"It's not wrong to put everything into simple 'good' and 'evil,' like in other games, but what's right and wrong can be completely different, depending on your position and perspective," says Kaneko. "In Japan, there is a Buddhist sutra called Hannya Shingyo. It says that things with shape actually have no shape, and it's the things with no shape that have shape. The basic idea is that the world is in constant motion and everything is transient, so anything in this world can be seen differently, depending to one's personal perspective. So I say, why not let each player tackle that question of what's right and wrong? I think that's why the fans have loved and supported the series for so long."
Despite some perceptions of the JRPG genre in modern gaming circles as waning in relevance, MegaTen stands out as a critical success that has garnered a devoted following. What does the future hold for fans of this unique franchise?
"I'm personally interested in AR (augmented reality) technology," Ishida says. "You go out, and when you see through a camera - or even your own eyes - there's a MegaTen demon on the street! I'd love to make a game like that. 'I heard there's a huge demon named Beelzebub at an intersection in Shibuya! Let's go beat it!', 'If we can get a hundred people together, we can summon Metatron! We'll meet tomorrow in front of Tokyo Big Sight!' Doesn't that sound exciting?" Ishida suggests.
Kaneko offers a more enigmatic hint about what's next on MegaTen's horizons.
"The recent game console trends began changing the way people play and enjoy games," Kaneko explains. "One direction I'm considering is for each MegaTen subseries to have a unique type of consequence for the player's choices, and enhancing it in a way that suits that specific subseries. I'm thinking it would be nice to incorporate that into the player's in-game choice-making, and thereby enhance the gameplay experience."
Through its use of thought-provoking player choices, addictive challenges, and a uniquely philosophical outlook on the nature of reality, the games of the MegaTen franchise offer a captivating blend of old-school, tough-as-nails turn-based role-playing combat, while pushing the envelop of player choice and interactivity in their own distinctively intriguing way. Hopefully we, as gamers and fans, can look forward to another 20 years (or more) of deliciously demonic role-playing delight.
The author would like to extend very special "doomo arigato" to Aram Jabbari, Manager of PR and Sales, Nich Maragos, Editor, and Yu Namba, Senior Project Manager, of Atlus U.S.A., Inc., and of course, Eiji Ishida and Kazuma Kaneko for their gracious contributions, assistance, and support.
Edward Moore is a veteran game designer and producer currently hard at work on a top secret project with Spark Unlimited in Los Angeles, CA. Despite investing nearly 42 hours into Strange Journey, his Demonic Compendium stands at a measly 24 percent completion, so he has quite a bit of demon negotiation and fusion left to catch up on!