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The History of (core) Shin Megami Tensei: study the origins of IV!

There'll be a test later.
(Okay, not really.)


So I've played all the core SMT games. I imagine a lot of people haven't.

With IV coming out in two weeks, I figure a lot of you will want a primer.

Have an enjoy.
(Note, I'm not covering the original FC Megami Tensei games, as they're basically their own universe.)

Also, expect spoilers for SMT1 & 2. I'll leave Nocturne alone for the most part.

You've been warned!


Shin Megami Tensei (lit: True Goddess Metempsychosis/Rebirth)
(SFC/Sega CD/GBA/PCE/PS1/etc., 1992)

SMT1 is available fan translated via the SFC version, and has never been officially localized.

Shin Megami Tensei starts off, well, strangely.



A dream of crucifixions, sacrifices, and true love.

Then you wake up, to a warning.



A man named Steven warns you that a program called the Devil Summoning Application has gotten loose on the internet, and soon, all hell will break loose.

He's not lying.



Before long demons are tearing Tokyo apart, and eventually the US Military shows up to put a stop to the coup being staged by a devil summoner known as Ozawa.



They fail.



Japan is obliterated by nuclear fire, and the entire world soon follows suit.

All that's left is a barren landscape ruled by demons, and a few stubborn cultists known as Gaians and Messians continue to bicker over whether God's angelic followers or Lucifer's demonic army should rule the day.
(This has not changed much over the years.)

Who wins the day, the Great Will or the Fallen Angel? The main character alone gets to decide.



Well, with some help of course.


Shin Megami Tensei II
(SNES/PS1/GBA/etc., 1994)



SMT2 is also fan translated, SFC version only. Still no official release.
(Unless you count some JP-language-only iOS version. No, I didn't either.)

But maybe it really didn't matter. At the start of SMT2, the Messians have taken over. The world has been rebuilt in the name of God, and from a lofty city known as the Center, the Messians rule with an iron fist. Anyone who disagrees with their divine mandate is cast into lesser cities, doomed to a life of slavery.

Yeah, the Messians are dicks in SMT2.



On the bright side, this means you get to take the fight straight to Yahweh himself!

Timeline of the game, thanks to Luisfe from SA:

Timeline of the game:

199X:
-----
* The Great Destruction of Tokyo
Thorman presses the button to launch nuclear-warhead-tipped ICBMs at Tokyo.
Global nuclear holocaust ensues.

203X:
-----
* The Great Tokyo Flood
After the rebuilding of Tokyo, a tectonic plate movement of massive
proportions causes the ocean to rush into Tokyo and decimate the area
around it. Even after the waters receded, the suburbs of Tokyo remained
submerged.

* Establishment of a Communal Cooperative Society
After the destruction of the Cathedral, a free society and government is
established, where anyone, both Mesian and Gaian alike, are welcomed warmly.

204X:
-----
* Rise of the Mesian Church
Through political machinations, the Mesian Church takes over the government
and converts it to a theocracy.

* Gaian Revolt
Angry and opposed to the Mesian rise to power, several groups of Gaians start
riots, but they are quickly quelled by the Temple Knights.

205X:
-----
* Completion of the Center
Using a huge amount of funding, a massive structure is built on the former
site of the Cathedral and named the "Center." The plan to create a municipal
government called "Millennium" is announced.

* Demonoids developed
In order to ensure a source of labor, artifical life forms called "Demonoids"
are developed.

206X:
-----
* Millennium nearly completed
Facilities designed to accomodate the people like Valhalla and the Factory
(a production/industrial area) are designed and nearly complete.
Entertainment facilities like the Casino are also built.

* Environmental Contamination
Through global warming, radioactive contamination, and the deterioration of
the ozone layer, most of the world outside of Millennium is rendered
uninhabitable. Large numbers of people from around the world flock to
Millennium, as its environment is entirely self-contained.

* Temple Knights become Special Police Forces
After putting an end to several Gaian demonstrations and revolts, the Temple
Knights are evaluated by the Center and are promoted to Elite status. They
are declared the official police force of the city. Their increase in power
tightens the control the Center has on the rest of the city.

20XX:
-----
And the Messiah is born...
That's you.



Yes, he's a silly-looking fellow, but Aleph is rightly considered one of the most badass protagonists in the SMT pantheon. How many other humans can not only demand audience with God, but kill him?



So Aleph is born as the Messiah. Fortunately he has no obligation to become one. Fight the powa and shack up with Lucifer, remain Yahweh's loyal servant, or give them both the finger.



Or just do some LET'S DANCIN at the Messian Boogie club, a guilty pleasure.


Oh yeah. Lucifer.



It's not a core SMT game without this slacker involved in some way. He's appeared in SMT1, 2, 3, and Raidou 2 and Strange Journey. Where Messian dogs bite at the ankles of the free-willed, Mr. Cypher will always be there to lend a cryptic word of advice. Or something like that.


Sidestory: Shin Megami Tensei If...

(SFC/PS1, 1994)

Patch in the works. Who knows when it'll release.

This is where things branch off a touch. If focuses around a universe where Thor didn't obliterate the world, and where a lowly devil summoner named Kazama offers up his soul for demonic might. That goes pretty badly.



So you and a few classmates set about putting things right, and kicking demons out of your school.



Persona 1/2 & Devil Summoner fans will hopefully recognize this as being the game where Tamaki originated from. If has a male and a female protagonist, but Tamaki is considered the canon one, in a rare occurrence.

If is currently free on the J-PSN if you have Plus, or sign up to try it out.


Where were we? Oh yes.

Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne


(PS2, 2003/4)

Nocturne is widely considered the best of the series, with good reason. Most think it starts with a clean slate, but astute readers will notice there's still a Messian/Gaian faction having it out in Ueno Park before things go to hell.

Most likely it's an alternate reality or some such.



SMT3 was the first game to (decently) make use of 3d models for demons and characters, so Atlus went all out. As a result, the game still looks really sharp today.



Atmosphere goes a long way. I won't touch much on SMT3 for fear of spoilers, as this has actually been released in the US, but basically, the main character is a half-human/half-demon tasked with rebuilding the world after a global apocalypse, however he sees fit.


Sidestory: Strange Journey
(DS, 2009)


Less a core game, despite whatever Atlus would have you think, and more a sidestory game like If.

Still, it's a damn good one.



For working off limited means, the Atlus team did a great job on the DS hardware. SJ has a moody atmosphere, varied dungeon designs, and some of the most sadistic maps this side of Etrian Odyssey. Eridanus is known as the crusher of dreams.

The story doesn't do much of note, but the cast and setting still ought to keep you hooked until the minimalist resolution(somewhat of a series tradition).

Also,
Lucifer cross-dressing.



I don't get it either.


Music!


So in case you didn't notice, the OST coming with SMTIV is kind of, well crappy in way of highlighting the series' musical origins.

Here's some real history.

SMT1

Palace of the Four Heavenly Kings
Ginza
Cathedral: The Final Dungeon

SMT2
Disco
2D: Devil's World
Chaos

SMT3
Cathedral of Shadows (Cursed)
World Map (Before Transformation)
World Map (Last Area)
Dante Battle

Strange Journey
The Fear of God
A Land Controlling Roads
Chaos


If you have any questions about any of the above, feel free, but try to tag spoilers about localized titles.
 

oneida

Cock Strain, Lifetime Warranty
Mar 3, 2012
16,039
1
0
I love Strange Journey.

So much. It's easily one of my top 3 favorite DS games.

Nocturne is amazing, and I've had IV on pre-order since before it even came up in searches on Amazon. April 2nd, baby.
 

1emons

Neo Member
Nov 30, 2012
288
0
0
Nice work! I'll definitely listen to the music tracks when I have time.

Chaos or die, yo.
 

Shauni

Member
May 31, 2011
8,598
2
0
Interesting. I didn't know much of anything about the first couple of games outside they were apparently based on some trashy pulp books or something. This is all very cool to read, thanks for the break down.
 

randomkid

Member
Feb 7, 2007
4,144
1
0
I would have added 2D Siren and 3D Devil World to the SMT2 music list.

Having just beaten it, sad to see that the Megaten tradition of absolutely terrible music implementation has a long legacy. Seems like SMT3 was really the exception.
 

PlanetSmasher

Banned
May 28, 2013
2,475
0
0
Chicago, IL
Man, Nocturne. You were too good for us to ever get a real sequel. I played that game so obsessively that my copy actually glitched during the final dungeon and I was never able to finish it.

One of these days, we'll see a real follow-up to SMT3. One of these days. :[
 
I would have added 2D Siren and 3D Devil World to the SMT2 music list.

Having just beaten it, sad to see that the Megaten tradition of absolutely terrible music implementation has a long legacy. Seems like SMT3 was really the exception.
Yeah, nothing in the game really stood out to me while I was playing it, aside from Disco.

SMT1 has some amazing iconic music, though. The Cathedral is just, wow.
 

kai3345

Banned
May 6, 2009
13,695
0
0
Awesome thread. I'm slowly but surely working my way through the fan translated SMT2. And I've also gotten a good portion into Nocturne, although my PS2 is in storage at the moment.
 

GamerJM

Banned
May 19, 2013
11,842
1
0
California
What about the Megami Tenesi games on the Famicom?

EDIT: Didn't notice the bit about them at the OP, I sort of skimmed past part of the intro. What makes them in their own universe? I've never played them so I'm curious.
 

randomkid

Member
Feb 7, 2007
4,144
1
0
Yeah, nothing in the game really stood out to me while I was playing it, aside from Disco.

SMT1 has some amazing iconic music, though. The Cathedral is just, wow.
No you're misunderstanding, I like many SMT2 tracks quite a bit (including everything you listed). It's just, like nearly every other Megaten game, tracks are reused and placed in-game in incomprehensible ways or not sequenced for maximum impact (2D Siren did not need to disappear, tracks should pick up where they left off after battles, the final dungeon and final boss should have unique music for god's sake, etc.)

And yes, yes, Cathedral is the best.
 

Young Magus

Junior Member
Jun 6, 2012
3,889
0
0
Nice thread cj, excited for SMT 4. Trying to finsh Nocturne before the 16th.

Also, do we know what's going to be on the OST released in the LE? And you should put the chaos theme for SMT 2 room in the OP
 

Rocky

Banned
Sep 21, 2012
2,347
0
0
This whole series is confusing to me. I read its also part of the Persona series or something like that as well. How does it all fit together? What was the first game to be released in the US? If I wanted to play the whole series from the beginning, where do I start? Persona 1? SMT 1?
 

coopolon

Member
Jan 13, 2010
5,516
0
695
East Coast
is your let's play of smt1 available anywhere? I stumbled across the index on penny arcade when when googling around but it seems all the links are dead.

Edit: I mean photos. Although the links are also dead, but it seems like the actual posts you can find by scrolling through the thread.
 

PlanetSmasher

Banned
May 28, 2013
2,475
0
0
Chicago, IL
This whole series is confusing to me. I read its also part of the Persona series or something like that as well. How does it all fit together? What was the first game to be released in the US? If I wanted to play the whole series from the beginning, where do I start? Persona 1? SMT 1?
Persona is not actually part of the SMT franchise outside of sharing demon designs - Atlus added the SMT name to the English versions of the PS2 Persona games as co-marketing because Persona 3 came out after Nocturne was a surprise cult hit for them.

Soul Hackers is the same thing. There are actually very few games that are part of the core SMT franchise - SMT1, 2, 3, Strange Journey (spinoff) and now 4. Soul Hackers, Persona, Digital Devil Saga et al are treated as separate series in Japan.
 

Grizzlyjin

Supersonic, idiotic, disconnecting, not respecting, who would really ever wanna go and top that
Jun 23, 2004
24,049
39
0
I still need to beat Nocturne...my PS2 only seems to act up with that game. Gets to the PlayStation 2 sound and image, and then just restarts the process again. :(
 
is your let's play of smt1 available anywhere? I stumbled across the index on penny arcade when when googling around but it seems all the links are dead.

Edit: I mean photos. Although the links are also dead, but it seems like the actual posts you can find by scrolling through the thread.
Nope, it got bandwidth'd. Maybe it picked up a lot of readers or something. It'll reset later in the month probably.


And re: the original Famicom MT games, they were made by Namco, but the staff later formed Atlus. MT are the games based on the campy novels, about two students who fight off Lucifer's demonic invasion or something. The Lucifer in MT and the Lucifer in SMT are wildly different.
 

Aeana

Member
Jul 10, 2006
42,062
2
0
Should've included more remake screenshots! My whole SMT2 playthrough is in the playthrough thread, and I have some SMT1 GBA shots in there too.

 

Aeana

Member
Jul 10, 2006
42,062
2
0
No you're misunderstanding, I like many SMT2 tracks quite a bit (including everything you listed). It's just, like nearly every other Megaten game, tracks are reused and placed in-game in incomprehensible ways or not sequenced for maximum impact (2D Siren did not need to disappear, tracks should pick up where they left off after battles, the final dungeon and final boss should have unique music for god's sake, etc.)

And yes, yes, Cathedral is the best.
omg

2D:Siren
 

Megidolaon

Member
Jun 17, 2011
1,567
0
0
looking forward to SMTIV, was gonna go reserve it today in fact. maybe someday i'll give nocturne a go when my backlog gets trimmed
 

lunchwithyuzo

Banned
Jun 20, 2010
11,040
0
0
Is Devil Summoner 1 a "core" SMT spinoff or not? I've heard/read it both ways, but I'd like cj's expert opinion. I know it's one of the few Megaten spinoffs with "Shin Megami Tensei" in the original Japanese title at least (like If or Strange Journey) and it seems to be a pretty straightforward 1st person dungeon crawler akin to mainline SMT (again like If or Strange Journey).
 

Aeana

Member
Jul 10, 2006
42,062
2
0
Is Devil Summoner 1 a "core" SMT spinoff or not? I've heard/read it both ways, but I'd like cj's expert opinion. I know it's one of the few Megaten spinoffs with "Shin Megami Tensei" in the original Japanese title at least (like If or Strange Journey) and it seems to be a pretty straightforward 1st person dungeon crawler akin to mainline SMT (again like If or Strange Journey).
No, it isn't. SMT1, SMT2, If... and 3 were the only games considered part of the mainline series when SJ was released. See here. Devil Summoner just got SMT as a little bit of brand recognition.
EDIT: I just realized you said "core SMT spinoff" rather than game. I'm not sure what you mean by "core SMT spinoff" actually.
 
Is Devil Summoner 1 a "core" SMT spinoff or not? I've heard/read it both ways, but I'd like cj's expert opinion. I know it's one of the few Megaten spinoffs with "Shin Megami Tensei" in the original Japanese title at least (like If or Strange Journey) and it seems to be a pretty straightforward 1st person dungeon crawler akin to mainline SMT (again like If or Strange Journey).
The original, yes, but it's more of an intimate atmosphere than the world-ravaging chaos that goes on in a core game. So it became its own thing afterward. Devil Summoner games are more about a small clique taking on a local threat. Sort of like Persona, but summoners are usually adults(and much stronger than a Persona user).


I love that cover of If.
 

PaulExcellent

Member
Aug 8, 2012
8,383
0
0
Hey, thanks for the sweet guide!
Is it cool if I link this thread to sone friends that want to start on the series?
 

Aeana

Member
Jul 10, 2006
42,062
2
0
why are we so eerily in-sync on things like RPG music and Tetris Attack = GOAT and such but on totally different planets when it comes to videogame fundamentals haha. maybe you are secretly an aesthete too???
Videogame fundamentals? I don't actually recall where we differ here.
 

randomkid

Member
Feb 7, 2007
4,144
1
0
Videogame fundamentals? I don't actually recall where we differ here.
Like me prioritizing things like "freshness" and premise and other things that would make you laugh over iterative mechanical refinement (which explains my weirdo preferences for originals over sequels almost every time). It's just kinda funny that we end up liking the same games but I'm always coming from an aesthetics>>mechanics angle.

To illustrate, SMT1>SMT2.
 

Aeana

Member
Jul 10, 2006
42,062
2
0
Like me prioritizing things like "freshness" and premise and other things that would make you laugh over iterative mechanical refinement (which explains my weirdo preferences for originals over sequels almost every time). It's just kinda funny that we end up liking the same games but I'm always coming from an aesthetics>>mechanics angle.

To illustrate, SMT1>SMT2.
Oh right, you like Level-5.
 
Awesome thread. I have been really interested in the original games but I have been putting off trying them because I found Nocturne to be very difficult back when it came out. I have 1 & 2 on sfc but is there a recommended version of the first couple?