An SMT Primer

Tony, this is for you…

The Megami Tensei series (aka MegaTen aka Shin Megami Tensei aka SMT) is a long running RPG series from Atlus. There are several different offshoots from the core SMT line, which tends to be a post apocalyptic setting with lots of nasty demons running around. To my knowledge, the only game in the core line that has come to North America is SMT: Nocturne.

The Persona games are more like a dating sim crossed with a dungeon crawler. Spending time with your friends and getting to know them is almost as, if not more, important than leveling up. The last two entries (Persona 3 and 4) are some of the best JRPGs to hit the PS2, period, and are refreshing in that they’re more about the storytelling and characters than they are about phat lewt. Persona 3 was infamous for the fact that to unleash your characters’ personae (ie. cast spells) your character would have to shoot themselves in the head with a gun-like implement.

Digital Devil Saga 1 & 2 are set in a post apocalyptic cyberpunk kind of setting.

Devil Summoner games(at least the ones that have seen the light of day over here) are set in the 1920’s with you playing as a sort of private investigator. There are other ones in Japan that are set in a more cyberpunk setting.

Devil Survivor is a new DS game that looks like a mixture of the Persona games and the core series. The main plot point is that it takes place after an apocalyptic event that the authorities were able to avert. Unfortunately for you, they averted it by sealing off Tokyo with all of the demons and citizens inside it. And you’re one of the people stuck inside…

One of the biggest conceits of essentially all of the various SMT games is that while you do fight monsters and demons of all sorts, you also tend to have some way of recruiting them to your team. Some of the games have you negotiating with the demons mid-fight, others have you finding cards and fusing new demons and monsters. In essence, it’s like a very dark, mature take on Pok้mon…


  1. Of all the ways there are to cast spells, putting a gun to your head is what I consider to be “bad form”

  2. But it’s not a gun. It’s an evoker… it evokes the image of someone using a gun… ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. I’m sure a victim of a bullet wound would agree.


    All I’m saying is that it’s almost like the Japanese developer took something out of the playbook of a Western developer and added something out of shock value for the sake of adding it. (This is all a discussion we had a few years ago.) Of course, you end up doing it so much the shock value wears off–and then when it’s depicted in real life, what then?

    I don’t ever want to be desensitized to something such as suicide or even the appearance of it.

    I think, for as imaginative as they are, there could have been another mechanic to do it other than evocation.

    (Of course a LOT of Japanese things are crazy. There’s probably been worse.)

    At any rate, I may give P4 a try, but 100 hours? Wow. I have a hard time devotion 10 hours to a game anymore.

  4. I see where you’re coming from Nat, but if that’s the case, why draw the line at suicide? The evokers are tame compared to pretty much any other modern M-rated game.

    If you can dismember and destroy zombies to your hearts content in the various Dead Rising games, why does a pretend gun used as a prop in Persona 3 bother you so much?

  5. In regards to your first paragraph, I don’t disagree. You also raise a valid point at where do we (read: I) draw the line.

    I don’t have a strong defense argument other than in P3 it is something (on the surface) destructive that you do to yourself for benefit whereas in Dead Rising, it something done to a non-human entity (of course, I know what they once were, but, hey, I’ve read the survival guide).

    As most readers to this site know, violence in games is something that I have struggled with and may be something I continue to do. I think right now, for me, is it a game I enjoy (the violent ones). I’m finding those titles to be few and far between–and I’m honestly giving them a try.

    The last games I enjoyed while being over the top violent: Dead Rising and Bioshock.

    We’ve also had this discussion personally before and you know that I’m leaning more towards the casual aspect of gaming or unique, downloadable games that are cheap and fun. Forget those AAA $60 titles (those purchases are getting more and more rare for me).

    I’m glad you find the obscure stuff, because 1)it’s good and 2)it’s usually family friendly and cheap

  6. Thanks for the introduction, Brock. (I like this personal blogging for yours truly) ๐Ÿ™‚

    As far as the “suicide” game mechanic, I’m torn. On the one hand, I see the ridiculous nature of it, being so over the top that it would be laughable to “take it serious.”

    At the same time, appearances have some value, some meaning, and I don’t think that should be discounted.

    Either way, I’m definitely interested in try out the new DS game.

  7. I’m being more of a devil’s advocate than anything, but I figured it would make for a good discussion.

    I will mention again that the evokers are only in Persona 3 so there’s no reason to avoid all of the SMT games on principle. Persona 4 just has you using cards to summon the personas to battle. And frankly, I’d probably recommend P4 to anyone coming in new as it has better game mechanics and the story is a little tighter and engaging than in P3.


  1. […] The Persona games are a subset of the Shin Megami Tensei series, as detailed here. Set in the sleepy town of Inaba (a drastic change of pace from the usual hustle and bustle of most […]

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