Shin Megami Tensei II

   Atlus' long running Shin Megami Tensei series has had more trouble getting to the number three than Street Fighter. After two games in rapid succession on the Super Famicom, Cozy Okada and his R&D1 team have been content to produce numerous side-stories and spin-offs, including the Persona series and the recently announced Shin Megami Tensei Nine for Xbox. While Shin Megami Tensei III is still in the works for PlayStation 2, last year Atlus found a new way to postpone the inevitable by remaking the earlier games for the PSone. The first game was re-released to modest success last May in Japan, and now, after a six-month delay from its original October 2001 date, the remake of Shin Megami Tensei II has finally hit the streets.

  Eat your heart out, Nomura
It's Kaneko-tastic!

   Shin Megami Tensei II is a direct sequel, continuing its predecessor's story several dozens years later. In the first game, Tokyo was demolished by ICBM missiles during a demon invasion in the year 199X and subsequently flooded by the melting of the icecaps over the next few decades. In the year 20XX, a new city, Tokyo Millennium, has been built, strictly ruled by a new Messiah and the stern Temple Knights. The Knights are opposed by the anarchist Gaea sect; as in the previous game, players are able to side with either of these factions or can attempt to remain neutral.

   Series character designer Kazuma Kaneko has again brought his sleek futuristic style to the game's creatures and characters. The main character, Aleph, is an amnesiac warrior at a futuristic coliseum, the Valhalla Arena, where he battles to become a first-class citizen. He wears a portable computer on his left arm, from which he runs the Devil Summoning Program. Joining Aleph are two female allies: Beth, a Temple Knight; and Hiroko, a mysterious woman whom Aleph somehow recalls meeting before.

   In addition to the human party members, players can talk demons into joining their ranks. This is done by navigating a series of pre-combat dialogue trees similar to those found in the Persona games. Recruited demons are stored in Aleph's wrist computer and can be summoned with the Devil Summoning Program to participage in battle. Later, demons can be merged with others at special shops to form stronger creatures.

First-person perspective
Exploring in 3-D

   As with the Shin Megami Tensei I remake, no additional story or gameplay features have been added for the remake, beyond a new expert difficulty and a streamlined save system. While the first remake only recieved a slight makeover to bring the game into true 3D, it seems the delay for Shin Megami Tensei was at least partially spent retuning the graphics. The game certainly won't win anyone over with its looks -- the characters and creatures are still sprite-based and barely animated -- but the 3D dungeons have been upgraded to the point where they can at least compete with Soul Hackers or the first Persona game. Beyond this, Atlus has even added in a few FMV sequences, though how pervasive they are isn't known. The music has also been reorchestrated and remixed for the new release.

   With the PSone still hanging on in the Japanese market, Atlus has one more planned remake, the offshoot Shin Megami Tensei If..., due out before the end of the year in Japan. Meanwhile, in the alternate timeline of Philip K. Dick's sci-fi classic, The Man in the High Castle, Shin Megami Tensei II is slated for a Spring release in North America.

Preview by Fritz Fraundorf and Zak McClendon, GIA.
Shin Megami Tensei II
Developer Atlus
Publisher Atlus
Genre Traditional RPG
Medium CD-ROM (1)
Platform Sony PlayStation
Release Date  03.14.02
First Shin Megami Tensei II PSOne details, screens
35 screenshots
3 character designs
Trading card game designs