Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor

Firstly, can we all just collectively boggle at how the localizers decided translation is for chumps? Customers should not have to flock to translation sites to know what the title of the series means.

Anyway. Devil Survivor is a spinoff of the Shin Megami Tensei series, and the first in the series I’ve played all the way through. (I tried the first game once and couldn’t get into it.) I’d say it’s very good for the most part, but in the end it kind of goes to Hell. It definitely tries really hard, but it fails to follow through on its ideas properly.

The premise of the story is that there is a demon outbreak in Tokyo due to various individuals distributing technological devices that automate the process of demon summoning, introducing a theme of how technology and the internet democratize power to a sometimes frightening degree. The government immediately implements a lockdown on the city, which goes about as well as you expect: as time progresses and the situation gets more desperate, the city collapses into anarchy, with everyone scrabbling for the demon summoning devices and fighting one another for resources.

For the most part I thought the story was well-done. TV Tropes calls it a deconstruction of the mons genre, and while I wouldn’t go that far I think it does a good job of depicting the abuses of power that result from this setup. It is harrowing to see the city’s slow descent into chaos, but the protagonists are genuinely good people who try their best to save everyone while still being understandably stressed and panicked about their situation. All in all I thought it was a nice balance of optimism and cynicism.

But towards the end it veers awkwardly into what is, I am given to understand, standard for the SMT series: an incredibly awkward attempt to incorporate Christianity by a group of writers who really, really do not understand it. The depiction of God and Christianity here is, while not completely incomprehensible, very clearly a warped pop-culture view further distorted through the lens of a foreign viewpoint. Farla already talked about the awkwardness of combining Christianity with kitchen sink settings in Grave Peril; well, SMT is the kitchen sink setting, with demons and figures from nearly every religion and folklore popping up all over the place with absolutely no explanation… but at the same time, God and Lucifer are the top dogs and everything revolves around them. It is pretty much the most nonsensical option possible, and there is absolutely no explanation for how such an aggressively monotheistic religion coexists with a world where other deities veritably exist. The ultimate result is that I can’t feel like this is a meaningful commentary on real-world religion, despite the fact that it very obviously wants to be. God and the surrounding variables are just so vastly and necessarily different from the canonical depictions. Like quite honestly, I myself am extremely anti-God and even I felt like the God hate was over-the-top. (Oh and also, both God and Lucifer are evil and everything sucks, because edginess.)

Once you get to the endgame and start figuring out solutions to the lockdown, the plot largely abandons the social drama in favor of this Biblepunk stuff (because of course everything turns out to be God’s fault, because the SMT writers really hate God), and the endings suffer as a result. All the endings give a very strong feeling of deadline rush to me; they’re extremely rushed and shoddy, with inexplicable inconsistencies between them. (Why does the date of execution get moved up in the endings where you actually have a solution but not in the one where you just run away? Why is Naoya willing to help you chicken out but fights you when you’re taking a route adjacent to what he wants?) All of them are mostly just boss rushes against a bunch of enemies that have barely been foreshadowed at all while you get a metric ton of new party members dumped on you all at once (that you can’t really use due to party size limits). It felt like the game got bored of the normal plot and decided it wanted to be an XTREME KOOL ACTION MOVIE where you get to beat up Satan. Then the game doesn’t even give you a proper ending; all the ending routes except for one introduce conflicts and issues of vastly greater scope than the immediate plot, but once you solve the lockdown, the game just abruptly ends and all you get is a vague “things will work out the way you wanted them to, maybe” voice-over epilogue. If you’re going to spend an hour telling me why I should kill God, show me what happens after I do it, dang it.

The morality is also really weird here. Midway through there is a painfully textbook “killing evil people makes you just like them” when you “redeem” a party member who was using a god of justice to kill murderers; meanwhile, you spend the whole game being chummy with a gang leader who is a confirmed murderer and an aggressive unstable creep besides. Then if you choose to kill God, all your friends abandon you even though they are all atheists because [not found] and said gang leader joins your party instead, and spends the whole last day smarming about how you’re only doing this for power and not out of any greater purpose or morality and oh my god I wanted to punch him so much. The game sways you to this side with reasoned arguments for why God is bad and stopping him will help humanity, then no matter how much you protest it goes “LOL you’re evil now, sucker.” Why are you doing this, game.

Honestly the “kill God” route was really disappointing. Your patron in that route is an enigmatic semi-antagonistic character who is absent for most of the game, and I was really hoping I would learn what his deal was and why he hated God so much. Instead he spends the whole time refusing to answer any of your questions and acting really obviously evil. It turns out you have to take the opposing route to learn his backstory. (It’s good backstory, though; I cried when I read it, no lie.)

There’s also a third option route where you enslave all the demons for humanity’s benefit and yet the game does not once question the ethics of this even though it repeatedly shows that demons are fully sapient and some can even be good, which baffled me.

But I still recommend this for everything else. The characters and the drama leading up to the finale are really great. It was so nice to see protagonists who were such smart and good people. I really liked Midori in particular; I was initially annoyed at how it looked like you were going to have to make her sit everything out entirely, but the final resolution is actually that she just decides to join your party so she can do more good, which was a nice subversion. I kept expecting the story to screw her over and sneer about how the dumb girl was doing it wrong, but she displayed a shocking amount of courage and integrity for a 15-year-old. She really is the true moral compass of the team: in a story that asks a lot of questions about morality and the responsibility of power, she is never punished for staying true to her ideals, but does ensure you are punished for straying from yours. She’s a really positive and inspiring character and I want to see more heroes like her.

Unfortunately, the story is not great on women, though it’s not terrible either. Most of the female cast are incredibly heroic individuals with their own goals and ideals… but none of them come up with solutions to the lockdown, so none of them have their own ending routes and their arcs are all side plots. There’s one particularly bad example of a girl who’s revealed to actually have been possessed by an angel (male, natch) for most of the game. While she technically has her own route, it’s really just her following what the angel told her to do.

Yuzu, though… ugh. I can see what they were trying to do: make an ordinary, relateable character who succumbs to the stress of the lockdown. And the game uses a lot of technical terms, so there needs to be a Watson, that’s fair. But dumping all of that on the one major female character is rather uncomfortable. Her constant insistence that you should just run away is just annoying at the start (when you know it obviously won’t work), but becomes downright monstrous in the end when she knows full well that doing so means everyone else will die. If you take her route and just run away from everything you end up destroying the world because the quarantine existed for a reason and that reason was to keep the demons from taking over, whoops! …Except the game already told you that was exactly what would happen multiple times. The game portrays it like it’s a terrible accident and a complete surprise, but it isn’t! You knew full well what you were doing! It’s a shame, too, it could have been a masterful deconstruction of protagonist-centered morality if they hadn’t tried to spare your feelings.

(She’s also the squishy wizard while her computer nerd friend is the fighter, which is obviously only there because GIRL MAGE BOY FIGHT. It would make so much more sense with their personalities if their stat layouts were completely switched.)

…Oh and there’s gameplay too I guess. It’s good and fun. It’s a bit biased in favor of casters over fighters, but I like casters so that’s not an issue to me. The game was nicely challenging overall; it takes some time to get used to, but once you do there are a lot of really cool and creative strategies you can use. The final bosses throw absolutely ridiculous stuff at you (the easiest one automatically heals her team to full at the start of every round and has both a full revive spell and the game’s equivalent of Ultima), but the cool thing is that they play by the same rules as you, so you can come up with your own crazy setups to throw right back at them and it’s really satisfying. I feel that it doesn’t hold up too well on replays — the ending routes are all pretty much the same in terms of difficulty, so if you managed to beat one, the next will be trivial on a new game+ — but it’s great while it lasts.

85 Comments

  1. CrazyEd says:

    They probably left the title untranslated because “True Resurrection of the Goddess” makes absolutely no sense and has no bearing on the series as a whole past the first game that actually involved the resurrection of said goddess. “Shin” was just something designers slapped on absolutely everything back in the SNES days, kinda like putting “Super” in front of every SNES game or “64” after every N64 title. Older SMT localizations are actually far more aggressive than more modern entries in the series. Persona 5 is the newest in the SMT franchise, and it infamously didn’t localize an extremely difficult puzzle based on the rules of shogi that even a lot of Japanese people had a ton of difficulty with.

    but in the end it goes to Hell

    Huh, really? That’s so weird. SMT games usually end up with you going to Heaven and killing God. Interesting to see an SMT game where the final boss is Satan!

    technology and the internet democratize power

    Is that what you got out of it? SMT’s digital devil summoning always felt more like it was a (perhaps unintentional) warning about the dangers of technology in the hands of the common idiot. In Megami Tensei I, the devil summoning program is actually handmade by the protagonist, and it leads to everything going to shit. It’s the exact opposite of the democratization of power. Maybe Devil Survivor itself (which I haven’t looked at specifically) is unique in actually having the democratization of power as a theme, but considering the result of this democratization of power is total chaos and anarchy, I’d still be inclined to believe its a more cyberpunkish theme typical of the series. But even if that was the intention, I’m not sure how good a thing you should think that is, since it seems to be saying the democratization of power is a terrible idea that will lead to the literal eradication of humanity. That sounds like something you’d be against.

    TV Tropes calls it a deconstruction of the mons genre

    TV Tropes calls everything halfway out of line with the prevailing tropes a deconstruction. Even One-Punch Man gets called a deconstruction over there, and the only thing it does outside its genre conventions is have an unbelievably deadpan and disinterested protagonist with a joke design.

    God and Lucifer are the top dogs and everything revolves around them.

    Again, I haven’t looked at Devil Survivor specifically, but the overall feeling I got in SMT was more that God and Lucifer definitively exist and are incomprehensibly powerful divine entities, but that everything Christianity has to say about them is more or less a crapshoot invented to explain just what the hell these existences are. How else would Christianity coexist with a world where you can summon Kali with a PDA strapped to your wrist to murder the archangels? “Divine” is a race of demons in the SMT cosmology and pretty much every member of it is either a generic type of angel like Cherub or Throne or a named and important angel from Christian myth like Michael or Metatron so it’s not like they’re trying very hard to tell you Christianity is right so much as they’re saying that God exists.

     

    1. Mini-Farla says:

      They probably left the title untranslated because “True Resurrection of the Goddess” makes absolutely no sense and has no bearing on the series as a whole past the first game that actually involved the resurrection of said goddess.

      So? Dozens of franchises have artifact titles like that. It already sounds like gibberish to the average Western consumer, word salad would be an improvement! But it goes even further than the title — they don’t translate half the race names either. I assumed they referred to some specific Japanese creature that doesn’t translate well, but the SMT wiki has reasonable translations for all of them.

      dangers of technology

      I think it was more exploring the democratization of power theme than coming down firmly on one side or the other. The protagonists’ backstories put a big emphasis on how good and important the internet is, and one of the good endings involves democratizing power even more by putting demon summoning in the hands of everyone. The only person who outright says the internet’s democratization of power is bad is God, and we all know SMT’s views on God.

      Again, I haven’t looked at Devil Survivor specifically, but the overall feeling I got in SMT was more that God and Lucifer definitively exist and are incomprehensibly powerful divine entities, but that everything Christianity has to say about them is more or less a crapshoot invented to explain just what the hell these existences are.

      If so, that is really dumb. We’re calling them Yahweh and Lucifer but they have no relation to the beings in the real religion and we can throw all Christian canon out the window? No, this is very clearly a commentary on real Christianity. I don’t know about the rest of SMT, but this game very pointedly brings up myths directly from the Bible and uses them to explain God’s behavior. The whole plot is a reenactment of the Tower of Babel myth.

      (Divines are also very explicitly not demons in this outside of game mechanics. Every time you run into angels, everyone says they are completely separate beings.)

    2. illhousen says:

      I’d still be inclined to believe its a more cyberpunkish theme typical of the series.

      Could you elaborate on this? Because what you describe doesn’t feel very cyberpunkish to me. Cyberpunk generally doesn’t rile up against democratization of technology, it riles up against technology being used as a tool by rich and powerful to become even more rich and powerful while common people just get more problems dumped on them and don’t get to enjoy the benefits of the new technology aside from some scraps that they probably have to repurpose for something it wasn’t intended because they lack the infrastructure to make full use of it.

      In the context of demon summoning tech, a punk story would be something along the lines of a cabal of rich old dudes summoning demons to gain immortality and power over the mortal world, while poor people are forced to sell their souls just to make ends meet, with their souls burning being used to keep the system running.

      1. CrazyEd says:

        You’re looking at the wrong theme entirely. Cyberpunk also has a pervasive undertone of technology enabling the bad to get worse because no matter how advanced technology get people still stay as dumb as ever. It isn’t so much the spread of the power that’s the cyberpunkish undertone, but the destructive influence the power provided by that technology provides. I wouldn’t call it anti-technology so much as… anti-effects of technology? It’s hard to describe.

        It’s the theme that so much modern cyberpunk gets wrong because all modern cyberpunk seems to be written by people who want to chop off their limbs to replace them with robot ones because it’d be awesome to live in a world with cyberpunk tech how could it not be awesome? Did you know that, as of the fourth edition, there isn’t a single major anti-augmentation group in Shadowrun despite it being a proven fact that augmentation erodes your soul’s connection to the body? The only groups that oppose augmentation are the ones who think its unfair to let cyborgs compete with naturals or mage groups who warn their members that augmentation harms their magic, but neither of those groups want to ban augmentation in general.

        1. illhousen says:

          Ah, that. Yeah, I get what you’re talking about, though I wouldn’t really connect it to the democratization of power. It’s more about pointing out that scientific progress is not inherently positive (which was a prominent theme in science fiction preceding cyberpunk) and must be tempered with social progress in order to enrich our lives instead of running them as well as how, while the technology has a great potential to improve our lives, it also introduces new problems like pollution and the potential of nuclear war and, well, soul erosion. 

          I’d say that, ideally, this theme should work together with the one I’ve outlined by pointing out that the new problems are fixable, but people who can fix them don’t because there is no profit in it.

          It’s the theme that so much modern cyberpunk gets wrong because all modern cyberpunk seems to be written by people who want to chop off their limbs to replace them with robot ones because it’d be awesome to live in a world with cyberpunk tech how could it not be awesome?

          Cyberpunk was dead for a few decades. By this point, only the trappings survived: cyborgs and megacorporations and super hacking and street samurais and so on. I guess it still does better than steampunk because people occasionally remember that, hey, themes. They exist. But just barely. 

          1. CrazyEd says:

            Yeah, that’s what I meant in the first place. Mini-Farla connected it to the democratization of power, and I guessed that it was probably more like the typical cyberpunk theme. If it’s involved at all, I’d suspect that it was more about how now everyone has access to the world-ruining technology, yay.

            I’ve actually tried my hand at writing cyberpunk before, but it always fails because I can’t make the cybertechnology plausible enough, or because it actually upsets me to write about such a horrible technological future. Cyberpunk, ideally, should really be written by people who want the future to look absolutely nothing like cyberpunk.

            I’m the kind of guy who loves playing up the inherent downsides of cybertechnology in Shadowrun (the ones that used to exist in the first and second editions). Like how having cybereyes can lead to depersonalization disorder because everything looks like you’re viewing a TV and nothing looks real, or how Wired Reflexes can cause epilepsy. Reading how, by Shadowrun 4e, all cybertechnology has been deemed “safe” was just painful. That’s, like, the opposite of cyberpunk.

            But, then again, I’m also the kind of shadowrunner who almost formed Militaires Sans Frontieres once, and would’ve accepted a cushy deal to be a mid-level contractor with Ares Macrotechnology if the GM had let me. I think the worst part about Shadowrun is that, for being about mercenaries reveling in capitalism… Shadowrunning has a pretty terrible profit margin compared to a lot of far safer and infinitely more legal professions. I’m just too capitalist for Shadowrun to handle, it seems.

    3. Hyatt says:

      Huh, really? That’s so weird. SMT games usually end up with you going to Heaven and killing God. Interesting to see an SMT game where the final boss is Satan!

      IIRC Lucifer doesn’t show up in Devil Survivor or the enhanced remake Overclocked. Try SMTIV to fight him (or join him).

      Again, I haven’t looked at Devil Survivor specifically, but the overall feeling I got in SMT was more that God and Lucifer definitively exist and are incomprehensibly powerful divine entities, but that everything Christianity has to say about them is more or less a crapshoot invented to explain just what the hell these existences are.

      Devil Survivor actually suggests that God might just have been the winner of a major power struggle long ago and ended up with enough power and influence to be the top god and have humans consider him the creator god. One of the major conflicts in the game is the war over the throne of Bel, where demons who used to be part of a very powerful demon named Bel are duking it out to acquire all of the former Bel’s power and become powerful enough to rival God.

      1. CrazyEd says:

        I was actually just making a joke about the use of the phase “goes to Hell” and the fact most SMT games have God as a boss character.

        1. Hyatt says:

          Oddly enough, the two SMT games I’ve played (Devil Survivor and IV) don’t have God as a boss. In fact God’s existence is up for debate in IV.

      2. Mini-Farla says:

        Devil Survivor actually suggests that God might just have been the winner of a major power struggle long ago and ended up with enough power and influence to be the top god and have humans consider him the creator god.

        True, but then he’s not God as Christian theology knows him. If he’s just a powerful spirit being who won a war with other gods and not literally the almighty creator of the universe, it fails to be a commentary on real-life Christianity. Yet he still uses the same arguments as in Christianity, only now they’re objectively wrong because his only talking point is “I am perfect and almighty, you must do what I say.”

        Only even that is unclear — Naoya does say that God did actually create humanity, which just muddies the waters further. What about all the other creator gods in all the other religions who claim the same thing? Are they frauds? Or did God only create the Jews and the other creator gods created the people in their respective regions? That’s the most reasonable way to fit this into kitchen sink, but that doesn’t make any sense with modern science — beings created by different artists should not all have 99% genetic similarity with each other.

        1. CrazyEd says:

          Why not? It’s totally possible to have a commentary on Christianity where Christianity isn’t objectively true.

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  2. illhousen says:

    TV Tropes calls it a deconstruction of the mons genre

    TV Tropes are cancer when it comes to everything but the most shallow classification of the media. It calls deconstruction everything remotely darker than the average for a given genre and is more or less single-handily responsible for people misusing and abusing the term.

    Christianity

    To be fair, it’s a trend in Japanese media in general. They tend to use Christianity the way we use, say, Norse or Greek or Egyptian mythology: it’s cool and exotic for them but not particularly relevant to real life, so the portrayal tends to be incredibly warped and often shallow.

    (I still remember the insanity of Evangelion fandom that used to write hundreds of papers on how the show is a deep allegory of Christianity and fall from grace and all that, before it was revealed in an interview that the actual reason for Christian imagery was basically “crosses are cool,” in nearly as many words.)

    The setup is still awkward for people who know more about Christianity, of course, but I would blame the cultural gap more than writers’ ineptitude in this case.

    That said, it’s a shame that the game felt the need to go big and dramatic towards the end. The basic setup seems perfect for a relatively low-key, grounded game full of character exploration and drama rather than big stakes ultimate showdown.

    1. Mini-Farla says:

      They tend to use Christianity the way we use, say, Norse or Greek or Egyptian mythology: it’s cool and exotic for them but not particularly relevant to real life, so the portrayal tends to be incredibly warped and often shallow.

      They put so much effort into it, though! Like I get the impression they did do the research beyond just “crosses are cool” and really are trying to say deep stuff about the nature of God. I kinda want to give them points for effort but the end result is still just so strange.

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    2. Roarke says:

      They tend to use Christianity the way we use, say, Norse or Greek or Egyptian mythology: it’s cool and exotic for them but not particularly relevant to real life, so the portrayal tends to be incredibly warped and often shallow.

      This reminds me that I watched Wonder Woman over the weekend, and spent almost a full minute in the theatre trying to process that show’s manhandling of Greek mythology. Like, they went full Christianity with it, where Zeus!God created a people who were basically good until Ares!Satan corrupted them to know sin and yadda yadda. Though Ares!Satan went on to kick Zeus!God’s ass, so at least something good came out of that. 

      1
      1. Mini-Farla says:

        I hate when writers do this so much. God vs. Satan is just so boring as a story setup. Other mythologies are so much more interesting. Why must we pigeonhole them into Christianity?

        1. Roarke says:

          The silliest part, to me, is that they’re not even doing Christianity right. Satan is so far below God’s weight class it isn’t even funny.

          Still, the movie actually did something that I liked with that setup in its resolution. I mean I ain’t gonna talk about it since I doubt most folks have seen it, but the movie explores how naive it is to try and pin all the blame for bad shit on one individual and assume everything will be solved with their death. Not enough folks do that.

          1. CrazyEd says:

            Not having seen the movie, I have to ask: Is it really so wrong to pin the blame for all evil on one person if said person is quite literally the incarnation of all evil in the world? Or did they portray Ares as slightly more nuanced than that?

            1. Roarke says:

              More nuanced.

              Reply
          2. illhousen says:

            The silliest part, to me, is that they’re not even doing Christianity right. Satan is so far below God’s weight class it isn’t even funny.

            The dualism of God and Satan is pretty popular even in media that actually used Christianity instead of a substitute. The underlying issue here is that “well, actually, God can end the conflict, like, literally anytime but doesn’t because… ah… free will and moral lessons, I guess? Plan and mysterious ways?” (hi there, DragonRaid) creates a lot of narrative problems, so it’s just easier for everyone involved to say that, yeah, Satan is equal to God or at least close enough to do some real damage and not be stopped.

            1. Mini-Farla says:

              “well, actually, God can end the conflict, like, literally anytime but doesn’t because… ah… free will and moral lessons, I guess? Plan and mysterious ways?”

              I actually think a story that used this to mark God as a villain could be pretty interesting. Christian canon went through a phase that said that since God and Satan were not equals in power, God is responsible for both good and evil. This was supposed to be a testament to God’s greatness, but today we look at that and say wow, that’s messed up. What a strange and alien creature God must be, to do such a thing.

              And with all the varied interpretations of Lucifer out there, I’m surprised no one does anything with the fact that, going by the original myth, he’s actually the one advocating for law and accountability. A flipped SMT setup where he’s Law and God’s Chaos might be a halfway interesting perspective.

              (there is also the fact that Lucifer is actually just some dude’s OC and you can totally just not have him exist I’m just saying)

              I suppose this ties into a further problem with using Christianity in stories: it’s still living and evolving in public consciousness, so there is more resistance, subconscious or otherwise, to going against established interpretations.

              Reply
            2. illhousen says:

              And with all the varied interpretations of Lucifer out there, I’m surprised no one does anything with the fact that, going by the original myth, he’s actually the one advocating for law and accountability.

              Wait, which myth would it be?

              (there is also the fact that Lucifer is actually just some dude’s OC and you can totally just not have him exist I’m just saying)

              Judging from a cursory look into the matter, Lucifer appears to be less an outright OC (like, say, Lancelot) and more a combination of appropriation of competing mythologies, plus mistranslations, plus people trying to make sense of a text that was written in an entirely diferent context from their own culture.

              The main point stands, though, you can exclude Lucifer out of equation.

              Reply
            3. SpoonyViking says:

              This was supposed to be a testament to God’s greatness, but today we look at that and say wow, that’s messed up. What a strange and alien creature God must be, to do such a thing.

              Why are people surprised by that? I mean, assuming God exists and truly is omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent, why would such a being ascribe to an ethical notion that could be comprehended by human minds?

              Reply
            4. SpoonyViking says:

              Not “Lucifer”, exactly, but if I recall it correctly, the character of “Satan” was originally an angel whose role was basically to “prosecute” people’s sins.

              (I’m probably greatly simplifying things, though.)

              Reply
            5. illhousen says:

              Why are people surprised by that?

              Because God is supposed to also be omnibenevolent, but if his concept of benevolence is incomprehensible by human minds, then, well, he isn’t omnibenevolent by our standards and can’t be trusted to do right by us in a way that we would consider right.

              Therefore, God loses moral authority, which is important to a lot of people.

              Not “Lucifer”, exactly, but if I recall it correctly, the character of “Satan” was originally an angel whose role was basically to “prosecute” people’s sins.

              Oh, that I know. Job’s story and so on.

              Reply
            6. SpoonyViking says:

              Therefore, God loses moral authority […]

              One might argue that children often fail to understand the reasons behind their parents’ decisions, too.

              Reply
            7. Mini-Farla says:

              Wait, which myth would it be?

              The myth I heard was that God wanted to just observe humans and not interfere with their actions (which seems really OOC but whatever), while Lucifer thought they had to be taught right and wrong by being punished for their sins. God interpreted this as arrogance — how dare an angel think they know better than God! — and cast him into Hell, but did nothing to stop Lucifer from setting up his torture prison there. That’s why bad people go to Hell: Lucifer wants them to pay for their crimes.

              This is completely apocryphal, of course, so it wouldn’t surprise me if there were other versions of the story.

              Reply
            8. Mini-Farla says:

              I mean, assuming God exists and truly is omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent, why would such a being ascribe to an ethical notion that could be comprehended by human minds?

              You’d think that, but most Christian teachings I’m familiar with, and the Old Testament, portray him as having a human-like personality that can be understood in human terms. He’s called a “father” who “loves us”, he’s spoken of as if he has desires and feelings just like us. This paints a picture of him being more human-like than eldritch, while his actions point more towards the eldritch. (Most Christian teachings do also say that he’s beyond our understanding at the same time, of course, but Christian teachings are big on the not making sense.)

              Reply
            9. CrazyEd says:

              This is the same god whose subordinate messengers are so monstrous to behold that their most common introduction to mortals is “DO NOT BE AFRAID“. If you were a priest of such a god, wouldn’t you want to portray it in as understandable terms as possible to its masses? “You might not be able to understand god, but trust me, he loves you.”

              Reply
            10. SpoonyViking says:

              Quite true.

              Plus, to play Devil’s advocate (hah!) against myself, it’s not impossible that someone who was really omnipresent and omniscient would be empathetic to human suffering.

              To go off on a tangent for a bit, there’s a wonderful Brazilian play, Auto da Compadecida (“Act of the Compassionate”, in a literal translation, acts being a specific theatre genre), which holds the view (not an uncommon one in the Brazilian Northeastern region) that the Virgin Mary basically balances Jesus’ judgement of the dead by reminding him of human suffering and asking him to temper Justice with Compassion. On the other hand, it also holds the view that some human evils are basically acts of God meant to teach mankind, so…

              Reply
            11. CrazyEd says:

              Well, it’s not as if even bibical canon has any difficulty claiming that God can be a harsh judge when he wants to…

              Reply
        2. CrazyEd says:

          Well, you have to remember: Part of why Christian myth seems so boring to you is probably exposure. Even non-religious people know all about the typical big myths of the bible. Part of what drew me into Japanese studies in the first place was boredom with medieval European feudalism.

          1. Mini-Farla says:

            No, I think I can pretty confidently say that even from an unbiased viewpoint other mythologies make for better narratives, if for no other reason than that they have multiple characters. And those characters have actual personalities. Greek and Nordic mythologies have all sorts of stuff going on, Christianity only really has the epic battle of Absolute Good vs. Absolute Evil.

            1. Roarke says:

              It’s not even an epic battle. It’s a Cold War, where they each influence the malleable meatbags and pit them against one another. That way nobody important gets hurt. It’s all fun and games until someone loses an only Son for three days.

              Damn, three days. That’s a long-ass rez timer. If you’re going to come back at all, you should make it quick, you lazy bastard.

              Reply
      2. illhousen says:

        So, aside from mythological stuff (to which I’m rather tolerant), would you say the movie is worth watching?

        1. Roarke says:

          Yeah, it’s an okay watch! Decent action, if a little heavy on the slow-motion. The movie is generally really pretty.

          1. Socordya says:

            So much boobplate, tho.

            1. Roarke says:

              I thought the emphasis was on legs. Maybe that’s just where I was looking. 

              Reply
            2. CrazyEd says:

              I’m just looking at images on google (and I can’t seem to find a single picture that doesn’t have a leather shoulder strap across her breastbone so I can’t tell how separate the cups are very well), but it seems more like a “metal” bustier than outright boobplate, and would probably provide pretty good support considering its design. Not exactly the best thing to be running around fighting people in, but Gal Gadot is pretty slender, so I can buy it. A metal bustier was the intent of the design in the first place, remember, because the author of Wonder Woman based her appearance on that of his live-in sex slave, with all that implies.

              Reply
            3. Socordya says:

              Nope, definitely boobplate. And it’s not just the heroine, it’s the entire Amazonian civilization who wears boobplate armor. 

              Reply
            4. CrazyEd says:

              It’s a lot harder to find quality images of the other amazons, but they look to run the gamut from “okay, fantasy clothing is stupid” belts (the one with the blond pompadour who might just also be a relatively small breasted actress) to “pasted on ribbons”. I’d want to give a pass to who I assume is the Queen of the Amazons because we have historical ceremonial armour that was so sculpted to the chest that they had bronze nipples, but I’m not going to because I have no doubt this isn’t actually meant to be purely ceremonial dress armour.

              Oh, and I found a bad screencap of what looks like a random extra amazon in a helmet throwing a javelin that is undeniably boobplate, but the promotional photos are slightly better overall.

              Reply
            5. Act says:

              On one hand, I get why, for this major release, they didn’t want to fuck with the costume. On the other hand, the costume is so bad.

              Reply
            6. CrazyEd says:

              I’ve always has this weird, inexplicable problem with all the things related to the greek myths in DC Comics. It’s like… I dunno, something just feels off about how they’re portrayed, but it’s not even remotely connected to how accurately or inaccuately they’re portrayed. When I say “off”, it’s something off with the atmosphere or tone of the stories involving them, or something along those lines.

              I have no clue if it’s improved in the last decade (I don’t think I’ve actually read a regular series DC universe comic since the first half of Teen Titans vol 3, which had the tie-in to Amazons Attack, which wasn’t the best showing for the greek parts of DC’s universe to begin with) and I largely consider myself long done with superhero comics even in movie form (I’m hopeful for Spiderman Homecoming but the only MCU movies I liked were Iron Man 1 and Ant-Man) so I probably won’t bother to find out, but I don’t seem to recall having the problem with Cassie Sandsmark (the Wonder Girl of that Teen Titans), who was like Wonder Woman without the Greek mythology baggage. If I recall correctly, her power set was basically a typical Flying Brick (and I love superheros with the powerset of classical heroes), but with some Wonder Woman themed magical equipment. I think she was just like a Typical Teen Everygirl granted unebelievable powers for some reason, and ended up dating Superboy for some reason?

              I dunno, maybe Cassie was super problematic and I just don’t remember it because I was in high school at the time and haven’t thought about those comics for like a decade. I’d love if someone could tell me if that turned out to be the case.

              At least modern comics have moved Wonder Woman away from the stars and stripes motif. I’m a fan of American flag swimsuits but not on heroes based on greek myths.

              Reply
  3. Roarke says:

    (She’s also the squishy wizard while her computer nerd friend is the fighter, which is obviously only there because GIRL MAGE BOY FIGHT. It would make so much more sense with their personalities if their stat layouts were completely switched.)

    This trend ended up having a funny result in the most recent Fire Emblem game, Shadows of Valentia. The game has two protagonists, a boy and a girl, who each lead an army in different halves of the map. He’s supposed to be a primary fighter, she’s supposed to main magic and dabble in swords.

    The girl, Celica, ends up wildly powerful because she uses swords, black magic, and white magic. Unlike a Final Fantasy red mage, she excels at everything instead of being mediocre at everything. There’s almost nothing in the game she doesn’t have an answer for. The boy, Alm, is the standard FE protagonist who wields swords. His class promotion gives him bows, which he can’t even use effectively due to the way the game’s weapon system works. The game vaguely balances it by giving him EX-CALIBAAA the standard broken-as-shit protagonist sword. It didn’t really disguise the fact that she outclassed him in every way.

  4. Act says:

    All I know about this series is antigravity boobs. Also available in 3D!

    1. Mini-Farla says:

      Well, I will never be able to unsee that. This game was actually pretty good on that front, though. I thought boobs were slightly too emphasized on a lot of the women, but I didn’t notice any physical or anatomical impossibilities.

      1. CrazyEd says:

        All of Mari Mochizuki’s character art seems to have really weird ideas about how boobs work. Her concept art seems to set them way too high on her chest, but some art  in the manga adaptation has straight-up escape velocity anime boobs.

        Looking through the art more closely, I find it weird how little I noticed Yuzu’s boobs as opposed to Amane or Midori’s, considering her outfit’s design. I literally never noticed she wasn’t wearing a pink apron over her striped bra until just now. This game came out in 2009. Her boobs are also way bigger in the manga (which ironically actually makes her shirt far more noticeably a tank top) as well.

        I dunno, did you think they were more in your face than I did? I fully admit that my own personal biases in cute anime girls might’ve blinded me to them a little. It’s entirely possible that her bandanna drew my eyes too far north to notice how emphasized they were (because they’re certainly emphazied). She’s the kind of girl who I always root for in romcom manga despite knowing she’ll never win.

  5. Hyatt says:

    Were you playing the DS version? The 3DS version, Devil Survivor Overclocked, adds “8th Day” playable epilogues for the Escape, Messiah, and Kill God routes. I’ve played the first two, but not the last. From what I’ve read, the Kill God 8th Day has two different routes of its own, one where you go full evilz and one where you’re explicitly fighting for humanity and win back all your friends.

    Also, you only mentioned four routes, it sounds like you missed one. Haru and Gin share a route, and while I haven’t personally played it, it’s supposed to give more backstory on how the demon summoning program came to be. You can also solve the Keisuke issue by agreeing with him but persuading him to be more discriminate and forgiving, though if you do that Midori leaves and goes to inform Kaido. You can also not get to him in time and let Kaido kill him.

    1. Mini-Farla says:

      I’ve seen all of them except Yuzu’s extension, which I automatically hate for ruining the one good thing about her route. No, you should not get to redeem yourself for killing everyone! Your redemption is STARTING A NEW GAME AND PICKING A DIFFERENT ROUTE. Agh.

      I was not impressed by the others. The only decent part was Yuzu redeeming herself in Naoya’s extension, and it still doesn’t address the mystery of what happens after I kill God. Amane’s extension was complete garbage and totally unnecessary. Naoya’s involvement was infuriatingly stupid and made no sense.

      Haru and Gin share a route

      Yes and I did not mention it because it is boring. If I’m playing a fantasy game, it is probably safe to assume I do not think the fantasy elements suck and everything should go back to normalcy. I believe I saw most of the events leading up to it (I learned about Aya’s involvement and saved Gin from Azuma, but I didn’t learn about the song of return), but, eh. I just can’t be moved to care about yet another tragic fridging. I liked Haru but Gin was just a creep and also boring.

      1. Hyatt says:

        Yuzu’s route wasn’t the kill everyone route, though, that was the day 6 escape. With Yuzu’s route, God and the angels abandon humanity, the government apparently decides why nuke the barn door when the horse is long gone, and humanity gets overrun by the demons. The 8th day shows the government and the angels reacting and gives you a chance to stop the demons from taking over.

        Damn, it’s too bad to hear that Haru/Gin’s route is boring, since that seems to be the only one that gives Haru closure.

        1. Mini-Farla says:

          That’s the Overclocked version. In the original, her route releases the demons with no chance to stop them, effectively turning Earth into the demon world. As was obvious because that is exactly what Remiel told you would happen.

          Damn, it’s too bad to hear that Haru/Gin’s route is boring, since that seems to be the only one that gives Haru closure.

          If you like Haru it is good closure for her, but I hated its interaction with the rest of the plot. The whole narrative strikes me as extremely conservative. Gin’s whole attitude towards the demons reeks of xenophobia (he constantly sneers about how disgusting they are and how he wants them to stay out), and his belief that everything was perfect before and we should all strive to go back to that by eliminating all the fun fantasy elements is just… blah. I liked Atsuro’s outlook a lot better, even if “Japan becomes an almighty superpower but all we want is a seat in the UN no really =)” was also extremely awkward.

          1. CrazyEd says:

            The fun fantasy elements are probably way less fun when it’s your hometown being overrun by demons.

            1. Mini-Farla says:

              Yes, but from a meta perspective. I prefer stories that actually engage with their fantasy elements instead of telling me they’re bad and resetting everything to the status quo.

              Reply
  6. SpoonyViking says:

    …Oh and there’s gameplay too I guess.

    Speaking of which, what’s it like? I assume it’s some kind of turn-based RPG? Do you summon devils during the battles? What platform is it for, anyway?

    1. Mini-Farla says:

      It’s a blend of turn-based and tactical. You start on a tactical map, and attacking enemies draws you into a standard RPG battle, but you can only fight for one round before you have to attack on the tactical map again. Devils are summoned before the battle and can be swapped out; they’re effectively party members. It’s for the DS.

      1. SpoonyViking says:

        Cool, I might try it out, then. Is the battle system dynamic? How deep is it? And is there a lot of grinding?

        1. Mini-Farla says:

          Very little grinding! You might have to do a bit to get past the really tough bosses, but you level really fast. I think the battle system does fall into a bit of a routine by the endgame, but there are a lot of things you can do with it, and there’s a big emphasis on magic, which I like.

          1. SpoonyViking says:

            Oh, that’s another thing I wanted to ask: what’s the explanation for regular humans being able to fight actual supernatural creatures in melee? Is the difference in physical power between them not that high, or are the humans somehow empowered?

            1. Mini-Farla says:

              Oh, that’s actually explained! The demon summoning devices have a separate program that empowers humans to be on the same level as demons. Humans without the program are helpless against demons.

              Reply
            2. Nerem says:

              Strange Journey actually implements the idea of a huge difference between humans and demons as a mechanic. In it you play a normal human. Instead, you wear a suit of powered armor that gives you the ability to see and fight demons. They’re straight up invisible normally. And even when you CAN see them your suit needs a fight to actually figure out what they are. So any time you go into a new area and meet new enemies, it’s quite terrifying.

               

              The game is entirely about careful exploration.

              Reply
            3. SpoonyViking says:

              Interesting! Thanks for explaining.

              Reply
        2. Zephyr says:

          I would say the game actually discourages grinding – your human party members level up fairly fast like Mini-Farla said, but the leveling rate of your demons drops down to just about nothing after a short time. Instead, you fuse together your demons with others you hire to create new demons (which the demons are apparently okay with? The reactions vary, but a lot of them seem excited about becoming something different) at a higher default level and carry over some of their skills. In addition to their learned skills, demons have a racial skill depending on what class of demon they are, but you can’t fuse two demons into another of the same race, so you end up changing up your party quite a lot. It’s a pretty fun mechanic for the most part and it helps to prevent the Pokemon effect of sticking with an early-game party all the way to the end.

          1. SpoonyViking says:

            That does seem interesting!

            Thanks for the explanations, Mini-Farla and Zephyr!

  7. Nerem says:

    God is actually not a boss very often in SMT. And the reason why God has an odd backstory that makes him Not Quite Christian God is because, well, pretty much all the games follow off of the early games plot. God’s also not evil in all of the games! Hell, in Devil Survivor 2 he and the angels are good guys.

    The idea that YHWH was a winning deity which granted him great power isn’t a new one. It’s in most of them that he’s a boss in (which is like 3 games). Basically the reason why he’s ‘evil’ is that he’s been dominant for so long that he hasn’t been reincarnated in ages and beings who don’t reincarnate start to break down.

    Though I should note that being a ‘winning deity’ isn’t that Christianity is the winner of the kitchen sink, but instead that he is an avatar of a being called the Great Will, and he more or less came up on top out of the avatars, despite often being an enemy of the Great Will itself.

    Lucifer and YHVH are more or less not played as strictly evil but two sides of the Chaos/Law coin. Lucifer SEEMS often the nicer choice though because he loves humans and emphasizes with them, so he’s willing to help out secretly even when humanity rejects him. But his extreme focus on freedom over all isn’t super nice when he’s in charge.

    The mainline games are largely about replacing what was broken when YHVH began to break down and damaged reality.

    It’s interesting to note that in Megami Tensei II you are given a choice to join him and it’s as good an ending as if you fight and destroy him.

    In the Shin MEgami games the Neutral ending is always the canon one and is the choice for humanity defeating all the gods and finally standing on their two feet.

    @Roarke: She actually gets an even more broken sword if you forge her starting weapon to maximum. Which wasn’t in the original game that it’s a remake of, and she basically got nothing there. The remake makes her insanely powerful thanks to her unique spell and unique sword with its unique finisher which outpowers Alm’s finisher by a ton and at half the price.

    Also as a correction, the Shin wasn’t put there just because it was a SNES game. It was to signify that it was a remake of Megami Tensei, the first game in the series. The second one, in fact. The Megami Tensei series was based directly on a series of cyberpunk novels where the entire concept of mons was invented.

    Shin Megami Tensei more or less took the setting and created a new story from it.

    1. Mini-Farla says:

      backstory

      See this just confirms what I said — it’s so different from actual Christianity that the whole thing becomes a farce. Like at this point why are they still saying he’s Yahweh? He isn’t, he’s something vaguely similar but completely different in every meaningful way. (And like I said upthread, their interpretation of Lucifer isn’t very canonical either.) If they wanted to use Christianity they should have been more consistent with the canon; if they just wanted to make up gods to serve whatever roles, they should have just made their setting complete fantasy.

      It’s interesting to note that in Megami Tensei II you are given a choice to join him and it’s as good an ending as if you fight and destroy him.

      Okay but define “good”, because the Law ending here is portrayed as pretty “good”.

      1. Nerem says:

        Well it’s largely because they’re keeping in line with the original novels the series is based on. Like, a lot of the odd differences from mythologies is pretty much entirely because it’s still in the original novel’s setting, just with a new story. Like how Cerberus is traditionally a massive one-headed dog, because in the original novel it came about when the protag’s dog was fused with a demon. This is how you get him in the original games too.

         

        And by ‘good’ I mean that YHWH keeps his bargain completely and the party are transformed into divine beings and he gets rid of all demons to make humanity safe. There’s no actually downside to it. Same with the other ending. You defeat YHVH and the angels vanish too and Lucifer cows the demons into leaving humans alone, and he thanks you and tells you to beware the Bigger Threat.

         

        But yeah your complaints seem to be at the novels that the games are based on instead. I notice I repeated this sentence a lot, but it’s true. I mean, it’s a fair thing to complain about, but there’s a reason why they do it.

        @Zephyr: IIRC there is a way to fuse a demon into the same race. There’s a set of demons whose entire purpose is for this, but they’re kinda annoying to get without just buying them.

        1. Hyatt says:

          @Zephyr: IIRC there is a way to fuse a demon into the same race. There’s a set of demons whose entire purpose is for this, but they’re kinda annoying to get without just buying them.

          Ah, elementals. After my first playthrough I took advantage of them and registered them with a bunch of endgame skills so I could easily make a high level demon with exactly the skillset I wanted. You also don’t have to buy them directly; the highest level auction has four-packs of low-level demons that you can fuse to create two elementals.

      2. Nerem says:

        Oh, I also remembered something. One of the big things of the SMT backstory is that every powerful demon (including YHVH) basically creates its own universe around it, and the first two SMTs take place in YHVH’s universe. Which is why when you kill him, SMT3 happens, which is entirely about demons vying to basically take the remants of YHVH’s universe and reshape it to their whims.

        1. Hyatt says:

          So where does IV fit in?

          1. Nerem says:

            Spoilers, but…

            —-

            —-

            YHVH, as he promises, is revived by the Great Will,  and works to wrestle control of the universe back.

             

            I don’t know much beyond THAT because I haven’t played the sequel (4 Apocalypse) yet.

    2. Roarke says:

      Ah, yes, Beloved Zofia, AKA “Celica solos the level.” I like that it only needs one upgrade to hit max, while Alm’s takes 3. 

      But I wasn’t really talking about Falchion or even Alm’s ultimate in terms of brokenness. The really broken thing Alm got was Double Lion, because being able to attack twice off of Alm/that sword/that ability’s massive attack stat before the enemy does anything was like the definition of cheesing.

      But even THOSE pale in comparison to the Longbow, which is how I killed King Rudolph without a scratch despite how weak Alm’s army is. They need to nerf Enclose so hard, or make King Rudolph immune to stuns. 

      1. Nerem says:

        Ragnarok Omega’s a lot stronger then Double Lion and Scendscale and unlike Double Lion is on the better weapon.

        1. Roarke says:

          Yeah, for sure, but it’s got a huge HP cost, like 14, which is not always ideal. Double Lion’s cost is like a third of that, and it literally does more damage than Scendscale except on extremely high-Def targets. 

           

          But man I wish I hadn’t cheesed Rudolf. He deserved better from me, but he was doubling my entire army and one-rounding 90% of them so I needed to put my foot down. 

          If he was alone, I’d have happily tussled him down fairly, but his army itself was also pound-for-pound stronger than mine (Hard Mode is delightful). I couldn’t deal with both at once. 

          0

          1. Nerem says:

            6 vs 14. Ragnarok Omed has +2 range too. And does twice the damage even taing in consideration two hits.

            Alm’s pound for pound worse.

             

            In the original game elica got nothing sadly.

             

             

            1. Nerem says:

              I think my keyboard is broken.

              Reply
    3. CrazyEd says:

      Actually, the remake of Megami Tensei (and its direct sequel) on the SNES was Kyuuyaku Megami Tensei. The series became Shin Megami Tensei after the move from the Famicom to Super Famicom. The ambiguities of the Japanese language mean that either “Ressurection of the True Goddess” or “True Ressurection of the Goddess” are valid grammatically, but Atlus’s official translation is True Goddess Metempsychosis. In the absence of knowing what the fuck they’re going on with the word “metempsychosis”, I use that official translation to inform which context to place “shin” in my more literal translation.

      Though the Megami Tensei does use a different kanji for “shin” than most SNES games that used it (the one that means “true” instead of “new”).

      And I wouldn’t say it’s directly based on the Digital Devil Story novels. The first game is more of an unrelated sequel that uses the novels as a jumping off point, and every sequel after that is less and less involved with the novels. Oh, and despite the technological themes, I wouldn’t really call them “cyberpunk”, at least beyond the aesthetics, for the reason described above.

      1. Nerem says:

        I specified that it was the second remake for a reason. It was basically intended to start a new storyline though that wasn’t based directly on the novels. Either way, it takes themes, ideas, and plot points from the original series of novels and adapts them. Cerberus being the dog of the protag is one of them for both Kyuuyaku and Shin.

         

        Metempsychosis is really the closer word for the intent of the title and what happens in the games.  “True Reincarnation” is the intended translation, as metempsychosis refers to the Greek idea of reincarnation. And the ‘True’ was intended to make it clear that this was a remake of Megami Tensei.

         

        Why a second remake so soon? Because Namco published the Megami Tensei series so Atlus didn’t have rights to it. So they made True Megami Tensei to have a version of the series that they had rights to. The series spun off a lot, and interestingly all the spinoffs are considered canon in some form and in fact can have a very complex relationship. Like, the third game in the Shin series, If…, leads directly into the Persona series, as well as the Soul Hacker series and Raidou Kuzunohara, which is why they are missing YHVH.

        1. CrazyEd says:

          But that’s not what a remake is. SMT isn’t a remake of MT1. It’s a spin-off. Devil Survivor: Overclocked is a remake of a spin-off of SMT. If Atlus made SMT because they wanted to make something they could own the rights to, then by its very nature it couldn’t be a remake of something they didn’t own the rights to. That’d be like calling BlazBlue a remake of Guilty Gear.

  8. Nerem says:

    I should note that in the overall setting YHVH is seen as less “the true god”, unlike say Dresden Files, and more that he’s very loud and direct. But at the same time, there’s actually higher tier deities who are more primal and basically work to give humanity what they want completely behind the scenes (Nyx, Izanami, Philemon, and a few others) and there’s a huge emphasis that humanity’s Shadows is what draws deities to them.

  9. Nerem says:

    I just realized something: What version are you playing?

    1. Mini-Farla says:

      Original, but I saw the Overclocked 8th days on YouTube. I did find the lack of dragons and casters after level 50 rather annoying (whyyyy do they give us nothing but fighters for the levels where everything has Phys Repel). It seems like that’s fixed in Overclocked?

       

      0

      1. CrazyEd says:

        They give you nothing but fighters on the levels with Phys Repel everywhere because welcome to SMT games. They get super jRPG-y the longer they go on. I’m sure if I checked, I’d find an enemy in Persona that absorbed damage from everything but Almighty sources.

        1. Nerem says:

          I actually don’t think anything is immune to everything but Almighty.

           

          Though there are example of stuff that’s immune to all but a couple of elements of some sort. Like World Balance is famously strong to everything but instant death spells.

  10. Nerem says:

    Overclock fixed a lot.

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