I’ve been passingly interested in the Megami Tensei series for a while.

I’ve been a little intimidated by the number of games that may or may not have been translated and all the ports.

I was hoping someone could give me a rundown of the series and where to start, if I should play with fan translations, or whatever else I should know.

I grew up with the nes and snes, so I’m OK with older RPGs and their nuances.

  • Rose Thorne@lemm.ee
    cake
    link
    fedilink
    arrow-up
    9
    ·
    28 days ago

    So, it’s kinda easy, but also kinda difficult.

    There’s multiple sub-series.

    If you want a more traditional game, start with Shin Megami Tensei V, the newest of the mainline series. You’re generally safe just jumping in with the newest entry, they’re not exactly the most heavily connected plots. If you dig it, you can always give the older titles a try!

    They’re turn-based RPGs(with a bit of a twist), but the main gimmick is that you can recruit enemies to come fight for you. Different personalities like different kinds of things, you have to work it out. You also can unlock ways to resummon and fuse demons to make more powerful demons, some of which are bosses(and deities. Like, Yaweh and Lucifer aren’t unfamiliar faces at times in the series).

    SMT: Persona is a sub-series that shares some likeness to the mainline(same demons, demons becoming a form of party member, resummoning and fusing), but takes place in the “modern” world. They also focus heavily on forming bonds with your party mates. While not unfamiliar to the SMT series, the Persona titles really bring it to the forefront.

    Start with 3, 4, or 5. FES(PS2)/The upcoming complete edition for the remake, Golden, and Royal are the “complete” versions of each title, respectively. This is becoming the norm of the series, a base version is released and then an updated version with extra story content is later released.

    If you get really curious, SMT 1 and 2: Innocent Sin/Eternal Punishment(It’s two halves of the story for 2) aren’t unplayable, by any means, but I would recommend having a guide on hand. They’re much less polished than the later titles.

    That’s really the best I can think of for the “default” SMT titles that most would recommend, but other side titles like the Digital Devil Saga games have their own fun twists on the weird world(s) of the SMT series. Just remember that they’re often some form of turn-based gameplay, and when dealing with earlier titles, notoriously difficult/grindy and occasionally obtuse. You’re meant to take advantage of every weakness, exploit every option, but it will be returned onto you. Luck plays a huge factor in a bloodless victory or a total party wipe, though careful planning can give you an edge.

    • M500@lemmy.mlOP
      link
      fedilink
      English
      arrow-up
      3
      ·
      27 days ago

      I think SMT and Persona being different games in the same universe is what is confusing me. Is one series considered better than the other generally? Is there some thing that makes these two series different from each other in some significant way?

      • Rose Thorne@lemm.ee
        cake
        link
        fedilink
        arrow-up
        3
        ·
        26 days ago

        Story and presentation, really. Persona deals with heavy topics, but it’s framed in a more “slice of life” anime way. If you like managing your time with friends, working on “life skills”, and running dungeons, Persona is for you. Most of your problems are focused on the M.Cs main area.

        SMT is more the fight for the world, deciding if you like this framework and want to work within it, or to break it(Where Yaweh and Lucifer can come in! You might fight alongside/against them depending on your choice and game).

  • steeznson@lemmy.world
    link
    fedilink
    arrow-up
    6
    ·
    edit-2
    27 days ago

    I’d say SMT4 on the 3DS is a good starting point if you wanted to dive in head-first to the mainline series. Otherwise maybe Persona 3 Reloaded for the Persona games.

    Edit: A curveball good entry to the series would be Devil Survivor for the Nintendo DS. It’s extremely easy to emulate with modern phones, physical copies are not as expensive as the 3DS games (but still expensive) and there is no region lock on DS so you have some lattitude to shop around if you want to use original hardware. In some ways that game does Persona better than the Persona games do, all while having a classic SMT mainline story of law vs chaos.

    • JayEchoRay@lemmy.world
      link
      fedilink
      English
      arrow-up
      2
      ·
      22 days ago

      I cannot speak on the rest of the series, but I have played devil survivor 1 and 2:

      Devil Survivor 1 does have a bit of a difficulty curve that can take one by surprise with the first major boss and it is like priming the player towards what to expect but its story I personally enjoyed.

      Devil Survivor 2 is lighter in tone, well compared to the Devil Survivor 1, but I felt it was a smoother experience - doesn’t feel as tightly packaged but it does compensate with having a better presentation and provides choice in a lot clearer manner.

      I liked Devil Survivor 1 story better but enjoyed Devil Survivors 2 gameplay more

    • M500@lemmy.mlOP
      link
      fedilink
      English
      arrow-up
      2
      ·
      27 days ago

      Thanks for the recommendation. I was wondering why you recommended SMT4 on 3DS. But I now realize that it is different than persona 4. I guess it is a bit confusing for me still. I think I am more interested in the mainline series. I found an English translation of SMT 1 and 2 for snes.

      How different is Persona from SMT?

      • steeznson@lemmy.world
        link
        fedilink
        arrow-up
        6
        ·
        edit-2
        26 days ago

        Persona is heavier on story, has dating sim elements and operates off a calendar system to progress the story. Hard to explain the calendar system but essentially events are timeboxed and there can be dead time if you finish the main mission quickly. Persona games try to emulate an anime.

        SMT is the original series. Easier to explain: it’s like pokemon with mythological creatures and a light philosophy story. I don’t know if I’d recommend starting with SMT 1 or 2, even if they are arguably some of the best in the series.

        Edit: I also prefer mainline to Persona. Should reiterate that Devil Survivor is definitely worth checking out. Not patient gamers but the new release of SMTV would also be a good starting point.

        SMT1 has a great intro but it is confusing and does not hold your hand. Some mechanics are straight up broken so you can steamroll the game if you know about them (electric bullets). All of the games are like that to some extent. SMT2 is less confusing and might have the best story in the series.

        • M500@lemmy.mlOP
          link
          fedilink
          English
          arrow-up
          1
          ·
          26 days ago

          Thanks! I do not think I’d like Persona, but SMT sounds cool. I like old RPGs, so I am kinda most excited for them.

    • Stern@lemmy.world
      link
      fedilink
      arrow-up
      8
      ·
      27 days ago

      Always felt like the Persona and SMT games were fairly different beasts despite the connection. The daily routine, (and thus time) being a part of Persona means you have to plan ahead a bit more then in SMT where the only decisions you might want to have a save before making are the good/neutral/evil path ones.

  • Eccitaze@yiffit.net
    link
    fedilink
    arrow-up
    4
    ·
    edit-2
    26 days ago

    OK, so I actually know a fair bit about this series since I went through (a good chunk of) it semi-recently myself!

    The mainline SMT games all take place in post-apocalyptic Japan, where your party is yourself, maybe a few other humans, and most importantly, demons that you recruit, level up, and combine together to make new, more powerful ones. Like someone else said, SMT is sort of like Pokemon, but instead of fighting with cute electric rats and furry bait, you fight alongside various mythological figures (…and furry bait). The SNES games are first-person, grid-based dungeon crawlers, but later games largely drop the grid-based aspect.

    Anyway, I started out with Shin Megami Tensei 1 on the SNES. It was pretty darn enjoyable, though I used a walkthrough–if you play the SNES games, I strongly recommend doing this, because both games are basically one giant labyrinth with an overworld. A walkthrough is pretty much mandatory to navigate which demons are worth recruiting and merging together, and to find the various secrets and treasures scattered throughout the world. A nice thing about the first game is that the level scaling is well-paced; as long as you don’t run away from battles and are smart about your recruitment and demon fusions, you should generally be able to keep up with the power level of your enemies.

    As for SMT 2… well, it spikes the difficulty up much higher than the first game. to the point where I actually wound up giving up about 10-15 hours in, even with a walkthrough and using save states. I had reached a point where the enemies were outleveling my demons and killing them over and over, I couldn’t easily afford to revive them, and I was having trouble recruiting new demons to merge with my existing party into more powerful ones–there were multiple instances where even when I used save states to explore the demon’s entire recruitment dialogue tree, it either took my valuable items/money and ran away, or attacked me. Forced to choose between sitting and grinding for at least 5-10 hours, or moving on, I moved on.

    SMT 3 on the PS2 is the first real “modern” shin megami tensei game, and it introduces the press turn mechanic that forms the core of the mainline SMT series from that point on. Press turns work by giving each side a number of actions they can take based on how many members are in the party–in other words, if you have 4 members active in the party, you have 4 actions. If you hit an enemy’s elemental weakness, you’re given bonus actions you can take (up to a max of 2x your base actions), and if you miss an enemy, or attack them with an element they nullify, reflect, or absorb, you lose turns. Crucially, this also applies to your opponents as well, making combat tense, tactical, and deep: your demon is the only one that uses ice magic, which the enemy is weak to, but your demon is weak to lightning and the enemy can use that element. Do you switch out this demon to cover your own weakness, or keep it in to better exploit the enemy’s weakness? Remember, if the demon dies, you not only have to spend a turn summoning a replacement, but your baseline actions go from 4 to 3, so you’re penalized twice.

    Admittedly, I didn’t play SMT 3 myself, because it has That One Fucking Spell called Beast Eye, which is something only opposing demons can use, and spends a single action to grant the AI two turns (or Dragon Eye, which grants four turns). This gives SMT 3 a reputation for being incredibly difficult, even by the standards of SMT, and frankly I had no appetite for that after having just given up on SMT 2 over difficulty. That said, everybody I speak to who has played SMT 3 says that it’s one of the best RPGs on the PS2, however, so it’s still highly recommended, and later games mercifully got rid of Beast/Dragon Eye.

    SMT 4 is… odd. It starts out looking like a much more generic fantasy setting, but it most assuredly is not. It’s good, but it also very clearly is straining against the limits of the system it’s on. SMT 4 Apocalypse is also extremely good, and I would suggest playing SMT 4 just to play SMT 4 Apocalypse. I won’t say too much about SMT 5 except to note that it’s also good and I recommend it strongly.

    There’s also Persona. Where SMT is a post-apocalyptic dungeon crawler, Persona (at least from 3 onwards) focuses much more heavily on time management. You play as a Japanese high school student in Persona, so a lot of your activities are based around juggling a schedule: attending classes, going to after-school activities, working part-time jobs, spending time with your various party members to build relationships, and saving the world in between. Persona is also different in that instead of having mythological figures fight alongside you as distinct party members, they’re instead Personas that act more like Stands from JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure–they just give humans the ability to cast magic. Notably, the main character is typically the only one who can change their persona-- your companions all have their own persona, but they’re stuck with the one they have, which conveniently gives them their own static elemental strengths/weaknesses and roles. The other big difference is that (up until Persona 5) the main dungeons were more roguelike, procedurally-generated designs, than the static designs of mainline SMT.

    If you decide to play Persona, I’d start with Persona 3–either Reload (the recent remaster) or Persona 3 Portable (which has some extra content like that wasn’t included with the remaster for some godforsaken reason). DO NOT start with Persona 5 like I did–to be blunt, it’s way more polished than 3 or 4, and it’ll be hard to go back and enjoy the previous games afterwards. You can also technically start with Persona 1 and 2, but they’re waaay different than the later entries–they lack the time management/dating sim aspect entirely, and honestly there isn’t a whole lot of reason to play them unless you wanna beat the shit out of Hitler for some reason.

    • steeznson@lemmy.world
      link
      fedilink
      arrow-up
      4
      ·
      26 days ago

      I don’t think 3 is that hard if you are familiar with Press Turn but the Matador fight is a filter for people who have not learned buffs/debuffs. All of the games tend to get easier as you progress.

    • shikitohno@lemm.ee
      link
      fedilink
      arrow-up
      3
      ·
      26 days ago

      The mainline SMT games all take place in post-apocalyptic Japan

      Almost all, except for the oddball that is Strange Journey, taking place in post-apocalyptic Antarctica, instead. It has a lot of elements that differ from other Mainline entries, but Atlus treated it as such and acknowledged it with the recent Mainline 25th anniversary celebrations. I really enjoyed it and think it’s worth a playthrough, but it may not be the best starting point. I also don’t know how the remake holds up, I’ve read complaints about changes online, but SMT fans can be a bit touchy about their favorite games.

      SMT 4 is… odd. It starts out looking like a much more generic fantasy setting, but it most assuredly is not. It’s good, but it also very clearly is straining against the limits of the system it’s on. SMT 4 Apocalypse is also extremely good, and I would suggest playing SMT 4 just to play SMT 4 Apocalypse. I won’t say too much about SMT 5 except to note that it’s also good and I recommend it strongly.

      I’ll disagree on this one and just add that not everyone who enjoyed 4 found Apocalypse to be that good. From what I saw, people that really just love the battle system and doing things like building out the perfect team for tackling boss rushes and insanely challenging super bosses really enjoyed it. If you go in expecting more of SMT IV’s world and story, you may well be disappointed by it. I found the characters to be unlikeable, personally, and it seemed like an unnecessary rehashing of the story. I also recall some unavoidable boss rushes in the main story that made certain areas really grindy and killed my enjoyment for a good while.

      Otherwise, I would say a pretty decent write up here.

      • Eccitaze@yiffit.net
        link
        fedilink
        arrow-up
        1
        ·
        edit-2
        26 days ago

        For what it’s worth, this was largely my own opinion, and on a personal level, I found 4 to be enjoyable, if vaguely bland, while Apocalypse was the first mainline SMT game whose story and characters I legitimately enjoyed and found engaging, even while I was insulting Asahi every time she opened her goddamn mouth. Yeah, the game falls victim to the whole “this entire mess would have never happened if the main characters weren’t fucking idiots” syndrome, but at least I felt something while the plot was happening, which is more than I could say about SMT 1, 2, & 4 and their cardboard cutout characters with the depth of a sheet of paper. (Not to say that I didn’t enjoy SMT 4’s story at all, I found the world and overall plot engaging. But the character writing and dialogue is some of the weakest I’ve ever seen, and I’ve read bad fanfiction. I’ve written bad fanfiction.)

  • Exeous@lemmy.world
    link
    fedilink
    arrow-up
    4
    ·
    28 days ago

    Persona now very popular. I read digital devil saga good. Other game is soul hackers?

    I think the newer games better to play first.