Kyuuyaku Megami Tensei (aka Megami Tensei: The Old Testament), is an enhanced remake of the first two Megami Tensei games that were originally released on the Nintendo Famicom. It was published in Japan for the Super Famicom in 1995.
Like most of the early Megami Tensei games these two titles weren’t released in the West due to them having controversial content based on religious and occult themes. Thankfully, though, they were liked enough by gamers to be given fan translations into English, and this SNES re-release was first fan-translated in 2014. It has also been fan translated into Spanish.
Game one, being a remake of Digital Devil Story: Megami Tensei, is a simple but challenging Dungeon Master clone where you must navigate your way through a series of dungeons, fighting demons, recruiting them, defeating bosses, and solving simple puzzles (mostly ‘find-and-fetch’ quests) to progress the story.
Graphically it is much improved over the original but the underlying structure of the game is mostly identical to before. I say ‘mostly’ but the mazes are different – for the most part. There are some similarities to the original mazes, but some sections appear to be totally different. Maps for the original game will not work with this remake, but thankfully there is a useful automap feature that helps and which wasn’t available in the original.
Moving and turning seems a little ‘laggy’ in this remake, in that: you press a button and have to wait a second for the move animation to finish. You get used to it eventually, but initially it feels a little slow.
That said: this game is a worthy upgrade over the original and is worth playing if you like level-grinders.
The second game (a remake of Digital Devil Story: Megami Tensei II) is much more interesting. You start off in an overhead, scrolling maze and must battle your way to, and defeat, the Minotaur on the bottom floor. This, though, is a game within a game and turns out to be just the trainer dungeon. Once you’ve completed it the game then starts proper and the viewpoint switches back to the familiar first-person view. The story then reveals that you’re a survivor of a nuclear war and are inside a bunker on an island in Tokyo.
When you get outside of the bunker the view then changes to an overhead scrolling map where you must then make your way to the next town. Firstly, though, you must beat the boss of the nuclear bunker to be able to cross the river to get to the next settlement/set of ruins (this is post-apocalypse Japan after all).
Each of your human characters can carry a sword and a gun and you can choose which to use in battle. Guns are apparently better against ‘flesh’ monsters and swords are better against ‘ethereal’ monsters, but some experimentation is needed to see which are most effective against certain demons. Occasionally you’ll find weapon shops that sell guns, but you are told – in no uncertain terms – that sword-based weapons cannot be bought from stores and must be found as drops by defeating demons.
Both games in this remake feature identical systems for demon recruitment and item manipulation, which does give them a nice feeling of continuation.
In terms of difficulty, the first game of the two is definitely the hardest – at least at the very beginning. Getting a foothold is not easy and your initial steps into the lower levels of the first dungeon will be fraught with the risk of death at any moment. Once you’ve built-up a few levels it does get easier, although you may have to pass level ten before you start feeling confident that you’re not going to die at any moment if you meet the wrong type of enemy.
The second game in this package is actually much easier than the original version – in fact: both games in this remake are easier than the originals, but that’s only because the Famicom versions are relatively tough, as level-grinders go. In the first game I noticed that some changes had been made to the mazes in the first dungeon, to make progress a little easier. In the original Megami Tensei there’s a section where you make your way through Valhalla Corridor to Sky City, and the route is a little confusing (because you have to double-back on yourself to the previous dungeon and then find a route into the lower half of Valhalla Corridor to reach Sky City). In the original game the upper and lower halves of Valhalla Corridor are not connected, but in this remake they are, which makes it a lot easier to navigate through that section of the game.
I’ve seen online reviews that criticise these games (particularly the first game) for being “a slog” and “too grindy”, and my response to that is: if you don’t like level-grinders – don’t review them! I wouldn’t expect a person who didn’t like football games to review a football game, because that isn’t fair on the game. These two games are ALL ABOUT grinding, and if you don’t like it: step back and let the adults handle it… That fact is: as level-grinders go, these two games – particularly the second game – are excellent RPGs and are well worth playing. They’re absorbing and challenging and nowhere near the most “grindy” of level-grinders that I’ve ever played. In fact: if you know what you’re doing, it’s fairly easy to escape from battles without having to fight them all. And the balance between having to battle and continuing story progression is just about right, in my opinion. All this talk about them being too “grindy” is just rubbish talked by amateurs, to be honest.
Overall, Kyuuyaku Megami Tensei is a nice little package of two classic JRPGs in one. The English translation is excellent – better than those available for the originals (the second game doesn’t currently have a complete translation available, so this is still the best way to play it – for the time being). After having played both of the Famicom originals, then both games in this release, I have more of a motivation to continue playing this, than the originals. It’s just a more complete and enjoyable alternative to the somewhat archaic (but historic) Famicom originals.