- Turn type: Player/enemy turns.
- Maps: Small. Terrain gives bonuses.
- Character Customization: None.
- Character Development: Standard XP/level system. New spells are bought in stores.
- Party Size: Max 8.
- Equipment: One weapon, one armor.
- Game Flow: 16 stages. No alternate paths or repeats.
- Saving: Before battle.
- Death: Permanent. Main character death is a game over.
At the end of the last entry I wondered about finding more useful demons — I really never did this. I used a few demons that provided useful spells, but other than that I played most of the game just with the main character and Miyuki.
The “underworld” (Tokyo) area has Asakasa, Shinjuku, Roppongi, and six mysterious shrines. I had been collecting a few “pillars” named for the various planets, and they went in these shrines. But the big quest here is to revive Masakado, which involves finding his various body parts. This is one of the more annoying fetch quests in the game because it requires a lot of backtracking, and revisiting areas.
I was very fortunate to get a rare drop from a monster — a multi-hit sword that was three times as powerful as the one I had. This was my weapon for the rest of the game, and it made things considerably easier. I’m not a big fan of the system where hand-to-hand weapons cannot be bought in stores, only found from monster drops.
Eventually I reunited all of Masakado’s body parts, and his soul, so he revives to guard Tokyo. There’s no clear plot reason for this, it just opens up an event way back at Central. One of the biggest problems with this game is the huge amount of backtracking you have to do, coupled with a severe lack of Terminals (that allow warping between them). The Central terminal stops allowing transportation at this point until the end of the game, which is quite annoying given how many times you have to go back to Central.
Hiroshi is preaching to the people at Holytown about how evil the leaders of Central are. He suggests that I go free the people working at the Factory. When we get there, they don’t seem to want to be released, which is bizarre — Hiroshi suggests going to the watchtower at the top of the area. For some reason this requires 10 intelligence to enter. What if you don’t have 10? I guess you grind levels. (You also need 10 magic on your main character to win the game for later).
There’s the boss, who is sitting on a toilet for some reason (it’s not just a throne that looks like a toilet; when you beat him and come back it’s an actual flush toilet). Belphegor isn’t too difficult with my powerful sword. But beating him doesn’t solve the problem because there’s a Siren singing to bewitch the people.
That’s it for the Tokyo area, so now we have to head to the final area, the Abyss. There are two ways to get in — hopefully the player remembers the guy from very early in the game who was trying to get into the abyss but failed. He was using 4 dolls which we have. One of the dolls is wrong and has to be substituted for another one. This is another part where I don’t know how you figure it out on your own. I may be too quick to consult walkthroughs in these situations. Anyway, with the right doll we can get into a small part of the underworld. None of the shops are open or people around, except for one dude that is crying about being parted from Siren.
Of course we take him all the way back to Siren (another huge backtrack) who then stops singing, freeing up the miners. If you remember the guy who was digging at the bottom of the factory, he’ll now give us the Jupiter Pillar.
Next up is to free Center from its overlords; apparently the Millenium area was originally intended to be a paradise for people but now it has been taken over by:
|There’s a mistake in the classical Japanese, that should be 逆らわし者|
Archangels and YHVH. Megami Tensei players have already defeated YHVH in the original Megami Tensei II, but he reappears here. These bosses are rather difficult and you have to fight three in a row. I followed the walkthrough’s advice and got Anubis who has Divine Retribution, which takes off 1/8 of enemy HP. I think I could have beaten the game without this, especially since he can only cast it once with his MP.
There’s also a questionnaire that forms a significant part of deciding which route you’ll be on; I ended up with the Law route.
Once they’re taken down, a tail appears in Holytown, and it seems that the dragon Set is reviving. So it’s time to go back down into the Abyss to take care of that. Getting there is another hassle — you need the six pillars. This requires a lot of visiting old areas; maybe the fortune teller can help you with where to go, but otherwise you just have to go around randomly. One of them requires you to win the disco contest in the full moon (10 magic required on your MC, which probably no one has been buffing at this point).
When that’s finally done, I gained access to the Abyss. The task here is really just to make it through a series of dungeons (getting keys and such) until you reach the final area. There, Lucifer’s messenger makes an appearance and takes us to Lucifer’s castle. Since I was firmly on the Law route I had to reject Lucifer and go with Hiroshi’s Eden project instead. He’s already gathered a large number of people from various places on the surface to Eden, and wants me to stop Set. First, we have to free Valhalla from Abbadon, who had sucked it into darkness earlier.
Abaddon is annoying because he uses so many buff and debuff spells that if you don’t have buffs yourself, or Dekaja to cancel the debuffs, it will take years to beat him. I had to try again and fuse a demon with Dekaja. After this I worked towards getting demons with Tarukaja (the strength up one).
Once this is done, we have to make it to Lucifer’s castle. Along the way, there’s a neat sidequest with the souls of many of the dead characters from SMT2 and SMT1.
It seems like beating this god of the dead would mess things up, but apparently not. Next there’s a dungeon with 13 bosses; the first 12 are pushovers and the last one wasn’t too bad with my Tarukaja buffing. I also got a Parvati, which has great cheap healing as well as the buff.
Also around this point I happened on a comment that pointed out how important Speed is in boosting your hit chances later in the game, so I started throwing MC’s points into that.
The tower of Chokmah is the last barrier between us and Lucifer’s castle, and we get the famous Mara demon as a boss:
The tradition begins.
We reach Lucifer’s castle now, and it’s shut tight. What do I have to do on the Law path? Walk all the way back to fucking Eden. There are terminals in the Center and in a nearby dungeon but neither function for transporting! Why!? Fortunately the female main has Estoma which cancels random encounters, and there are nice maps to use. But as far as I can see there’s no clue this is what you’re supposed to do.
Back at Eden, Hiroshi fuses with Set and turns out to be Satan, a very useful demon for the final section because he actually does decent damage.
Lucifer’s castle is very large and full of tricks and traps, but no treasure. I used a map.
Lucifer was not too bad with the buff spells and Divine Judgment; he apparently has some nasty Charm attacks but he never used them.
Once Lucifer is beaten, we head back to Eden. in the other paths you have to do quite a bit here but in the Law path you immediately get taken to the endgame.
The Ark takes off into space and destroys all humanity except the chosen people on Eden — this is a common trope of villains in RPGs but I’ve never seen one where it actually happens (and apparently by the “heroes”?)
So now Satan has judged humanity, but there remains one being left to judge:
YHVH again! I used the same basic strategy — two Divine Judgments, Tarukaja buffs, and a defense buff to prevent some of his nastier attacks. God Voice is still a big threat but he didn’t use it much until the fight was almost over.
The Ark returns to Earth, and there’s really not much of an ending scene beyond that.
I reaffirm what I said in the first post — I want to like these games more than I do. I did see that a number of SMT fans think this game is worse than the first one. A lot of them complain about the main three problems I had — the huge amount of annoying backtracking, the difficulty in finding out what to do next, and the relative uselessness of demons. I hardly used the demons in the game; I mostly kept them in the computer except when I needed the buffs or Divine Judgment in boss fights. Satan was the only one who actually served a useful role in battle beyond those.
The story is pretty interesting for a game of this period, and the three possible routes allow for some replayability. I’ll have to look up what happens on the other routes.
SMT will be back one more time on this blog, for “If…” which comes out later in 1994. Next up is a huge tone change as we go from this post-apocalyptic RPG where you fight God, to a kids’ RPG starring Sanrio characters.
Shin Megami Tensei II (真・女神転生II)
Released 3/18/1994, produced by Atlus
This is the sixth game in Atlus’ Megami Tensei franchise (including the two Last Bible game boy games and the SRPG Majin Tensei). I have played the first two MT games in the SFC remake (Kyuuyaku Megami Tensei), and I played the GBA remake of SMT1. So I’m not going to be able to say much about how SMT2 improved on the previous games in terms of interface, although from what I understand there were a large number of improvements over SMT1.
My overall experience with all four of these games seems to be the same — I want to like them more than I do. I love the concept, and as a kid I was really into the “blobber” first person computer RPGs like Wizardry, Might and Magic, and Bard’s Tale. The demon recruiting and fusing system has a lot of potential and has a surprising amount of depth for a game of this age, especially when you consider that it first appeared in 1987.
This game is in the tradition of Wizardry, which was very popular in Japan (and remains so). But I think due to the influence of the original Wizardry games, there are two aspects that reduce my own enjoyment of the games. The first is that a lot of the dungeon maps are large but have very little in them. An 8×8 map should have more of interest than a few treasure chests — I think that at one time it was sufficiently fun just to map out the whole area, even if there was nothing in it, but I feel like by 1994 that should no longer be enough.
The second is that the game is quite challenging. Even though they reduced the difficulty level from SMT1 (apparently), you still have uneven encounter difficulty in a region. Some enemy groups can be mowed down hardly taking a scratch, and other encounters will give you a game over before you can even kill one of them. Save points are few and far between, and a game over sends you back to your last save. I will admit up front that I am using save states — I’ve changed my position on save states since I started this blog, primarily because life is too short to keep repeating the same things over and over again. Basically my save state use is related to how fun the game is for me. For SMT2, so far I have been making save states after significant things happen — reach a new area, beat a boss, etc. So I’m not just constantly saving state every 5 minutes.
The demon recruiting is fun, but I do wish that it felt less random.
With all that out of the way, let’s get to the first part of the game.
The game follows off of SMT1 but the connection is somewhat loose. In SMT1 there was a nuclear holocaust followed by a flood that left most of humanity dead and the world ruined. Feuding religions, the Gaians and the Messians, were sort of united by the protagonist at the end of SMT1 (if you take the Neutral path). But now the Messians have taken over the government and converted the Cathedral (from the first game) into Center, where they work to create a paradise for all. The Gaians leave in protest.
The main character, “Hawk”, has no memory, but is living in Valhalla, a place away from the Center that does not seem to enjoy high living standards. He fights in the coliseum, and at the beginning of the game is set to take on the current champion. The beginning has you training in a virtual reality simulator.
After moving up a few levels, Hawk eventually comes across a man in a wheelchair named Stephen who gives him an arm computer that lets him recruit and summon demons, and also use Transfer stations to save the game and warp to different places. Also he keeps having visions of various people (who you can name). The default names of the characters are Hebrew letters (Aleph, Beth, Ghimel, Daleth). Eventually it’s time to take on the champ.
There’s a little dungeon before you fight him that has a lot of good equipment; the first time I died because I found the champion fight too early. But now that I knew where it was I could clear out the whole area and then go beat Red Bear.
Now that Hawk is the champion, he gets access to better training sites, and can buy things from the stores. We’re also scouted by a woman named Miyuki, who wants us to meet with the very rich Madam. I also started recruiting monsters, but they were too weak to be viable in combat (revive costs are very high). One advantage of recruiting a monster is then generally if you talk to that type of monster, they will at least leave you alone and sometimes give you gifts (although if the monster in your party is dead they get pissed off and attack!)
Madam wants me to go to the Valhalla slums and find the scientist Hanada, who is doing very dangerous experiments with the demon world that should be stopped.
Hanada has indeed done a dangerous thing; the demon he summons kills him, and it’s up to us to fight. Madam lent us her Cerberus but he costs so much money and magic to use that I just fought with Miyuki and Hawk; generally the bosses are not that hard.
After this is the first big plot twist — Hawk is actually Kurisu, who the Center Messians believe is the Messiah. It’s not clear why he ended up amnesiac in Valhalla, but we head back to Center now where Kurisu begins to do missions for the Messians, along with a new girl Ise.
Center is a large area with a central building, and then four areas around it (Holytown, Factory, Valhalla, and Arcadia). The first job is to go to Holytown and kill King Frost and the Basilisk, who are causing all kinds of trouble.
This area was not too bad. I continued to try recruiting monsters, but I still couldn’t find any that were actually worth using in battle. Even using the jakyou to combine monsters didn’t result in anything. They die so quickly and the revive cost is so high that it’s just not worth using a low HP demon that only does a few damage per attack, even if they have potentially useful spells. In the boss fights I did find some use in the demons that have the low-level heal spells, but not much.
Next up is the Factory, where Betelgeuse is messing things up. I found this area much harder than the previous one. The dungeon you have to go through is long, has difficult enemies, and no save points. I eventually had to more or less run from every fight until I could reach the boss, who himself was not that bad. This is where I started encountering the enemy parties that could wipe out my entire party before I could even kill one of them.
|I assume “Chris the Car” is a reference to Stephen King’s novel Christine?|
After I beat Betelgeuse I went back to Center but they didn’t recognize I had solved the problem. I went all the way back to where Betelgeuse was to make sure I had beaten him, then back to Center again, same problem. The GameFAQs walkthrough was no help. At this point I was starting to thing I had hit some sort of bug (SMT2 was notoriously buggy, including some game-stopping bugs). But finally checking a Japanese walkthrough site I realized there was a minor quest you have to do here as well — you have to go into this small area surrounded with a fence, where you’ll meet a woman who tells you that the Demonoids, an artificial life form, are rampaging. After a very easy fight against one Demonoid, the rest of them calm down and now the quest is complete.
The next destination is Arcadia, which doesn’t have any problem, it just introduces you to the prototype land for the upcoming Millenial Kingdom.
Returning from here, shit hits the fan as monsters invade Central and a False Messiah has arisen in Valhalla.
Naoki (Daleth) fights us, and once defeated, I had the option to kill him. Like SMT1, there are different paths in the game (Law, Neutral, Chaos). I’m not going to aim for any particular path. I chose to let him live, and he runs away. Kurisu is hailed by the priests and people as the true Messiah.
Now a man called Mekata wants to meet us to tell us the truth about Kurisu’s origin as well as the Millenium itself, but first we need to go save Miyuki who has been imprisoned for breaking the laws of Center.
I had a really hard time with this dungeon as well. Although I did finally get some useful monsters (Drugar and Dark Elf), there were one or two encounters that I could not flee from and I could not even kill a single enemy before getting a game over. When I eventually summoned a fourth demon I was able to run away more easily; I’m not sure what affects that.
Once I saved Miyuki, I headed back to Mekata but it turns out that the Demon King Abaddon has absorbed Valhalla into its world and so I can no longer access it — what’s worse, this may be the doing of Central itself. On the plus side, Cerberus has escaped and now joins the party (with a revive spell!!!) Central is now inaccessible, and Hiroshi (who was formerly with Center) is preaching to the people about how Central is creating a future paradise just for their selected elite, while sacrificing the rest of humanity.
This is a doubly annoying section because after doing the fairly long dungeon to save Miyuki, and walking back out, all the save points are closed off. You have to go back to Holytown to be able to heal and save — that’s a lot of game to do without being able to save. Anyway, there’s no clear direction for what to do next, but in Holytown there’s an elevator down to the “Underworld” (i.e. Japan), and we find ourselves in Tokyo, near Shinjuku.
That’s a good stopping place for this entry. I wish I had a better idea of how to get demons that could actually help in a fight.