[Warning: this article spoils the entirety of Shin Megami Tensei 1. If you are new to the series or looking for an overview of the series as a whole, read this before this specific piece. It'll help introduce you to the franchise's overarching concepts before seeing their original interpretations as presented in Shin Megami Tensei 1.]
“By these names then, and by all the other holy names of God before whom no man can stand and live, and which names the armies of the demons fear, tremble at, and shudder; we conjure ye, we potently exorcise and command ye, conjuring ye in addition by the terrible and tremendous paths of God and by his holy habitation wherein he reigneth and commandeth unto the eternal ages. Amen.” – The Key of Solomon, Chapter VI, translated by S. Liddell MacGregor Mathers
Shin Megami Tensei is a bit of an odd duck in regards to the JRPG genre. Unlike its contemporaries (Final Fantasy V, Dragon Quest V, Romancing SaGa, Lunar: The Silver Star), it isn’t a game defined by its combat and character building nor an intricate, detailed narrative. Outside of the demon collecting, it’s a standard Wizardry-style JRPG, and the plot isn’t intrusive nor the writing especially deep. Very little about it couldn’t have been done on the previous generation of hardware. What makes Shin Megami Tensei notable is its atmosphere; the bleakness hanging over its head and the dreamlike trance enveloping the world. This tone turns what would have been a bland post-apocalyptic hero’s journey into something much more: a journey within the self, where the prize is true happiness and man is beset from all sides by the destructive facets of his mind. This is a game about enlightenment. Continue reading
Freedom Ain’t Free is an irregular column for impressions from open betas and Steam free weekends. These aren’t full reviews, and, since these are often multiplayer games, it can be hard to compare their userbases during free periods to their general populace. These are just impression pieces based off of what the developers show off during these free windows.
Ace of Spades didn’t get much press, for a few reasons. It’s easy to look at its aesthetic and dismiss it as merely being Minecraft-with-guns, and it’s also easy to see Runescape developer Jagex’s name on the credits and think that they’re making another simulacratic game to cash in on what’s big at the moment.
Despite these factors, Ace of Spades manages to be a fun, light variation on classic FPS game modes thanks to its focus on terrain deformation. It lacks the balance of Team Fortress 2 and the scale of Battlefield, keeping it from the realm of serious tactical play, but there’s a lot of enjoyment to get out of it in the right modes, with the right people. Continue reading
Playing Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 as a young teenager was the only event in my gaming career I’d describe as truly “formative.” I was a child, born and raised in the Bible Belt; I had little comprehension of the issues I’d face in the real world. The mechanics of gender and sexuality, religious self-questioning, and the desire to find a future for myself were flitting in and out of my mind. Here was a Japanese RPG that integrated each of these elements of the teenage life into a fantastic narrative with fun combat. So began my love affair with Atlus’ Shin Megami Tensei franchise. Continue reading
Visiting the nigh-barren fields of Haven & Hearth feels akin to traipsing through the abandoned, monochrome cities of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. There is life there, going on as it always will, but the life that shaped the land, the humans that put hand to wood and stone to make homes and mines, has left. Only fifty or sixty players remain; I’ve yet to find anyone else in my travels, outside of the three friends I’ve been working alongside. Only one of them had previous experience here, having played it in its heyday around 2008 and 2009. Continue reading