Are RPGs Like Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga I and II Becoming Obsolete?

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

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There are countless things to say about the Digital Devil Saga games, and there are various opinions on these games concerning many aspects. Each of these different aspects of the games will be taken into consideration, and bring me to a very sad conclusion indeed; the reality that many of us RPG fans have been facing during this generation is a disappointing one. Amazing RPGS are very hard to come by, and we often have to fight and push for a North American release to even occur in the first place, as seen in the cases of both Xenoblade and The Last Story.

Before I continue, I would like to warn everyone about potential spoilers found in this editorial. I would also warn everyone of my bias concerning gaming in general. I grew up with the PS1 and the PS2, which were both wonderful consoles to own as an RPG fan. The SNES and the N64 were both amazing as well, boasting titles such as Final Fantasy VI and Ogre Battle 64 respectively, among many more. It is impossible to take a look at current generation games on the Xbox360, PS3, and Wii without some ‘QQ’ and plenty of cursing. RPGs have become ridiculously rare; good ones even rarer still.

Digital Devil Saga is an RPG that stands out among its kind. Let’s take a look at how this is, and why…

Digital Devil Saga

First Impression and Introduction

Is anyone else becoming irritated with the same concept implemented in almost all RPGs? Random nobody from random village in random far off place suddenly finds himself/herself fighting to save the world randomly? There was never any actual reason as to why these people decide to save the world to begin with. I have to admit, this is not a recent phenomenon. Many old school RPGs also had these random people saving the world for no apparent reason at all, and it seems this trend continues. Is there really nothing else that can be used as the beginning plot point?

That is one of the most wonderful things Digital Devil Saga does; it uses something completely different as a starting point. You are not some random boy with a sword who suddenly gets the itch to save the world. You’re actually part of the reason the world is being destroyed. Granted, you do not know any of this until the last segments of the game. My point here is that we, as RPG fans, want something new and different to bring us in. DDS did such a fantastic job of immersing players into a setting and a situation that made us continue playing simply to ask one simple question…”What the hell is going on?”

It is just one of those games that throws you into a situation and it does not explain anything at all until much later. Once you reach that ‘later’ point, you suddenly go, “Eureka!”  These games that make us anticipate and think ahead of what is being portrayed is what makes RPGs so memorable. You cannot possibly predict what will happen within this saga. Almost everything is a surprise, which is very rare in not only RPGs, but in games in general these days.

Digital Devil Saga


We are all used to the cliché and stereotypical cast of characters, where you have the clown, the serious one, the morally righteous hero, and the irritatingly weak love interest. Digital Devil Saga does not by any means stray too far away from the stereotypical character model, but it does go further and develop these characters. You not only see them grow from mindless drones, but you also slowly understand why they are the way they are and what made them this way. Games in general need to take a very good look into how novels driven by characters are written, and what makes those characters so well fleshed out that we are drawn to them. A book that is a must for game developers should be The Name of The Wind, in which not a whole lot is happening plot wise, but the characters themselves are what keeps our eyes glued to the pages.

We need to care about what happens to these characters to continue playing. DDS does that so well, it is almost baffling. How is it that these drones I call my party captivate my interest? The answer is simple. They are not truly drones at all, and as you further progress in the story, the more humanity you glimpse from the characters and the more you desire to learn more.

Interest is what captures our attention long enough for the developers to start working on making us care about these characters and their plight. There is a fine balance between these two things that must be in place for an RPG to shine.

Digital Devil Saga is a perfect example. Does that mean that the characters are perfect? Hardly. Opinion will always shine through and be the deciding factor. But for me, these characters were just so well fleshed out by the end of the saga that I couldn’t help but really care about what happened to each one. As I saw them slowly die and leave my party, I felt angry! How dare they kill off my characters! How dare they take away my favourite party members?! THAT is what I believe also lacks in terms of RPGs these days, this emotional connection between the player and the characters.

About Ceruleath Noreleth

Former Volunteer- A girlie gamer that likes long walks on the beach, vanilla flavoured ice cream and...I lie.

I collect weapons, I PWN newbies on CoD, and if I put as much time into studying as I have put into Video Gaming, I would have cured every disease in the books, and then some. I am a closet nerd, a gamer, and a fan of everything out of the ordinary. GET AT MEH! ';..;'

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  • I’ll disagree on the comment about most RPGs being about kids in villages saving the world. The last one I’ve played with that story was on the GBA.

    And this gen has had a some great RPGs: Lost Odyssey, Resonance of Fate, Eternal Sonata,  Neir. It’s just that this generation has been lacking in narrative quality across the board so only genres that don’t rely on story prospered. 

    Now, the PSP and DS on the other hand have a huge number of amazing RPGs that no one even realizes have English versions. That’s the real shame.

  • I can think of Xenoblade, the last Story, and even tales of Graces F off the top of my head. In Tales of Graces your a brat son that defies your father at every turn and then something horrible happens and you grow up and learn what family means. Tales of Graces oozes character. Ni No Kuni is looking like it will be a lot of we JRPGers crave. I think you do have a point that this does happen, but I think its really because there hasn’t been that many JRPGs on the next gen systems like in the good old days and the failing of final fantasy 13 make it seem worse than it is. The games our there just more spread out and on different systems.

    • I found Tales of Graces terrible, although thats just my opinion. The characters were lacking any actual meat to them…It seemed like they were just stereotypical cardboard characters, and the theme and storyline was very predictable and dry. 

      I found Vesperia much more mature and much better character wise and plot wise. 

    •  i dunno, his father was a complete moron an’ a git. (sends away da younger son, who wants ta be Lord o’ da town, so da 2 sons won’t fight over who will be lord, when the older one has no desire to be Lord……..dumbass humie.)

  • Isn’t digital devil saga 1 and 2 both rare and expensive? A friend of mine lost his copies and laments the fact that he can’t find any for a decent price.

    • Lightthrower

      You can get them new now pretty cheap, Atlus made some available recently. Same with SMT Nocturne.

    • Really? Sounds like I need to jump on that than.

    • They are around 20-30 dollars now each on Amazon.

  • of course not.

    Atlus did 6+ of them this gen

    This article is generalized trash

  • “Amazing RPGS are very hard to come by, and we often have to fight and push for a North American release to even occur in the first place, as seen in the cases of both Xenoblade and The Last Story.”

    There have been more amazing rpgs this gen than any other by about 10x

    Last story and xenoblade were going to get localized regardless.
    Operation rainfall had 0 confirmed impact on getting them

    and we did get them. So continuing to complain like we didnt is BS. 

    It makes me ashamed that the article writer is an rpg fan

    In fact atlus had its best rpg gen, this very gen

    I would take persona 4, devil survivor 1 and 2, strange journies, nora, radiant historia, etrian 1-3

    over anything they did in any other gen.

    • I respect your opinion, but it differs from mine. 

      I miss the good old days, where grinding and getting through a RPG was a fun experience, not a grind just to get to the next segment in the plotline. 

      I would actually KILL for Ogre Battle 64 type game on this gen, for example.

    • obviously we differ. But you should take the past goggles off and live in the now. 

      This has been the best gen ever for srpgs. Its not even close

      Ogre battle 64? great

      but I wouldnt take it over tactics advance 2, disgaea 4, shining blade, valkyria, ect………

    • I never got that great “Big battlefield” feel from any of those games as I had from Ogre Battle. It just seemed to be on such a grand scale, compared to say, Valkyria Chronicles. 

    • valkyria was way bigger

  • “on the Xbox360, PS3, and Wii without some ‘QQ’ and plenty of cursing. RPGs have become ridiculously rare; good ones even rarer still.”

    Dont be an idiot. Considering what place these systems are in japan, weve seen more rpgs in HISTORY at these positions.

    Your coming off as a whiny baby that the psp, ios, ds were the top platforms for rpgs in japan.


    • Yes, but I would like Quality > Quantity. 

      Most RPGS this gen have been so dry and boring that it was a chore to get through them. (Remember, this is my opinion.)
      My point was that the quality in RPGS has been lacking. Xenoblade and Last Story saved this gen for me RPG wise. 

    • Weve had quality and quantity. 

      I get its your opinion. I am trying to get you to maybe change it

      Xenoblade and last story were great.

      But that was a drop in the bucket.
      Let me list my top 3 rpgs from each platform this gen

      PS3: Ni no kuni, disgaea 3, tales of graces F
      wii : xenoblade, fire emblem 11, shiren 3
      360: blue dragon, lost oddessy, eternal sonata
      ds: suikoden T, dragon quest IX, pokemon black
      psp: zhp, srw z2, valkyria 2
      ios: chaos rings trilogy is incredible

    • Im so excited for Ni No Kuni!

      I have played almost everything you listed, but it still hasnt caught me as hard as the old Rpgs. 
      The storylines are just very predictable. Perhaps its the age difference now, but its still very difficult. 
      I couldnt stand the characters in Tales of Graces. x_x! The friendship theme just kept getting beaten over and over again, and it got to the point where it was irritating and annoying. o_o! What did you think about the theme push? Im really curious ^^

    • I like jrpgs more now than I ever did. Better variety…………

  • Just wait until SMT IV and say that this genre is dying again

    • I cant wait for it. ><! Its taking them so damn long though. D:

    • So true. People love to doom and gloom for hits but reality is different

    • No, I honestly just havent enjoyed RPGs this Gen. Im playing old Ps2 ones now and have scoured Ebay and Amazon for the old jewels… Playing Wild Arms 4 at the moment. ^_~;

    • thats a shame, they are better than ever

  • This article reads like it was written by a college freshman trying to sound intelligent, but not quite reaching that point. You never once really said why DDS is becoming obsolete. All you did was complain about imagined slights by JRPG developers. I’ve played DDS 1 and 2, but I don’t see what the fuss is all about and your article didn’t shine any light on the matter either.

    • Sadly, if you did not get the point, or noticed the back and forth argument in the article, then I cannot help you.

      I pointed out the qualities DDS had that is lacking in RPGs in this generation.

      ” You never once really said why DDS is becoming obsolete. “…Because that is not what I am writing about? 
      Please, before you insult my intelligence, read the article title properly. I am pointing out that what is found in DDS that I find amazing, has been lacking from recent RPGs. 

  • marc arial

    The real problem I have with this generation, is that every game is the same.  EVERY game is action-based, in some way.  Of course, I’m speaking mainly of consoles.  I know handhelds have some traditional RPGs, and Strategy RPGs.  But, when this generation was just starting, I was so excited to get HIGH-budget, HIGH-profile TRPGs, and SRPGs.  And, what did we end up with?  If it’s got any sort of budget, it’s an action RPG.  There is NO VARIETY!  I like action RPGs, but I can only play so many, before I need something different!  I know.  I know.  A low budget, doesn’t mean the game is no good.  That’s right.  But, it does drastically increase the likelihood that it will be no good.  And, even though graphics aren’t everything, it is the main reason people were excited about this gen.

    We’ve been left in the dust, and I don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel for next gen, either.  I think I’ve been forced to become a permanent retro-gamer.

    • Im in the exact same boat as you at the moment. I go to old gens for my RPG needs. 

      One sad example is FF13, and FF13-2….. I cannot even begin to rant about my hatred for where Square Enix has gone, and where all rpgs are trying to cater to ‘mainstream’ needs and destroying the elements that rpgs had. 

  • Nonnahswriter

    I wouldn’t say that JRPGs themselves have been getting weaker over the newest generations… True, there were a few bad ones, but there have always been bad ones over the history of video games, in all genres. What you’re forgetting though is the nostalgia factor–most of us remember growing up with RPGs like the original Final Fantasies, Chrono Trigger, Legend of Zelda…heck, even Pokemon counts as an RPG, and many of these titles are still well-loved today. This is not only because they were innovative games at the time they were made, but also because the fans share such loving memories of playing these games as children. We’re emotionally attached to the classics, and I don’t think perhaps the new RPG games have had enough time or innovation to create that same emotional attachment with the fans. They just…don’t “feel” the same as the classics, and we tend to interpret that “feeling” as superior to not having any “feeling” at all.
    Who knows? Ten-twenty years from now, we may be looking back on Xenoblade and The Last Story as “the good old days of JRPGs” and keep complaining about the NEW-new round of games coming out.

    • marc arial

      But The Last Story, and Xenoblade Chronicles are two of the exceptions, this generation.  I don’t think it’s all nostalgia.  I still play those old games today.  And most of the time, I enjoy it more than most of the current gen games.  Really, one of the very few positives I’ve found in the current gen, is plenty of time to get into my backlog of old games to play (if you can call that a “positive”).

      Right now, I’m playing Dragon Quest 3, for the first time, and Shining Force 3, for the 5th? (can’t remember, for sure) time.  The only current gen game I’m playing, is Skyrim.

  • Chelsea

    So happy that you posted this article. I have a bad habit of getting to the very end of a game and kinda… falling off amidst grinding/side questing/etc. This is true of DDS II, and I now feel motivated to get back into it this holiday season. Thanks for the inspiration!

  • ddsfan2

    I agree 100%, hence my name. I like all of Altus’s games, but none of them as well as the DDS games, at least of those that I’ve played so far.

    No other RPG was as memorable for me storywise, (actual cutscenes make it stand out compared to Atlus’s other output imo; the cinematic touch and detailed narrative makes all the difference) except for possibly Nier (but I don’t count that as an RPG, it plays very different, imo). Catherine was pretty memorable, but definitely not an RPG. I have a ton of JRPGs for the PSP and DS, but so far none are on the same level if you’re looking for that specific type of game. I could go on and on, but pretty much all of the games that people are suggesting I’ve already played or don’t appeal to me, and I’d imagine that you (the OP) see it the same way.

    There were some great JRPGs gameplay-wise, but not that many of the dark and gritty scifi type, and virtually all of those games were also by Atlus. (and are far lower budget) Ironically enough, I also think that the DDS games have the best gameplay of Atlus’s output, as well.

    If you are really looking for that type of story oriented game, you probably should play visual novels. Some of the best ever were made this generation, especially if you know Japanese. But those are barely games at all, of course.

    I think that the only reason why games like DDS are considered “obsolete” is because cinematic JRPGs have greatly gone out of favor, and JRPGs this generation are generally much lower budget and smaller scale than what we played on the PS2.

    It was fun while it lasted, but cinematic JRPGs with great writing apparently aren’t economically sustainable anymore, (although I’d never say that the Xeno games were especially well written, I think that Takahashi’s renouncement of cinematic JRPGs marked the end of an era) so we will just have to move on…

  • Vittorio Pugliese

    The only bad thing about Digital Devil Saga is the fact that Serph is silent.
    A game as character-driven as this needs to flesh out the protagonist’s personality or otherwise the protagonist seems dull and lifeles compared to the others.