|Staff Appreciation Day
|September 23nd, 2011
09/23- 12:00PM EST
Welcome to another episode of Q&A. This week is the host to a
special staff question day. RPGamer's staff is a hard working bunch,
and the least I
can do is take the time to answer their interesting (and lengthy)
On to the letters...
Yes, I know it's been a while since my last letter. I'd like to say
that I'll write in more often in the future, but that's a promise I
should probably stop making, since I can never keep it. Please don't
take this to mean I will stop sending in letters or anything! Just that
I may never be able to send them on a regular basis.
Anyway, as I recently picked up Shin
Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor Overclocked, my very first 3DS
game, I have started to do a bit of reading up on the Megami Tensei franchise. This may
surprise you, (if you don't know already, I may have mentioned it once
or twice in passing) but the original DS game was my first foray into
this storied series. What's strange, at least on my end is how much I
love Devil Survivor, as I
tend to prefer light hearted games over more grim-dark titles, so my
interest in the rest of the series is odd. It's a really intriguing
franchise, made up so many various sub-series and standalone titles,
some of which have only the vaguest links among each other. You may
already know this, but many games that get called "Shin Megami Tensei" here in the
west were not originally called that in Japan. It was obviously done
for name familiarity, but at least they seem to be more connected to
each other than say, Final Fantasy
to SaGa or the Mana series.
It is quite the interesting series. I only got into it not too
long ago. I
had picked up Etrian Odyssey
and enjoyed it a lot, so I picked up Persona
PSP to try another dungeon crawling experience. Though I didn't
care for that game too much, it led me to try other games in the series
such as Persona 4 and Strange Journey. Certainly they are
a lot more connected than series such as Final Fantasy, but at the same time
I love that the games all have similar themes, gameplay systems,
naming schemes, etc. in the same way that the Final Fantasy series does. Though
your first SMT title may be
tough to get into, it makes exploring the rest of the series much
easier after that.
But anyway, for whatever reason, I feel like sharing my findings, at
least on the origin of the franchise and the first two Megami Tensei
games. I suppose it might be because few people talk about them, and I
assume it means few people know about. If it is actually better-known
information than I assumed, then I apologize for boring both you and
your readers with the rest of this letter.
Not at all, I'm sure many don't even know that there were Megami Tensei games minus the Shin. The series had fans back in
the PS1 days in the west, but I don't think it really became popular
here until the PS2 games like Digital
Saga and Persona 3 made
Anyway, the Megami Tensei franchise actually started out as a series of
novels, the first titled Digital
Devil Story: Megami Tensei by Aya
Nishitani. The novels, as well as the anime OAV adaptation are about a
high school boy named Akemi Nakajima who creates a demon summoning
program to get Loki to exact revenge on some students who wronged him.
Of course, Loki is hardly loyal to him, and he soon manafests himself
in the real world without Akemi's knowledge and starts to wreck havock.
There are translations for the first two books out there. It should be
easy to find by Google. The few things that these books originated that
can still be found in many a MegaTen game include the demons Loki and
Set, a computer program that can summon demons, and Cerberus, which
looks like a cross between a white lion and a dog with a reptilian tail
instead of the traditional three-headed hellhound.
Interesting, I didn't realize the concept of a computer program to
summon demons appeared so early in the series. Sounds like these books
are worth checking out as well. I also didn't realize the start of the
series came about from novels. Seems like I have a lot of reading to do!
The very first MegaTen game
was titled Digital Devil Monagatari:
Tensei and it was for the NES, PC8 and MSX. It's something of a
follow-up to the novels, as the game stars Akemi and the books' heroine
Yumiko Shirasagi, who is the reincarnation of the Shinto goddess
Izanami, from which the title "Megami
Tensei" is derived. They discover
that Lucifer has resurrected Loki and Set, both of whom were defeated
in the novels and plans to take over the human world. They must travel
through the Daedelus Tower in order to defeat them. The game is
something of a dungeon crawler, with scrolling, three-dimensional
dungeons like the first Phantasy Star.
wasn't much in the way of
a plot (surprising, right?), but there was an automap feature. Demons
were recruited like in later games, and could even be fused to create
more powerful ones. They did not level-up, so you'd have to switch out
your ealier demons for newer, stronger ones frequently. It's apparently
fairly difficult and the encouter rates are high. What must have been a
real drag, though, was the lack of a save feature, Instead you got
passwords -- just imagine how long thoes had to be. :P
would be the last game to have any direct ties to the
original novel series. Despite the name Digital Devil Monagatari:
Megami Tensei II, this game is not a sequel to the first game or
books. Instead, the original video game exists as a game in Megami
Tensei II, but is retitled Devil
Buster. The story occurs in a
post-apoclyptic world, as nuclear misslies launched in 199X destroyed
much of civilization (you know, same old, same old). Two teenagers are
playing Devil Buster and
after defeating the first boss, the demon
Pazuzu appears to them in-game and gives the player the ability to
summon demons in the form of a computer program, and tells him of a
coming menace. Soon after, their shelter is attacked by demons and the
two set out to save the remnant of humanity. Rather than 3D dungeon
scrolling, the overworld and dungeons more resembled more familiar
Famicom/NES RPGs like Dragon Quest.
endings, and it seems that you can ally yourself
with Lucifer or YHVH, and I wouldn't be surprised if there was a
neutral human-focused ending as well (I can't be sure though, as I
can't find much info on that). The music is apparently really good, and
I am impressed with the few tracks I've heard.
Sounds like we missed out on a lot of gems back in the day. Not only
that, but it sounds like a lot of what I thought as new for the series
in the recent entries was actually pretty common. It's a real shame
that we haven't gotten to experience this series from the very start
(although I wouldn't have enjoyed entering massive passwords)!
Note From JuMeSyn:
While true that we missed some potentially good stuff, you should
probably mention that the odds of the games on NES making it over here
at the height of Nintendo's censorship were somewhere around the odds
of getting the same number on four roulette tables simultaneously.
While there have been no new games simply titled "Megami Tensei" since the
NES/Famicom era, there was an enhanced remake of them for the Super
Famicom called Kyuuyaku (Old Testament) Megami Tensei: Megami: Megami Tensei I - II.
as changes made to the
first game and some extras added to the second. You can actually save
in Megami Tensei, some early
dungeons were re-done, and there is a teleportation feature. In the
second game, there are new side quests and rewards if you play the
first game before it.
Sounds like this is the version most of us would be interested in
playing. I mean seriously, I can't even imagine what kinds of passwords
these games would have required!
And my overview ends here. As you may have guessed, neither of these
games are directly related to the following Shin Megami Tensei sub-series or
any of the other games in the franchise. Still, I find it fascinating
to discover the roots of long-running series. Since I haven't asked any
questions, I'll shoot a few here: How would you perfer to experience
the original two games? English translations of the original Famicom
titles (say on the Wii or 3Ds Virtual Console)? Or maybe just
translated the Super Famicom remakes? Or would you perfer entirely new
remakes. Or perhaps you wouldn't want to at all? As for myself I'd
probably go for the last option, though a part of me wants to at least
try the very first games in their original forms.
Good Arceus, I don't think I've ever sent a letter in this long into Q
& A. I apologize if it's too much. Take care, Wheels!
I think I'd prefer entirely new remakes. Since playing Etrian Odyssey and Strange Journey I've found it very
hard to play dungeon crawls of this type that don't have robust map
features. I mean, I think it would be cool to have a translated version
of the Super Famicom remakes, but these games remade using the Strange
Journey engine would just be really cool. We know Atlus likes to
re-release its games, so such a remake isn't even out of the
question. We shall see!
Thanks for the letter, I don't mind long ones at all!
So you mentioned in staff chat that you didn't enjoy Tales of Innocence. I don't know
much about this title, so what's it about, and why isn't it very
good? How do you think it can be improved in the "Reimagined"
Well for those that don't know, Tales of Innocence was the second Tales game to be released for DS,
and it was developed by Alfa System, which also does the Tales of the World: Radiant Mythology
games. It is notable in that it had a fan translation released not
too long ago. So what's wrong with it? Mainly, it just plays like a
dumb-downed version of a console Tales
game. Featuring a combat system just like recent Tales games such as Tales of the Abyss, it just doesn't
feel as polished as the games it draws inspiration from. The graphics
are mostly middling as well, not because they're bad 3D (for the DS),
but because of uninteresting art design. The world map definitely
qualifies as bad 3D, though. Not that
any of this makes it an awful game, it is a decent effort. The problem
was I played it after the far more original and interesting Tales of Hearts. Hearts was designed by the Tales Studio, and feels like a
game truly designed for the DS. So perhaps it's just my annoyance that Hearts isn't the game being remade
that led to my initial disappointment.
That being said, I don't think there's anything that can be done to
improve the game in the re-imagined version, short of radically
the gameplay and art style. Based on the screen-shots I've seen, it
doesn't appear to have either. Perhaps Innocence was just more popular
than Hearts in Japan, which
would be a crying shame.
Hey Wheels, it felt like a good time of the month to write in, so here
First we need to talk about games. Wild ARMs 3 and SaGa
Frontier II. Why have you not yet played these games? They both
interesting and at times oddly presented methods of storytelling. For
example, WA3 starts out with
four complete strangers breaking
locked compartment on a train at the same time, and only then letting
player choose which back story to see first. It then goes on to have a
surprising (yet in hindsight logical) progression of villains.
Well in the case of SaGa Frontier II, I simply never
got around to it for some reason, and have recently been saving it for
a rainy day. Since it is currently a rainy day, I think I will fire it
up soon (especially with a SaGa
Frontier episode of Backtrack coming up). As for Wild ARMs 3, I really have no
excuse. I loved the first game when I was younger, and never really
played any of the other games. I do own Wild ARMs 3, so I'll have to fire
it up some time soon. I do know it has an amazing opening theme.
Wild ARMs PS2
deserve an HD collection.
SF2 is the most linear SaGa title ever made,
but locks that
linearity into vignettes on a set chronology which does NOT need to be
through in complete linearity (though it's recommended). And there's
magic system. Pretty much anything that can be equipped (sans steel
can also power magic spells in this game, and even the local
can affect mana accessibility. It's a neat system to work with.
Finally, SF2 lets the player choose between party and
duel battles, both of
which have pros and cons. Also, the artwork is gorgeous. The final boss
a complete SMURF, though.
I don't mind linearity. Given my
limited time and the large number of games I play, this actually sounds
like a plus. Aside from the linearity, sounds like the game has the
typical complex and obtuse systems that any good SaGa game has. The great artwork
certainly doesn't hurt. You've pretty much settled it, I have to play
this game as soon as possible.
Moving on, I thought up a new scenario for Kaijuu RamPaGe, set
northern California. Eddie "Dr. Bud" Horowitz was tending to his
not-entirely-legal little grow-op when a green meteor did an air-burst
above his farm. A few days after the dust settled, he noticed that his
crop was growing a lot faster than normal. To "check the quality" he
decided to smoke a bit, and had his mind expanded. And his forehead,
(it now measures about 12 inches vertically). From then on, Dr. Bud
a mad scientist with a mission: to free humanity from the forces of
Prohibition, and spread his crop wherever possible. To that end, he
himself a mecha out of an old combine harvester (fueled with bio-fuel
contaminated with green alien dust) and proceeded to conquer San
It should be mentioned that even though his apparent IQ is now
around 300, he's permanently half-baked at this point. His good-natured
attempts to provide pot to the citizens of SanFran results in a
jungle called the Green Hell. Apparently his crop isn't as mellow as he
is. Like the Ebon Ichor, the Green Hell is as much an environment as it
an enemy. The abundance of greenery holds down infrastructure, making
harder to destroy buildings and limiting the Magnetic Man's ability to
attract metal to himself. Flowery monsters spew forth poisonous or
hallucinogenic gasses that can affect anything with working lungs.
blasting through all this, Dr. Bud and his mecha (the Mystic
are pretty easy pickings. It's just not that easy to get to them in the
Dang it, as soon as you mentioned San
Fransisco this song
popped into my head and it wont go away. Anyways I don't want to say
too much more to detract from the previous awesomeness.
Now, as for challenges... I did the "odd thing made core element" game
challenge, so I do believe it's your turn to pose one.
Your fellow columnist,
Here's your challenge for you right
here: pitch a cross-over RPG between a western RPG series, and a
Japanese RPG series (and don't you dare steal my Deus Ex/Persona
cross-over). Good luck!
A Lesson in Falcom's History
Their own version of Ys IV?
I know there are seemingly
two totally different games with the title of Ys IV, but that's about it...
Feel free to answer this at length in Ask Wheels, if need be. I know
you'd be happier that way. :P
Well as you may or may not know, Falcom has a long and strange history.
It used to license ports of its games to seemingly every possible
platform out there. Now, Ys IV
took things a bit farther, with Falcom licensing the development of two
completely different versions, one on Super Famicom and one on PC
Engine CD, from two different developers. They both had the same basic
story, but took
vastly different paths from there (Falcom must have given them a lot of
freedom in this regard). If that wasn't enough, there was also a third
version released years later by Taito, which also deviated from the
other two. I think the general opinion is that the PC Engine is the
best version (the only one I own and have played), but I think
frequent forum poster Wyrdwad can tell you more about the other two
versions if you so desire. He knows more about Falcom than anyone!
That's it for this week! Next week we've got a letter from the King of
Content, and we'll talk about the new Dragon
See you then!
August 18th: Wheels
August 26th: Wheels
September 1st: Wheels
September 15th: Wheels
About the Host
What I can't wait for:
1. Dark Souls
2. Battlefield 3
3. Final Fantasy XIII-2
5. Tales of the Abyss 3D
On my Playlist:
1.El Shaddai Soundtrack
2. Deus Ex Soundtrack
3. Homestuck Soundtrack
1. Is it time for Tom Clancy to make an RPG?
2. Why do you think Nintendo suddenly decided to add region protection
to the 3DS when they hadn't done so for previous portables?
3. What long dormant RPG series do you want to see make a return?
4. Do you prefer digital releases or physical releases and why?
5. Borderlands somehow merged Diablo and first person shooters to make
an incredible game, what can the sequel do to improve on the first?