Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga
|Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga|
Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga, known in Japan as Digital Devil Saga: Avatar Tuner (Digital Devil Saga アバタール・チューナー Dejitaru Debiru Sāga Abatāru Chūnā?), is a PlayStation 2 role-playing video game developed by Atlus and first released in Japan on July 15, 2004. It is a spin-off of the Shin Megami Tensei series of video games; the story focuses on specific who become demons and have to consume their own to win a war and reach the "Nirvana". The story to Digital Devil Saga is continued with its direct sequel Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga 2.
Notable features of the game include the ability to shapeshift between demon and human forms in battle, and a return of the "press turn" battle system from Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne. A large difference between Nocturne and Digital Devil Saga is the ability to change equipped skills at will, instead of at level up. Unlike in Nocturne, unlearned skills are not lost forever, which allows for much greater character customization. The game features a "Mantra" system where Macca gained after battle can be used to download new Mantras at a saving terminal.
The game was designed to appeal to a broader mainstream audience than Atlus' previous titles. For this, they made the gameplay less challenging than in previous games and wrote a dark storyline. The game was well received by video game publications for its dark plot and gameplay elements but its random encounter rate and cliffhanger were the subject of criticism.
Digital Devil Saga's characters, rather than summoning demons to fight for them, are able to transform into a single demon representative of their "Atma". While the protagonist can assign stat points at will, the other main characters each have certain specializations. Each player can learn skills from one of four categories: Physical, Magic, Shield and Auto. These skills are gained by first buying "Mantras" using Macca currency, then mastering them by gaining "AP" (Atma Points) from defeated enemies. The maximum number of skills that can be equipped are 8. If two or more players equip a certain skill, they can perform a combo - a stronger version of the skill. While battle is focused around strengthening characters' demon forms, they can also fight in their human forms using conventional weapons, and can equip ammunition. A human character can perform a combo with one in demon form.
The "press turn" battle system gives each character a symbol to represent a turn. The character can forfeit a turn to allow the next character an action; turns cannot be passed more than once. If an enemy's weakness is exploited, an extra turn is gained up to three times; if an enemy resists an attack, a turn is lost.
Digital Devil Saga mostly follows the magic system used in previous Megami Tensei games. Nine magic attributes are present in the game. Ice and Lightning magic have a chance of causing the "freeze" and "stun" status, while Expel magic reduces an enemy's hit points by a certain percentage, and Death magic causes an instant kill. Status magic can inflict status effects on enemies. Other attributes present in the game are physical and "Devour" attacks, which are not classified under magic. If an enemy is killed by a Devour skill, the character gains a far greater amount of AP; overeating causes a status ailment that can only be prevented using a certain skill.
"Small Karma Terminals" scattered throughout the world allow the player to save their game, while "Life Terminals" restore the player's health and magic points for Macca. The player can teleport to "Large Karma Terminals", which also function as Life Terminals, but cannot teleport back to their smaller counterparts. "Vendors" allow the player to purchase and sell goods, including valuable "Cells", for Macca.
"Solar Noise", displayed in the upper-left of the screen, affects the price of Cells and other variables in battle.
Setting and characters
Digital Devil Saga is set in the Junkyard, a vast, post-apocalyptic wasteland in which it is constantly raining. All residents of the Junkyard adhere to elements of Hinduism, and seem to be reincarnated when they die, aware of their past lives. Six main tribes, the Embryon, Vanguards (Japanese: Assignments), Maribel, Solids, Brutes (Japanese: Brutish), and Wolves (Japanese: Hounds), fight to destroy each other and earn passage into Nirvana. Serph is the silent leader of the Embryon tribe. A silent, largely emotionless protagonist and the main character of the game. He is accompanied by Heat, Serph's unofficial second in command, who wrestles with violent tendencies and mistaken romantic feelings towards Sera; Argilla is the Embryon's master sniper. Manifesting emotions of kindness, she immediately rejects the idea of devouring others, but realizes it’s a necessary evil if she's to protect Sera and return to normal; Gale's computer-like calculations and analysis serve him well as the strategist for the Embryon; Cielo, another key member of the Embryon, is cheerful, and tends to act foolishly, which eases tensions among the group. They become allies of Sera who stands out from other citizens of the Junkyard because of her black hair, her lack of a tag ring, and her strange singing.
The game begins with a conversation between two unknown entities. One claims to be about to release the power of the demons inside of people, much to the shock of the other. In the Junkyard, Serph and his lieutenants battle the Vanguards over a strange pod. Explosions cause the pod to open, branding everyone with a mark of their atma, and causing the Embryon to devour the Vanguards. A crater left by the pod reveals a naked girl by white light. The Embryon take the mysterious girl and return to headquarters.
Unaware of what truly happened after the pod's opening, the Embryon decide to question Harley and his Vanguards about what transpired. Serph, Argilla, and Heat travel to the Vanguards' base, finding a deeply shaken Harley. He claims that the Embryon devoured his men and flees in terror when the Embryon once more transform into demons, and exhibit signs of emotion. They gain the tribe's land in the process. Back at the Embryon base, the unknown girl, claiming to be named Sera, sings, stopping Gale from going berserk.
The leaders of each tribe are ordered to the neutral Karma Temple in order to receive instructions. However, a mysterious, female being calling itself "Angel" orders them to use their powers to defeat all other tribes and ascend to Nirvana along with Sera, who has the power to quell the demons' ever-present hunger. After allying themselves with the Maribel tribe, the Embyron invade the citadel of the Solids tribe, but are too late to stop its leader, Mick, from causing the Maribel's leader, Jinana, to go berserk, eventually leading to her death. The Solids attack the Maribel base as a diversion, then capture Sera from the Embryon and bring her to a large castle in an abandoned amusement park. At the top of the castle, Cielo saves Sera and Mick is killed by the Embryon.
The Embryon plan to weaken the Brutes by trapping them in a beached cruise ship rigged with bombs. It is revealed that Varin Omega, now calling himself "Colonel Beck" and Sera a "cyber shaman", claims to know Angel's secrets and wants to leave the Junkyard. Angel refused, saying that she ordered the world to be locked. Their plan succeeds, and Bat is killed. The Brutes destroy the Wolves, making them the last remaining tribe for the Embryon to defeat. After Lupa, leader of the Wolves, also goes berserk and is killed, Gale is spurred to action.
As the residents of the Junkyard begin to experience strange memories of life in the contemporary era, the group arrives at the Brutes' base, a shape-shifting mansion unlike any building in the Junkyard. After defeating Varin, he claims that Serph had devoured Argilla, and that the entire party had already died in "Nirvana", calling Sera the devil. Sera runs away to the Karma Temple, exercising control over it, as the Embryon follow. At the top of the temple, Angel appears in human form, revealing a computer virus and threatening to delete the entire Junkyard if Sera does not return with her. However, the Embryon arrive, and, breaking free of Angel's control, manage to destroy her ultimate form, Harihara, and the virus itself. The Junkyard, a virtual world, disappears completely and all the characters are thrown into a void. The game's ending reveals that they have arrived in the "real world".
Digital Devil Saga first announced in the Japanese director's cut version of Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne in February 2004. The game was created in part to make the Megami Tensei series accessible to a broader audience "while staying true to its roots" with the franchise lacking followers in the west in contrast to its high popularity in Japan. Bill Alexander found that fans of the Final Fantasy series who are tired of the "old hero-saves-the-world plot" might find the game appealing. Yu Namba from Atlus personally enjoyed several of parts of the dark story such as the heroes being forced to consume other people in order to survive. He that "It sounds gory and cruel, but it's really not that different from the way we live our lives in the real world" when comparing the story to real life. Each character was designed to start as bland people who awaken emotions as a result of becoming demons. Bill Alexander from Atlus found Heat to be his favorite character, calling him "one of the coolest characters I can think of in a video game, despite the fact that he’s technically not the main character."
The game had a high production value due to its well-known voice actors and detailed cutscenes, while extra care was taken to sync dialogue to mouth movement. The battle mechanics were also made more forgiving than in Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne which was aimed towards a more hardcore demographic. Although there were several delays in the making of the game, this was well received by Altus as it allowed them to fix bugs. In order to appeal to fans from the Persona series and other games released by them, Atlus decided to feature their common mascot, Jack Frost. Gail Salamanca from the same company summed up that Digital Devil Saga "encapsulates the Shin Megami Tensei themes into a more accessible RPG package."
The game uses the demon designs of Kazuma Kaneko. The Junkyard was made to be able to "amplify the sense of desperation the characters begin to feel once their emotions have been awakened." As a result, Atlus believes fans will feel attached to characters due to the detail of graphics.
The band Etro Anime provided "Danger", the introductory song for the U.S. version of the game, and Houko Kuwashima provided "Pray", the introductory song for the Japanese and European version of the game.
The Digital Devil Saga: Avatar Tuner Soundtrack was released September 24, 2004 by Frontier Works. It is mainly composed by Shoji Meguro, and includes five compositions by Kenichi Tsuchiya. It was released on its own and within copies of the North American game. The complete soundtrack was released as discs 1&2 of the 4-disc set DIGITAL DEVIL SAGA ~Avatar Tuner~ 1 & 2 Original Sound Track: Integral on December 22, 2005 by Five Records.
|Digital Devil Saga: Avatar Tuner Soundtrack (74:26)|
|8.||"Hideout of the Chickens"|
|10.||"Hunting Field - The Second Movement"|
|12.||"Man's Tomb - The Second Movement"|
|15.||"Steel Coffin - The Second Movement"|
|16.||"River of Samsara"|
|17.||"River of Samsara - The Second Movement"|
|20.||"Spider's String - The Second Movement"|
|24.||"Big Battle - Prelude"|
|32.||"Hari-Hara - The Second Movement"|
Digital Devil Saga received generally positive reviews from critics. It has an average of 80.80% in GameRankings and a 78 out of 100 in Metacritic. Gaming Age's Travis Dwyer called the story "memorable" and "a much-needed, mature change of pace" from other RPGs, while noting the "proven" battle system. GameSpot's Bethany Massimilla also praised the battle system and the game's "intriguing" world, but crititicized the high random encounter rate which "can border on the ridiculous" and the game's cliffhanger ending. Similarly, Jeremy Duhnam from IGN praised the plot but criticized the lack of a conclusion as players would be require to play sequel to know all of the characters' depth. Rob Fahey from Eurogamer called the story "excellent, both mature and involving - a far cry from the fantasy worlds of many other RPG titles" but expressed similar criticism.
The Digital Devil Saga series received G4TV's "X-Play's Best Role Playing Game of 2005" award. In 2010, Digital Devil Saga and its sequel Digital Devil Saga 2 ended up topping RPGFan's "Top 20 RPGs of the Last Decade" list.
During 2004, the game sold 153,421 units in Japan. On the other hand, it was noted to have been through poor sales in the west alongside Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne with Kazuma Kaneko noting the franchise had little popularity overseas.
A five-volume series of light novels known as Quantum Devil Saga: Avatar Tuner (クォンタムデビルサーガ アバタールチューナー?) have been authored by Yu Godai. The novels are Yu’s take on her own story, originally used as the basis for the video game duology, redone without any of the unique restrictions that a story needs to be subjected to in order to make it a playable video game narrative. The first volume is scheduled to be released in English by Bento Books July 30, 2014.
There is also an RPG known as Digital Devil Saga: Avatar Tuner: A's TEST Server (デジタル・デビル・サーガ アバタール・チューナー A's TEST Server?) published by Atlus and Bbmf through the Megaten α service and developed by Interactive Brains for mobile phones. A's TEST Server is an original story taking place in the Digital Devil Saga series. It begins when Serph awakens in an enormous tower with no memories. The player takes on the role of Serph as he attempts to find out what happened to his memories.
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- I will release the uncontrollable rage that lurks inside them...the fury of demons. / NO!! - Atlus. Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga PS2. Atlus.
- Gale: Warning to the Vanguards: Remove the unidentified object at coordinates 2314 5873. Failure to comply will be deemed an act of war. / Harley: Warning to the Embryon: Remove the unidentified object at coordinates 2314 5873. Failure to comply will be deemed an act of war. - Atlus. Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga PS2. Atlus.
- Heat: ...Any thoughts? Strange... I feel like I have met this girl before. I want to know more about her. I am sure you feel the same, Serph. - Atlus. Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga PS2. Atlus.
- Gale: Our priority is to clarify the situation. / Heat: I will go to the Vanguards. / Cielo: To the Vanguards' territory? / Heat: I will. They may have an answer for us. Serph and I will go. ...And one more. The rest will stay and guard the base. / Argilla: I will go. I want an explanation. - Atlus. Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga PS2. Atlus.
- Harley: You murdered them and ate them all! You all...turned into monsters...and then you... devoured all of my men! That light...that weird light shot right through us...and then everyone...everyone started freaking the hell out! (...) Argilla: Shut up! / Argilla: I...I didn't...eat those people. I couldn't have! It wasn't me! - Atlus. Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga PS2. Atlus.
- Varin: Don't ever call me by that name. I am a colonel. Colonel Beck. (...) Varin: That's right. And I even know who YOU really are, Angel! Now get me the hell out of here! / Angel: Very interesting...if you truly are the Colonel, you would know that is not possible. After all, it was you who requested this world be locked. Was it not? You must open the door on your own. / Varin: Don't give me that Nirvana crap. How dare you speak to me!/ Angel: On that day, everything changed. Now, each individual shall be judged by his Karma. Even so, I pity those like you. I'm beginning to understand how this works. Allow me to help you. - Atlus. Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga PS2. Atlus.
- Gale: Your honor does not die with you. I will find your son. / Gale: Be you angel or demon...you will surely regreat giving me this cursed power! - Atlus. Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga PS2. Atlus.
- Varin: How the hell can you follow the man who devoured you!? (...) Varin: You...and I...we are all humans who died...in the same Nirvana you're all desperate to reach. Argilla: That can't be...we died!? / Varin: That girl will...destroy the world...she is truly...the devil... - Atlus. Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga PS2. Atlus.
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