Before there were ever Personas and Jokers, the Shin Megami Tensei and Persona series began with their humble beginnings as the Megami Tensei games. A pair of titles that were by and large foundational in what came later but, ultimately, wasn’t quite up to par with the main series.
These truly old-school games are ones that I have moderately checked out due to having played every other SMT and Persona game, but are they worth your time? Find out in this Kyuuyaku Megami Tensei guide.
You see, the Kyuuyaku Megami Tensei game is a SNES title that remade the first two Megami Tensei titles into a much more palatable version. With better graphics and a more appealing gameplay loop, it is considered the best way to check out the origins of the Shin Megami Tensei and Persona universe.
Suppose you’ve ever wanted to know about the games that started it all. In that case, you’re in the right place with this Kyuuyaku Megami Tensei guide.
Bottom Line Up Front
Kyuuyaku Megami Tensei is a single game for the Super Nintendo that included both of the Megami Tensei games for the NES. These were the first game adaptations ever of the Digital Devil Story: Megami Tensei Japanese novels.
Set as first-person dungeon-crawling adventures with turn-based gameplay involving collecting demons, it was the root of the gameplay we enjoy today with the Shin Megami Tensei and Persona series.
Even with the remake, though, these games are best left in the past as I don’t think they hold up well enough to be worth your time, with an English fan translation or not.
Kyuuyaku Megami Tensei Overview
It’s crazy to think that there was a chance we never had the Persona and Shin Megami Tensei franchises. Without the first two Megami Tensei video games, it’s possible that Atlus wouldn’t be the JRPG powerhouse that we know it to be today. And I would be without some of my favorite games of all time.
When it comes to Kyuuyaku Megami Tensei, specifically, it is the remake of the first two Megami Tensei games that came out for the NES. This remake collection brought the games to a more modern style (for the 1990s at least) and helped the games to be more appealing to newcomers.
Kyuuyaku Megami Tensei represents the literal foundation of the entire Atlus development mantra, inspiring JRPGs even to this day. The name itself comes from the Japanese word that can mean a lot of different things.
I will note that I have only about an N3 level of Japanese skill at this time, but here are my thoughts. There are possible translations for Kyuuyaku to mean things like an “old promise,” and it also makes up half of the name for the Old Testament section of the Bible in Japanese.
When you mix this with the Megami Tensei title, that is where it gets intriguing. Megami Tensei on its own means the reincarnation of the goddess, so Kyuuyaku Megami Tensei is like the old promise of the reincarnation of the goddess.
It is a heavily complex title that I find so fascinating. It makes it clear that there is something old here in this collection of games but new at the same time. That is precisely what Kyuuyaku Megami Tensei is, being a collection of older games that are on a newer platform with some new tricks.
Kyuuyaku Megami Tensei and its duo of titles were not created solely by Atlus. What many may not realize is that the Shin Megami Tensei series and, by turn, Persona initially came from outside of the video game medium.
You see, there was a set of novels that were released by Aya Nishitani that were known as Digital Devil Story: Megami Tensei. The first book in the series was released in 1986, predating the Megami Tensei games for only a short period of time.
The books follow a near-futuristic world in which a young man named Akemi Nakajima digitally creates a demon summoning program through his computer. He uses this to exact revenge against the bullies at school. An intriguing sci-fi Japanese Carrie-like premise that I dig.
The idea of the demon summoning program and high school kids was what was used to create the original Megami Tensei games. This branched out into the later Shin Megami Tensei franchise (shin for new in this case) and then eventually the Persona games, too.
The origins of Kyuuyaku Megami Tensei and pretty much everything that Atlus is known for these days comes from this original Digital Devil Story book from Aya Nishitani. I’m not sure what Nishitani’s family is paid these days for the SMT and Persona games as royalties, but I would sure love to know.
It’s worth noting that the Megami Tensei games from Atlus aren’t direct translations of the novels into video game forms. There are some similar characters and ideas, but the general storyline is a bit different. Part of this comes from the fact that the Megami Tensei games were on the NES.
As NES titles, they were severely limited in terms of what they could do back in the day. To this point, there was almost no story to the first two Megami Tensei titles at the time. You had the basic premise and some character interactions, but it was not that special like the novel’s intriguing plot.
For the most part, the Megami Tensei game takes place partway through the novel’s plot. It follows Akemi Nakajima and Yumiko Shirasagi, the same two main characters from the original story. Still, it starts after Nakajima has already plotted his vengeance against his classmates.
Unfortunately, he created the demon summoning program. He unleashed it, causing the hordes of demons under Lucifer to appear in the real world. The game kicks off immediately with you as Nakajima and Shirasagi trying to stop Lucifer once and for all and fix your mistakes.
It is a cool idea, but there is not much more to the game’s plot than this. You go through various dungeons, collect demons, defeat Lucifer’s generals, and then battle it out against him at the conclusion of the title.
Megami Tensei Remakes
Kyuuyaku Megami Tensei took the first two games and remade them for the SNES. With the return of these influential titles, some changes were made. For the most part, the gameplay and storyline remain intact. Still, I like what developer Opera House did with the source material.
Much more dialogue is included in this version that narrates and sets the scene better for what’s going on. There are some more interactions between the main characters and the demons and just a little bit more story to offer to make the games much longer than they originally were.
This is especially welcome for the first Megami Tensei that could be completed in like an hour if you knew what you were doing. The graphics are notable, too, as the appearance of the remakes looks more akin to how we expect games to look on the SNES.
I know it might be controversial, but I don’t think NES games look good at all or hold up in the slightest today. I don’t have the nostalgia for those games nor the SNES, but I can at least appreciate the style and play games from the 16-bit era.
Kyuuyaku Megami Tensei finally brings the first-person dungeon-crawling adventure to a point where it is playable from a visual standpoint for me. Now, gameplay-wise, that might be another story. The gameplay is pretty much intact, with only a few minor changes in this department.
Opera House tried to keep the games pure to what they were initially. Hence, the only gameplay changes were to offer a new save system and the ability to teleport around. Some of the dungeons were remade entirely, but this is a positive considering how convoluted and messy they were in the first place.
The ideas behind the original Megami Tensei games will be pretty familiar to any current Shin Megami Tensei and Persona fans out there. The problem, though, is that they came first, providing almost experimental levels of the current systems and formats that we know today.
This is seen throughout all the core parts of the game, which consist of three main areas: dungeons, turn-based battles, and the process of collecting new demons to join your team. In some aspects, these systems are exactly what you know them to be now, but, in other cases, you can see where Atlus was testing things out.
Thankfully, the developer knew what worked and what didn’t, and the results from the first two Megami Tensei games in this collection provided the template for what came much later on. Because of the gameplay systems in Kyuuyaku Megami Tensei, we have games like Persona 5 that we love so much today.
The exploration is perhaps the most considerable difference between the Kyuuyaku Megami Tensei games and the modern SMT and Persona titles. There were dungeons in these titles, but they worked considerably differently from how they do at this time.
The system in place in the first two Megami Tensei games was having first-person dungeon-crawling elements. This is your old-school moving block-by-block on a grid-based dungeon map from the first-person perspective.
This is that style that you will immediately know whether you love it or hate it. From my short time with these games and my extensive time with similar titles, I can say that I fall into the hate it group. This is primarily due to the messy nature of the exploration.
There is no actual map to help you out in the games, and every room, hallway, and path that you take in a dungeon will pretty much look exactly the same as the last one. It takes a considerable level of patience or just a video walkthrough to help you out in order to make it through without tons of frustration.
Along the way in the dungeons, there are some minor puzzles that you will find, like holes in the floor that you have to avoid and secret passageways that you can discover and traverse. There are only a few dungeons in each of the two games included in Kyuuyaku Megami Tensei. Still, they at least vary in the environment.
You might be in a modern-day city environment in Japan one minute and in the literal pits of hell the very next. In the original games, these dungeons looked pretty bad, but, thankfully, the Kyuuyaku version of the titles on the SNES helped to add some color and detail that was welcome.
In the midst of traversing through dungeons in first-person, the player will occasionally stumble upon random encounters. These battles aren’t too different from what you know from the main SMT and Persona games today.
They are turn-based battles featuring your two main characters, a handful of demons that you control, and the enemies that you are fighting. With the simplistic graphics that were offered at the time, the only feature that you could see in the battles was a sprite for the single enemy you were facing.
Menus would appear for you to select commands like attacking, using skills, and controlling your demons. What I find really fascinating about the gameplay that I think was actually quite advanced at the time was the fact that there was an auto function that you could use in battle.
This would, of course, automatically have the computer make moves on your behalf and speed up the battle to get through it much faster. While a commonplace feature in most games these days, it was rare back then.
I mean, there are still some turn-based RPGs I play today that don’t have this feature, and yet, Megami Tensei had this back in the 1980s.
The purpose of battles was to gain experience and items that would then help you do better in the next battle and later dungeons. The experience was there to help you level up so you could have more health points, better stats, and more MP to use skills.
The progression system was straightforward without the level of customization that we are mainly used to in the modern Atlus JRPGs, but it was serviceable at least.
Unique to these games, some plot items are necessary for the major boss battles, which you have to find to mitigate the worst possible skills from the six core enemies.
The hallmark feature of the Shin Megami Tensei and Persona series is collecting demons to add to your team. The entire franchise wouldn’t be seen as the “adult” version of Pokemon (though Megami Tensei hilariously came first) if this wasn’t the case.
Most notably, this entire formula of capturing demons has been there from the beginning of the whole thing. The idea is that you have demons that are made up of figures from religion, lore, legends, folktales, myths, and much more that are all gathered together into one game.
Such was even the case for the original Megami Tensei games before they ever expanded into what we know them today. To be fair, collecting demons in these games is a little bit different from how we know it to be today.
Still, there are enough similarities that you should be generally familiar with the system already if you’ve played one of these games before.
The idea is that the player’s character, Nakajima, and his friend from school are two of the party members in the turn-based battles. In total, though, you can have up to six in a single party. The other four slots, though, are not filled with other human characters but the demons you collect.
How you go about collecting these various demons is by speaking with them in the middle of battle. Yes, the negotiation system was already in place with the original games that Atlus made in the series. All you had to do was speak with the demons, and you had the chance to recruit them.
You had to make sure to say the right dialogue options or give enough items to warrant their allegiance to your cause. However, there was a huge catch when it came to the demons that you could recruit in these games.
Though there were demons from other races that were featured, only four races in total had demons that you could recruit. This severely limits the number of possible demons you could add to your team, even when you add in the few fusion possibilities. Those four recruitable races are as follows: Beast, Fairy, Jirae, and Yoma.
Can You Play It in English?
The big question that you might have right now is, can you play Kyuuyaku Megami Tensei right now in English? I will be clear from the start, the original Megami Tensei games have never been released in English, and they honestly probably never will be.
Sadly, the same is the case for Kyuuyaku Megami Tensei. More than likely, Atlus wouldn’t have even left the name of the game as that if it were translated into English. It’s possible, but I doubt it. This game has never been localized, and, quite frankly, I don’t think it ever will be, either.
Even for games like the original Shin Megami Tensei that was technically translated into English for the mobile versions (no longer available), we don’t see that game readily available. I highly doubt it will change for even something like the first games that made all of this happen.
The only way I could ever see Kyuuyaku Megami Tensei be officially available in English is if there is another remake someday that completely rebuilds the experience from the ground up, similar to what happened with Soul Hackers when it came to 3DS.
That said, this is where the negativity stops. Though this is the case, not all hope is lost as you can still, technically, play Kyuuyaku Megami Tensei right now without knowing a lick of Japanese. The way that you would go about that is through the unofficial English fan translation.
I don’t want to endorse ROM hacking and downloading ROMs illegally on our site, so I will not link to the English hacked version on here.
Instead, what you want to do is search English fan translation Kyuuyaku Megami Tensei, and the ROM Hacking site is what you want to click on. You can run this version in any general SNES emulators on PC or mobile.
Is It Worth Checking Out?
For the purposes of this article, I finally checked out the very original foundation of the Shin Megami Tensei and Persona series. Before you take the time to search and find the unofficial translation of the game, I will give you my thoughts on whether or not it is even worth your time.
The short answer to the question of if Kyuuyaku Megami Tensei is worth checking out is no, not for most players out there. This has nothing to do with the quality of the translation, as it generally seems pretty good from my time with the hacked ROM so far.
However, the issue with it comes down to the game itself. I will admit that I am not a massive fan of this gameplay as it is outdated and pales compared to what came later in the SMT and Persona series. Unless you have experience and intense nostalgia for this first-person dungeon-crawling old-school experience, I say it is a hard pass.
Even with the SNES remake of the first two Megami Tensei games, I will admit that they do not hold up today at all, in my opinion. They are far and away a relic of the past that doesn’t work too well. The slow and repetitive nature of exploration doesn’t help the already boring and simple battles.
This is all made worse by the intense difficulty as well, which can make the entire experience even more off-putting. I’ve tried games that came after, like Shin Megami Tensei I, II, and the original Persona. They don’t hold up well today.
If they can’t really hold up that well these days, then these games certainly don’t. They are fun to see for the simplicity of the series’ roots, but other than that, you’re better off just watching a playthrough on YouTube or something.
If you want that classic style of first-person dungeon-crawling in this series, I recommend other more modern games. You should try games like Strange Journey Redux, Persona Q and Q2, and the Etrian Odyssey series.
Even the mobile title SMT Liberation Dx2 has an intriguing first-person side mode that is much more fun to engage with.
Question: Is there a Kyuuyaku Megami Tensei English Translation?
Answer: Yes, there is an unofficial Kyuuyaku Megami Tensei English translation since neither the originals nor the remakes ever came out in the West. You can find it here.
Question: What are the Kyuuyaku Megami Tensei Stats?
Answer: The five stats that you are the basic strength, vitality, intelligence, agility, and luck. They function largely similar to today’s versions.
Strength affects physical damage, intelligence is more magical and skill-based, vitality is health, agility has to do with evasion, and luck is a catch-all place for RNG and the like.
Question: What is the Kyuuyaku Megami Tensei Best Demon?
Answer: You can hold up to seven demons in your party but only use four of them at a time in battle. If I had to nail down the best all-around demon, it would be Werewolf.
It is easier to acquire than some others, a high enough level, and powerful. Krishna is the highest level and strongest demon but quite hard to unlock in a playthrough.
Paving the Way for the Future
Kyuuyaku Megami Tensei is a testament to the strength of the Atlus JRPGs systems. They were fundamental in laying the foundation for masterful games like Persona 5 and Shin Megami Tensei IV that we enjoy in the modern age.
While I wouldn’t recommend Kyuuyaku to almost anyone outside of the enthusiasts curious about the past, there’s no denying their historical importance nonetheless.
Without Kyuuyaku Megami Tensei, we probably wouldn’t have games like the original Revelations: Persona on the PlayStation 1 and its PSP remake.
The gameplay for those games focused on the first-person dungeon-crawling experience, much like the first JRPGs in the series that Atlus ever made. If you want a somewhat better and more comprehensible look at the past of Atlus, Persona 1 is where I would start.
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