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ASK WHEELS
History of the World Pt. 2
February 24th, 2012

02/24- 12:00PM EST

Happy Vita launch week! Nothing really RPG-related at launch, but my word do many PSP games just look amazing on the system's screen. Monster Hunter Freedom Unite and Lunar Silver Star Harmony look spectacular.

Anyway, on to the letters!





The Letters
Return of the History

Yes, it is time once again for me to espouse upon another branch of the Megami Tensei franchise, acting like I'm some kind of expert even though I've played two games so far. This time it's another sub-series that has long been neglected, the Last Bible games, most of which were for the original Game Boy. Things are going to be a little different in this letter. For starters, there are five games, but there is little information on all of them, so you won't have to read an overly long email. Also, unlike the other games I talked about, the first Last Bible game was actually released here in North America. I imagine that it's really obscure, so I can probably talk about it despite that.


Wheels

Which two games have you played? Anyone, I'm very interested in more of this series' history and I'm sure many readers are too. Have at it!

So anyway, the first game, Megami Tensei Gaiden: Last Bible was released for the Game Boy in Japan in 1992. In 1994, it was ported over to the Sega Game Gear. Years later, a Game Boy Color version would be made in 1999, this one released in North America as Revelations: The Demon Slayer, being the second ever MegaTen game to be released here (the first being the spin-off title Jack Bros. for the Virtual Boy of all things). This game, like others in the sub-series takes place in a fantasy world rather than the modern, near-future, and post apocalyptic settings of most of the other MegaTen titles. It does feature ancient/mythological cities like Harappa and Atlantis. It apparently plays much like a Dragon Quest game, and curiously calls its demons "majuu" (monsters) rather than "akuma" (demons/devils). This might possibly be in the Japanese version, considering the American title is "Revelations: The Demon Slayer." It does, however, still involve the recruitment of these creatures into the party by negotiating with them, and many staple MegaTen demons are in the game as well. Despite the title of "Last Bible," it seems the only thing the game has that is connected to Christianity is Lucifer as the main antagonist. The plot involves people with the power of Gaia (the planet, I guess?) in order to stop evil Gaia (with Lucifer somehow involved). What I find especially interesting is that the title is actually called "Megami Tensei Gaiden" rather than "Shin Megami Tensei Gaiden", or something related to just "Megami" or just "Tensei," like most other games in the franchise. Save for Famicom remake, the original two games seemed to have been forgotten once Shin Megami Tensei came on the scenes, and yes, Last Bible did come out after the first SMT.


Wheels

Interesting, I think I had originally only heard of the Game Boy Color version, so I thought it was some strange attempt at cashing in on the Pokémon craze. Obviously it came out well before then, so it sounds like a pretty interesting game, though the title is certainly strange. 

As long as I'm on the subject of titles, here's an interesting fact I recently learned. The original title of the first Persona game was Megami Ibunroku: Persona. "Megami Ibunroku" translates to something like "Alternate Tales of the Goddess" or "Strange Tales of the Goddess." Once Persona 2: Innocent Sin was released, the "Megami Ibunroku" title was dropped and stayed that way. However the title was revived for a more recent game: the original title of Devil Survivor was Megami Ibunroku: Devil Survivor. While it doesn't mean the games are related, I think it's really neat that title is sometimes used to designate a brand new branch in the franchise.


Wheels

That is a pretty interesting factoid. Wasn't the first Persona called Revelations: Persona when it was originally released in the US?  I can't recall which game was the first to actually use the Shin Megami Tensei name in the US. Was it Eternal Punishment or did that not happen until Nocturne?

So yeah, back to Last Bible, the second game, Last Bible II was released for the original Game Boy in 1993 and re-released for the Game Boy Color also in 1999. It is virtually identical to the first game, except the graphics look a little better. The world is still fantasy-based and it involves some kid who comes from the demon kingdom and whose birth heralds the coming of a great evil. You know, standard RPG stuff. The next game, Another Bible was released for the Game Boy (no Color upgrade this time in 1995. It's curiously a strategy RPG much like the Majin Tensei games. It's cutesy art style seems to make it more aimed at children. There not much else I can say (or that I can find, though according to one player, the movements are sluggish), but there is a fan translation out there if you search in the right places.


Wheels

I will have to take a look for this fan translation. I imagine these games would probably be pretty disappointing to a lot of SMT fans, given that the unique setting is often what draws people to them.

Next up is the Game Gear exclusive title Last Bible Special, also released in 1995. Unlike the other games in the sub-series, it plays a lot more like a classic MegaTen game with its first-person dungeons. It eschews the medieval fantasy setting for one that looks like the Near-East during Biblical times, actually matching its title. It sports some decent graphics for the system, but otherwise, there isn't much else to say. The last game in the sub-series, Last Bible III was actually released for the Super Famicom rather than a handheld, also released in 1995. It seems 1995 was a busy year, though Atlus themselves didn't develop these three games: Multimedia Intelligence Transfer made Another Bible and Last Bible III while Sega developed Last Bible Special. Anyway LBIII once again has a somewhat different setting than the other games, that being a steam punk fantasy world. Once again, we seem to have a generic plot involving a boy growing in the demon world who sets out to fulfill an ancient prophesy. The battle system is also a simple turn-based affair. Other than the 16-bit graphics, the only major changes are in negotiations and monster/demon designs. While negotiating with demons, there is a gauge that lets you see if you are answering the creature's questions favorably or not. The demon designs are also just plain bizarre when they're not generic. I'd really like to know what was going through the mind of the guy who made up that spotted green dog with an old man's head. O_o


Wheels

Sounds more and more like the Last Bible offshoot is rather the ugly duckling of SMT's many sub-series. The near-east setting does sound somewhat neat, but in general these sound like generic RPGs with the only difference being some demon negotiations.

So yes, that was the Last Bible sub-series. It's probably not hard to see why this branch of MegaTen got forgotten to time. They don't appear to be a bad set of games, but aside from demon recruitment, they don't seem to have much to distinguish them from other RPGs. Still, it is noteworthy that at least one of these games actually made it over here. Next time I will be exploring Atlus's lighter and softer side of MegaTen, the Devil Children games. Until then, I need to train some more before I take on a mother of a fight in Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey.

-Strawberry Eggs


Wheels

I wonder how many people even played the one Last Bible game that did make it over here. Anyway, though it would have been interesting to play some of these, I think we can safely safe that this is no big loss. Maybe Atlus will put them into some kind of collection some day and translate that, but it doesn't sound like these games were even popular in Japan. I look forward to hearing about the Devil Children games, good luck in Strange Journey!

Pokécrazy

Pokémon Platinum is your basic Pokémon game, except the evil leader is such a misanthrope that he is willing to destroy the universe and remake  it in his image. He's hired Team Galactic and convinced them that they can visit the stars, which makes Cyrus the Jim Jones of the Pokémon world. He gets stopped by being dragged to the Pokémon equivalent of hell, and after you beat him and force him to stay there, you proceed to catch Hades.


Wheels

Seriously? I guess the original game's plot was pretty wacky, but this just seems way out there. Oh well, it is a kid's game at its heart, so I'm not quite sure what I expect from the plot. Please tell me the Hades Pokémon is named Hadesmon!

Or in recipe form: Take one basic Pokémon plot (stop evil team, collect 8 badges, beat the Elite 4 and catch 'em all). Add 2 cups misanthropic cult leader, one tablespoon of delusion of deity and two handfuls of blasphemy. Bake at 450 degrees for 2 years after the Diamond and Pearl release.


Wheels

So essentially, aside from the basic structure of Pokémon, they also have the game plot down to a formula? I suppose I shouldn't be surprised. It would be cool if they could do something interesting with plot in one of the games. 

... you know, when I describe it that way, and consider that Black and White's evil boss is actually WORSE (basically running PETA, and heavily implied that he's killed 13 kids - how else do you get to "N"), we're getting near SMT territory on these plotlines.


Wheels

Yeah I've played a bit of Black and the plot seems even more inane than any other game in the series. Perhaps even their story formula is starting to falter? We'll see what they come up with for the next game.

Also, a question - how did Persona 3 not get an AO rating, a couple of segments on cable news or at least an angry email from a former Miami lawyer? You summon demons (Strike 1!) by shooting yourself in the head (Strike 2!) and in between, you attempt to score with girls and maybe guys of questionable age (STRIKE 3!). Was it because Atlus published the
game, or something else?

Your Poke-chef,
Shaymin


Wheels

Well to be fair, we are talking about a series where "demons" includes things like Angels and Norse Gods, so I don't think that aspect is too bad. The shooting yourself in the head aspect does surprise me. Even as a niche game, you'd think someone would have gotten angry about that. I don't really have a good answer. Atlus is a niche publisher, but it isn't exactly unknown, and  Persona 3 did well. I'm just going to call luck on this one. Perhaps if a certain Miami lawyer hadn't been so busy with other games he might have discovered this one?

I mean, we've even had two other versions of the game since the original release. I should probably just stop before someone finds this column and raises a stink shouldn't I?

Quest for Lost Glory

Why do you think the subtle morality system found in Quest for Glory 2 and beyond for the Paladin sub plot was never adopted by more games? It allows for real roleplaying separate of a reward system and is never overtly mentioned unlike modern RPGs that all now seem to have a morality system but one that is so obvious that all you have to do is pick either the blue option or the red option.

-Falselogic


Wheels

I would say it's a simple matter of pandering to your audience. I think for the most part, subtlety is often lost on many people, so developers keep things more straightforward. Granted we aren't talking about first person shooters, so we expect a bit more, but still. Perhaps Sierra's developers just had more respect for their audience? Now, these blue and red options can often be quite compelling, but there are certainly a ton of games that would do much better with a subtle approach. I'm sure someone will try it eventually, but there is no doubt it is long overdue.


The Sky is Falling!
 
Drew Karpyshyn (head writer for bioware) has left the company (probably to pursue life as a novelist) is the sky falling or will things be okay considering he was never really involved with dragon age and he's passed the torch on mass effect in favour of moving to texas to write content for TOR?

-fowlsorcerous


Wheels

I think everything is going to be fine. BioWare has been so well-run that it really should be able to weather to loss of a top writer. I'm not saying there wont be some game that suffers in some way due to his absence. Like you say though, when he wasn't even really involved in what I thought was a finely written game in Dragon Age, the sky is certainly not falling. Perhaps just the opposite will happen, maybe there's a new head writer waiting in the wings who will be even better?
IN CLOSING

That's it for this week, time for me to go catch some hockey games!

See you next week!

-Wheels


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