Passion Pool – Shin Megami Tensei
Greetings, fellow deviants. The Dreaded Blacksmith has returned once more, and oh boy, am I going to have some fun. Folks, welcome to Passion Pool, a little passion project (I’m not sorry) that I’ve been meaning to get to for a few days, but had to deal with school stuffs. However, tonight, I say no more. I told my doubts, “Listen, you punks. I’m doing this tonight, no ifs, ands or buts.” “But, what about…”” I said, NO BUTS!” With that said, let’s get this thing started.
For the past few weeks, close to the middle of January, I’ve been playing a little game by the name of Shin Megami Tensei IV. I knew about this game long before I played it, and there was really one reason I didn’t play it for so long: this game is REALLY STINKING HARD. If you ever wanted any evidence that JRPGs will kick your ass, this is the one for you. However, even though I keep getting my ass kicked, I kept playing because I wanted to see more of the story. I think that I’ve gotten a third of the way done of the game, and I’ve still got a ways away from beating it. With a new installment to the series coming to the Switch in, I’d say 3, 4 years tops, I might as well give my own two cents on this series. However, let’s dive into a bit of history.
The series started back in 1987 in the form of Megami Tensei, which was meant to be an adaptation of the novel, Digital Devil Story. When the ‘Shin’ entered the title, that’s when the games truly managed to do its own thing, and it got nuts. The series often centered around a constant power struggle of demons, humans, and God. While each game had its own story, they often carried a similar theme: choice. Each game boils down to the question: What do you believe in? The three main choices for each game was Law, where you fight to maintain peace at the expense of freedom, Chaos, where you destroy the rules entirely to have your status be represented by your strength, and Neutral, where you decide to make a middle ground where you allow humanity to survive.
When it comes to gameplay, the series is a massive dungeon crawler RPG, where you fight and recruit demons to fight alongside you and teach you magic. Think Pokémon, only you fight alongside them instead of sending them out, a heavier focus on Christian overtones, and many, MANY phallic demons…because why not. You’re able to summon demons through the Demon Summoning Program, produced by a cool guy named Stephen. Long story short, he tried it once, and it ended with him getting handicapped. Go figure. You’re able to communicate with demons through a device called a COMP that can translate demon language.
However, the best part about any SMT game to me is that you can fuse your demons together. By taking 2-4 demons together into an area called the Cathedral of Shadows, you can combine them, passing on some of their skills This is necessary to survive in this series because it’s insanely difficult for two reasons: 1. The encounter rate in these games is enormous, so have fun fighting demons every time you walk five feet, and 2. Even the weakest enemy can curb stomp you if you’re not careful. Despite that though, many still love this series, and for good reason. Kind of like Dark Souls, SMT focuses on your skill and especially strategy to survive, and success is so damn glorious when you get it.
For over a decade, us Americans didn’t get our hands on SMT until the release of the third game, Shin Megami Tensei III Nocturne, or rather, Nocturne. We managed to finally get the first game of the SMT series in the form of a port to iPhones a few years ago. Why did it take so long for this series to come to the states? Well, a few reasons come to mind.
1. The games are exceptionally difficult, especially the older games. However, considering that games like Dark Souls and Bloodborne exists at this point, I don’t think that would be the same case, as chances are, I’m not 100% sure, any veterans of the Souls games could enjoy these games.
2. The games have Christian overtones, which could cause problems with religious folks. The angels in this series are made to be conformist to and extreme degree. If you question God’s will, you either must believe in them, or end up dead by divine punishment. They made the big guy upstairs into an asshole who made humans to become his unquestioning servants, and since that didn’t happen, he causes a lot of struggle in the series for everyone. Obviously, Atlus doesn’t see God like this…I think, but rather, they use symbolism like mad for effect, and also to probably give the player the chance to feel powerful against anything that comes their way.
As such, I have put together a list of tips for anyone who wishes to get into the series.
1. Don’t make your protagonist a balanced character. You’ll learn both physical skills and magic skills in each of the games. if you want your character to become a powerhouse in physical skills, buff up his strength. If you want them to become an all-powerful wizard, buff up their magic. In my opinion, go for magic, as you’ll be able to nuke everything.
2. Keep track of weaknesses, both your enemies and your own. If you can exploit your enemies’ weaknesses, you’ll be able to take them down faster, and survive longer.
3. Use stat buffs and debuffs responsibly. The lower you can decrease your enemies’ attack power, defense, and accuracy, the absolute better. However, they can do the same to you, so use spells and items to your advantage.
4. Use demons for a long as you can so that they can give you some of their skills. Sadly, passive skills like boosting your health can’t be passed.
5. SAVESAVESAVESAVESAVESAVE. Regardless of what it is, whether it be entering a new area, before a boss fight or before performing a fusion, save like mad. You never know what will happen.
6. Make sure you’re topped off before a boss with all the skills, items and buffs/debuffs you’ll need. Otherwise, you will be crushed in the first few turns.
7. Understand that you will die. Sometimes, the AI in these games can easily screw you over, pulling off attacks that can mop the floor with you in an instant. As such, you’ll need to prepare as much as you can. You never know what could happen.
8. Fuse demons responsibly. Keep track on what skills the newborn demon will gain, as well as its stats. The higher its magic stats, the better its magic skills will be, and the more MP, or mana points, it’ll have, and vice versa with strength and physical skills.
9. Save before fusing. No, seriously. Save before fusing. Sometimes, the fusion won’t go how you’d want, possibly ending up with a demon you didn’t want, and possibly with skills you didn’t want to give it. So, save as you can and reload if something happens.
10. Save your demon’s status in the Compendium, so that when you want to resummon them, they’ll have the same skills they had when you wrote them in. you’ll have to pay to get them back though, so try to get as much money as you can.
11. If you’re down to a quarter of your health when you start a boss, you’re gonna die.
12. Experiment and see what works. The keys to victory are trial and error and strategy. Once you play with several spells, you’ll eventually find their weakness, and by exploiting it, you’re be closer to victory.
13. Do research if you’re having trouble. There’s no shame in it.
There you have it. Hopefully, these tips can help you if you enter the fray of MegaTen. I’m a solid supporter of this series now, and I look forward to what this series will bring soon. Thank you, guys, for reading, and have a spectacular day.