When Mythology Comes to Life?

By: Desiree Garza

CHATTANOOGA(UTC/TheLoop) – Though it is a mouthful to say, Shin Megami Tensei: Imagine is a somewhat new and still fresh free MMO for teens and adults to play.

Jack Frost is not only a demon in Imagine but also the mascot of Atlus Co. "HeeHo"

Jack Frost is not only a demon in Imagine but also the mascot of Atlus Co. "HeeHo"

Shin Megami Tensei: Imagine is a Teen rated MMO (Massively Multiplayer Online) developed by Cave Co. and published by Aeria Games. The game is based off the the Japanese game series Shin Megami Tensei by Atlus Co.  The series may be regarded as a cult following, but has been growing over the years. It is a free to play MMO with an item mall. This means that the player may log on and play any time without a subscription. However, there are items available for you to purchase with real money to help with gameplay. Players are able to interact with hundreds of others within North America, depending on which version you are playing, as they run through dungeons and fend off new foes.

Story

The story is very long and in depth but is  told as the player first starts the game. It takes place between the first and second Shin Megami Tensei games in a post apocalyptic world. According to the story, in 1990, man began working on a way to make teleportation. However, the process began to create data made up of mythological and other fictional beings that would later be named “Demons.” Missiles were launched from all over the globe to try and destroy the creatures. However, this only caused the destruction of man kind.

Those that survived this war or “The Great Destruction” lived in small underground shelters called “Homes.” During the story of the first Shin Megami Tenssei, there was a group of young individuals that ventured out to the demon and human world to try and bring peace and new guidance to the world. Under the guidance of the seven wise men, man left the Homes and constructed a giant tower and city called Shinjuku Babel. Here a new era of law would be ordered.

Years of peace passed by before three large obelisks appeared around Tokyo with army of demons emerging from them. Each player is called a “Demon Buster” and it is their job to keep these demons under control, and bring back peace to this still barren but growing wasteland.

Demons?

Suzanne Black's image of her and another player's demons.

Suzanne Black's image of her and another player's demons.

The game revolves around befriending “demons” to help  the player in their travels. The demons do not all reflect what you may be typically used to when you see this word. Most of them come from different mythologies. The demons range from angels and fairies to wisps and devils. So there is a wide variety for you to choose from. One player, Suzanne Black, said, “Well I like how they are based on world mythology and there are various kinds, so it lets players stick to ones they like.” Several of these demons are not very child friendly and neither is this game. As Alessa Gregory put it, “It’s basically Pokemon for adults.”

Each demon falls into a category and alignment. The alignments are Law, Neutral, and Chaos. The alignment you begin to develop will reflect how much it cost to summon these demons to your side. Even if the demon does not match the alignment of they player,  they can still befriend it. Demons can be fused together in order to create a new one. Demons made through fusion also inherit abilities they would not normally have obtained in the wild.

Basic Controls

The movement in Imagine uses the point and click maneuver with your mouse. The player targets the ground to click where they need to go or click on the enemy they wish to attack. The player may also use the “A, W, S, and D” keys to move. However, you use the number keys to control your character’s attacks, and then the function keys to control you demon’s attacks as well as use the mouse. This may get in the way of movement, so it is important to choose which one the player will use for the mouse or the keys.  There are also shortcuts built in to help open up the different menus in the game.

It should be noted that the Demons will act on their own if you set their AI to do so. This will either help the player in a pinch or make matters worse. The AI tends to be a bit random and will not always pick the best possible answer for a situation.

The Tab key can but used to switch from movement and camera control of the demon and the player. However, when controlling the demon directly, the player will be unable to move the camera at all. It will not even follow the demon very far either. The emphasis of the game is to use the main character while the demon supports. Rarely will need arise to take direct control of the demon in order to fight several long battles. This control switch is more useful if the player dies yet the demon is still alive.

Need more information on the shortcut keys and controls? Click here to view the guide provided by the main site.

System Requirements (Basic)

It is recommended that better equipment and systems are used but these are the bare basics to simply play the game.

  • Operating System: Microsoft Windows XP/Vista (32-bit only)/possibly 32bit Windows 7
  • DirectX: DirectX 9.0c or above
  • Hard Drive Space: 1.78 GB
  • Mouse: Windows Compatible (Scroll Wheel recommended)
  • Sound Card: DirectX 8.1 compatible sound card
  • Memory: 512 MB RAM
  • CPU: 3.1 Ghz Intel P3 or equivalent
  • Network: Cable Modem/DSL
  • Graphic Cards: DirectX 9 compatible with 3D acceleration
    GeForce4, ATI RADEON 8500 or better

Gameplay

Demon Buster attacking demon with a basic attack.

Demon Buster attacking demon with a basic attack.

The game starts off with the basic storyline and some tutorials that not only introduce the basic gameplay, but has some interesting cinematic movies to develop the story further for the character. As the players progress,  they will find out the game does not have any set class to choose from. However, there is still considered a class or specialization according to the attributes and expertise the players choose.

Attributes are the ‘stats’ a character has. Every time you gain experience points for killing a monster and completing quest, the player may gain a level. When the player gains a level, they are given points to distribute to their attributes. The attributes are Strength, Magic, Vitality, Intelligence, Speed, and Luck. Each of these attributes help the player grow stronger in certain areas of combat. A Melee type character is one that uses close physical combat and weapons. They usually need Strength, Vitality or Luck. There are also, Mages, Gunners, Enhancers, Crafting classes, or any combination of these. It is up to the player but there are limits. A single player cannot max out each attribute. No single player can be the best of every single type of combat or crafting available.

Expertise are the second half of the character development system. In order to learn new skills or abilities to use in combat, players must choose which expertise to level up. Players select the one they desire to learn. I will use the expertise “Rush” as an example. If the expertise is selected, then every time that player uses “RUSH” he or she will gain experience points in the “Rush” expertise. After so many points are earned in one expertise, it will level up in class and eventually allow the player to learn new skills. There is a limit based on the level of the player as to how much expertise points can be used. This keeps players from being able to train and master every skill.

Once the player gets a feel for the game and what they want to become, he or she can start running dungeons and forming parties with other players. Dungeons are areas specifically designed to for a challenge and more than one member. They have several small rooms with dozens of high level monsters. The final floor will contain a boss and several minions. If defeated, every member in the party will gain special rewards that cannot be obtained any other way.

Final Thoughts

Shin Megami Tensei Imagine is probably not for the casual player. The game revolves around some pretty complex and sometimes not too user friendly systems. This does not, however, mean the game is bad in any sense. But it is defiantly definitely a challenge. Like the series it is based off of, knowing almost every weakness and resistance are usually the only way to beat your opponent. Simply trying to overpower yourself and just go crazy will not always work. Furthermore, the level up system takes a great deal of time compared to some of the more casual MMOs. It is still what gamers called a grinding game. That is a game where you simply fight monsters over and over again to level. There are some quests but it is not the main way to level.

The Demon system is by far the greatest aspect, and is fresh and new to MMO gaming. Being able to obtain and customize your own partner for fighting is nothing short of amazing. It is a great way to play on your own for small fights as well as a way to defend your weaknesses. Danny Butler said, “It reminds me a lot of Guild Wars. You don’t have to play with a lot of players. You can go off and do your own thing.” There are over 100 demons to choose from and each with their own unique abilities and fighting style. A player could spend months just raising and obtaining different demons to try out.

Demon Buster casting a spell

Demon Buster casting a spell

Another great aspect are the graphics. The game uses a slight anime art style while still trying to be realistic at the same time. It is not too bad to look at and the settings can be adjusted quite well according to your graphical needs.

The downside is that the controls will take a lot of getting used to. Sometimes it is required to adjust the camera mid battle and with the already very picky and very precise timing of attacks, this can lead to some unfortunate results. It will take some getting used to but it is possible. Secondly, the Hybrid aspect of the game is much harder to pull off than it may seem. Though it promotes the idea that you can make a character any way you like, it is almost still required that there is a very primary focus in order to maximize any skill. This can make playing by yourself very difficult. Some classes with have a far harder time than others. Enhancers are healers in the game but in order to every do much good, they usually have to go full enhancing and have no offensive skills besides their demon. The same goes for master crafter. It is almost mandatory for such players to have a party willing to let them travel with them. (The Enhancer should not have so much an issue with but the crafter will.)

As a closing comment, I will note that this is probably one of the cheapest free to play MMO’s on the net as of this time. Many “Free” MMOs tend to make it so that the game they play is very low end until they are willing to spend more money than they do with a subscription based MMO. This game does not do that. If your wallet is low on dough, you want a challenge, and something fresh, Shin Megami Tensei: Imagine is the game for you.

There is still a lot of information that was sadly not covered in this review. To find out more, visit the sites Wiki.

Want to share your experience with Imagine? Send me an e-mail at Desiree-Garza@utc.edu

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Comments

  1. I am not certain if the players of this game will be aware of the real life consequences and they should be warned.

  2. I used to get so caught up in games like this. I could do nothing else but play until I won. Eventually, I had to drastically reduce my game play to once a year. Then once every few years.

    The scary thing about the new online games is that they can basically go on forever.

    I just have too many priorities to let them suck me back in.

  3. I have a lot of friends who wasted YEARS and continue to waste years on games. However, the graphics for this game are pretty fantastic. I can’t say much anyway as Little Big World ate a good-sized portion of my summer. Great review.

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