Yet another MegaTen game makes it way across the Pacific

Atlus has announced that Devil Summoner: Kuzunoha Raidou is making its way to a PS2 later this year.

The game is the third in the Devil Summoner offshoot of the main MegaTen line. The first was very similar to the mainline Shin Megami Tensei games, the second was called Soul Hackers and involved just what the title says, it was going to be translated but got blocked by Sony in the days of the PSOne.

Kuzunoha Raidou is a bigger departure from either one, its a 1920s (Taisho Era Japan) cops and robbers, detective agency action RPG with heavy adventure game elements. Persona players will recognize the name Raidou, who is the main character, a fetching lad who plays the detective and solves all manner of mysteries throughout the length of the game. He wears a special kind of schoolboy uniform that is no longer in style in Japan, in fact the whole game has a very authentic turn of the century Japanese look.

This Devil Summoner plays a lot like a mix between Zelda, Phoenix Wright, Batman and Ghostbusters.

Zelda, because when you capture demons this time, they can help you solve puzzles with their unique abilities and this is a large part of the game. Indeed, sometimes, you’ll have to go it alone with a demon in some parts.

Phoenix Wright because the game can be very wacky and the sense of justice is oddly skewed, with an eye to skewering Japanese society through a very odd idea of the legal process. (In this it would be a detective agency hired by the government, not lawyers.)

Batman because the game revels in the hokeyness of the period and seems to delight in delivering some of the extreme cheese of old Japanese cop shows. At the same time, this time, the artistic direction resembles the 90s animated Batman series. Also Batman, because the main character is a regular joe with some very cool gadgets. (I bet you wish you had vials you could store demons in!)

Ghostbusters because we’re dealing with the occult and the undead quite a bit here, and the game doesn’t take this element seriously at all. When you summon one and it talks to you in battle…yeah…wait until you get a load of the dialogue. (That said, I’m rather disappointed, because you don’t get demons by talking and negotiating with them this time around.)

The game’s battles continue to be random, this time with an action battle system where you can continously summon and switch out one demon at a time to help the main character battle. Like in Persona, the main characters wields both a gun and a sword at the same time. As usual since Nocturne, weakpoints play a very strong role in battle. The battle system may be action-oriented, but it uses a paused menu to issue orders, so its less Ys and more Star Ocean or something. The fusion aspects of the game have been upgraded a bit, for instance, you can now fuse a demon into your sword for special stats.

Other new things you can do with demons include raising their loyalty until they give you presents and choosing two demons to play mahjong with, naturally. Longtime MegaTen fans will welcome the return of MAG, the demon currency into the game, as well. Other side events include collecting bugs and going to the ascetic world to train.

All in all, while its still not quite the masterpiece Nocturne was, Kuzunoha Raidou continues the tradition of Atlus’s challenge to always bring something new to RPGs in a smart and well-written setting influenced by modern events and the world’s mythologies and theology. Better yet, those who enjoyed Digital Devil Saga and Nocturne won’t have to go tracking down the expensive translations of the Persona games on the PSOne to get their MegaTen fix!

-Kitsune

Kitsune, I read and enjoyed your entire post. This is a first for me, reading an entire Kitsune post, and I’ll check out the game when it’s here. It will be my first Nocturne MegaTen Digital Devil Summoner Saga Surprise, or whatever you call them. Is this one OK to start with?

Yay, more MegaTen!

Which reminds me, I need to finish Digital Devil Saga.

Damn, I guess I’ll have to buy this one too.

Congratulations on getting through your first Kitsune post, I realize the last boss had a few too many transformations, but in recognition of this extremely difficult goal, I award you with this blue ribbon and the key to the pee pee cup. hands over

As for Devil Summoner, certainly, this one is quite a bit easier to get into than most Shin Megami Tensei games are. You don’t need to play the others to get this one, although it might help you understand the common elements better.

If you want to understand the lineage it goes like this:

-In 1987, Namco released a dungeon RPG called Megami Tensei for the Famicom, where your party was made up of monsters you talked into joining your team. Megami Tensei II came out four years later and greatly advanced every element of the original into a proper RPG. MEGAmi TENsei = MegaTen.

-In 1992, Atlus, made up of the separated Namco talent that made MegaTen and made Shin Megami Tensei. Shin Megami Tensei then became the standard under which MegaTen games would operate under: that is, morality systems, varying levels of non-linearity, open-ending, branching plots and groups to side with, and most of all conversation elements in battle and luring demons to your side. Shin Megami Tensei had two sequels, one being the aforementioned Nocturne.

-The first MegaTen offshoot was the Last Bible series, which work like a combination of the old Mega Tensei and the newform Shin Megami Tensei.

-The second was Majin Tensei, an SRPG series based on Shin Megami Tensei concepts.

-The third offshoot was a series of Pokemon knockoffs (MegaTen doesn’t play like Pokemon at all) for the portable platforms.

-The fourth spin-off was Devil Summoner, which I’ve explained above.

-The fifth was based on Shin Megami Tensei If… and is called the Persona series. It concerns itself mostly with alternate realities, youth culture and the masks people where and what effects it has on their soul. Persona 3 is coming for the PS2 later this year.

-The sixth offshoot’s title is an homage to the original game’s name, which was in part based on a novel called Digital Devil Story. They’re called Digital Devil Saga and involved turning into a demon so you can eat people in a Darwinistic, sci-fi world heavily influenced by Hinduism.

-There was also a weird little spin-off where series mascot Jack Frost was in an overhead platformer for the Virtual Boy. I’m not sure what Atlus was thinking.

-In all, the Pokemon knockoffs and Last Bible games are sometimes not considered “real” MegaTen, due to the fact that the talented staff who creates the “real” MegaTen games wasn’t involved and little of the wit, great writing and originality of the “real” MegaTen are in effect there.

Of all these, if you go by the standard of “real” MegaTen games, then translated ones include:

Persona (PlayStation, 1996, though highly butchered from its Japanese version)
Persona 2: Eternal Punishment
Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne
Digital Devil Saga: Avatar Tuner
Digital Devil Saga: Avatar Tuner Part 2

and now of course Kuzunoha Raidou. If you want a detailed overview of the appeal of the main series, I wrote a report for QT3 that you can find in the columns section. You can find a more comprehensive detailing of the entire series over here. MegaTen used to be the number three most popular RPG series in Japan behind Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest, but these days, the Tales series has managed to oust it from third place.

-Kitsune

Oh. I did play some of Persona. Don’t remember much of it, though, it must not have made much of an impression at the time.

I still need to get around to getting DDS2. I finshed most of DDS except for the big dragon hidden boss and the other hidden boss on the second time thru.

I played Persona; one of the first games I got for my PS1, actually. It was also my first experience with what can happen to a game that passes through a US localization team. An entire subplot apparently was removed, which may not have mattered, since the translation didn’t really seem to hang together. The encounter frequency was dropped down with the per-encounter experience increased to compensate. Since your health and mana refilled every time you leveled up, this made the game ridiculously easy, given that the encounters-per-level was much lower than in the original.

Of course, if the encounter rate had been any higher, I might have microwaved the CD, so I guess I can’t complain too much.

I seem to also remember an enemy type that had giant tentacle-porn phalluses, and wondering how the hell that made it through the censors. Or am I thinking of a different game?

Man, I couldn’t even make it through the prologue.

I’m totally looking forward to this Devil Summoner, but I wonder if it will get drowned out by Final Fantasy XII at release time? I’m guessing that they will be released within a month of each other in US/CA?

The art is being handled by someone other than Kaneda(?), right? It would be good to see some new demon models. (But I never get sick of the SMT3/DDS-AT models.)

Finally, I’ve read some news on Persona 3, and I wonder if it will ever get a release in US. Having the main character shoot a gun to his own head to change persona seems overly much for a post-Jack-Thompson US.