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ASK WHEELS
Tropical Fun
November 18th, 2011

11/18- 12:00PM EST

Welcome to another edition of Q&A! I return from a cruise to warmer places, and hope you all enjoyed the fantastic Ask Ocelot last week. Lots of games came out since I've been away, and I'm knee deep in War in the North, Uncharted 3, and even a little Mario with Zelda to follow very soon. Anyway, let's see what you all wrote me while I was away (OK some of these have been in the backlog for longer)...





The Letters
History Time

Dear Wheels,

  What's this? I'm sending a letter less than three month after the last? Well, you see, the reason I send letters in rarely is mostly because I don't always have ideas for topics or questions. However, it seems at least one person liked my little history lesson on the beginnings of the Megami Tensei series. So I thought, why not continue to send in letters covering the rest of the games in the series that have not been released in North America? I'll stick to three games per letter  so  these don't get monstrously long.


Wheels

Yes! I enjoyed hearing about the history of the series, so more of that is more than alright by me. Let's see what you've got.

The first game actually titled Shin Megami Tensei takes place in Tokyo  in 199X. Demons have begun to invade the world and a Japanese general  named Goto attempts to take over the country by using these creatures. The  nameable protagonist soon gets an email containing a demon summoning  program. With it, he goes out to try to stop Goto along with some other nameable characters he meets along the way. Regardless of the choices the player makes, he is unable to prevent the Great Destruction. He then must decide what sort of new world will arise from the ashes of the old: will he side with the angels and create the thousand year kingdom of God, will he join with the demons and create a world of chaos, or will he beat back both in order for humans to build a new world for themselves. The familiar elements of demon negotiations and fusing return of course from the Famicom games. Human playable characters aside from the Hero are the namable Heroine, a namable “Law Hero” and a namable “Chaos Hero.” Only the Heroine stays by the Hero’s side regardless of the path taken.  The Hero’s alignment, which determines the ending, is dependent upon certain factors, the main ones being which tasks he takes on assigned by either the Law (Messian) faction or the Gaia (Chaos) faction. Also the demons that are recruited and summoned can lean the alignment slightly.  On a side-note, the inventor of the demon-summoning program is a man named STEVEN (yes, in all caps like that, for some reason). He is disabled and confined to a wheelchair because he tested an experimental teleporter malfunctioned and sent him to Makai (the demon world), where he was attacked by a demon. If you haven’t guessed by now, he’s a reference to famed physicist Stephen Hawking.


Wheels

Wow, a lot of that sounds somewhat like what I've heard about Nocturne, so I guess the series has certainly stayed consistent. Anyway, for an older game this sounds incredibly complex. I'm sure it wasn't quite as advanced and well made as the more recent games, but obviously they had all the familiar systems in place. Shame we never got this game. Also, the inclusion of Stephen Hawking is pretty cool. One think the series should move away from that it is still doing though: silent protagonists. Seriously, take a cue from Mass Effect Atlus.

Shin Megami Tensei II makes the neutral ending of the first game canon. Taking place some fifty years later, the world is a pretty crudy place plagued by disasters. In the city of Tokyo Millennium, people fight in tournaments for the chance to live in the Center, which is protected from the demons that still roam the world. The main character is named, though I think still silent. His name is Hawk, but he soon learns that his real name is Aleph and that he is the Messiah, who will save humanity and bring about the Thousand Kingdom. Sure it sounds nice, but this kingdom is completely subjugated under YHVH, a tyrannical jerk of a god. Also, only a select few people would be able to live there. This is one of the few games in the franchise where you actually can kill YHVH (the other one I’m aware of being Megami Tensei II). There are Neutral demons in the game, instead of just Law and Chaos ones. Some other gameplay changes include having more freedom in passing skills to fused demons and being able to choose kills for demons to use in battle, in exchange for MP or HP. You can also actually face up to two different types of demons instead of just one! (:P) Also, it seems that while the playable characters from the first SMT died or vanished, STEVEN is still alive. Both games were remade on the PSX and there is a GBA port of this game.


Wheels

Very interesting. These games are just a refreshing changes from RPGs both past and present, and its a real shame we didn't get the earlier games. I'm sure they're a bit archaic by this point, but perhaps a nice coat of paint and a modern Etrian Odyssey style engine could see them returned to glory? Also by the sound if it, I'm assuming SMT III (Nocturne) isn't a direct sequel?

The last game I will talk about is Shin Megami Tensei: If. One thing I find especially interesting is that  fans of the franchise see this game as a sort of "missing link" between the classic SMT games and  the Persona series. Like the Persona games, SMT: If take place at a high school and stars teenagers. These kids attend Karukozaka High and one day their school is suddenly transported to Makai, where one of their classmates, Ideo Hazama has declared himself the new Demon Emperor. Hazama was harshly bullied and betrayed by his first love, so he does the sensible thing and tries to summon demons in the school gym. The spell goes awry, and instead sucks the school into Makai, eventually becoming emperor.  As the player, you choose between a namable girl or boy. As with the past two games in the series, the characters can recruit demons through negotiations and fuse them. If also introduces Guardian Spirits. These being appear when the main character dies, affecting his/her stat growth the next the next time he/she levels up.The type of guardian determines the stat change. These Spirits can apparently be considered the precursors to personae. Also, the female player character appears in the first two Persona games (or three perhaps since Persona 2 consists of two games), where she is called Tamaki Uchida. She is a minor character, but some of the things she says and does can be taken to mean the Persona games and SMT: If are in the same continuity...or maybe it's just a mythology gag. :P This game was also remade for the PS1, and all three games mentioned here are on on Japanese Wii Virtual Console.


Wheels

I have heard a bit about If, namely that it was the pre-cursor to the Persona series. Sounds like it has a similar sort of setup, the whole summoning thing reminding me of how Persona 1 starts. This is another game I'd love to see translated in some way. Atlus has been good about bringing over the remakes of previously unreleased games, but I'd love to see them maybe translate an older game for release on the virtual console or something. I'm sure that wouldn't really be worth their while, but we can dream!

So those were the three SMT games on the Super Famicom, though there were other games in the MegaTen metaseries. It seems like they would have be fun to play, but for various reason, they've never come here. I'm actually rather surprised there hasn't been a recent remake, as I'm sure they'd do fairly well considering the franchise's popularity in North America. There is that 3DS "Shin Megami Tensei" game that was announced some time ago. Here's hoping it's some kind of remake of at least the first two games.


Wheels

That would be interesting, and with an Etrian Odyssey game also coming to the platform, they could create an engine to use with both games. Of course such an engine could easily be used to create a brand new SMT game, but you never know. Atlus does seem to enjoy remaking games in the series. Any SMT on the 3DS is fine by me!

I'm afraid I have no actual questions to ask, as this letter is quite long enough, and I can't really think of any other than obvious ones (which game sounds more interesting to you, how would you like them remade, etc.). So I'll end here. Thanks for reading! Next time I'll discuss the Majin Tensei games.

-Strawberry Eggs


Wheels

No worries, you've provided a lot of good information I'm sure the readers will enjoy, certainly more than my usually nonsensical replies!

Legend of Questions

In honor of our recent debate on the RPG Backtrack, I ask you to come up with an easy way to make use of the smithing system in Legend of Mana that can get good results without a lot of thought. It'd help me out with playing the game.

-TwinBahamut


Wheels

I'm not quote sure that there's any "easy" way to make use of the smithing system, but perhaps you would be better off ignoring it? Legend of Mana's sub-systems can get pretty in-depth, but given that the combat is usually on the easy side, I'm not sure sinking a lot of time into that particular system will be worth your while (I never bothered with it myself). I find the best way to enjoy the game is to just relax, explore, and not worry about whether you're crafting the best items. Just make whatever you can with the materials you've found on your journeys. I would never claim Legend of Mana is a completely brilliant game, and I think the fact that the combat system is often not challenging weakens any enjoyment you may get out of smithing, monster raising, etc. My recommendation is to ignore the smithing system if you find it difficult or bothersome and just go explore the colorful world!

Secrets of Secret of Mana

Hi Wheels!

I noticed that a certain Daniel had mentioned a remake of Seiken Densetsu 2 (otherwise known as Secret of Mana) in his letter. Has anyone with connections ever actually attempted to figure out what happened to the pieces of the REAL Seiken Densetsu 2?


Wheels

This is a good question, as you'll soon reveal I'm sure, Secret of Mana was originally intended to be a larger game on an accessory that was never released, not that the final product seems much harmed by this fact.

Scratching your head, are you?

Haven't you ever noticed that things throughout the game seem to be... somewhat unfinished? Have you noticed the unusually orchestral quality of the music, compared to many SNES games of that particular year? Have you noticed how truncated the dialogue seems in many places?

There's a reason for it.


Wheels

I'm not quite sure I ever noticed things as unfinished. The story is a bit brisk at times, but it was largely typical for games of that era. I will say some areas seemed underutilized, but that didn't necessarily equate to being unfinished. The music was brilliant, but what Squaresoft games for SNES didn't have brilliant music?

Here's the deal. Seiken Densetsu 2 wasn't originally designed to be played from a cartridge. It was one of the first Square titles specifically made to be played from a CD- with orchestral quality music, a vast world... basically an astoundingly huge masterpiece. When Nintendo screwed Sony over by publicly humiliating them during the SNESCD debacle, they also figuratively kicked Square in the teeth as well- the RPG maker had to hastily take the game they had so lovingly been making and slash it to pieces, all so it would fit into a sixteen megabit cartridge.


Wheels

As previously revealed, I did in fact know this somewhat, though I wonder if our other Daniel did? Anyway, Nintendo really shot themselves in the foot with this whole CD thing, but we all know that story. I wonder if the reason it was killed is similar to the reason they stuck with cartridges for so long, that reason being a hatred for loading times. I can't say I dislike the idea in theory, but who knows what could have been had Nintendo embraced CD media. Perhaps we would have gotten a bigger Secret of Mana and many other similarly huge games? Then again, it could have ended up with the same fate as the Sega CD and largely be ignored.

So hey, if anyone who's got any connections might end up reading this- how about seeing if Square might put back the stuff we lost- a real, true release of what Secret of Mana was meant to be?

-Daniel


Wheels

Well, there's a large number of problems with this. The first is, did they ever actually make that content? As far as I can recall, it was certainly planned as a CD, but I don't recall whether or not it actually was anywhere near completion as a release for the CD accessory. It could be it was planned that way, and then scaled back mid-development or during planning and that content may never have even been made. The other issue is Japanese developers are notorious for having lost source code for a lot of old games, so if it did exist, chances are high Square-Enix doesn't even have the data anymore. Sadly I don't think we'll ever get a great answer to this, but maybe they should just remake Secret of Mana and make it bigger and better? I'd buy that. Anyway, great question Daniel, be sure to write in some more! Don't want to be outdone by Other Daniel X, do you?


Connection Challenge

My last challenges too easy?

Let's link The Match King to The Rhapsody of Zephyr, then! 


Wheels

My good sir, I thought you'd present me with a challenge? The Rhapsody of Zephyr was developed by softmax -> softmax developed the Magna Carta games -> Namco published Magna Carta II in the US -> Namco published the game based on the 2010 version of Clash of the Titans -> Warner Bros distributed that film -> Warner Bros distributed some version of the film The Match King

Link The Locked Door to Langrisser 4!

JuMeSyn


Wheels

Alright, this one is going to get a bit insane. Langrisser 4 developed by Careersoft -> Careersoft developed Langrisser III for the Saturn -> the PS2 version of that game was published by Taito -> Taito is now owned by Square-Enix-> Square-Enix made the film Final Fantasy Spirits Within -> Sony distributed this film -> Sony's TriStar Motion Picture group distributes some MGM films-> MGM owns United Artsts -> United Artists distributed The Locked Door. As the kids would say, BOOYA.
IN CLOSING

That's it for this week! I'll see you all next week, wherein I'm sure I'll have nothing but Zelda on the brain.

See you then!

-Wheels


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