April A-to-Z Reflections

Published May 7, 2018 by Iphis of Scyros

I think the big take-away from this turn through April A-to-Z is that I need to stop setting such ambitious themes.  It’s really hard to keep up with something like this, especially when I’m trying to draw from so many different cultures, most of which I don’t know all that much about.  My first A-to-Z was really easy for me, because it was purely Greek myth, but the second year’s was horribly stressful, and this one started getting pretty rough by the end, too.  So next year, I’m going to do something where I have a book on hand to consult.  I came across three books in the course of the online research for this year’s (one on goddesses from across the world, one a bestiary of ancient Chinese lore, and one on a handful of French dragon tales) that I plan to buy, so I’ll probably base it around one of those.  (Well, not the third one; as it only features a handful, it wouldn’t be anywhere near enough!)

Next year, I hope I will also remember to fill in the daily link lists after April actually starts:  I did links for the ones I had written before April started, and then didn’t remember to put the rest in until “W” had gone up, but it doesn’t let you add to the list after the fact, so anyone using the daily link lists later on to go through the posts will think I stopped after “F”!

I also realized that I left out some important information from the posts themselves.  Since all my posts featured art from games of the Megami Tensei series, I should have credited the artist responsible for all those wonderful monster designs, Kazuma Kaneko, whose work I usually love.  (There are the occasional exceptions…)  A few character portraits showed up, too, and those are by other artists, but…the bulk of the game art I showed is Kaneko’s work.

I also never gave anyone any good glimpses into the world of MegaTen as a whole.  (Which, admittedly, was not the point.)  I probably wouldn’t mention that if I hadn’t come across a YouTube video that would have been the perfect thing to post a link to from my theme reveal.  (Too bad I only found it half-way through the month!)  It’s a video compiling video footage from the first 30 years of the MegaTen series, from its start on the NES with the original Megami Tensei in 1987 through to 2017’s (Japenese) releases/announced releases:  a cell phone game (unclear if it’ll come over, but it looks awesome), next month’s remake of Shin Megami Tensei:  Strange Journey, and Shin Megami Tensei V on the Nintendo Switch (I already wanted to get a Switch, but now it’s a necessity!), which has been announced for Western release, but without a release date (as of the last time I checked, about two weeks ago).  The video can be found here, but of course keep in mind that it’s entirely in Japanese, and a lot of the games covered in it have never been made (officially) available in English.  The ones in the video that are available in English include: SNES Shin Megami Tensei (which got a now-defunct-until-it’s-updated-for-iOS10 iOS port) from 1992 is at about 1:20, the original Persona from 1996 at 6:50, and at 7:50 we get to the original version of Devil Summoner:  Soul Hackers (which got a 3DS port a few years ago that was translated), and from that point on, a lot of them (though not all) are available in English.  (And it would be rather tedious to go through and list them all…plus watching that footage makes me want to replay them all, and I don’t have that kind of time on my hands!  (Especially not with how many games I’ve bought that I haven’t played at all yet.)  If there’s one post-Soul Hackers that you’re curious about, you can ask me what it is, as I can probably identify it, even if it’s not available in English.)

Okay, so all that being said, let’s recap the month!  Especially looking at how well (or poorly) I did in mixing it up in terms of the cultural origins of the beings each post covered:

  1. Abraxas:  Gnosticism (Europe 1)
  2. Baldr:  Norse (Europe 2)
  3. Chernobog:  Slavic (Europe 3)
  4. Dzelarhons:  Haida (Native American 1)
  5. Erlkonig:  German (Europe 4)
  6. Fuxi:  China (Asia 1)
  7. Girimehkala:  Sri Lanka (Hindu 1)
  8. Hanuman:  India (Hindu 2)
  9. Inti:  Inca (Native American 2)
  10. Jahi:  Zoroastrian (Middle East 1)
  11. Kijimuna/Koropokkuru:  Okinawa/Ainu (Asia 2)
  12. Lugh:  Irish (Europe 5)
  13. Mothman:  American (um…American 1?)
  14. Nyarlahotep:  Cthulu mythos (um…fictional 1?)
  15. Ogoun:  Vodoun (uh…African-fusion 1?)
  16. Python:  Greek (Europe 6)
  17. Quetzalcoatl:  Aztec (Native American 3)
  18. Rangda:  Bali (Hindu 3)
  19. Shiisaa:  Okinawa/Japan/China (Asia 3)
  20. Tzitzimitl:  Aztec (Native American 4)
  21. Ukobach:  Enlightenment-era demonology texts (Europe 7)
  22. Vouivre:  France  (Europe 8)
  23. Wendigo:  Ojibwe/Algonquin/Cree (Native American 5)
  24. Xi Wangmu:  China (Asia 4)
  25. Yurlungur:  Aborigine (Australia 1)
  26. Zaccoum:  Islamic (Middle East 2)

And the big thing I see here is that Europe got waaaay too much representation.  Other things I see can’t really be helped.  For example, Africa was pretty much absent, aside from the vodoun god who is a version of an African god, but there are very few African figures in the MegaTen games, except for Egyptian gods.  (Speaking of which, I’m somewhat astonished that I didn’t use any of them!  I guess they felt boring to me because they’re much more common than some of these…?)  If I’d been actively trying to cover everywhere as evenly as I could, it would be a badly skewed list, but for mainly just picking by whatever I fancied in the letters, I think I managed to spread things out pretty well.

So…let’s see…anything else I should say here?

I guess I should probably answer the (unasked) question of what MegaTen games the uninitiated might want to play, and/or what’s the best introductory game.  The one problem with MegaTen games is that (like most Atlus RPGs, really), they’re produced in very small quantities.  So if a game isn’t really new, and you want a physical copy, you’re probably out of luck.  However, these days games are made available digitally pretty much as long as the console is still supported online by the manufacturer, so most of the ones that were officially translated into English are probably available for digital purchase.  (As to unofficial translations, those are both free and illegal, so I won’t go into that.)  Some of the PS2 titles may not have been added to the Playstation Store, though.  (I know the Persona and Digital Devil Saga games are available, but I’m not sure about the others.  I’ve never really looked into the PS2 titles available on the Playstation Store, because I already had physical copies of pretty much everything on the platform that I wanted.)

The main thing to consider in looking at the MegaTen games is whether they’re main line or sub-series games.  The main games tend to be lighter in plot (though not always), lacking well-defined player characters, more heavy-handed in theme, and to have multiple endings.  My general rule is to try to enter a series as early as possible (which is why my first Final Fantasy was V, because that was the oldest one available to me at the time), so unless you happen to have an iPad/iPhone still running iOS9 (or you want a fan translation), that would be Shin Megami Tensei Nocturne (which is a slight revamping of Shin Megami Tensei III, with an extra dungeon, and the extra character of Dante in his Devil May Cry 2 outfit) which is an absolutely awesome game and made me completely fall in love with the series.  However, if you want something a little lighter, you should probably look to the Persona series, which is really two series if you ask me:  the three games on the original Playstation, and the new ones starting with Persona 3.  The PS1 games are very dated to their era (even in the PSP remakes), but still good, solid games.  Persona 3 was very popular (and is quite good), Persona 4 was even more popular (and is way better), and Persona 5 is apparently one of the greatest things since sliced bread, from how everyone else is reacting to it.  (It’s killing me that I still can’t play it!)  The Digital Devil Saga duology is…uh…the first game was brilliant, and the second game was…not.  The same thing can exactly be said for the two Devil Summoner Raido Kuzunoha games.  The Devil Survivor games are a surprising mix:  they’re as full of characters and plot as any of the other non-main games, but they’re just as heavy-handed as the main games (especially the first Devil Survivor), and they have even more endings than the main games.  They’re good games, but the first one is not recommended for those who are deeply religious and take offense easily where religion is concerned.  (The same must be said for the main series, I should add!)  I do not recommend starting with Strange Journey Redux.  Not unless it’s way better than the original one was.  (Highly unlikely.)  I’m excited to see its release next month, but I didn’t actually love the original (or even really like it all that much).  Except for its soundtrack.  That was amazingly cool, and very different from the soundtracks of the other games in the series.

Hmm.

I feel like I’m still not saying something I should be.

Oh!  This is probably not what I was forgetting, but I should mention this, since I’m doing all this talking about MegaTen.  One of the creators of the Megami Tensei franchise, and one of the composers, are working on a visual novel that’s currently seeking funding on Kickstarter.  (As of the first of the month, they were almost at 70% funded.)  It seems to be a dark, fairy tale-inspired game, with a very different visual style than the MegaTen games.  If that sounds like it might be interesting to you, please check it out.

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