Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga
Shin Megami Tensei is a series that isn’t very known over here but in its Eastern place of birth it’s gotten a cult status, not in the least because this series of succesful RPG’s leaves the usual paths of blond heroes with a sexual identity crisis, but has an oversized sword annex fallus symbol to compensate.
Also Digital Devil Saga doesn’t hesitate to take a starting point that many of you wouldn’t immediately see as… comfy. Cannibalism is what it’s all about! Not only will you eat people, also worms, flying flyers and slippery swimmers will see your inside. To reassure the concerned moms: this is indeed not a game to put under the Christmas tree.
Who followed my advise to buy Shin Megami Tensei: Lucifer’s Call will be happy to see that a lot of positive elements make their comeback eventhough the storyline nor the setting have anything to do with its predecessor. Think of the special visual style, the typical atmosphere that the world is going to pieces and the many references to religion, filosophy and drama. Qua design of the characters and surroundings the game stands firm with inspired enemies, maps that offer a mix of technology and Indian designs and demonic forms you wish you could come up with them yourself.
Place of all this goodness is this time the Junkyard, a post-apocalyptic pile of garbage where several factions battle for what’s left, in the hopes to reach Nirvana through the local Karma Temple. You’re Serph, the leader of the Embryon Clan, one of the many groups, and during a battle with a rival gang suddenly a strange beying pops up and infects everyone with a demonic power. A very hungry power as minutes later everyone is capable of taking on a devilish form and starts eating!
This eating has a bigger role than filling the stomach. Sera, a girl that turns up after all this, seems to have the key for the mystery of this happening. Quickly all tribes get one message: who succeeds in eating the other factions and enters the temple with Sera will be allowed to get into Nirvana. An eating contest so to speak, but a little different!
If we put the strange setting aside, we find a very surprising and pretty classic turn-based RPG as we know it so well from Lucifer’s Call and countless other RPG’s. More interesting are the skill trees that you can build up (completely free) by buying different mantras. Each mantra allows you to learn Elemental Spells, attacks and magic. Special is that to level up you need to eat, and by doing that you better not completely kill the opposition but kick their ass just good enough that you can start dining.
As said, the combat isn’t realtime, but sufficiently challenging and exciting so they don’t become a drag. You’ll have to think strategically; using the right skills, think about the opponent’s weaknesses and know how to block certain attacks are things you can’t ignore if you want to see the end of this game. That taking on a demonic form gives the gameplay some extra spice is something I probably shouldn’t tell you.
And that’s good as you’ll spend tons of time on the battlefield! Probably also immediately one of the biggest downpoints of the game; sometimes it takes too long before something happens and the story continues.
The story is facinating, grown up, told with strong voice-acting and quite different from what we’re used to, a reason an sich to finish the over 35 hours of playing this game offers. Only too bad that the pieces of info are scarse and that lovers of many and long cutscenes will remain on their hunger (get it?). Also prepare for a cliffhanger as the story gets a tail in the successor.
Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga is a game that will certainly not appeal to everyone. The strange and atypical setting, the many fighting (with a good and satisfying system) and the little cutscenes will require some getting used to from most fans of Japanese RPG’s. To counter that you get very solid gameplay, a surprising and very different experience, beautiful music and strong voice-acting as well as a beautiful graphical and creative design. A must have for those looking for more: dinner is served!