Shin Megami Tensei
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|Shin Megami Tensei|
Cover art, featuring several demons, as well as three of the human characters, in the bottom center. From left to right: Law Hero, Hero, and Chaos Hero.
Shin Megami Tensei (Japanese: 真・女神転生?, literally "True Goddess Reincarnation") is a role-playing video game from Atlus that was originally released on October 30, 1992 for the Super Famicom. Loosely based on Megami Tensei, a novel and Famicom game series in Japan, Shin Megami Tensei would be the first of many titles in the franchise released by Atlus. A direct sequel, Shin Megami Tensei II, was released in 1994. A third game, Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne, was released in 2003. The most recent installment, Shin Megami Tensei IV, was released in 2013. Two non-numbered titles, Shin Megami Tensei if... and Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey, were released in 1994 and 2009, respectively.Shin Megami Tensei has grown a large and loyal following around the world with additional game titles for consumer consoles and handheld systems.
Previously unavailable in English (except for an unofficial fan-translated patch of the Super Famicom version, released on June 30, 2002), a localized iOS version was released in North America on March 18, 2014.
In Shin Megami Tensei, players take the role of a teenage boy who, using a computer program, is able to communicate with demons. The gameplay is similar to that of other games in the series: players make their way through dungeons and fight against demons in a first-person perspective. Battles are turn-based, and consist of players letting the characters in their party attack with swords or guns, summon demons, or cast magic spells; both demons and humans, with the exception of the player character, are able to use magic. By participating in battles, human characters in the player's party receive experience points; by accumulating these points, the characters' levels rise.
Players can choose to talk to demons instead of fighting them; they can ask the demons for items or money, try to get them to go away, or try to form an alliance with them. At some places, called "Cathedrals of Shadows", players can fuse multiple allied demons into one single, more powerful demon; as demons do not receive experience points, this is the only way for the player to increase their demons' power. Magnetite is used as a fuel for allied demons, and is used up by summoned demons as the player character walks around in the dungeons; if players run out of magnetite, summoned demons take damage.
Depending on the choices players make throughout the game, the player character's alignment changes; the different alignments in the game are law, chaos, and neutrality. This changes the course of the game's plot, but also the way demons treat the player character; for instance, demons who are law-aligned will refuse to form an alliance with chaos-aligned players. Additionally, depending on their alignment, players will not be let into certain areas; for instance, the Order of Messiah will not let chaos-aligned players into their churches.
Setting and characters
Shin Megami Tensei takes place in a postmodern Tokyo, first in the year "199X", and then 30 years later in a post-apocalyptic version of the city. A rift has been opened to another world, allowing demons to invade Tokyo; by using a computer program, humans are able to communicate with and summon the demons.
The game includes four human "heroes": the player character, the Hero, who is a teenage boy living with his mother in Kichijōji in Tokyo; the Heroine, who is the leader of a resistance force which tries to protect Tokyo; and the Law Hero and Chaos Hero, who represent the alignments Law and Chaos, respectively. Among other characters are ambassador Thorman (トールマン Tōruman?) and general Gotou (ゴトウ?), who lead the US military and the Japan Self-Defense Forces, respectively; the archangel Michael (ミカエル Mikaeru?) and the demon Asura-ou (アスラおう?), who lead the Order of Messiah and the Ring of Gaea, respectively; and the demons Lilith (リリス Ririsu?) and Lucifer (ルシファー Rushifā?), who use the pseudonyms Yuriko (由利子?) and Louis Cyphre (ルイ・サイファー Rui Saifā?), respectively.
Shin Megami Tensei was developed by Atlus for the Super Famicom. It was produced by Yōsuke Niino, programmed by, among others, Kouji Okada, and composed for by Tsukasa Masuko. Kazuma Kaneko was involved in most aspects of the game's development, such as the planning, the world design, the visual design, the character design, and creation of visual game assets.
The game was designed as an antithesis to fantasy works such as The Lord of the Rings and Dungeons & Dragons. According to Kaneko, "back then, all RPGs were fantasy-based"; he wondered why no role-playing games take place in a modern world, and decided to make one. He was annoyed by how main characters in role-playing games often are portrayed as "special". He said that it's "the equivalent of saying you can't succeed unless you're from a wealthy family", and that he couldn't stand it; the concept for the Megami Tensei series is that anyone can become a hero if the opportunity arises and they "have the guts to try [their] best". Gods, demons, and events in the game are metaphors for real-life social structures. The main characters of Shin Megami Tensei mature as they overcome the anxiety and anger they feel towards society by resisting norms; because of this, Kaneko calls the series "a hard rock interpretation of Pinocchio".
When designing demons for the game, Kaneko first did research on how they are portrayed in legends and folklore; some demons were designed according to how they traditionally are portrayed, and sometimes in the form of a modern interpretation. Some characters, such as Stephen and general Gotou, were based on real-life people; in the game files, they are identified as "hoking" and "mishima", respectively. The graphics for most demons were directly drawn as sprites, without concept art, to make sure that the design and the graphics would work within the hardware limitations of the Super Famicom. Certain important characters, and some demons who the player would be guaranteed to meet, were however drawn as concept art first. Several demons were designed in a way that allowed parts of their graphics to be reused; for instance, the demon Cerberus' body is also used for Shanhui and Nue, with a different color palette. The game's soundtrack consists of dark and contemporary music. Among the various compositions, there are examples of ambient music, rock, and progressive rock. Some pieces, such as the pipe organ solo "Heretic Mansion", have a gothic theme.
The game was not released outside of Japan until 2014, when Atlus USA released the iOS version in English in North America. According to Nich Maragos, the editor of the English version of Shin Megami Tensei, it was already too late to localize the PlayStation and Game Boy Advance versions of the game by the time the Megami Tensei series had "taken off" in the US; Atlus normally does not have an interest in localizing mobile games, but saw the iOS version of the game as a perfect opportuity to fill in one of the gaps in the series. The localization project was slow at first, as it took time to extract the files from the game, so the localization team started by playing the game in order to find out what kinds of dialogue text and system messages it contained. After receiving the files, they translated the text, which was sent to the editors; the edited text was sent back to the translators, who checked that nothing had been lost in translation, after which the text was inserted into the game. A challenge for the localization team was character limitations: only four rows of text, with 28 characters each, were able to be displayed at a time, and at some points this had to be limited even further in order to avoid graphical glitches. This was solved as they were able to add more text boxes as needed.
Later Megami Tensei games, which had been localized before Shin Megami Tensei, influenced the localization, as several of them include terms or quotes from the game. For instance, the catastrophe in Shin Megami Tensei is referred to as the "Great Cataclysm" in Devil Summoner: Raidou Kuzunoha vs. The Soulless Army, while Persona 4 and Shin Megami Tensei IV include several quotes and terms from the game. The already translated Shin Megami Tensei quotes from the Persona 4 localization were reused verbatim in the localization of Shin Megami Tensei.
The game has been mostly positively received. The iOS version received an aggregated score of 72.86% on GameRankings based on seven reviews, and 72/100 on Metacritic based on eight reviews. Additionally, the Super Famicom version received an aggregate score of 75.50% on GameRankings based on two reviews.
On release, Famitsu magazine gave the original Super Famicom version a score of 36 out of 40, with all four reviewers giving it a 9 out of 10. This made it one of their three highest-rated games of 1992, along with Dragon Quest V and World of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. Shin Megami Tensei was also one of only eleven games to have received a Famitsu score of 36/40 or above up until 1992. Famitsu magazine later scored the PlayStation version of the game a 30 out of 40.
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- Official websites for North America, Japan
- Shin Megami Tensei on iOS
- Shin Megami Tensei on Google Play (Japanese)
- Shin Megami Tensei on PlayStation Network (Japanese)