Misc SMT (Last Bible, Devil Childen, Raidou Kuzunoha)

Rounding up some spinoffs that sounded interesting. I bounced on all of them almost immediately because they are terrible.

Revelations: The Demon Slayer | Megami Tensei Gaiden: Last Bible
GameBoy, 1992

That’s right, turns out this series even predated Pokemon on its own launch console! This was one of the few early Megaten games to get an American release, though not until 3 years after 1996’s Persona. (You can also see they still hadn’t given up on localizing SMT as “Revelations” at this point.) Not sure what the story was there; I can only assume they wanted to try floating more Megaten games after the success of Persona in the West, but decided to play it safe with one of the kiddie versions before attempting to sell America on “Let’s summon demons to kill God!” I guess it didn’t go well, because though this game spawned a whole spinoff series in Japan, none of them have official Western releases and even fan translations are spotty to this day.

This game is basically if SMT was a standard fantasy RPG. The setting is medieval European fantasy and you fight “monsters” instead of “demons”, but you can still talk and negotiate with them like in the main series. However, they’re extremely dumbed-down and I couldn’t figure out any logic or consistency to them, not helped by the poor 90’s translation and tiny text limitations. The monsters are still extremely talkative, though, and outright criticize you for killing them. You can even agree that they deserve the same rights as any other living creature, but of course you still have to kill them for EXP if you want to progress. Even moreso than the main series, it feels like a version of Undertale that completely misses its own point. Points for trying to engage with the issues this early, even if it totally failed, I guess?

Gameplay-wise, this is an utterly dull, grindy slog and I quit after one dungeon.

DemiKids: Light Version & Dark Version | Devil Children 3
GameBoy Advance, 2002

This one is very interesting, because it was explicitly made in response to Pokemon. (You can see this in the dual-version gimmick, although the versions are actually meaningfully distinct, with different protagonists and plotlines.) Megaten saw the fellow mons franchise’s runaway popularity and attempted to muscle in on its territory by marketing to a younger demographic. I don’t know how well this worked in Japan, but in the West it got no release until the third game, for some reason.

This actually has a surprisingly detailed plot about ordinary schoolkids discovering they’re half-demon and must enter the demon world to embark on an epic quest, but I never found out anything more because the game is basically unplayable. Like in early Megaten games, your demons can’t level up; however, while those games at least allowed you the crutch of human characters who could gain experience, this one denies you even that. Your starter pokemon demon can get stronger, but only by eating fusing with recruited demons, so the only way to keep up with the level curve is by constantly recruiting demons to throw into the meat grinder; actually fighting battles is basically pointless. But they’ve taken even the theoretical fun out of that, because they’ve also completely gutted the negotiation system to be purely random instead of involving any strategy or input from you. So if you want an idea of how the game plays, imagine if you could only level up inĀ Pokemon by throwing pokeballs.

Also, the art style is terrible. It’s so aggressively kiddie that I cannot take anything seriously. Though it uses the same demons from the main series, most of them have completely different designs that render them unrecognizable. It looks like a game marketed to toddlers, not just “kids”.

Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner: Raidou Kuzunoha vs. the Soulless Army
PS2, 2006

In which Atlus makes the very stupid decision to pair a detective game where you are expected to run around talking to everyone to piece together a mystery with random encounters every 5 seconds. (Not an exaggeration, I counted.) This is also an action RPG instead of a traditional one, which might have been interesting if I didn’t have to trudge through dozens of identical tedious battles to get through a single screen. I bounced after an hour.

4 Comments

  1. Seed of Bismuth says:

    aww I like DemiKids art style.

    1. St. Elmo's Fire says:

      It might have been fine in isolation, but it’s an astoundingly bad fit for the subject matter of literal demons and the relatively serious plot, unfortunately.

  2. Anon-kun says:

    Well, I’ve never played the second Raidou game to completion (I barely got the chance to play before my console died and I never bothered to emulate it after I got a PC powerful enough to run PS2 games years later) but at least they fixed your complaint about the random encounters. You don’t run into enemies anymore while walking around the city. Can’t comment on anything else about the game though.

    As for the Devil Children series and how popular it was… I don’t have any concrete data but my personal belief is that the “first generation” (aka, the first two games) were a massive success but everything else only made enough of a profit for Atlus to keep the series alive while they tried its best to make it successful before finally pulling the plug.

    I say this because the first two games: got a remake on the PS1 (with both games on the same disc, you choose the version you want at the title screen), virtual console ports, the PS1 version is part of the PS Classic in Japan, the anime adaptation had its episode order doubled because it was more popular than they expected (this got confirmed by the head writer of the anime himself), the manga adaptation is considered a minor cult classic and got a reprint ten years after its original serialization, the anime got released on both DVD and very recently Blu-Ray, and there was a short-lived phone game based on it.

    The “second generation” (the GBA games): never got any remake or port to any console, the manga adaptation was cancelled after a few chapters, and the anime never got a proper home media release (some episodes are even considered lost media).

    All your complaints about the gameplay are very much valid. I never really understood how negotiation is supposed to work. Like, I know that in theory the races of the two demons speaking can have a positive or negative effect on the odds of it succeeding (which is why there are fewer races) but good lucky trying to get it to work as intended.

    1. St. Elmo's Fire says:

      Huh, a shame the first generation didn’t get localized then! Even fan translations seem nonexistent. I might check out the anime.

      I wonder why their popularity tanked so suddenly. Did the GBA games do something remarkably different, or did people just get tired of the concept?

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