SHIN MEGAMI TENSEI
Produced by: Atlus
Platforms: SNES (Original) / PC-Engine CD / Game Boy Advance / Sony PSX / Sega Mega-CD / Nintendo Wii (download)
Year: 1992 (SNES)
Genre: First Person RPG
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Shin Megami Tensei isn’t technically the first game in the Megami
Tensei franchise, but it’s definitevely the one that started the great
success of the saga. It’s success it’s well deserved, though. But let’s
start with some order…
The game opens with a dream scene. The game is played entirely in
first person and we never see the main character’s face or figure once
in the game, so we can say that the game opens with YOU dreaming. This
strong identification of the player with his/hers character is one of
the main points of the game, but we’ll return on this later.
The game opens with the player dreaming, a very strange dream in
fact…running down a strage and enigmatic maze, the player ends in front
of a strange wall, but some religious carving on it’s sides and a big
bald face on it. The face starts speaking and warns the player that a
big conflict of biblical proportions is near, the conflict between the
forces of light and chaos. The strange visage also reveals that the
player will have a key role in this conflict and warns him/her of not
tipping the delicate balance between light and dark and not to be
seduced by neither of them.
After that we meet a crucified soul, who we free by naming him and a
soul under the feet of a demon in it’s quest for power. We free the
unlucky soul with the same method used previously. We also meet in the
dream a seducing lady, who claims to be our eternal partner while
bathing in a beautiful pond.
The dream ends and the player wakes up in his/hers Tokio home.
Checking the email we found that a mysterious character, Steven, has
sent to us a strange “demon summoning program” which we load in our arm
After that our mother greets us and mention something about a grisly
murder happened that very night in the near park, and asks us to buy her
some coffee at the local mall. We head to the mall and after having
done our duties, we testimony a brutal scene: a man has his throat
ripped by a demon that has popped up from nowhere, apparently. Are the
dream and the murder related to all this? After heading home and going
to sleep we have another revealing dream, meeting again the souls of the
two persons (which will reveal to be key characters like you are for
the future developing of the world)…and nothing will be the same
Technically speaking the game has great musics and decent graphics.
The spites are big and detailed but very static with very few animations
and the textures are a bit repetetive.
The game is very free and open. In fact YOU are the protagonist of
this game, it’s YOUR choices that will determiny and shape the future of
the story and of the world to come. These choices are absolutely free
and there isn’t a clear “good” or “bad” path. It’s all up to you. Will
you side with the order and the Light? Will you be seduced by the force
of Chaos? Or you won’t find neither of them appealing and satisfing? You
are free to decide and the game doesn’t force you in any of these
directions.The game is also very philosophical and questioning. You
often will think about what is right to do for you and about it’s
consequences.In this, the game is very Nietzschean, you will create your
“truth”. The goal of the game is in fact to discover and to build your
truth, the world which you find more appealing. In a very oriental way,
it may seem “empty” but it’s “full”. The game also blends character from
myths and religions from all over the world in a very original and
clever way: traditional figures like Yama (the judge of the dead souls
in induist and buddhist mythology) or Archangel Micheal are inserted in a
coherent and interesting setting, and this works very well.
Another very strong point of the game is it’s wonderful atmosphere,
created with the precious aid of the it’s beautiful music: slowly the
veil of normality that covered the world and everyday life is torn away,
revealing a mystical world and the eternal war between Law and Chaos
under it. This descent into the supernatural is gradual and is very
enveloping and exciting. What’s the truth between the routine of every
day and the mundane order of the humans? The game distrupts the veil of
illusion in a pretty harsh way, sparing no one in the process. I’m not
surprised of the fact that the game wasn’t officially translated and
released in the west: many uneasy questions are posed regarding
religious and moral matters and America is portrayed pretty harsly, by
the figure of the shady ambassador Thorman, called to try to set the
things down when the situation of the demons in Tokyo are out of hand.
With your computer you can talk with the demons (in the game the
concept of “demon” is more similar to the Greek word “daimon”, it sums
up a lot of different supernatural creatures, to Angels of the Christian
tradition, to devils, to spirits and creatures that aren’t neither
“good” or “bad” tempered) which you will encounter in your journey and
try to recruit them or to obtain some kind of help.
This is one of the most important part of the game and to suceed in
it you will have to use a great deal of intuition and psychology.
You can also fuse 2 or 3 demons into a more powerful one and again
this is very important. Demons have abilities that may be of great help
in your quest.Apart from a few exceptions you can’t have a demon which
level is greater than yours, though, so you won’t be able to unleash the
full potentiality of demon fusion at the beginning of the game.
Summoning demons costs some money (depending on the level of the
demon) and for keep the demon summoned you’ll need to spend some
Magnetite at every step you take. This isn’t a great problem however as
Magnetite is easily found in great amounts both in battle and in some
chests scattered around the dungeons.
Most of the game consists in exploring great dungeons, so the game
has took a lot from the classic Wizardry RPGs. The encounter rate is
pretty high and the game itself it’s difficult and challenging: one bad
luck encounter can easily sweep off your party. Save spots (terminal
rooms which are used both for saving and for teleporting to the various
areas that you have explored) are pretty rare and this makes the game
pretty frustrating at least until it’s half: after that the heroine will
learn a very useful spell, Toraport, which teleports the entire party
to the last save point encountered. This makes things easier.
Unfortunately the only way to discover what a spell or an item do is
to cast/use them and this often makes the things very confusing.
I have found two major flaws in the game. The encounter rate is
ridicously high, and makes sometimes travelling into dungeons very
frustrating and time consuming. Luckily in the SNES version there is an
option for “autobattle” which is very useful against weaker demons. Once
used however it CAN’T BE STOPPED so be very careful before using it.
Luckily there are some items and spells that reduces encounter rate
(Fuma Bell and the spell Estma) but they’re pretty rare, so use them
Another flaw is the fact that at the 80% of the game the difficulty
drops off and after gaining the ultimate equipment for the hero and the
heroine and recruiting some major demons the game becomes a piece of
cake. Using a bug i even managed to kill ALL the bosses, including the
final one, of the last dungeon with autobattle! This is pretty
disappointing and with some more attention could be avoided.
Even with this flaws the game is higly reccomended. It’s a
masterpiece that changed the face of mature RPGs and it’s long,
challenging and enveloping. It’s really worth trying it. The story of
this game has a direct sequel in “Shin Megami Tensei II”.
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN PORTS
PC-Engine port features some slightly adjustments in the graphics and
a spoken intro, but nothing more. Sega CD and PSX versions are similar,
they have CD quality music and some minor graphic tweak. GBA is similar
to the PSX version but withouth the CD music (of course). All of them
have a demon database which records the stats of the demons you have
None of them have been patched though.