Japanese Megami Tensei logo
|Genres||Role-playing video game|
Game Boy Color
Game Boy Advance
|Platform of origin||Family Computer|
|First release||Digital Devil Story: Megami Tensei
September 11, 1987
|Latest release||Persona 4 Arena Ultimax
August 28, 2014
Shin Megami Tensei: Persona
Megami Tensei (Japanese: 女神転生?, "Rebirth of the Goddess"), commonly abbreviated as MegaTen (メガテン?), is a role-playing video game metaseries which was originally based on the novel series Digital Devil Story by Aya Nishitani (taking its name from the title of the first of those novels) and has gone to become one of the major franchises of the genre in its native country. The games are published by Atlus with the exception of the Famicom games, which were published by Namco.
Although most games in the series have independent stories, the Megami Tensei series has many common elements. Demons and mythology are prominent in each installment, usually giving players a chance to recruit demons into the battle party. Other common elements include certain game mechanics and plot themes. Most games in the series feature nonlinear gameplay offering freedom of choice between branching paths and multiple endings, a conversation system allowing players to engage enemies in conversation, the ability to use or capture monsters, and a moral alignment system.
Megami Tensei games have met commercial and critical success and the series is usually known as the third main RPG series in Japan, after Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy. Several games from the series have been released in the west and found praise from critics.
The first game, Digital Devil Story: Megami Tensei, was based on the novel of the same name by Aya Nishitani. It was released in Japan in 1987 for both the MSX and the Famicom. Alongside its sequel, Megami Tensei II, these are the only two games in the series to have only Megami Tensei in their name. Kyūyaku Megami Tensei (旧約・女神転生?), the title of the Super Famicom remake of the first two MegaTen games, translates to "Old Testament Reincarnation of the Goddess". The flagship series then became the Shin Megami Tensei (真・女神転生?) series, which translates to "Reincarnation of the True Goddess", the Shin in this case being a pun on the shin (新?) meaning "new". As a spin-off of Megami Tensei, it eventually became the de facto subtitle of all non-Japanese Megami Tensei releases.
Other games under the Shin Megami Tensei title include Shin Megami Tensei II for the SNES, released in 1994, Shin Megami Tensei if..., also released for the SNES in 1994, Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne for the PlayStation 2, and Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey for the Nintendo DS. An MMORPG, Shin Megami Tensei: Imagine, was released in January 2008, developed by Cave and published internationally by Aeria Games. The game takes place between the first and second Shin Megami Tensei games, and players assume the role of a Devil Buster who ventures into an apocalyptic Tokyo in light of humanity's resurgence, as well as a sudden onslaught of demons. The fourth game in the main series, Shin Megami Tensei IV, was released in Japan on May 23, 2013 for the Nintendo 3DS.
The Devil Summoner series started on the Sega Saturn with two titles: Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner in 1995 and Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers in 1997. The series returned in 2006 with the release of Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner: Raidou Kuzunoha vs. The Soulless Army and its 2008 sequel, Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner 2: Raidou Kuzunoha vs. King Abaddon, both for PlayStation 2. Unlike the previous entries in the series, which are traditional turn-based games, the Raidou Kuzunoha series consists of real-time action games with role-playing elements. Raidou Kuzunoha, the series's titular protagonist, is a detective living in early 20th-century Japan and the 14th in a line of demon summoners. Devil Summoner is also being made into a manga by Atlus called "Kuzunoha Raidou vs. The Lone Marebito." In 2012, the game Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers was released again, this time to the 3DS, with improvements such as full voice acting and new demons.
A spin-off from Megami Tensei, the Persona series centers around groups of teenagers who possess the ability to summon facets of their psyche, known as Personas, into being. Megami Ibunroku (女神異聞録?), the title for the original Persona game released on the PlayStation, translates to "Record of the Goddess' Strange Tales", denoting a side story or alternate universe. This first game was released in North America in 1996 as Revelations: Persona. The next title in the Persona series was released as two installments: Persona 2: Innocent Sin, released in 1999, and Persona 2: Eternal Punishment, released in 2000. Both games were released on the PlayStation. Only Eternal Punishment was localized and released in North America at first, until September and November 2011, when the PSP remake of Innocent Sin was released in North America and Europe.
Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3, first released in 2006 on the PlayStation 2, represented a drastic change in design for the series, as it introduced elements of simulation games. The player controls a high school student, who attends classes during the day; after school, the player's character is free to engage in a number of activities, such as seeing a movie or spending time with a classmate. These actions all have effects on the game's combat, which takes place at night. Persona 3 is also known for the use of Evokers, gun-like objects the game's characters fire at their heads to summon their Persona.
A similar idea had appeared in the 2002 "Dark and Light" anime adaptation of Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Children where guns called "Devilizers" were used to summon and power up their fighting monsters. They were simply aimed at the air though, not at the user's head.
Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4, released in 2008 on the PlayStation 2 and on PlayStation Vita in 2012, expanded on the combat and simulation elements of Persona 3. The game did not, however, include the Evokers of its predecessor; instead, the game's playable characters shatter Tarot cards to release their Personas.
Digital Devil Saga
Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga, known in Japan as Digital Devil Saga: Avatar Tuner is the first of two games in the Digital Devil Saga games. It was released in Japan in 2004 and in North America the next year, being released again in the PAL region in 2006. Digital Devil Saga differs from other Megami Tensei games in that the player cannot summon demons, but must utilize a party of characters and their demon transformations. Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga 2, known in Japan as Digital Devil Saga 2, is a direct sequel to the first game. It was released in 2005 in both Japan and North America and in 2006 in the PAL region.
Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor is the latest spin-off for the Megami Tensei series.. Devil Survivor uses a Tactical RPG system, mixing the traditional RPG gameplay and modern-day setting. The game was praised by critics and described as a "welcome addition" to the Megami Tensei series. A remake of Devil Survivor for the Nintendo 3DS, titled Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor Overclocked has been released in both Japan and North America. A sequel, Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 has been released in Japan in July 2011 and February 2012 in North America. Devil Survivor 2 quickly became popular in Japan and the manga adaptation, Devil Survivor 2 -Show Your Free Will- began serialization in Comic Earth Star with Nagako Sakaki as the artist. The series uses the Megami Ibunroku (女神異聞録) prefix in Japan.
Majin Tensei, one of the numerous spin-offs, can be translated as "Reincarnation of the Demon God". In the Megaten franchise, Majin / Demon God is usually a clan title used to categorize the chief deity from various pantheon like Vishnu, Horus, and Baal who are not demonic in nature. In the Shin Megami Tensei Nocturne English version, 魔神 is translated simply Deity. Giten Megami Tensei, commonly abbreviated as GigaTen, is a more SF-oriented installment for Japanese personal computers. The title translates to "Pseudepigrapha Reincarnation of the Goddess". The Megami Tensei Gaiden: Last Bible series is another side series, most of which is for the Game Boy Color. The Last Bible games replace the modern setting with a fantasy world. Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Children is another side series consisting of handheld games. Devil Children games were aimed at a younger target audience and are generally brighter and less complicated.
Plot and themes
The Megami Tensei series differs among other Japanese role-playing video games because it generally eschews the genre's typical pseudo-Medieval settings and sword and sorcery elements. MegaTen games typically take place in modern or near-future Japan and are centered around the occult, at times combined with cyberpunk elements.
Megami Tensei translates to "Reincarnation of the Goddess". The heroine of the first game was actually a reincarnation of the Shinto goddess Izanami. Despite their retaining of this part of title, this story feature does not occur in most of the other games, although there are always characters who could be considered to be said goddess.
Each game in the series features some type of communication between human characters and demon characters and players are often allowed to persuade demons to join the battle party. Also, during gameplay, the player is often asked to make moral or philosophical choices that affect the game's storyline and ending.
In Megami Tensei games, the player commands a party, which will include humans, demons, or both. Enemies are typically randomly encountered and many games in the series feature first-person perspective dungeons and other buildings. This mechanic has typically not been used since Revelations: Persona. Players can issue commands during battle for each party member to follow, typical to most turn-based role-playing video games. Although most games in the series are turn-based, the Majin Tensei games and Devil Survivor feature tactical role-playing game game mechanics, while the Devil Summoner games feature real-time action role-playing game combat.
The enemies in the series tend to be referred to as akuma (悪魔?, "devil" or "demon") rather than the "monster" term used in many other RPGs. The player can recruit akuma to their side so that they become nakama (仲魔?) – "friendly demon", a homophone for "comrade" (仲間?). It is also possible to fuse multiple nakama to create another, more powerful nakama and, similarly, to upgrade weapons by fusing them with akuma. (This is not universal however- most games do not allow you to fuse demons with items, and demons are not captured at all in Digital Devil Saga.) MegaTen games are heavy in mythological references; deities and creatures from Graeco-Roman, Norse, Celtic, Judeo-Christian, Egyptian, Chinese, Hindu and Japanese mythologies are featured, to be battled or recruited by the player.
Other common gameplay elements include nonlinear gameplay offering freedom of choice between branching paths and multiple endings, a conversation system allowing players to engage enemies in conversation, and a moral alignment system.
Megami Tensei, the first game in the series, was based on Megami Tensei, the first volume of the Japanese horror novel series Digital Devil Story by Aya Nishitani. Although the series originated in Japan in 1987, Revelations: Persona was the first game to be localized for North America, in 1996. While Persona is set in Japan, when localizing the game for North America, developer Atlus attempted to remove as many references to Japan in the game as possible. In addition to being given more English-sounding names, the appearance of several of the game's characters was changed. The character Masao "Mark" Inaba, just named Mark in the English version, had his appearance changed to be more in-line with an African American. The hair color of several other characters was also changed. The characters were returned to their original appearances in the PSP remake.
Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey was the first game in the series to be developed with localization in mind. Kazuma Kaneko, the game's producer and creative designer revealed that he set the game in Antarctica instead of Japan to appeal to audiences outside of the game's native country. Also, Atlus decided not to designate a number in the title in order to cause less confusion outside of Japan where players were not as familiar with the series.
Several of the Megami Tensei games that have been released in North America have received positive reviews. Only three of the five games in the main Shin Megami Tensei series have been released in English, those being: Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne for the PS2, which has a high rating of 82 on Metacritic, Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey for the DS, with a rating of 80 and Shin Megami Tensei IV for the 3DS, with a rating of 83. Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey was released in North America March 23, 2010. All the Persona games have been localized and have received high praise from critics. Revelations: Persona has an 80 on Metacritic, while its PSP remake earned an 83. Persona 2: Eternal Punishment received an 83, Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 earned a Metacritic score of 86, and Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 earned a 90. Other games in the series to receive similar scores are Devil Survivor, Digital Devil Saga, Digital Devil Saga 2, and the Devil Summoner games.
Nintendo Power has noted that Atlus always mixes "familiar gameplay" with surprising settings when creating games for the series, citing Persona, with its "modern-day horror stories" and "teams of Japanese high-school kids", as the perfect example. The editor also added that Strange Journey followed a similar system, calling it a "science-fiction makeover" of the series.
The series has been praised for its gameplay, visuals, and plot elements, with games in the series known for having strong character development. Digital Devil Story: Megami Tensei II and Shin Megami Tensei both appeared on Famitsu's 2006 "Top 100 Favorite Games of All Time" audience poll at #58 and #59, respectively. For the past decade, the Shin Megami Tensei series topped several "RPGs of the Decade" lists. RPGFan's "Top 20 RPGs of the Past Decade" list was topped by Digital Devil Saga & Digital Devil Saga 2, followed by Persona 3 in second place, while Persona 4 ranked fourth place. Meanwhile, RPGamer's "Top RPGs of the Decade" list was topped by Persona 3.
Many games in the series have won awards. Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne received G4TV X-Play's "Best Role Playing Game of 2004". GameSpot and RPGFan named Persona 3 the best role-playing game of 2007. GameSpy named it the 2007 PS2 RPG Game of the Year and placed it second in the 2007 PS2 Top 10 Games of the Year. 1UP.com's 2007 game awards, which ran in the March 2008 issue of Electronic Gaming Monthly, included Persona 3, given the award for "Most controversial game that created no controversy". Persona 4 was awarded the "PlayStation 2 Game Prize" in the Famitsu Awards 2008, voted by readers of Famitsu. It was also recognized by the Computer Entertainment Supplier's Association as one of the recipients for the "Games of the Year Award of Excellence" in the Japan Game Awards 2009. The game was given the award for its "high quality of work", "excellent story, automatically generated dungeons and impressive background music".
In other media
Merchandise such as collectible figurines, manga, tabletop role-playing games and collectible card games based upon games in the series have also been released. There have been two OVAs and three animated television series based upon the Digital Devil Story novels and Megami Tensei software, particularly Devil Children, which spawned 50 and 52 episode anime in 2000 and 2002, and Persona whose 2008 anime was 26 episodes.
An non-canonical anime spin-off to Persona 3 entitled Persona: Trinity Soul aired in Japan starting in January 2008 and ran for 26 episodes. Taking place ten years after the events of the game, the anime features Akihiko as a secondary character. There is also a manga adaptation of Persona 3, written and illustrated by Shūji Sogabe, and published monthly in the Japanese magazine Dengeki Maoh. Several figurines of the characters have been produced by Kotobukiya, a Japanese collectible toy company. They include the Protagonist of the game, Aigis, Mitsuru, and Akihiko. The figurines have interchangeable parts, such as an Evoker or weapon, which can be stored in the base. Alter, another Japanese company that specializes in collectibles, has also released 1:8 scale figurines of Elizabeth, Aigis and Mitsuru. The headphones worn by the Protagonist are sold by Audio-Technica, model ATH-EM700.
With the release of Persona 4, Atlus has also produced a line of merchandise, including action figures, published materials, toys and clothes. Most items were only released in Japan. Other Japanese third-party manufacturers also produced figurines and toys. The action figures include a 1/8 scale PVC figurine of Yukiko Amagi as well as Teddie and Rise Kujikawa, produced by Alter. Licensed Atlus merchandise sold by Cospa includes Persona 4 t-shirts, tote bags, and the jacket and other accessories worn by the character Chie. Persona 4 was also given a manga. It is written by Shūji Sogabe, the artist for Persona 3's manga, and started serialization in ASCII Media Works' Dengeki Black Maoh magazine on September 19, 2008. It was then published per volume by Bros.Comix Ex. An anime adaptation has also been produced, called Persona 4: The Animation. The game has also received a sequel in the form of Persona 4 Arena.
In 2013, a 13 episode anime adaptation of Devil Survivor 2 aired on Japanese television.
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