Digital Devil Story: Megami Tensei
|Digital Devil Story: Megami Tensei|
Japanese box art
|Genre(s)||Role-playing video game, horror|
Digital Devil Story: Megami Tensei (Japanese: デジタル・デビル物語 女神転生 Hepburn: Dejitaru Debiru Sutōrī Megami Tensei?) is the first game of the popular Megami Tensei series of role-playing video games. It is based on the novel Digital Devil Story by Aya Nishitani. Although Atlus has published a majority of the series, the first two games were created by Atlus but published by Namco (known as Namcot at the time), after it bought the video game rights to the Japanese horror novel series by Aya Nishitani, the first named Digital Devil Story. This game is a role-playing video game that features extensive dungeon crawling and focuses heavily on demons, which have gone on to become a trademark of the series.
Digital Devil Story: Megami Tensei features several gameplay elements that became standards in the rest of the series, including demon catching and fusing and first-person dungeons. The player takes the role of two human characters, Nakajima and Yumiko, who can equip weapons and armors, and are provided with ability points and an experience level as in other RPGs of the time. Both of them have limited hit points (HP). Additionally, Yumiko can also cast magic spells and has limited magic points (MP), whereas Nakajima can collect items and use his computer to gather and summon demons. The game takes place in Makai, the world of demons, populated with all sorts of mythological creatures, monsters, deities and other beings. The story unfolds as the two characters explore the vertically developed dungeons, where they meet various characters providing hints on what needs to be done and quests of different nature, some of which are mandatory to progress with the game. Dispersed in the dungeons are treasure chests containing makka (魔ッ貨, a monetary unit in Makai) or special jewels called hougyoku (ほう玉), which can be used to fully replenish HP of a single character (a maximum of 7 such jewels can be taken along). Particular areas such as dark zones, where the map is of no use and walls cannot be seen, and damage zones, where each step taken by the characters deprives them of 1 HP, are also found in the dungeons. A few weapon and armor shops (辺境の店 henkyou no mise) are also present, together with health springs (回復の泉 kaifuku no izumi), where both HP and MP can be restored under payment, and rag shops (ラグの店 ragu no mise), where special items can be obtained in exchange for amethysts (which lie scattered in some levels).
- Character statistics
- Soon after starting the game, the two main characters are given 15 ability points each, which the player must distribute among five basic character attributes:
- Strength: Has a direct influence on physical endurance and resilience to enemy attacks.
- Intelligence: Influences the availability and effectiveness of magic spells (Yumiko), and the success rate when attempting to make demons into allies (Nakajima).
- Attack: Affects the efficacy of physical attacks.
- Dexterity: Influences the order of attacks during battles, and reflexes when defending from physical (non-magic) attacks.
- Luck: Influences the likelihood of a preemptive attack from the enemy, the success rate when attempting to escape, and so forth.
- Experience points are gained at every successful fight, and when a fixed number of points is reached the player obtains a level-up; the experience points needed for the next level-up are shown among Yumiko's statistics. A level-up confers 1 ability point each to Nakajima and Yumiko, which can then be assigned to the desired attribute. The maximum number of points for each attribute is 20, and the maximum reachable experience level is 61. In addition, experience points are shared by both parties, so that even if one of them dies, his or her level may advance anyway.
- Summoning demons
- When fighting against one single enemy, Nakajima can use his computer to try to persuade the demon to join him. Demons (generically called akuma in the game) will ask for magnetite, makka or other items, and depending on the outcome of the interaction they will become partners, or possibly run away or even deliver a surprise attack. The result of this persuasion act depends on a variety of factors, among which the current experience level of the player and the moon phase (simply called MOON in the game) have major influence. For instance, in case of full moon persuasion is bound to fail, resulting in a direct attack from the demon. Additionally, demons come in different races, and some of them can never be approached for negotiations. In case of success, the demon enters the party and becomes a nakama (仲魔), which is a truncated form of nakama no akuma (仲間の悪魔 lit. demon partner), making for a pun with the differently written nakama (仲間 lit. fellow/partner). It is understood that the newly acquired demon is kept in Nakajima's computer in latent form, so as to be eventually summoned at a later time. The computer can hold up to 7 demons, only 3 of which can be summoned at a time. Summoned demons will fight in battles both with physical and magic attacks, but summoning itself will cost money; moreover, summoned demons consume magnetite when walking, in a measure that depends on their specific koutai points (lit. antibody points, CP). All these costs raise with the experience level of the demons, thus proper management of resources is an essential part of the game.
- Demon fusion
- The experience level of caught demons is fixed, in that reaching a level-up will confer additional ability points only to Nakajima and Yumiko. Nevertheless, it is possible to perform "demon fusion" (悪魔合体 akuma gattai) at the Jakyō House found at the first level of the game, in the city of Mikon: a new, different demon can be created by combining two separate demons from those currently in the roster, although fusion can be finalized only if the generated demon has an experience level less than or equal to the human player. The basic and most frequent combination gives birth to a Dryad: such a combination is indicated with a star symbol in correspondence with the two generating demons, which can be of any rank (this also makes it clear that powerful demons do not necessarily combine into a more powerful one). The newly created demon can be one of those inhabiting the dungeons, or a novel demon altogether. A total of 130 non-trivial combinations are possible, giving birth to 50 different demons. Finally, fusion cannot be performed if some character, including Nakajima and Yumiko, is not in a healthy state (e.g. is dead or poisoned) when entering the Jakyō: in this case, healing is the only option.
- Battles are turn-based, with random encounters taking place while exploring dungeons. In general, a command screen is presented upon encountering enemies, but preemptive strikes can also occur. The main commands are Combat (たたかう tatakau) and Escape (にげる nigeru). The latter is used to attempt flight, with the outcome depending on various factors such as moon phase, Luck points and the confronting enemy itself; if escape is not successful, enemies will attack and the player is presented with the command screen again. Escape fails always when fighting bosses. The Combat screen in turn presents Attack (こうげき kougeki), Computer (COMP), Magic (まほう mahou) and Defend (まもる mamoru) commands. An AUTO command is also available, causing a completely automated battle to take place until either of the parties is annihilated. In this automatic scenario, allies repeatedly issue Attack commands, whereas enemies will use both physical and magic attacks, making for a quicker battle (which can be cancelled by pressing the B button). If Yumiko is not dead the Magic command can be used to cast spells, while Nakajima can use his computer to summon demons, call back summoned ones, or Talk to enemies in an attempt to begin negotiations. At the end of the battle, if enemies are defeated, experience points and makka are gained; additionally, magnetite or one hougyoku can also be obtained.
- Dungeons are in the form of repetitive, usually complex 3D mazes where it is very easy to lose bearings. To aid exploration, Yumiko can cast a Map (spelled "Mapper" in the game) spell of temporary duration since the beginning of the game; the map shows the player's surroundings in a vertically oriented overhead map with 3*5 blocks, following the player movements and re-orientating so as to keep the facing direction up. Nevertheless, some levels present non-mappable "dark zones", and fake walls getting drawn in the map contribute to get the player easily confused. Differently, in the remake an auto-mapping feature was added, where the map gets automatically filled in as the characters explore the dungeon. In general, moving through the dungeons requires the player to use stairs, but alternative means such as elevators and warps also become available upon completing various item quests.
- Game over and continue
- When both Nakajima and Yumiko die, a Game Over screen is presented together with a message from the current boss to defeat (this happens even if summoned demons are still alive). From there it is possible to either enter a password and restore a previous game, or simply continue the current game: in the latter case the game restarts from the first level, but experience level, ability points, magnetite and caught demons are kept, health is fully replenished for all the characters, and as a penalty makka is halved and hougyoku's are zeroed. Saving the game is not possible, since the Famicom did not have storage devices; instead, passwords of up to 40 alphanumeric characters can be obtained from the city elder, making it possible to restore a game from the current status (using passwords is also the only way to get rid of caught demons once they die). Later in the game, a Password spell (スワードナ suwādona) also becomes available. In the Super Famicom remake, passwords are replaced with a Save option.
Akemi Nakajima is a high school student and a computer programming prodigy who created a program that can summon demons from Makai. His original intentions for the program were to gain revenge on a classmate who had fought with him. He brings his friend Yumiko Shirasagi, a transfer student that became interested in Nakajima and found to be the reincarnation of the goddess Izanami, to combat the malicious demons he unleashed. Nakajima had been tricked into summoning a demon named Loki with his program, whereas the American computer genius Isma Feed has summoned the demon Set in order to use its power. The game is assumed to take place after the first two Digital Devil Story novels when the demons Loki and Set have been defeated. The demon Lucifer has revived them, though, in order to prepare to invade the human world once again.
The game takes place entirely in an extensive labyrinth constructed by the great demon king (大魔王 daimaou) Lucifer. The maze is divided into 6 large areas, each guarded by powerful demons.
In 1995, Atlus remade the Namco version, along with its sequel Digital Devil Story: Megami Tensei II and released a single Super Famicom cartridge titled Kyūyaku Megami Tensei (旧約・女神転生 lit. Megami Tensei: The Old Testament, or The Goddess reincarnation of Old Testament ?). It was released only in Japan. Atlus did not take too many liberties with the original gameplay. A few portions of the dungeons of the first game were redone, along with a new save game and teleportation terminal feature which previously did not exist. The graphics and music were enhanced to match the capabilities of the Super Famicom.
Reception and legacy
Hardcore Gaming 101 stated that "It's surprising how in depth the monster catching and fusing elements are given the game's age... Unlike other games of time, the battles do move quickly, especially with the handy auto battle feature, so the high monster encounter rate is almost balanced out."
Digital Devil Story: Megami Tensei was the first game in the Megami Tensei series, which has been called the third most popular RPG series in Japan, after Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy. Many of its gameplay aspects have been retained throughout games in the series, most notably the demon catching and fusing.
Digital Devil Story is considered to be the first notable cyberpunk video game. It was notable for abandoning the common medieval fantasy setting and sword and sorcery theme of RPGs in favour of a modern science fiction setting and horror theme. It also introduced the monster-catching mechanic with its demon-summoning system, which allowed the player to recruit enemies into their party. It also featured an early conversation system that gives the player a choice of whether to kill or spare an enemy and allows them to engage any opponent in conversation.
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- Kurt Kalata & Christopher J. Snelgrove. "Megami Tensei". Hardcore Gaming 101. Retrieved 2011-03-06.