On Shin Megami Tensei

Athena over at AmbiGaming had posed the question recently. What’s a game you love but never talk about? I recently started replaying it again, so it was a pretty easy answer for me. Shin Megami Tensei. I’ve talked about other games in the series, some of them at length, but I don’t really talk about the Super Famicom original all that much. That got me thinking. Well, everything gets me thinking because my brain is just so big from knowing so much stuff, but that got me thinking specifically about this game. Maybe it’s time to correct that whole not talking about this game thing. Let’s talk about Shin Megami Tensei.

You might know the Megami Tensei series. The majority of the releases for the past decade and a half have seen western soils. Outside of the Persona series, they’re not really hitting mainstream attention, but they still draw plenty of their own groups to them. They series as a whole is known for a lot of things. Mixing a lot of recognizable figures from religion, mythology, and folklore, and letting you fight/ally yourself with them. Being really hard. Having God as the big bad guy. Or, back in the old days, being a classic JRPG series that never had a hope of being marketed to America through NOA’s content policies.

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That last one is how I first came across the game. The Megami Tensei series is one of my favorite ones. It was Persona 4 that introduced me to a lot of it, showed me magic and convinced me to dive in deeper, but my introduction to the series actually came years earlier with this game. Back when I was a cub, I had a friend. I know, I know, stem your surprise. Anyways, friend’s older brother was big into import games. Had himself a modded SNES, which seemed super cool and elite until I grew up and learned that all that entailed was knocking out the little tabs in the cartridge holder so that the SFC cartridges fit in the American SNES. As I recall, he had himself a rather sizable collection of Japanese games as well. Friend and I had some good times alternatively watching him play and playing through a bunch of games, including this one, although outside of when he explained things to us, we really had no idea what was going on in game.

Fast forward a couple of years. My family had moved away. Our parents kept in touch, but he and I didn’t. After graduating college, I committed to spending a year as an Americorps volunteer in an economically blighted area in middle of nowhere America. Early on, my mother had sent me a care package. Well, apparently she’d been talking to her friends about it, because my old friend had sent her a couple things to include in there, including the old copy of Shin Megami Tensei. I ended up spending long, long hours with that game, trial and erroring my way through the Japanese text until I finally found a translation guide online and could play it fully. I spent a lot of time with that game. That proved to be a very transitional time in my life, wherein I lost a lot of the old and found a lot of the new, and a lot of my memories about all that have gotten tied up in my thoughts about Shin Megami Tensei.

Artistic works, whether visual arts, movies, books, games, whatever, often end up meaning something to us, moreso than the work itself. Shin Megami Tensei is one of those games to me.  It’s been a constant companion for me, a game I come back to every once in a while just to relive.  It was even the subject of the first LP I ever attempted, although a similar transitional time in my life interrupted that.  Maybe that’ll be one that finds new life here eventually.

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Good to be Back!


Nintendo and I have an estranged relationship.  Once upon a time, we were inseparable.  For most of my life, in fact.  I had always been a dyed in the wool Nintendo fan.  For the longest time, I’d only owned Nintendo consoles, bought all of their major releases, subscribed to their magazine, made stupid arguments on their behalf in forums, all that sort of thing.  I was lucky enough to get my hands on the original NES right about the time I was learning to read, and my loyalty to the company was kept strong throughout the years that followed.

I had even been one of those guys that always seem to get shown on local news at console launches, waiting around well in advance for the release of the Wii.  It seems kind of silly now, but once upon a time I was so excited for a console launch I spent six hours sitting next to an ex-girlfriend in the gardening section of Wal-mart impressing my fellow nerds with my knowledge of how the Nintendo Zapper while waiting for midnight to strike so I could be one of the first in town with the system.  For a while after the release of the Wii, things were good.

Yet slowly, surely, I started to grow apart from the company.  I’m not going to be one of those consumers who claims the Wii has no good games, and that Nintendo’s abandoned their core market, because that’s not quite true.  The Wii has plenty of quality games, and Nintendo’s efforts on the DS at least show that they’ve still got the dedicated game player in mind.  It was true, however, that the frequency of game releases on the Wii that delivered the experience I was wanting was pretty low.  I started to dally in other consoles.  First, I took a PS2 off a friend’s hands, then I bought an Xbox 360.  Meanwhile, I slowly started to use my Wii more for its backwards compatibility than anything else, with only the most significant Wii releases finding a spot in my library.  I did have some really good times with my Wii, but those times were fewer than I would have liked, and as a result, Nintendo and I just grew apart.

And so it was for a fair while, Nintendo becoming just a footnote in my gaming life, rather than holding the amount of brainspace it had earlier.  But something has given me cause to review that relationship.  Recently, I finally got myself a 3DS as an early birthday present, and with it, a small collection of some of Nintendo’s recent offerings.  And it feels just like old times.  Nintendo was such a large part of my childhood, and this new console is fulfilling that old nostalgia while still offering new experiences.  It feels like I’ve been welcomed back as if I’d never parted ways with the company that made up so much of my gaming history.  Even in my brief return to Nintendo’s worlds, their games on the 3DS has been offering me the exact experiences I was hoping for from the Wii.

It remains to be seen if Nintendo and I can build the bridges we had once burned, but with my new 3DS, I’ve got more hope in my once favorite company than I have in half a decade.  May this be the renewal of the treasured experiences Nintendo once offered me, and beyond.

Rose-Tinted Gaming

I had cause to look for my old PS1 memory card recently.  Well, I had lost the card, and wanted to play a PS1 game.  That’s about about as deep as the ’cause’ goes.  Anyways, that set me looking through the house, uncovering all my old stores of games and game supplies.

I’ve got quite a few of them.  Back when I was a youngling, I tended to finance the acquisition of new consoles by trading in everything I had for the old, but every since I got my Nintendo 64, I’ve hoarded all my games and systems jealously.  Adding to that my efforts to regain the games I once had and the various old-school gifts I’ve gotten over the years, my collection now takes up several boxes, most of which currently lies in safe storage in my closet.

Breaking into those boxes brought a wave of quiet nostalgia over me.  Most of these consoles haven’t even been turned on in years, yet the craftsmanship of those days was such that I’m almost positive they all still work.  The games themselves, well, the graphics are nowhere near the level of today’s efforts, the experiences may not be as polished, and the interfaces may not be as user-friendly, but I’ve got a lot of games in that collection that still stand strong in terms of entertainment, and lots of games that have well earned their place in video game history and paved the way for today’s blockbusters.  These were boxes filled with masterpieces, untouched for so long.

It struck me then that the way I approach gaming has changed over the years.  I make my own money now, and don’t have my parents on my back, so I can both buy as many games and play for however long as I think is appropriate.  Yet, though I don’t have those limitations any more, I don’t have such strong memories for as many modern games as I do for these older ones.  Hell, I still remember where I got most of these classic games.  Donkey Kong Country, purchased used at a friend’s garage sale after saving my money up for months.  Mischief Makers, bought at the department store down the mountain, then spending the next week being almost constantly played by a friend and I.  A beat up SNES, a gift along with a Japanese copy of Shin Megami Tensei to keep me occupied for the year I spent as a full-time volunteer.  I can’t even definitively state where I got half the discs in my library, but I have such vibrant memories of most aspects of these games.

Several years ago, I was worried that I wasn’t really appreciating my games, that I had too many that I wasn’t getting the full value out of, and so set out to replay all my games in full, generation by generation.  I’ve been going strong and am currently up to the PS2/GameCube/Xbox gen, but now I’m wondering, with these games being stuck in my closet for so long, if I haven’t been working in the wrong direction.

If you’ll excuse me, I need to go play some games.