Author Archives: St. Elmo's Fire

Megaman Battle Network 1-3

Megaman Battle Network is a spinoff of the Megaman series for the GBA and DS. I’ve never played any of the mainline Megaman games and am only vaguely familiar with them, but I played the third Battle Network game as a kid and greatly enjoyed it. Recently, a remastered port was released on Steam, so I decided to pick it up and give the whole series a whirl.

The premise is that this is an alternate universe where Megaman is a computer program instead of a robot, and the technology focus is similarly shifted: Everything is online, everything is a smart device, and everyone needs the help of sapient programs to navigate it all. This was wild science fiction when the first game was released in the early 2000s, yet in the present day it doesn’t sound too far off from our everyday lives. Surreal, and kind of eerie.

Gameplay-wise, MMBN made the interesting decision to switch from the platformer/shooter focus of the main games to an action RPG with deckbuilding elements. I like its gameplay a lot, and I find it demonstrates how adding even a small spatial component to RPGs greatly improves their complexity and engagement. (It does, however, retain the worst of grindy jRPG mechanics in spades.)


Shin Megami Tensei V

I was planning to give up on the series after the disaster that was SMT4, but then I read some spoilers for this game that actually piqued my interest: The premise is that YHVH is actualfax, for-realsies, and-this-time-we-mean-it, no-take-backsies dead. Thus, no matter how bad the plot is, at the very least it has to be differently bad. The writers have voluntarily relinquished their ability to fall back on their standard plot with its standard cardboard villain. No hijacking by Ganon, no “Somehow, Palpatine returned.” I demanded these hacks write a different story for once and credit to them, they actually did.

Unfortunately, they did so by writing the absolute minimum. To give you an idea: The compilation of all story cutscenes for SMT4A is 18 hours. For SMT5, it’s 6, and that’s including a full recording of the final boss fight. Did they at least use what little time they had to tell a decent story? No, of course not, the plot is even more backloaded than usual and a shameless rehash of SMT3’s premise but now with the standard choice of “Which flavor of fascism do you prefer?” I deeply regret wasting my time on this garbage.


Persona 3

Persona 3 is very different from the preceding games in the series, to the point it honestly feels like the start of a different series entirely. Instead of a standard jRPG, it’s a kind of blend between a dungeon-crawling roguelike and a dating sim: By day you live as an ordinary high school student, take classes, and bribe your friends to get Relationship Points™; by night you fight monsters.

Unfortunately, while it’s better than the preceding games (and actually playable), it feels very much like a rough draft. This makes sense, since it was their first attempt at a lot of radically new mechanics, but I don’t think it aged well. I’d say the story is decent, but either watch a playthrough or the anime adaptation instead of playing it yourself.


Shin Megami Tensei: Persona

I’ve heard a lot of good things about the Persona series over the years, so as part of my foray into the Shin Megami Tensei franchise I decided to try it out. I, of course, started with the first one. (To head off the inevitable question, it was the PSP version, since I heard the PSX localization was a disaster.) I had some hopeful expectations going in given the series’ popularity and my own positive feelings towards its predecessor If.

This was a mistake. Persona 1 is a grindy, tedious mess of a game with a plot that’s morally bankrupt when it’s not totally incoherent.


Shin Megami Tensei IV & Apocalypse

The series has officially disappeared up its own butthole. SMT4 is an empty, vapid game that only serves to demonstrate how utterly creatively bankrupt these writers are. I couldn’t even be bothered to watch a playthrough, the plot summary was so stupid my eyes glaze over at the thought. I may have disagreed — strongly — with the execution of previous entries’ ideas, but at least they had ideas. This game doesn’t. It is about nothing, it is nothing.

This game is a reboot AU again with the exact same trite moral choices again and the exact same set of cookie-cutter centrist propaganda endings again (now with bonus xenophobia and nationalism!) because the writers are physically incapable of doing anything else. Where the plot isn’t a shameless rehash of SMT2 it’s completely unhinged fantasy nonsense that has given up on anything approaching coherent real-world commentary. “If a city got caught in the crossfire between God and demons in a way that bears no resemblance to real-life holy wars would that be messed up or –” I DON’T CARE TELL A DIFFERENT STORY FOR ONCE YOU HACKS. The only new addition of any significance is a fourth ending where you decide the only way to end suffering is to destroy the universe because the war between God and demons is eternal, which sure is a hilariously meta response to this soulless husk of a cash-cow franchise. The setting’s problems are only intractable because you keep resetting it, writers, if you hate that so much let the franchise die already.

To add insult to injury, the series artist got shafted and replaced by idiots who think they can slap whatever design they feel like onto established mythological figures:

The left is by the previous artist, the right is by the new one. They are both meant to represent the same angel. Yes, really. All of the angels are similarly overdesigned messes with no relation to any real depictions. Also, Lucifer looks like a Roswell alien instead of his established design for some reason. The previous artist may have had his faults, but at least he was trying. (And in case you were hoping something good came out of this mess, no, they still use his softcore porn design for the regular angels.)

And minor aside, but it amused me: The standard and hilariously untrue “Any similarity to real people is coincidental” disclaimer has now been shortened to just “This is a work of fiction.” Methinks some legal consultation happened here.

The game was somehow so successful it spawned a sidequel, Apocalypse, which I was willing to actually play because I saw it had a gameplay feature I found interesting, and also supposedly it ends with you killing God (again), which sounded cathartic if nothing else.


Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga: Avatar Tuner

Ah, colon cancer.

Anyway, I found an SMT spinoff I didn’t hate! Remember how disappointed I was that, despite SMT3 making a big deal of the protagonist being part demon, he was still basically just a dude? Well, this game fixes that.

This lovely creature is the main character. Notice how he is an actual inhuman monster and not just a dude with tattoos!



Hi-Fi RUSH is a hybrid of action and rhythm games. I think this is an excellent combination, as most action games are all about timing and rhythm already, so this is honestly a pretty obvious step to take. It’s also remarkably good at accessibility: It has multiple colorblindness filters and subtitle options, and the entire game environment moves with the beat, so you can time yourself visually even if you have a bad sense of rhythm. I enjoyed it a lot, even though the battles did get a bit too frenetic for me to follow at times. In particular, I think its best feature was sharply segregating combat and platforming sections; each combat encounter is a major one-time setpiece instead of you running into enemies all the time. jRPGs, take note.

I don’t want to talk about the gameplay, though. The story and writing are actually much more noteworthy. I believe it to be a very instructive example of Rebellion Chic: Despite being a cyberpunk story about a ragtag resistance fighting an evil corporation, its core messages are actually very conservative and pro-capitalist.

(Spoilers for the ending, but I don’t think they’re particularly ruinous.)


Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey

This is the first SMT game I’ve reviewed that was made after Devil Survivor, so we’ve finally caught up to my first exposure to the series! Let’s see if the series improves or if DeSu proved to be the high point after all, shall we?

This game was originally planned to be SMT4, but was rebranded as a spinoff due to how different it ended up compared to the mainline games. Instead of an ordinary high school student, you play as an elite soldier tasked with investigating a portal to Hell that’s appeared in Antarctica and threatens to swallow the entire planet.