Atlus, to most of you, is the company that made “Trauma Centre” games for your D.S. or Wii. Some of you might be familiar with a little known R.P.G. of theirs. Apparently, they’ve been developing this long running series that is pretty big in Japan, and has just started making its public appearance here as of last generation’s P.S.2 and Gameboy Advance games.
I only heard about Shin Megami Tensei when two friends of mine, total fanatics about the series, started flaring up and hype-mongering all over the place when Persona 3 and 4 released here. The thing about the characters pointing guns at their head to cast magic was kind of wonky, but I guess it’s the shock value of it that attracted at least part of its fan-base.
(Example of S.M.T.:Persona 3 game-play, without a translation)
Looking back, I can see why it never really caught on. It plunks you into a “real-life” scenario, which you have to balance with a night-life of slaying monsters and generally being a super-hero with your “Personae,” aspects of your personality that manifest as creatures from ancient myths and legends. It’s like playing two completely different games that influence each other, and have a common element that affects both. The playstation consoles just doesn’t have the audience for that type of game. Nintendo gamers are definitely the type to handle more “Harvest Moon” style game-play of balancing simmy situations, in combination with old-school NES-style turn-based R.P.G.-ing hearkening back to the 8-and 16-bit R.P.G.s. The playstation consoles never existed during the 8- and 16- bit era, so naturally the the concept of a turn-based battle system, let alone the “Press-Turn” battle system implemented by Atlus, is lost on the audience of ACTION-NOW games such as Bayonetta and Grand Theft Auto, and as a result, no S.M.T. released outside of Japan has sold even 1 million copies, even on the most popular playstation systems.
The S.M.T. series started way back on the Nintendo Entertainment System with “Megami Tensei,” which roughly translates as “Goddess Metempsychosis.” The “Shin” in the titles of the later games, by the way, can be taken as “New” or “True.” Metempsychosis is sort of another term for resurrection or when someone’s mind is reborn into a new body. This is an important aspect of S.M.T. games, as they encourage you to combine your minions or Personae, depending on which game you’re playing, to make them into more powerful hybrids.
(An example of SMT1 running with an English translation patch)
(An example of SMT2 running with an English translation patch)
S.M.T. could potentially die out here to Western audiences, since Atlus has put out only a couple of portable games this generation, and seems to have little faith in the series in the West, especially when compared to their Trauma Centre releases here. For the P.S.P., we know that the system has pretty much been dead for the past couple of years, while for the D.S., it’s difficult to enjoy success with a monster-training game on the same system that has the Pokémon main-series titles on it. There’s no reason that the Nintendo Wii, this generation’s most popular TV-console worldwide in-case-you-didn’t-know, shouldn’t get some full-on S.M.T. love, since the Pokémon company has already stated that they’re staying away from putting their main series games on non-portables. Sounds like a wide-open door for Atlus to make 70 million new fans of their long-running franchise.
(SMT3: Nocturne for PS2)
A Shin Megami Tensei 4 Wii would ideally be a well developed, hard-core catered R.P.G. like the runaway success that is Monster Hunter 3. Promoted like Monster Hunter 3, it could sell to R.P.G. fans in the same way that Mario sells to platforming fans. Such a game would follow the main series storyline of a progressively more devastated world and the war between Law and Chaos, Light and Darkness. Gamers can look forward to pure exploration, mapping out dungeons, battling angels and demons, and taking on crazy-powerful beings to shape the story and go after multiple-endings.
(SMT: Persona 4 trailer for PS2. Although the best selling one, it still only reached 500’000 sales in total. A remake or new iteration for the Wii would reach a much bigger audience and would easily surpass a mere half-million sales, especially with the brand recognition Atlus built up from their previous DS and Wii games. They’re practically a second party with those.)
A Persona 5 Wii would introduce 70-million gamers to the world of Shin Megami Tensei through something a bit less intense than a regular S.M.T. Casual gamers would feel comfortable with the modern setting breaking the up the intensity of the dungeon crawls, whereas hardcore players could micromanage their social links and persona fusion to their hearts’ content. Meanwile, long-time Nintendo (and Sega) gamers would thrive in both aspects of the game, a-la Rune Factory Frontier.
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