December 20, 2014

[Game 048] Digital Devil Story: Megami Tensei (NES - 1987) (SNES Remake)

Translation by DDSTranslation

Normally when I decide to do a remake, it's a game that I've played before and only if it's a 16-bit remake of the 8-bit original.  In this case, about a month after this translation was released, one was also released for the Famicom version.  However, as this remake contains the first two Megami Tensei games and there is no telling if and when the second original game will get translated, I'll just be going with the remake.  Plus, with this version, the characters can be carried over to the second game, which is always hot for a cartridge.  I'm sure it'll just carry over the names while resetting the stats, but I do know that some additional content gets unlocked this way.  DDS:MT is based off a series of novels involving a young genius who programs his computer to summon demons in order to get the revenge on a high school bully.  Something goes wrong and all sorts of devils are released, including such biggies as Loki, Set, and Lucifer.  The young hero and his female companion (who is the reincarnation of a goddess) must battle said devils and all their minions while also convincing the lesser demons to join their cause against their masters.  Yes, instead of generating party members yourself, the player must convince the enemies in the game to turncoat.

For now though, it's just me and my little Gummy.

The game ostensibly takes place entirely within a first-person dungeon crawl framework, like Wizardry, and, figuring that any self-respecting demon wouldn't listen to a couple of level 1 punks, we decided to grind out a few levels before even attempting communication.  When we finally did attempt to parlay, we were surprised to find a multitude of choices: offer a gift, soothe, persuade, and intimidate.  Some of these options led to a sub-menu with even more choices.  Demons give positive or negative feedback based on the choices made and, so far, always ends with us having to offer a gift of some kind.

This sweetheart just wanted a bunch of macca (golds).

Demons aren't just one dimensional representatives of hell, either; they have their own alignment system as well (good, neutral, evil).  So far, evil demons are unrecruitable; they can't be reasoned with, it seems (makes sense).  Perhaps when Gummers and I gain more strength, we'll be able to intimidate them into submission.  Until then, we'll have to be content to have a bunch of neutrals and goods on our side.  Also influencing the chance of successfully recruiting a demon is the current phase of the moon; the more full the moon is, the more difficult it is to gain a demon's allegiance (a full moon gives no chance at all).  I can maintain having up to four daemons while exploring with another three stored in my compie.  Summoning a demon from storage always costs macca, the total depending on how powerful it is.  But that's not the only resource one must consider when handling yo demons, oh no.  DDS:MT kicks it up a notch by introducing the concept of magnetite, which essentially fuels the demons while they exist in the "real" world.  This resource drains with each step and scales up by both the number of demons as well as how powerful each individual is.  Keeping a full roster of one's most powerful demons comes at a cost and careful party management becomes that much more critical.  Magnetite is rewarded through encounters just like macca and XP are, but only from certain creatures.  XP only applies to Gumpus and I; demons never gain levels.  This forces an ever-shifting party composition as older allies wear out their usefulness.

Poor Gnomer here can only withstand
two solid hits with a soft pillow.

As if all this configurability wasn't enough already, another feature allows the fusing of two demons to form a new one.  Old friends aren't merely trashed like last night's tofu stir-fry.  Rather, they are given one last chance to serve their benevolent and good-looking overlord by engaging in sleazy daemonic coitus.  This is all done at the Cathedral of Shadows at the town, unsurprisingly overseen by some old priest.

Fyuuuuuu-jon — HA!

The beginning tower, Daedalus, consists of eight floors (the top floor being the town) and downward progress was slow but enjoyable.  The encounter rate was high but with the frequent changes in party composition, it never got too old.  Many demons come with spells, which have nonsensical names, and those are fun to experiment with.  There is no shortcut back to the town (at least until the tower boss is defeated), so there is lots of returning to town to heal everyone up.  Thankfully, Guminator can cast spells as well (unlike me), and has been the main source of healing for the group.  All this backtracking through the easier levels left lots of time to have some deep discussions about the nuanced differences between human and demon philosophy with my minions (I'd interact more with Gumdrop, but all she talks about is chocolate and Hello Kitty™ and chocolate Hello Kitties).  This caused quite the deficit in my stock of magnetite.  Not wanting to have to unsummon my chat partners, I decided to disregard my advice about good party management and grind out a bunch of magnetite.  Loot is static dependent on creature type and there are also static encounters placed in particular rooms, which regenerate even if one leaves and then immediately re-enters.  I picked one such place and settled in for a good ol' fashion grind session, by gar!  The demon turned out to be another eerie parallel to the first Wizardry.

Long lost cousin to Murphy?

With magnetite overflowing out of our pockets, we continued battling our down through the tower.  The combat system has a few interesting aspects not often seen.  The biggest being that the player cannot assign targets for any party member's attacks; each attack picks a target at random.  This means that larger groups of enemies are exponentially more dangerous as each individual's chance to survive a round increases.  This also makes group attack spells more valuable, as well as spells that cause turns to be wasted, such as sleep and confusion.  Another cool battle mechanic is that every non-group attack, whether it be physical or magical, has a chance to strike twice.  This doesn't replace critical hits as they are present as well.  Battles feel very chaotic and frenzied when there are many participants on each side and I revel in cheering on my daemons as they smash and annihilate their former brethren.

Cancer will hopefully finish off that weak red orc.

An encounter doesn't always mean direct combat, however; if I already own a demon of the same type as encountered, I can choose to give peace a chance and both sides will go their own way.  Heck, sometimes the other demons will even give me a token amount of macca; I guess it's their way of showing approval for us bridging the human/demon cultural gap.  Most demons aren't as progressive as those ones, though, especially not the boss of Daedalus tower, the dreaded Minotaur.

Br...brats?  *sniff*  You know, sometimes
words can hurt just as much as weapons.

After his defeat, we were rewarded with the oddly named Sphere of Silence, which unlocks the elevator for the entire tower.  From here, there is a long passageway leading to the next area, which we've been told connects to a floating city.  Sounds pretty boss, and we've got a lot of macca on hand to spend.  Hopefully there's a nice restaurant that caters to demons as well, since I'd like to reward my friends for their admirable performances thus far.