General Megaten Overview
Welcome to Digital Devil Database, a fansite for all your MegaTen needs. What is MegaTen? Well, it's shortened form of Megami Tensei, a videogame series with titles and spin-offs across all sorts of systems. "Megami Tensei" translates to "Goddess Metempsychosis", which is basically a fancier version of "Goddess Reincarnation".
This includes titles such as the original Megami Tensei games, the following Shin Megami Tensei titles (most recently including Nocturne), the Persona spin-offs and many, many others. For more specific information on each series or game, head on over to their corresponding pages in the Games section. More will be added as time allows, so keep checking. In the meantime, here's some general information that focuses largely on the series' US counterparts.
Digital Devil Monogatori: Megami Tensei got its start in 1987 on the MSX computer system thanks to Nihon Telenet. If you've not heard of the hardware, don't worry, because it never really was popular outside of Japan. The game itself was an action game similar in concept to Gauntlet. Within a few months it was ported to two other even more obscure computer systems. Thanks to Namcot (the then home division of Namco) a RPG version of the title was brought over to Nintendo's Famicom. At this point, MegaTen became a largely console specific franchise, with the sequel to Namcot's Digital Devil Monogatori: Megami Tensei releasing exclusively on the Famicom in 1990.
The original two Megami Tensei titles were based on a series of novels known as, unsurprisingly, Digital Devil Story. There are several of these novels, all written by Aya Nishitani. Unfortunately, little specific information on them exists in English. However, the general idea taken from the books and utilized in the games themselves is based within a modern day Japan, plagued by the supernatural. The occult is apparently very prevalent and demons extremely common thanks to some strange computer software. While the reliance on computers in the stories of the various MegaTen related games varies on a case to case basis, the occult, religious and demonic influences remain. These components pretty much make up every MegaTen related game, which has allowed it to stay rather unique compared to most Japanese RPGs which traditionally focus more on fantasy.
Following these titles, Atlus acquired the rights to the series from Namco. The reasons as to how and why are things I've still been unable to discover. Further additions to the series were entitled Shin Megami Tensei (meaning "True Goddess Ressurection") and first appeared on the Super Famicom in 1992. These titles no longer based themselves upon the novels and instead formed their own history. Under Atlus, the MegaTen line expanded heavily over the years through sequels and spin-offs on almost every imaginable system of importance in Japan (although like many RPG makers, Atlus moved away from Nintendo's systems and focused mostly on Sony's since the Playstation era). The most popular of these spin-offs is likely the three Megami Ibunroku Persona titles.
The first appearance of the MegaTen franchise in the United States was in Jack Bros. for Nintendo's Virtual Boy system in 1995. Unlike most of its RPG predecessors, Jack Bros. was an action platform game starting Jack Frost and a few of his friends. This was followed a year later by Persona: Revelations, a translation of Megami Ibunroku Persona: Be Your True Mind. Despite the horrendous localization (which went far beyond a simple translation), the game retained many of its good qualities. "Revelations" was apparently Atlus USA's attempt to form some sort of franchise around the various MegaTen titles so that they would feel more interrelated than they actually were. However, Atlus seemingly gave up on the idea: the only other game released under the "Revelations" title was Revelations: The Demon Slayer for the Game Boy Color in 1999 (which was, in actuality, a translation of Megami Tensei Gaiden: Last Bible). Maken X: Deus Ex Machina, a first person sword-based action-adventure game, was released that same year for the Dreamcast in the United States. The game has little reference to its parent franchise, although the connections are there. A large portion of the games graphics were altered for US release, as many of the enemy characters featured Nazi symbols.
Things stayed quiet on the US front until the announcement of Persona 2: Eternal Punishment. In Japan, this was the second half of the Persona 2 story; the first half being contained in Innocent Sin, which was never officially localized. The Revelations descriptor was not used for this title. Rumors abounded about the US release of Innocent Sin, including one that stated Working Designs was interested in the product (although the head of the company is said to have been apalled by the content of the series and didn't want his company to have anything to do with it). Unfortunately, nothing ever came of these rumors. Reasons as to why are really all assumptions and guesses, although the game is certainly more risqué than Eternal Punishment in a variety of ways, involving the resurrection of Hitler, among other things. Considering Atlus USA's changes to Maken X's Nazi references, this was likely the biggest reason it stayed in Japan.
Atlus USA's interest in MegaTen seems to have risen more recently. They localized two of the Japanese Digital Devil Children titles in the US for the Game Boy Advance under the names Demikids: Light Version and Demikids: Dark Version. These games bear a strong resemblance to Nintendo's Pokemon titles (although Pokemon arguably was heavily influenced by MegaTen's usage of recruitment and summoning of demons.).
They have also released the first MegaTen game on US shores that wasn't a spin-off in 2004: Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne, a localized version of Japan's Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne Maniacs (the first real sequel to the series in several years). Another spin-off, entitled Digital Devil Saga was released shortly thereafter. Released in two interconnected parts, Digital Devil Saga is perhaps best known for its increased production values over Nocturne, featuring an abundance of voice work and cutscenes.
Atlus is set to release Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner in the final quarter of 2006. The game was titled Devil Summoner: Kuzunoha Raidou tai Chouryoku Heidan in Japan. The title change is part of Atlus USA's decision to form a Shin Megami Tensei based franchise and seems to be applied to related games to keep things a bit more consistant. Seeing as though this is the very first Devil Summoner title to release in the West, it won't cause any problems.
Persona 3 is the most recent addition to the MegaTen world, hitting the PS2 during the Summer of 2007. Atlus USA showed this game off at E3 2006 in its Japanese form, pretty much guaranteeing its eventual US appearance. As Persona has more history in the West than any other MegaTen related series, Persona 3 is probably the most anticipated of the two upcoming releases.
The future bodes well for MegaTen titles on both sides of the world. In terms of the future, PSP and Nintendo DS MegaTen titles have been announced or alluded to, but no further information has been given. In addition, a new Shin Megami Tensei title was announced at a conference for the PlayStation 3. However, when we'll hear more about that is completely unknown as well.
In any case, the future bodes well for MegaTen fans. Atlus Co, Ltd. is still putting out interesting entries in the series and Atlus USA seems more receptive to these titlas than ever before.