Inside Pulse 12

Diehard GameFAN Hall of Fame Nomination: Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga

Every week, we will present a new game to be nominated for the Diehard GameFAN Hall of Fame and Hall of Shame. These nominations will occur every Monday and Friday, respectively. Our standards are just like the Baseball Hall of Fame: every game will be voted on by members of the staff, and any game that gets 75% of the vote – with a minimum of four votes – will be accepted – or thrown – into their respective Hall.

Game: Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga
Developer: Atlus
Publisher: Atlus
Release Date: 4/5/2005
System Released On: PlayStation 2
Genre: Role Playing Game

Who Nominated The Game: Digital Devil Saga was our Game of the Year for 2005. At this point, the website had migrated to the Inside Pulse Games label, marking the first end of the year awards for the rebranded site. It also took home several other awards, including Best Story and Best PS2 Game, among others.

Why Was It Nominated: Because it was straight up one of the best games released that year, as well as a fantastic RPG all the way around. Prior to that point, the Shin Megami Tensei franchise had mostly been pumping out games that either never made it stateside (Soul Hackers, the original Shin Megami Tensei games, and so on) or were poorly received and occasionally cumbersome in their designs (Persona, Nocturne). Digital Devil Saga was something of a revelation, in that both parts of the series were released stateside as stand-alone games and the games were surprisingly accessible for games from a series known for giving you an instant game over for a main character death, among other things. As Alex summed it up:

“There’s a reason why Megaten stands shoulder to should with Square-Enix’s Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy franchises as the most popular RPG series over there. Megaten focuses on plot and substance, and although they occasionally leave style out (see: Soul Hackers), they more than made up with it in Digital Devil Saga. If you’ve ever wanted to see just how fantastic a Turn Based RPG can be, than look no further than this game. After DDS, everything else in this genre will be mediocre by comparison.” – Alex Lucard.

That all said, let’s see if it deserves to be amongst the gaming elite, shall we?

All in Favour:

William Kaye IV – It’s an RPG where you play as a gang member that can turn into a demon and then cannibalize your enemies. There is nothing else that needs to be said, honestly. That single sentence is proof enough that this belongs in the HoF.

But I suppose I could elaborate.

Nocturne was the first SMT game I played, and one that I loved because of how different it was from a traditional RPG, but the only reason I played that game multiple times was to get the multiple endings. Digital Devil Saga, on the other hand, is a game that I played multiple times, not because the outcome was ever any different, but because the story was just that good. Sure, the gameplay is top-notch and the Press Turn system makes you actually focus on your battle strategy, but it is the story that brings me back to this game. If Nocturne was a bit outside the norm, then DDS is leaps and bounds from the typical fare. The game features actual character growth for every one of the main characters as they progress from blank slates to three-dimensional characters that you actually care about. Each playthrough ends up bringing additional nuances to the story that I wasn’t even aware of on first glance, and just typing this out makes me want to dig the game out of my closet and play through it yet another time.

Mark B. – Well, it’s like this. I have little interest in a Hall of Fame column per say, in that I prefer the “mock terrible games” side of things over the “celebrate fantastic games” side of things, but Digital Devil Saga represents a very special experience for me, in that it was the first Shin Megami Tensei game that really gave me hope for the series as a mass market product.

Prior to Digital Devil Saga, the franchise was mostly oppressive in its design, featuring murderous boss battles, regular battles that could kill you through lack of preparation, and generally required grinding to build summons that you needed to make progress. While Digital Devil Saga didn’t expressly do away with these things, it made them more tolerable in many respects, and made the game a sort of a bridge point between the SMT games of old and what would eventually become the Persona series later on, and it gave me hope that Atlus would eventually be able to make games that would actually appeal to the mass US market while still retaining their unique sensibilities. While this ultimately didn’t happen, and the end result is ultimately that Atlus Japan more or less does not exist in the strictest sense, it’s nice to think of when it COULD have been, and for that reason, I say YAY to this vote.

All Opposed:

Alex Lucard – Look I love this game. Hell, I wrote the review for it and it really was the best game of 2005. Has it aged well? Yes. Does it have an amazing story and an incredible character customization system? Well yes. So why doesn’t it deserve inclusion into the Hall of Fame? Two reasons:

1) It’s an incredibly niche title that a lot of gamers won’t be able to wrap their heads around. I mean the game is all about cannibalism, existential philosophy, and Descartian philosophy. I love it and it’s certainly made for my tastes, but it’s hard to think of a more niche game that Atlus has put out in the past decade.

2) It uses the Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne Engine instead of something original that it can call its own.

Chuck Platt – I am not saying DDS is a bad game. It is not. What it is, though, is that rare game too esoteric to fully endorse. I enjoy the Persona and Megaten games, maybe not as much as the most hardcore of fans do, but enough to appreciate the twisted genius they exhibit. For me, though, DDS does not outshine its fellow Megaten games enough to stand on its own. If we were inducting franchises, my vote would be Yay. As it stands now, I must say Nay.

Result: 2 In Favour, 2 Opposed, 50% Approval = REJECTED

Conclusion: While everyone involved in the process this week certainly seemed to be passionate about the game itself, passion does not necessarily mean that one wishes to see a game held up as one of the greatest of all time, and so too is it with Digital Devil Saga. While those who participated acknowledge that the game is fantastic in most respects, at the end of the day, its lack of accessibility and rehash of Nocturne‘s battle system renders it out of the running for Hall of Fame status, at least for now.

Next Week: We look at an entry from one of Nintendo’s longest running franchises and see whether or not it has the ability to make it into the Hall of Fame.

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  • Micah

    It’s good to see that you lads use “niche appeal” as grounds to criticize JRPGS, too, not just simulators on PC. I don’t understand the reasoning behind this (imagine denouncing Shakespeare because kids today don’t like him), but at least you guys apply your bizarre standards evenly across the board. :)

    Great site, that aside, so keep up the top-notch work!

  • Mark B.

    Considering that Shakespeare has more writing credits on IMDB than anyone ever, I’d say dude’s still pretty mainstream.

    Just saying.

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