What a Long, Strange Journey It's Been

Edward Moore | 9 Nov 2010 08:28
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"Because MegaTen is all about the ordinary lives becoming inconceivably unordinary, it has to be connected to modern society somehow," Kaneko says. "To accomplish that, we often adapt concepts theorized in cutting-edge science into the game. At the same time, though, a huge number of gods and demons from all over the world appear in MegaTen. They too have a close relationship with our lives, but it's more from a folkloric standpoint - you might consider that to be the analog approach, as opposed to the digital approach of science. We lay the foundation of the games by tying science and folklore - two seemingly incompatible approaches - together with philosophy. That's what makes the MegaTen settings unique."


It's not uncommon in MegaTen games to see modern elements such as machine guns and computer AIs alongside Japanese nature spirits or fearful, statuesque Angelic beings from Milton's Paradise Lost. Even Atlus' trademark mascot, Jack Frost, is a cute and cuddly interpretation of a mischievous spirit from Anglo-Saxon folklore. Judging by the variety of supernatural beings on display, and the extensive detail provided in their profiles, it's obvious that Kaneko has a broad yet profound interest in this area. However, one set of myths and legends holds more interest for him than others.

"For the myths ... I like the Old Testament of the Bible. Many myths in the world share traits like the triad of deities, duality such as good and evil, the creation of the world, and the flood. But because the Old Testament is the most simple, it gives me the idea that it might actually be the root of all the myths," Kaneko explains.

MegaTen also portrays a more nuanced yet sophisticated type of morality that differs from simple, binary depictions of good and evil. It tends to explore contrasting world-views and beliefs of characters driven by abstract ideals. The narrative In Nocturne, for example, begins with an occultist who uses a forbidden power to trigger the end of the world. As the player explores the surreal, post-apocalyptic landscape of Tokyo, different factions of divine beings rise up to compete for the right to determine the nature of the new world to be reborn in place of the old. Their views on how this new reality should be molded are not so clear-cut between black and white, but it is ultimately the player's choice, not theirs, that determines the form of the world to come.

"MegaTen games are designed so that the player's decisions as the protagonist determine the course of the story," Kaneko explains. "Within that story are many characters who oppose the protagonist and others who want to befriend him - and each of them has their own motivations. Frankly, I'd even go so far as to say that events in the world of MegaTen are metaphors for the real world.

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