Touch-DS: “Creator’s Voice”

“Creator’s Voice”. 14, Nintendo, 11 February 2010. [Japanese]

The content is no longer available on its original location ( as of 4 August 2012.

A new Shin Megami Tensei for DS

Touch-DS - Header

First new instalment in five years

Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey, as a bearer of the “Shin Megami Tensei” title, is the first new instalment in five years. Because fans are getting tired of waiting, I am filled with the feeling that I longer want them to wait. This work becomes the fourth game in the Shin Megami Tensei main series. The first Shin Megami Tensei [1] was released in 1992 and I have been affiliated with the series ever since, but if we trace back the history of these works even further, we would have to go back to Digital Devil Monogatari: Megami Tensei [2], released by Namco (now: Bandai Namco Games) for the Famicom. At the time this game was released I wasn’t so much of a player yet, but I found the system of befriending demons in a 3D dungeon RPG and making them your powerful weapons through an alliance to be very interesting. Soon after, I started working at Atlus. Then I heard that Atlus was actually the developer of Digital Devil Monogatari: Megami Tensei and since that was the case, I really wanted to become involved in the development of Digital Devil Monogatari: Megami Tensei II [3], the next “Megami Tensei” which I adored so much. Then, even later, we turned over a new leaf, gave the series a new look and started attaching [the character for] “True”.

[1] Shin Megami Tensei: released in 1992 for Super Famicom by Atlus. Shin Megami Tensei is currently being processed for the Wii’s Virtual Console.
[2] Digital Devil Monogatari: Megami Tensei: RPG released in 1987 for Famicom by Namco (now: Bandai Namco Games).
[3] Digital Devil Monogatari: Megami Tensei II: released in 1990 for Famicom by Namco (now: Bandai Namco Games).

Touch-DS - Image 1Creepingly real fear

What I wanted to do with Shin Megami Tensei, was not to create a mediaeval fantasy world with swords, magic, armour and dragons like so many other RPGs back then. [I wanted to create something in which you] face off against a transcendent existence that is beyond human intellect but with the looks of zombies, armed with modern weapens, along the lines of military and zombie movies that I like. Moreover, because  I had the idea that it would be interesting if zombies were to suddenly appear in our surroundings, I wanted to make a game in which you fight strange enemies that have appeared in a place nearby.

Therefore, for the first Shin Megami Tensei we used Kichijoji [4] as the game’s setting. The reason why we picked Kichijoji was because I lived there and at that time we were not allowed to use Kichijoji’s main station, which got me the idea that there might be a kind of suspicious [laughs] atmosphere coming from that place. The appearance of modern Tokyo as the game’s setting was born through expanding the idea of “maybe there is nothing”, but it would be interesting if we can depict something that would give one the willies in a familiar place. In Strange Journey as well we firmly continue the concept of delivering experiences which transcend that what can be imagined in the comfort zone of reality through dangers and fears to whatever is close to one’s heart.

[4] Kichijoji: place in Musashino-shi, Tokyo. Generally refers to the area surrounding Kichijoji Station (JR Keio line). A variety of department stores and other commercial facilities have been built in the station’s surroundings. Also known as the city of subcultures.

Touch-DS - Image 2Shin Megami Tensei on DS

Up until now the main series has always been published for home consoles, but Strange Journey is the first in the series to move to a portable platform. Both types of platform have its advantages, because with the home console it is great to engage in the ritual of sitting on your buttocks in front of the tv and enter the world of the game you just switched on. However, if you get carried away by games and have the feeling that you want to play wherever you are, with the DS, whenever you’re thinking “I want to play a game”, you can abruptly grab the handheld, switch it on and within a few seconds you are playing a game. Because the distance between the player and the screen is so small, I strongly feel some kind of field [fiirudo] is born and you become united with the game. I think such feeling is great and hope that all players feel the same unity with their game upon taking MegaTen [5] into this field. In addition to following the flow of the first and second work of the series, I aimed at improving the formula in Strange Journey, and looking back at it in its totality, we did everything we could to to create a ton of varied content. Even though the development was quite though, I am satisfied with the finished product.

[5] MegaTen: “Shin Megami Tensei” series, abbrevation of “Shin Megami Tensei”.


“Strange Journey”

A curious adventure

The full title of this work is Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey. In the main series we’ve had Shin Megami Tensei, Shin Megami Tensei II [6] and Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne [7] up until now, it would makes sense the next one would be “IV”, but this work is an unnumbered title: just Strange Journey. In the first two instalments the drama was highly essential, unlike gradually expanding the world, but because for this work we developed a quest in a confined space which really showed the essence of a portable game, and though it is part of the main series, I did not dare to infuse it with a different meaning and add “IV”to the title.

This time, the new element that is concerned with the true essence of the system, all players can discover the joy of discovering and exploring specific areas. When I thought about what would be a fitting title for such substance, the word “Journey” [jaanii] came to mind. Although there is an American rockband named Journey that I loved long ago, this Journey had to hold the meaning of not a simplistic trip, but the meaning of experiencing and growing. And then I got to the title of “Strange Journey”, which holds the meaning of a checkered adventure.

[6] Shin Megami Tensei II: released in 1994 by Atlus.
[7] Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne: released in 2003 by Atlus.

Stage: the terra incognita of the “south pole”

Until now Tokyo has always been the setting of the Shin Megami Tensei games, but in Strange Journey this role is fulfilled by a near futuristic Antarctica, which has undergone a complete transformation. The story is set in an early twenty-first century, in which the human population on Earth is suddenly increased, and an investigation team of each nation’s elites is selected to investigate the mysterious airspace that suddenly appeared at Antarctica. An essential component of Strange Journey is that the players who want to enjoy exploring have to explore the game’s uncharted territories. A bit forceful, but if you have come to explore uncharted territories, then that’s definitely not Antarctica (laughs). Well, this might be a bit of a spoiler, but even still, I think that this time’s theme, the reaction of the earth’s antibodies, I thought of a place that wouldn’t stand out geographically speaking. In addition, the game’s director [Eiji Ishida] requested whether a The Thing inspired [yuusei kara no buttai ekkusu ppoi] location wouldn’t be a good idea.

Therefore, I thought it was a MegaTen in the sense that it wasn’t born from a familiar place, such as Kichijoji or Shinjuku, but that the story was emerged from a familiar crisis. All players are the sole investigators to find the answer to what has caused this crisis, and as soon as you start grasping the truth, you will experience the traditional fear and atmosphere of the series.

[8] The Thing: A 1982 American SF film using an isolated base on Antarctica as its setting.



The DNA of “Shin Megami Tensei” 

When talking about the Shin Megami Tensei series, you readily think about conversing with demons, the element of training befriended demons, 3D dungeons, et cetera, and this essence of the series remains really unchanged. It hasn’t changed [in Strange Journey], but it can best be understood as an evolution of its shape.

For example, the system of befriending demons. In this game’s system, you inherit “Demon Source” [9], which is a set of skills drawn from the demons you have befriended (nakama), a way of training that hasn’t been in the series before.

Furthermore, regarding the 3D dungeons this time, there is an auto-mapping [10] system at work on the bottom screen, which makes it easier to play as you don’t have to rely on your own memory constantly. However, just as much it is easier to play, there are pitfalls in the rather complex dungeons, which will leave you crippled. Then there, there is the Demonica Suit [11], a singular collection of many systems  which I will discuss in greater detail later on, which will also play an active role at times of exploration and is another way how the shape [of the series] has evolved in Strange Journey.

[9] Devil Source: Skill information derived from a demon when it grows a level.
[10] Auto-mapping: A charting system that registers every step one takes.
[11] Demonica Suit: A combat uniform equipped with high-tech equipment that responds to, and grows with, its user.

The real and the dramatic

In the end, when I thought what MegaTen is like, I think the most important thing is that it is not like other games. If I’m more precise about what MegaTen is like, is that the all the players become the hero (protagonist) and experience an familiarly feeling abnormality in real life [rev. required].

Therefore, the game makes use of a game mechanic in which the main character, the role assumed by the player, has to answer questions based on persuading speeches of in-game characters. In the game, the players have to make an ultimate choice, one that is unlikely to occur in real life. Once the player has made his (her) decision, he (she) is locked one of the braches of the multi-branched end-game [maruchiendingutekina rasuto] based on the answers he (she) has given. Because the thought-provoking message we inserted in this game is formulated in an accessible manner, we would be happy if you would take in something during the conclusion of the path you’ve taken, which is the literary component [of Strange Journey].


Kazuma Kaneko, the Demon Artist

More than 300 demons from the series appear

The strongest point of the main series is the great variety of demons, of which there appear more than 300 make their appearance in Strange Journey. Not all the demons are imaginary creatures: many are based on mythologies and folklores worldwide. Therefore, if you play this game, you’ll become a walking encyclopedia! (laughs) For example, if you don’t know a particular creature when you’re a child and you happen to run into it as an adult, wouldn’t it be great to be like “I know this!”? There is a drama called “Orthrus’s Dog” [orutorosu no inu], but I was like “I know Orthrus!”.  (laughs)

The demons are iconic beings of species, derived from mythology and folklores and thus there are numerous rules I have to follow when [I’m] drawing them. The most important thing to keep in mind when designing the demons, which I’ve been doing since the first instalment, is to faithfully follow those rules. Moreover, I aim to comprehensibly emphasise the places which should be emphasised, arrange them in a modern fashion  and present it in an original way.

Take, for example, the demon ‘Morax’, which appears for the first time in Strange Journey. This will become a bit of a maniac story, but this demon belongs to the group of demons called “The 72 Demons of King Solomon” [15]. Morax is responsible for the movement of heavenly bodies and, if it is summoned by a magician, it’s able to inform one about astronomy in great detail. For this demon there is the rule that it has the head of an bull and a human body. When I am wondering how to express this, I first think about the bull head, but because there already exist other demons with such head, it would be logical to first make a selection of bulls that didn’t look similar to the ones that already have appeared throughout the series. The head I chose for Morax was one from a bison.  [16] Then, thinking about its in-depth knowledge of the movement of heavenly bodies, I wonder how to express such a thing. This time I tried to appeal to the deep psyche of the player by having [Morax] hold a cane, which has a celestial globe to move the sun and moon on top of it. This is the type of feeling I have when I’m designing the demons.

[12] Demon artist: title of mr. Kaneko, who provides the demon character designs for the “Shin Megami Tensei” series. [trans. note: perhaps this footnote refers to an image that has been lost; it does not refer to a fragment of the text itself].
[13] “Orthrus’s Dog”: a TBS television drama that ran from July to September in 2009.
[14] Orthrus: A two-headed dog that appeared in Greek mythology.
[15] 72 Demons of King Solomon: King of ancient Israel, who enslaved and controlled 72 demons.
[16] Bison: Large cow living in northern America. Males have bended horns.

Favourite demon

It’s extraordinarily difficult to answer the question what my favourite demon is among all those that appear in Strange Journey, but one that I used unusually often during the playtest of this game, is ‘Frost Ace’ [17]. It’ll take a little time to befriend this demon, or perhaps I should say having him grown strong to that extent, but Frost Ace will get convenient skills, making it amazingly helpful and affectionate.

[17] Frost Ace: Family member of Jack Frost, which is a regular character in the “Shin Megami Tensei” series and has also become the mascot of Altus.



Evolving through battle

This works follows the series’ tradition by carrying out battles through commands. To make the game easier to play, the timing of the commands is faster, the duration of battle effects have become less excessive, and fairly minor adjustments have been made here and there, cutting away the stress upon playing the game as much as possible and enhancing the overall playability. My first and foremost aim was to make the response of this game extraordinarily good.

As for the features of the battle system this time, we are introducing a new system called “Devil Co-Op” [18]. Similar to previous games, each demon has an alignment [sutansu] associated with the attributes of Law [rou], Neutral [nyuutoraru] or Chaos [kaosu]. If the alignment of the befriended demons in the party is alike and the opponent’s weak point is hit, it becomes possible to do an additional intense [gangan; trans. note: onomatopoeia for e.g. the sound of a large bell] attack . If this Devil Co-Op is activated, it gives an extraordinarily exhilarating feeling. Also, it causes damage without using MP and such, making it highly effective during boss battles.

The traditional ‘Auto-Battle’ from the series also makes its return in Strange Journey. I think Auto-Battle [20] is a great way to go with when you’re new to the series, when you want to efficiently advance through battles and even more when you want to prepare your party for battle without relying on the Devil Co-Op. By the way, Strange Journey’s auto-battle is the fastest in the series thus far. And because it’s really fast, I think both new players and fans of the series will be satisfied with it.

[18] Devil Co-Op: When party members hit the enemy’s weak point, other party members with the same alignment will automatically do a powerful follow-up attack.
[19] Alignment: Attribute of the demon, affects the affinity with the player and the demon conversations.
[20] Auto-battle: System to automatically advance through battles.

Flexible tactics

Talking about battles, we generally have to make the game approachable for new players, but also have to properly leave behind feedback intended for fans of the series. On one floor, for example, there’s a strong demon stationed randomly and stands out like ‘I just met an unpleasant guy, what should I do with him?’. In the beginning, you will suffer crushing defeat due to the lack of counter-measures, but if you devise a plan to train your befriended demons, you will certainly become victorious. You’re going to become stronger unconsciously through such repetition. Isn’t it fantastic in the latter half of the game to capture the bosses that were truly detestable before?

Fundamentally, this game is about customising demons and training them, but what are you going to do in case you want a favourite demon in your party, but it doesn’t let you ally with it? Whenever you encounter a demon you’re unable to compete with, you can get them in good spirits through a conversation (demon conversation) to avoid a battle. Of course, you can also befriend your opponent through demon conversation, but even with such player techniques you still have to fight battles. Such high degree of freedom in a game is also something MegaTen-like, I think.


Game mechanics

The Demonica Suit of “find, collect and progress”

Looking at the packaging of this game, it perhaps appears as if the atmosphere of this game is different from the games that have appeared thus far. Regardless of there were demons on it, the packaging really gave off a demonic vibe. However, for this game there aren’t any demons, just one man who wears something that resembles a space suit standing there. In fact, that space suit resembling outfit is the Demonica Suit, Strange Journey‘s version of the COMP. As I want players to remember the Demonica Suit, we gave it the spotlight – even on the packaging.

The Demonica Suit is, in short, a space suit looking battle suit in order to survive harsh environments, equipped with all kinds of abilities as it has to download applications, just like a computer. For example, in the beginning the humans are unable to see the demons, but once the Demon Summoning Programme has been downloaded to the Demonica Suit, the shapes of demons suddenly becomes visible. And because you get new abilities, you can open doors that couldn’t be opened before and find various raw materials that are required to develop new items and weapons. In other words, because you enhance the Demonica Suit, the stage of the adventure expands and you yourself get stronger as well. In that sense, I think you can say that the Demonica Suit really is the cornerstone of Strange Journey.

Extra challenges [trans. note: literally, it says “Speedrun elements”]

Apart from the investigation team’s main mission to explore the mysterious anomaly on Antarctica, we also prepared a lot of additional content for Strange Journey. These are the ‘EX Missions’ and ‘Play Records’.

EX Missons are quests elements that are no associated with the mission the investigation team is assembled for. For example, you take a request or provide advise to various persons, ranging from colleagues of the investigation team or demons you have run in to in a dungeon. If you are familiar with mythology and foklores, the requests of demons will often have you broadly grinning. Also, when you’re completing a particular mission, there are also unobtainable rewards.

Play Records is a so-called achievement system, ranging from your heroic deeds such as having killing how many demons to how often you’ve fallen through holes in the floor, how many fusion happen to have failed and how frequently you bump into walls – there are 150 of these achievements in total. I think because every person can say “I did this and this”, it’s some kind of system of self-esteem.

Completing the EX Missions and Play Records isn’t normal, I guess. However, I do think it’s fun to imagine what could be in the blank spaces while filling up these slots, and you get to play a long time.

Demon Passwords

In Strange Journey there is a feature that lets you store the demons you’ve raised yourself as a password. [21] During the development of this game I wondered whether we should implement it as a communication system, as one might say when hearing about the passwords, ‘Why is this day and age?’ (laughs).  I often see the style where people playing on portable devices come together to play with friends, but I’m certain there is also the type of person who deliberately wants to play on his or her own. To be honest, I’m also this type and for Strange Journey I sought a way for people to enjoy themselves on their own as well.

However, it has become so much fun to raise demons and you really want to show off your home-made ones, right? (laughs) That’s where the idea emerged to store demons as passwords, and I kept wondering whether this was a good idea. If we were to communicate this way it would be fast, but in terms of communication you still were limited to persons in your vicinity, whereas the charm of passwords was that people would be able to use mail or telephones to exchange with people from distant and difficult to reach places, such as Hokkaido and Okinawa. With the feeling of ‘With this password you can see the demons I raised myself!’ and ‘What if I reach my limits and want to see if my demons have gotten stronger?’, I think players should be able to communicate with better players or use BBS and social networks to show off their demons. On the official Atlus website, we made a dedicated forum where we got everyone to boast. Not only of course who has the strongest demon, but also the strongest Pixie [22] or the demon with the most idiotic skills (laughs), we certainly got a competition of boasting we wanted. Of course, I was showing off as well. (laughs)

[21] Password: Line of characters to store and summon particular data.
[22] Pixie: A well-known demon from the Shin Megami Tensei series. Low-level that appears in the early stages of the game.



To all players

Fans of the Shin Megami Tensei series, I am truly sorry for the long wait. I really wanted to make Strange Journey as much  as the MegaTen games that have been released thus far as possible, but at the same time I also wanted you to see my suggestions for this MegaTen, like the Demonica Suit as a new element. This time ‘exploration’ has become the main theme, which was entangled with this Demonica Suit, and exploring Antarctica, which has become the setting, I hope you will experience numerous surprises.

Although raising demons has always been great fun, I tried to develop this system in Strange Journey so that it becomes even more enjoyable. During the testplay of the game, I even became addicted to it (laughs). And if you enjoy raising demons as such, it would be great if you would show-off your demons using the password system.

[…] The tempo is really good, and so is the response, so I think you will happily give yourself over to that typical MegaTen Mood [megaten muudo].


Original article in Japanese:


『真・女神転生 STRANGE JOURNEY』は、『真・女神転生』のタイトルがつく作品として、実に5年ぶりの新作ということになります。待ちわびていただいているファンの方もいらっしゃると思いますので、今は皆さんに早くお届けしたいなという気持ちでいっぱいです。

本作は、『真・女神転生』シリーズの本編として4作目になります。第1作の『真・女神転生』※1が発売されたのは1992年で、僕は第1作から制作に関わっているのですが、この作品の歴史をたどると、ファミコン向けソフトとしてナムコ(現:バンダイナムコゲームス)さんから発売された『デジタル・デビル物語 女神転生』※2まで遡るんですね。このソフトが発売された当時、僕は、ゲームの一プレイヤーにすぎなかったんですけれども、3DダンジョンのRPGで敵の悪魔を自分の仲間にして、合体させて強くして自分の武器にするというシステムがとても面白かったんですね。その後、縁あってアトラスで仕事をさせていただくようになりまして。そうしたら、実は『デジタル・デビル物語 女神転生』を作ったのはアトラスだと聞かされて、だったら大好きだった『女神転生』の次を作りたいということで関わらせてもらったのが『デジタル・デビル物語 女神転生II』※3です。そして、さらにその後、装いも新たに心機一転、“真”と付けさせていただいて始めたのが本シリーズなんです。
*2.『デジタル・デビル物語 女神転生』:1987年にナムコ(現:バンダイナムコゲームス)からファミコン用ソフトとして発売されたRPG。
*3.『デジタル・デビル物語 女神転生II』:1990年にナムコ(現:バンダイナムコゲームス)からファミコン用ソフトとして発売。


*4. 吉祥寺:東京都武蔵野市にある地名。一般に吉祥寺駅(JR・京王電鉄)を中心とするエリアを指す。駅周辺には百貨店等、商業施設が集積。サブカルチャーの街としても知られる。


*5. メガテン:『女神転生』シリーズ、『真・女神転生』シリーズの愛称。[/1]



本作の正式タイトルは、『真・女神転生 STRANGE JOURNEY』です。シリーズの本編ということで、これまで第1作の『真・女神転生』、『真・女神転生II』※6、『真・女神転生III NOCTURNE』※7と来て、普通に発想すると次に来るのは『IV』なんですが、本作はナンバリングタイトルにせず、「STRANGE JOURNEY」としました。これは1作目、2作目とドラマ要素も非常にあって、世界が徐々に広がっていくのに対して、本作はゲームのシステムの真髄を見せていきたいというところで限定された空間を探求していくという作りにしたので、シリーズ本編ではあるんだけれど、それまでとは違うんだという意味を込めて、敢えて「IV」とは付けませんでした。
今回、システムの真髄に関わる新しい要素として、プレイヤーの皆さんには特定の空間を探検していろんなものを発見して楽しんでいただきたいというのがあります。その内容にふさわしいタイトルはなんだろうかと考えたとき、ジャーニーという言葉が頭に浮かびました。ジャーニーというアメリカのロックバンドがあって僕は昔、大好きだったんですけれども、このジャーニーが意味する旅は単なる旅行ではなく、体験して成長するという意味も含んでいるんですね。これは、本作にぴったりなんじゃないかと。それで、数奇な冒険という意味の「STRANGE JOURNEY」というタイトルにさせてもらいました。
*7.『真・女神転生III NOCTURNE』:2003年にアトラスから発売。





*9. デビルソース:仲魔がレベルアップしたときに抽出されるスキル情報。
*10. オートマッピング:一度行った場所を正確に記憶する地図機能。
*11. デモニカスーツ:調査員たちが身につける高性能戦闘服で装備者の身体と戦略に応じて拡張進化するのが特徴。





*12. 悪魔絵師:『真・女神転生』シリーズの悪魔キャラクターデザインを手がけることからついた金子氏の称号。
*14. オルトロス:ギリシャ神話に登場する2つの頭を持った犬。
*15. ソロモン王の72柱:古代イスラエルの王、ソロモンが使役し、その後封じ込めたとされる72体の悪魔。
*16. バイソン:北アメリカに生息する大型のウシ。オスは湾曲した角を有する。


*17. フロストエース:『真・女神転生』シリーズのレギュラーキャラクターで、アトラスのマスコットにもなっているジャックフロストの一族。




*18. デビルCO-OP:パーティのメンバーが敵の弱点をついたとき、そのメンバーと同じスタンスのメンバーが自動的に追い打ちする攻撃。
*19. スタンス:悪魔の属性で、主人公との相性や悪魔会話に影響する。
*20. オートバトル:自動で戦闘を行うシステム。










*21. パスワード:データの保存再生のために入出力する文字列。
*22. ピクシー:『真・女神転生』シリーズでおなじみの悪魔。序盤に登場するため、レベルが低い。