genre, Shin Megami Tensei had a wide, sprawling overworld where you could do what you wanted, delivered a truly outstanding plot for its time and was a radical post-apocalyptic Urban Fantasy.
The game never got a release in the West, but a group called Aeon Genesis has released a translation patch for the SNES ROM; a second patch by a modder called Orden was released, fixing some of the bugs in the Aeon Genesis patch and making some translation changes to get the script more in line with the official translations. However, Atlus has recently announced that the iOS port is finally being translated and released in the West. The English version was made available on the iOS app store on March 18, 2014. Although technically, the Japanese version was available worldwide on the iOS app store for a while until it was apparently region locked, with the description reading that the game would never get an English translation.
This game contains the following tropes:
- Adam and Eve Plot: By the end, there's only a handful of humans and demons left alive in Tokyo, and most of them are in the Cathedral. The Protagonist and the Heroine are thus left with the fate of Earth in their hands.
- Note that Yuriko/Lillth actually believes the main character is Adam, suggesting the possibility the Protagonist and the Heroine are the Reincarnations of Adam and Eve.
- All There in the Manual: The official fanbook explains questions fans might have had when playing the game:
- The old man found in the prison who can fuse the Angel Ring for you was a former Imperial Japanese soldier who was executed for war crimes but was resurrected by the Cathedral of Shadows, which he is also a member of.
- Apathetic Citizens: While the coup forces are a big deal in Tokyo Just Before the End, barely anybody mentions how there are demons running around in public malls and on the inhabited city streets.
- A Taste of Power: Played with. Early in the game, you can fuse your dog with a demon to create Cerberus, a high-level demon that would, under normal circumstances, be impossible to attain without doing some major level grinding. With this Cerberus, you can easily make it through early parts of the game. It will leave your party before long, though, but it can rejoin you during the game's latter half.
- Black and Grey Morality: Neither the Law or Chaos sides are very nice, and rejecting both leaves a lot of bodies lying on the floor. Borders on Evil vs. Evil; there really is no "good" choice here.
- Body Horror: The Chaos hero does this to himself by pretty much going right for one of the obvious questions around "demon fusing". Of course, when Pascal tries it, you get the useful Cerberus instead of any horrific creature.
- Bonus Boss: This game has Beelzebub as the ultimate opponent...supposedly. He has far less HP than Final Bosses Michael and Asura, and while Beelzebub's Level 108, Asura's Level 110 and Michael's Level 116.
- Brainwashed: What happens to anyone who tries to stand up to the older Ozawa. This is done through a reluctant psychic man named the Psycho-diver, who he has imprisoned.
- Captain Ersatz: Commander Gotou was based off of real-life author Yukio Mishima, who also attempted a coup at Camp Ichigaya.
- Church Militant: The Messians are the obvious one, at least After the End (Just Before the End they're not hostile or corrupt). The Gaians as well, though befitting their philosophy, in practice they act more like an especially large street gang.
- Controllable Helplessness: After defeating Thor, you have 30 seconds to move around before Tokyo is nuked. There isn't anything you can do, other than wait for the on-screen timer to hit zero and have the Heroine teleport you out in time.
- Crapsack World: Tokyo Just Before the End is already kind of bad, as the city is in a battle between the Americans, Gotou and his demons, and the rebels who want to stop them both. After the End, demons are everywhere, the Messians and the Gaians are even more prominent and are now in an all-out war, and eventually it all gets flooded by God, killing everybody not inside the giant Cathedral at the time.
- Crucified Hero Shot: Our first glimpse of the Law Hero.
- Crutch Character: Cerberus, which you get by fusing your family dog with a demon. When you first get it will likely dish and take more damage than everything else you have COMBINED, and will ignore the rules that a demon as powerful as it is should be uncontrollable for you at that point. Unfortunately you only get him briefly, and by the time you get him back, he's become average in true Crutch Character fashion.
- The Chaos Hero as well, after he fuses himself with a demon. But his time with you is even more brief than Cerberus's; once you walk down a hallway and fight a boss, he leaves you.
- Crystal Dragon Jesus: The Messians are Judeo-Christians in everything but name. Their members wear white and blue robes, and they also have hooded monks, priests, and bishops.
- Church Militant: The Messians, After the End, are portrayed as extreme Knights Templar. They tend to demand you join their church and donate generously or they'll kill you. On the positive side, they're the closest thing to a social services network that exists in what's left of Tokyo, at least for those who believe (or say they do), and in the Cathedral they're the only faction capable of protecting the survivors in their town from demons.
- The Cuckoolander Was Right: Plenty of people at the beginning of the game are labelled as crazy or hallucinating when they ramble on about demons appearing in the streets, the government kidnapping and experimenting on people, and the world coming to an end. That doesn't even begin to cover what happens After the End.
- It's not just at the beginning of the game. If you're willing to sift between the Cassandra Truths and the people who actually are crazy, you can learn some important plot points far earlier than you normally do. Some things you can learn early: Everyone in Roppongi is a zombie, the Basilica is the Millennium Kingdom, and Thorman isn't human.
- Cutting Off the Branches - The canonical ending is the Neutral path, which sets up Shin Megami Tensei II.
- Dark Messiah: The Hero (in every path, including Law). The Chaos Hero isn't, incidentally.
- YHVH is the biggest example of this.
- Death by Irony: Chaos Hero in the Chaos Path, who spends the entire game greedily searching for ways to increase his own power and is destroyed after being overwhelmed by the raw power of the Devil Ring (which he stole from the Hero).
- Dirty Cop: It is learned very early on that the police have aligned with the Demons, kidnapping innocents so a demon at the town hospital can experiment on them.
- Disco Dan: There's an undead enemy called a Bodyconian. It's speculated that their design is a joke based off of a subculture that pretty much died around the mid-80s.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: Arioch's stomach mouth and Astaroth riding ass-naked on a snake.
- Not to mention the dreaded Mara.
- A man in the arcade complains about how the Antique shop owner refuses to sell him 'the good stuff'. He's talking about guns.
- In the IOS translation, someone in Roppongi talks about the Red Count's 'Precious Pot.' That's the Glancing Pot, which can seal away Belial.
- Domino Revelation: Once you learn demons are real, then you get angels, and God eventually.
- Dungeon Town: Tokyo as a whole, along with almost every individual district also qualifying. By the end of the game, there's only one safe sector in existence (The Messian fort in the Cathedral.)
- Eagleland: The American soldiers are much friendlier than Gotou's coup forces, to the point that you never even fight them, and they're all amusing due to their broken, italicized way of speaking, representing their inability to speak Japanese very well. However, the American Messians turn out to be heartless religious fanatics who are responsible for the destruction of the world and the corruption of the once friendly Messians in Tokyo.
- The End of the World as We Know It: About not too long after the game begins, Tokyo is destroyed and you are whisked to a future Tokyo that has undergone a Class 1 Apocalypse.
- "End of the World" Special: Of your choice, no less, establishing a longtime SMT tradition.
- Everyone Has Standards: Even after Tokyo gets nuked and the whole world is overrun with demons, bartenders will refuse to sell you drinks because you're underage.
- Failure Is the Only Option: You get to choose to side with Law or Chaos Just Before the End. Working with Chaos causes Law to bring the apocalypse in revenge. Working with Law has you preparing the world for the apocalypse they were going to bring anyway. Working with neither makes Law bring the apocalypse anyways. It would be a waste of perfectly good missiles if they weren't used, y'know.
- Fan Disservice: The boss of the Journey to the Center of the Mind area. Spider webs shouldn't come out of your ass.
- Final Boss: Archangel Michael for Chaos, Asura for Law. Neutral players fight both, and can choose either order.
- Flying Seafood Special: Demons such as Forneus.
- From Bad to Worse: This could probably sum up the game as a whole. You start the game just as demons have been summoned into the world and a coup has forced martial law to be put in effect in Tokyo, eventually climaxing with the nuking of Tokyo. After that chaos you're thrust into an Apocalyptic wasteland that also happens to now be the war ground for the battle between the forces of Law and Chaos. Eventually you have to decide whether to follow one of the armies, or take a Neutral stance and kill everyone. It's a pretty lose-lose situation all throughout.
- Fusion Dance: The Cathedral of Shadows, making its first appearance in the "rebooted" Shin series, note performs these between two or three of your demons. The Chaos Hero and Pascal also do it, with the former becoming a cross between a Samurai and Spider-Man, and the latter becoming Cerberus.
- Giant Space Flea from Nowhere: A few of the bosses, but especially Ladon, as there is no indication of him whatsoever in the plot or even the actual gameplay; he just sort of appears.
- God Is Evil: YHVH is directly responsible for flooding all of Tokyo, which of course, kills off most of the people who didn't die during the nuclear holocaust.
- Good Colors, Evil Colors: Chaos characters are decked out in black and red, and Law characters don blue and white. Depending on which one you side with, this trope is either inverted or played straight.
- The Great Flood: Happens near the end of the game.
- Guide Dang It!: This is a prevalent problem for new players that will end in much ceaseless wandering before they find the next locale or individual that they need to find in order to progress.
- The first big one is finding a logbook to get into the rebel base, which you get by going to a specific bar in the very mall where the base is situated in and giving a bartender specific responses to give you the logbook.
- So you get rare items from certain locations during certain phases of the moon. Good luck finding out what phase is the right one, by the way.
- Hell on Earth: Tokyo After the End. It's barren and decaying at the seems, with survivors mostly being situated underground.
- Improbable Age: If you try to buy something for the Heroine in a bar before she reincarnates, the bartender will say that she's too young. She's the leader of La Résistance, by the way.
- Instrument of Murder: Implied. The three strongest 'sword' weapons are a violin, a trumpet, and a bell.
- It's All Upstairs from Here: The final dungeon in particular. All the demons live downstairs and all the angels live upstairs, but regardless, if you're following the Chaos or Neutral Path, one of the final bosses will be waiting for you at the very top the the dungeon.
- Journey to the Center of the Mind: You need to do this to save Heroine from Arachne, a demon infesting her mind and devouring it from the inside out.
- Just Before the End -> After the End
- Kill 'em All: Your mother is killed and eaten by a demon. Tokyo is ruined in a nuclear strike from the USA, starting a catastrophic war that leaves the rest of the world in a similar state. You kill lots and lots of demons, and do the same to quite a few humans too. In the Neutral Path, you kill all your friends. You kill their demonic or godly leaders. Then, there's a second apocalypse where a great tectonic movement causes gargantuan amounts of water to flow into Tokyo, plunging pretty much the entire post-apocalyptic Japan underwater, killing pretty much everyone you haven't yet killed yourself. The only habitable area within the entire city is a small island holding a large 'cathedral' tower where the final confrontations take place. Take a Third Option by killing both bosses and there will be only three characters and a handful of nondescript demons and humans left alive in all of Japan at the end of the game.
- Knight Templar: The angels of the Messians, and the Messians themselves. Temple Knights are in fact elite Messian soldiers.
- Light Is Not Good: Sort of. LIGHT is more or less good (in that Light demons are usually friends of humanity, and do not bother humans), but Law most definitely is not good. YHVH himself is the major exception to this, being the poster-boy for God Is Evil.
- Louis Cypher: The original! Also, the American ambassador's name is Thorman - and he eventually turns out to have a red beard and a damn large hammer.
- However, you never see Lucifer's true form in this game.
- Mad Scientist: The Police Station is ruled by an insane genius who sends out armies of reprogrammed government war machines to slaughter both demon and human alike. He is in charge of the Mecha-Mooks you fight.
- Mecha-Mook: The enemies within the Machine Clan. Oddly enough, the legendary Bigfoot is in the Machine Clan as well, though it doesn't appear to be mechanical.
- Metal Slime: The three Fiends (David, Pale Rider, and Daisoujou). Each one only has a 1/256 chance of appearing in certain areas and each one drops one of three ultimate weapons...with a drop rate of 1/256. Happy hunting!
- Money Spider: Justified. Demons are fascinated with human culture and carry around yen coins like trinkets. After the End, all the currency changes to demon money anyway, so it still makes sense.
- Monsters Everywhere: Exaggerated. You can be in a bar chatting with people, take a step, and be randomly attacked by a demon. And if you're in an area where you're not vulnerable to something like that, you're probably in even greater danger.
- Multiple Endings: Three, depending on your alignment.
- No Campaign for the Wicked: While protagonist's Law-Chaos alignment can be changed, his virtue is fixed to Light.
- This does make some sense: Dark demons are portrayed as uncontrollable, as they can never be recruited. And Lawful/Chaotic is not a way of measuring morality; although they are both evil, the Hero is good.
- Nothing Is Scarier: In this game, pretty quickly, you fight a lot of demons, everywhere, no exceptions. When for some reason there is an exception, something is going on.
- Averted by the Mesian town in the Cathedral. Despite the Mesians generally being dicks towards everyone everywhere else, the town is at peace and even Mesian fanatics won't pick on you inside.
- Omnicidal Neutral: The Neutral path often consists of killing both the Law and Chaos leaders, including your own friends.
- One Steve Limit: Averted. Both the heroine and the Law Hero's girlfriend share the same name. That's what gets the girlfriend kidnapped early on by soldiers looking for the heroine.
- Order Versus Chaos: Law vs Chaos.
- Phlebotinum Breakdown: Demons need a steady supply of a metal called Magnetite in order to keep a physical body in the human world. Because of this, you lose some Magnetite every time you take a step and have a demon summoned. Once you run out of Magnetite, your demons will start losing health with every step instead.
- Piñata Enemy: Human enemies like Bodyconians and the Messians and Gaeans always drop a lot more cash than demons.
- Police State: Ironically, run by the Chaos faction during the first part of the game after a demon-backed military coup, led by the temporary Big Bad Gotou. After the End, the Messians are trying to enforce one, but it's essentially ineffective and Tokyo's in complete anarchy.
- Random Encounters: Almost everywhere. It doesn't matter if it's the mall, the Tokyo Governmental Palace, another world completely, or a giant cathedral. You're going to get into a whole lot of fights. This can be rather grating in places where shops, save points/teleport points, and temples/inns can be found.
- Rare Random Drop: Each of the Fiends drops the most powerful alignment weapons in the game: David drops the Neutral weapon Stradivari, Daisoujou drops the Chaos weapon Reaper Bell, and the Pale Rider drops the Law weapon Angel's Trumpet. Each weapon has a 1/256 chance of dropping which, when combined with the fact that each Fiend has a 1/256 chance of showing up in certain areas, makes for quite a frustrating search.
- Saintly Church: Some of the Messians are actually pretty square guys. In 199X, they're just a hospitaller order that provides healing for your party (the Lawful nutcases being represented by the Americans) and in the Cathedral town, they provide food and safety for anyone who arrives, essentially no-questions-asked. (Outside of this, they tend to be jerkasses, of course.)
- Stupid Sacrifice: The Law Hero's sacrifice. Demons are readily expendable; at best they return to the comp, at worst you would have to spend some money on bribes to recruit a new one, and would have easily held off the enemies he blocks off.
- On the other hand, it was God's will...
- Super Soldier: What Orias, posing as the hospital's head surgeon, is trying to create at the beginning of the game by Playing with Syringes.
- Suspicious Video Game Generosity: Completely averted. You will almost never find a place to heal for free, and there are no save points before bosses... or any indication that a boss in the next room at all.
- Take a Third Option: Law, Chaos, or... murder everyone.
- To Hell and Back: The Diamond Realm is where the Heroine teleports you to save you from being killed in the nuclear attack from the USA. It is an ethereal universe where demons roam the plains among the illusions. Once you leave, you access the second part of the game.
- Took a Level in Badass: Chaos Hero. Deconstructed; Evil Is Not a Toy, as he found out after spending the entire game fighting to become the strongest of all.
- Unwinnable by Mistake: Due to the game's failure to "lock" the player into any alignment's endgame at any given point, players may find that they have accidentally "switched" alignments, rendering the game unbeatable. For example!
- Utopia Justifies the Means: The Thousand Year Kingdom.
- The Very Definitely Final Dungeon: The Cathedral/Basilica, which is divided into a Law and Chaos part.
- Zettai Ryouiki: The Heroine After the End.
- Zombie Apocalypse: Tokyo appears to be undergoing a zombie crisis during Gotou's coup, which worsens throughout the early game. The first zombies you encounter appear to be men in hospital gowns and middle-aged women, but eventially, zombie police and zombie soldiers are encountered as enemies, until finally, the only zombies you see are towering blobs of rotting green corpses.