Important Importables: Shin Megami Tensei

November 14, 2009 - 3:00 am No Comments

Hot Japanese Imports: Shin Megami Tensei

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Shin Megami Tensei Super Famicom SNESWhen people think of the Shin Megami Tensei series started by Atlus, they probably first think of the PlayStation versions of Revelations: Persona or Persona 2 as the start of the series. It isn’t their fault, really. After all, for people in North America, that was probably their first encounter with Shin Megami Tensei.

However, the series has been along for much longer than that. It all began with Megami Tensei, which eventually underwent a slight title change and became Shin Megami Tensei. There are entries in the series going back as far as the Famicom, and in Japan the series considered as mainstream as Final Fantasy. Unfortunately, people outside of Japan will never get the opportunity to play through the older entries, unless there’s some sort of port or remake, which is unlikely due to the age of some of the older entries.

Today in Hot Japanese Imports, we’ll look back at the surprisingly long history of the Shin Megami Tensei games, taking a brief overview of all of the entries in the series. Please bear in mind though, that more recent entries will probably have more detailed descriptions than the older ones.

Megami Tensei / Shin Megami Tensei

While all of the Shin Megami Tensei series and its offshoots tend to get tagged with the Shin Megami Tensei moniker in North America, in Japan only the main series and the miscellaneous offshoots are branded with it.

The earliest games were first person dungeon crawlers and, of course, had the trademark demon partnering system that has appeared in some shape or form in all Shin Megami Tensei games. They also tend to take into account player’s choices to shape the course of the game, take place in either modern times or the future and often have a plot that involves saving the world.

The first Megami Tensei games were made by Namco, and not Atlus. Atlus took over the series with Shin Megami Tensei. Also Shin Megami Tensei: If… is the predecessor to the Persona spinoff series.

These are the main Megami Tensei and Shin Megami Tensei games that have been released:

  • Digital Devil Story: Megami Tensei (Famicom)
  • Digital Devil Story: Megami Tensei II (Famicom)
  • Shin Megami Tensei (Super Famicom, Sega CD, PlayStation, GBA)
  • Shin Megami Tensei II (Super Famicom, PlayStation, GBA)
  • Shin Megami Tensei: If… (Super Famicom, PlayStation) Note: It is the predecessor to the Persona series.
  • Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne (PS2) Note: It was the first entry in the Shin Megami Tensei line released in North America and had Devil May Cry‘s Dante cameo appearance.
  • Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey (DS) Note: A US release has just been confirmed.

Persona 3 Portable box art cover


The Persona is probably the Shin Megami Tensei branch best known outside of Japan. There have been five entries in this series, and while they the originals featured the first person dungeon crawling and demon negotiation, the series has progressed to focus on high schoolers who suddenly develop the ability to use Personas, who resemble many of the demons from the other games, to save the world.

North America has actually seen releases of all the Persona games so far, with the exception of one, Persona 2: Innocent Sin. Given the popularity of the franchise, perhaps we’ll one day see that game in English as well.

These are the Persona games that have been released:

  • Revelations: Persona/Shin Megami Tensei: Persona (PlayStation, PSP)
  • Persona 2: Innocent Sin (PlayStation) Note: This is the only Persona game to never receive an English release.
  • Persona 2: Eternal Punishment (PlayStation)
  • Persona 3 (PS2, PSP)
  • Persona 4 (PS2)

Devil Summoner

The Devil Summoner Shin Megami Tensei spinoff series has seen a North American release as well, but hasn’t achieved the same level of fame. It technically began life as an official part of the main Shin Megami Tensei series, but then developed into its own spin-off series.

The Devil Summoner games all share some common themes – they’re set in modern, or close to modern, Japan and typically follow the adventures of a main detective protagonist with the ability to summon and talk to demons, who’s investigating some kind of dire misuse of demons. The first two games didn’t get released outside of Japan, and the second two games did.

These are the Devil Summoner games that have been released:

  • Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner (Sega Saturn, PSP)
  • Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers (Sega Saturn, PlayStation)
  • Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner: Raidou Kuzunoha vs. The Soulless Army (PS2) Note: This was the first Devil Summoner game to be released in English.
  • Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner: Raidou Kuzunoha vs. King Abaddon (PS2)

Revelations: The Demon Slayer

Megami Tensei Gaiden: Last Bible

The Megami Tensei Gaiden: Last Bible series are the most distantly related to the other games in the Shin Megami Tensei family. They are RPGs, but typically take place in a fantasy setting, have players recruiting and fusing monsters instead of demons and are created for a wider audience that includes children. Basically, they’re toned down versions of the main series of games.

Here’s a list of all the Last Bible games released.

  • Megami Tensei Gaiden: Last Bible/Revelations: The Demon Slayer (Game Boy, GBC, Game Gear) Note: It is the only Last Bible game that was released in English.
  • Megami Tensei Gaiden: Last Bible II (Game Boy, GBC)
  • Another Bible (Game Boy)
  • Megami Tensei Gaiden: Last Bible III (Super Famicom)
  • Last Bible Special (Game Gear)

Majin Tensei

This Japan-only Shin Megami Tensei series spin-off is basically a look at what would happen if Fire Emblem combined with Shin Megami Tensei. It’s a strategic RPG that involves the player hiring, fusing and battling with demons instead of typical strategic RPG units. None of the games ever received an English-language release, but both recently had PC versions released.

There are the Majin Tensei games available:

  • Majin Tensei (Super Famicom, Windows PC)
  • Majin Tensei: Spiral Nemesis (Super Famicom, Windows PC)

GBA DemiKids Light Version

Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Children

Similar to the Last Bible series, Devil Children is another all ages spin-off of Shin Megami Tensei. The main entries in the series are very similar to Pokemon and Digimon, revolving around heroes and heroines who are half human, half demon and recruit, raise and battle monsters. Also, like Digimon and Pokemon, there are multiple variations of the same game.

The series is so popular in Japan that inspired two anime and two manga series.

Here are the Devil Children games you can find:

  • Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Children Black Book, White Book and Red Book (GBC, PlayStation)
  • Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Children Light Book and Dark Book/DemiKids: Light and Dark (GBA) Note: This is the only entry in the Devil Children series to be released in English.
  • Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Children: Puzzle de Call! (GBA) Note: Unlike the other Devil Children games, this is a puzzle game.
  • Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Children Fire Book and Ice Book (GBA)
  • Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Children: Messiah Riser (GBA) Note: This entry is a strategic RPG.

Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga

The Digital Devil Saga games are RPGs like the majority of Shin Megami Tensei games, but this spin-off series has some unique hallmarks. Characters transform into a demon form, rather than being able to have demons fight at their side and be fused. The game also takes place far in the future, after the apocolyse, and focuses on the battle among tribes fighting to try and reach Nirvana.

There are two Digital Devil Saga games available, and both received US releases:

  • Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga (PS2)
  • Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga 2 (PS2)

Virtual Boy Jack Bros

Miscellaneous spin-offs

There have been many Shin Megami Tensei spin-offs, but most of them have ended up as one-shot deals and didn’t spawn a series like Persona or Devil Summoner. Since they don’t really fit into the other three categories all that well, it’s easier to just place them here. Most are RPGs of some sort, like the Shin Megami Tensei staples, but occasionally there will be one that slips into another genre, like strategic RPG or action.

These are the rest of the Shin Megami Tensei games that have been released:

  • Jack Bros. no Meiro de Hiho/Jack Bros. (Virtual Boy)
  • Shin Megami Tensei: NINE (Xbox)
  • Megami Tensei Online Imagine/Shin Megami Tensei: Imagine (Windows PC)
  • Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor (DS)

COMING NEXT WEEK: Hot Japanese Imports reviews the DC-IE Import Enabler for the Dreamcast.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Last weekHot Japanese Imports listed 100 interesting games you can only play if you import in honor of its 100th column.

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Full Story » | Written by Jenni Lada for Gamertell. | Comment on this Article »

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