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  1. 1 point
    Digital Devil Saga: Avatar Tuner is the unique game out of a pool of already somewhat unique jRPGs. However, that is only within the confines of any MegaTen game, because when compared to other jRPG franchises such as Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest, Digital Devil Saga would feel right at home for many fans of those games. Even though the premise isn’t necessarily one you would find in a typical jRPG game, since when did Shin Megami Tensei ever offer anything outside of its own universal clichés? Well, never. The concept of Digital Devil Saga was conceived by Kazuma Kaneko when he wanted Chaos Hero to transform between his demonic and human form as you encountered the character throughout Shin Megami Tensei. This idea was ultimately never implanted in the game, but it was brought up later as a mechanic for what would become Digital Devil Saga. Much like the other MegaTen duology of Persona 2, Digital Devil Saga offers perhaps one of the most powerful stories in the entire franchise; originally penned by a novelist named Yu Godai, the script was ultimately finished by trademark Atlus writer Tadashi Satomi when the former had to leave the project due to health concerns. Featuring some of Tadashi’s beloved psychological elements, the premise of the game in a nutshell can be summarized in two sentences: a group of emotionless people who are constantly at war with other tribes in the area end becoming infected by a virus, which awakens their basic emotions as well as turning them into demons, and they find that in their demon forms, each of them will succumb to hunger unless they go and eat other demons, which is basically cannibalism. They end up protecting a young woman who can calm down their cannibalistic urges through the power of singing, and thus they go on one wild adventure which involve general mindfuckery, the world plotting against them (literally), and an awesome villain who really should’ve had more screen time. That’s just the first game. Going into the story of the second game would just outright spoil the first Digital Devil Saga, so I won’t be going too deeply into that, but note that in addition to the five party members we had in the original game, we welcome two more party members for Digital Devil Saga…and technically an eighth, because of events in the story. Digital Devil Saga plays like a traditional jRPG, just with the Shin Megami Tensei flair –we are limited to three party members, and the Mantra Grid that is used to purchase Mantra and ultimately learn skills is a little reminiscent of the Sphere Grid from Final Fantasy X, in the sense that you really only learn skills by putting special points separate from experience points into the Mantra to learn skills. Skills are equipped in Digital Devil Saga, although certain characters specialize in different types of abilities, and the maximum number of abilities any one character can learn is eight. If characters in battle equip certain abilities, they may end up performing a combo attack. Unique to the Shin Megami Tensei franchise is the Press Turn Battle System, which is touched upon in previous articles. To recap, we are given a certain number of icons (three, in this case), and these icons may disappear completely if we use a turn, or light up if we pass the turn to another character, attack an enemy’s weakness, or score a critical. Also unique to Digital Devil Saga 2 is the berserk mode, where a character loses access to their abilities and defenses, but have higher attack values as a result. Characters are usually in combat in their devil form, but they are allowed to fight in human forms as well, capable of equipping ammunition – even in human form, they may perform a combo with another party member who is in demon form. The main advantage in human form is the fact that they can use gun skills, which certain enemies are weak to, and are also immune to Expel attacks, a usual staple in older games of MegaTen. However, that said, using the Demon form is usually preferable, because of the overall higher damage (Expel can be dealt with using certain abilities). Also unique to the Digital Devil Saga duology is the fact that you can devour the enemy demons you encounter – you gain more Atma points (points needed to learn skills) by doing this, and if the demons are afraid of you before you nom them to death, you get even more Atma points! However, if you overeat, you end up being inflicted with status ailments, which sucks. So, like in any game that involves grinding, balance is key. Now then, let’s talk about the characters: unlike most protagonists in MegaTen, Serph is one who has a fairly established background. You may not know it yet, but his history is dark, and the meaning of his existence is really brought into question during the course of the second game. Serph is also unique amongst jRPG protagonists because his element of choice is ice: in a world where the heroes of the world are fire, wind, or lightning, we finally got a Frosty. The main female lead, Sera, who is also pretty much a protagonist in Digital Devil Saga 2 alongside Gale and Serph, is integral to the story – she really becomes her own character in the second Digital Devil Saga, but I found her pretty boring in the first game. Heat’s entire concept is that he’s a hot-tempered, chaotic young man, driven by feelings that are probably not his own. It’s a shame, because his history is really excellent; probably the most interesting character in terms of background, but he’s also super boring in concept – he’s nothing we haven’t seen before. It’s the same with Argilla – as much as I like her, she’s also a pretty boring concept in and of herself. However, Digital Devil Saga likes to surprise me, bringing in moments where I really wonder if the characters of Heat and Argilla were really as tripe as I saw them. Cielo is either offensive or just weird. He has a Jamaican accent, and has dreadlocks. He’s also kind of annoying – maybe he was written with the “boy next door†image in mind, but he reminds me too much of Masao/Mark from Megami Ibrunoku Persona, except worse. He’s also the weakest character in the first Digital Devil Saga, because he was weak to status ailments – that’s really awful in MegaTen, especially when almost every enemy has a status effect in their kit. They fixed this in Digital Devil Saga 2, and he’s not bad there – Cielo’s actually pretty good. Didn’t make him any less likeable in my book though. And then we reach Gale – my man Gale. Easily one of the coolest characters in the MegaTen franchise (and that’s a lot of characters to beat out), Gale is love, Gale is life. His “I do not comprehend†moments are so…I’m literally having a fangasm right now, to the point where it’s actually difficult to find the right words for Gale. I’ll put it this way – He's like Tatsuya Suou level of cool, and I thank Tadashi Satomi for putting this masterpiece of a character (I am really being excessive here, he’s certainly not on that level, but fuck it), and I also commend Yu Godai for putting Gale into her Quantum Devil Saga novels (she was allowed to write her original scripts after the games were released), recognizing just how cool Gale is. One could argue that Gale can come off as boring – the fan inside me will just have to say this: “fuck you, dude, you don’t know what you’re talking about…although I don’t either.†Honestly, Gale just might be one of my favorite characters in the entire franchise, and the fact that he ends up taking something of a protagonist role in the second Digital Devil Saga made me giddier than a fat kid looking at a box of chocolate bars that his parents are willing to buy. I would just say this: Digital Devil Saga has some interesting characters (Gale and Jenna Angel especially, the latter who I will cover in an article about the villains of MegaTen). Oh, and the music is pretty kickass too – many people agree that Divine Identity is one of the best songs ever in a MegaTen game. I think that’s ultimately up to taste, but Shoji Meguro always manages to succeed in making music that always seems appropriate for the game in mind. To conclude, Digital Devil Saga: Avatar Tuner is the marriage between the traditional jRPG and the experience that is Shin Megami Tensei. Even after removing demon negotiation and fusion, two very integral mechanics in the franchise, the game holds itself up incredibly well, showing just how well the turn-based mechanics pioneered by Nocturne are just as excellent in a different game outside of Shin Megami Tensei. I personally didn’t find the game too challenging – I almost never find any Shin Megami Tensei game challenging anymore (except Strange Journey), but even when I was somewhat new the series, I remembered Digital Devil Saga as being much easier than Nocturne to play through. Except the ultimate bosses of both Digital Devil Saga games. Oh my god. Those are some fucking difficult fights – perhaps the most difficult boss fights in RPG history, and that is an incredibly broad history of RPG fights. The point is that yes, those particular bosses (their names being Hito-Shura/Demi-Fiend and Satan) are so fucking difficult that I’ll actually bet on them being the most difficult bosses ever. No real cheese strategy works – if you don’t fight fairly, the game is going to pound you at turn one. Satan is a little easier than the monster that is Demi-Fiend, but the feeling of success I felt after I managed to topple both of them from their thrones was incredible. It was definitely the most rewarding feeling in terms of bragging rights (although no one really cared about what I did in a video game). An interesting to note about Digital Devil Saga: Avatar Tuner is its relationship to the larger MegaTen universe – although I did not mention this before, to play Digital Devil Saga and invest yourself in the plot is to bring yourself to the events of Shin Megami Tensei II, and the “horrifying†(depends on your level of disdain for humanity) events that could’ve possibly transpired. In many ways, Digital Devil Saga is indeed the sequel of events to Shin Megami Tensei II, as well as the ending of the timeline where Tokyo got bombed by ICBMS due the actions of a fake ambassador. The timeline thing is a fan theory anyways, although Digital Devil Saga’s relationship with Shin Megami Tensei II (the presence of Satan and the words of the Archangels when you encounter all of them in Digital Devil Saga 2 is enough to prove this) may very well be the only canon thing we get from Atlus and the interconnections between the mainline games and the spin-off.
  2. 1 point
    The original title in the Persona franchise, Megami Ibunroku Persona, is a project that is strange when compared to other titles in its own series and even in the wider MegaTen setting. Despite the strong psychological elements, the concept of a Persona, design-wise, was not easily established nor handled. Although characters from Megami Ibunroku Persona do return as playable characters in Persona 2, the new characters from the duology had Personas that came from a set mythology (Greek/Roman), and every other Persona game afterwards at least following this trend. Megami Ibunroku Persona didn’t seem to want to decide what mythologies where to get their Personas from, and in a way, this makes much more sense: it would be absurd to think that the Personas from a randomly assorted group of students would all happen to share the same mythology. The protagonist alone, if we were to think of the Personas that most likely defined his characters, had three different Personas from two different mythologies: Seimen Kongou, Amon Ra, and Vishnu. Yes, all three of them just look like demons. Seimen Kongou has such an amazing appearance as an initial Persona, with its demonic appearance – the three monkeys in its concept artwork to represent the three mantras: see no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil. The crosses are located on the eyes, mouth, and ears, depending on the monkey we’re looking at. Originally a Rakshasa that spread disease and suffering in Hindu lore, Seimen Kongou is a redeemed deity in Japanese Buddhism that would instead protect against the very things it once caused. Described as a blue-skinned god with a coiled rope, the overall design of Seimen Kongou is a monstrous being that can protect others, hinting at its origins and final position: the tail it has possibly reflects its affinities with the monkeys that are a part of its design, but I think it also refers to the coiled rope, which is a symbol of power over evil in Japanese Buddhism. Seimen Kongou is also a unique initial Persona – with its measly wind spells in Garu and Magaru, it follows with its legend of being a monster who spreads disease, specializing in spells that cause different status effects: the three status effects it does cause are blind, mute, and panic, reflecting “see no evil, speak no evil, hear no evilâ€. The resistance spread in Megami Ibunroku Persona is gigantic, and to somewhat basic elements like fire, ice, and wind, Seimen Kongou has decent resistances (with 50% chance to repel wind). However, against five different damage types, four of them magic, and one of them gun, Seimen Kongou just plain dies to. Also, in the Persona games, status effects are not nearly as useful – to top it off, none of the status effects Seimen Kongou uses are particularly useful in any game within MegaTen. While the concept of Seimen Kongou is excellent, and handled really well within the confines of the game, it’s ultimately a pretty worthless Persona. The Ultimate Persona of the protagonist, Amon Ra, isn’t interesting design-wise. Resembling its older artwork, which is shown above, Amon Ra has a garb that has tons of stripes on it. Otherwise, it’s visually not any different than its previous works. The King of the Gods in Egyptian lore, Amon Ra is defined by the fact that he created himself, having been born without any parents. His name is defined by Amon (the essential part of the being that remains hidden) and Ra (divinity that is revealed to all). In other words, how exactly does this figure of Amon Ra really tie into the protagonist of Megami Ibunroku Persona? The answer is simple: it doesn’t. The sole existence of Amon Ra has to do with the strongest spell in the game, Hieroglyphein, which is so powerful that is has its own damage type. The name of the spell plus the identity of the Persona are pretty much just there to justify the existence of Hieroglyphein and why anyone in the game would have such a monstrous ability. Amon’s Ra resistances more or less resemble Seimen Kongou, except it drains nuclear (Nuclear is its main element type) spells. Amon Ra is very good for the final boss of the SEBEC route, but I’m not a fan of it personally – I see little reason for it to be there, and it doesn’t tie in well with Seimen Kongou in design or anything. On the other hand, we have Vishnu. While holding no resemblance whatsoever to the actual Vishnu (or even to any of Kaneko’s other designs for the demon, for that matter), Vishnu’s design could be seen as a more evolved Seimen Kongou – dressed in the garbs of royalty, Vishnu resembles a seventeenth century king from England. However, it’s not difficult to imagine this being Seimen Kongou if it decided to dress up. Kaneko’s idea for this version of Vishnu is the “King of Persona-usersâ€, because Vishnu has had numerous avatars in Hindu lore, much like how a Persona user could switch Personas in Megami Ibunroku Persona. The mask it wears is a nice touch to the overall idea of what a Persona is: the mask we wear to protect our true self from others. Vishnu himself is featured on the cover of the original release of the game, and for good reason. Even if the Ultimate Persona of the protagonist is Amon Ra, Vishnu is representative of the ultimate power to be obtained from the Emperor Arcana, the main arcana of the protagonist. Vishnu’s overall damage is very high, and his level compared to Amon Ra (level 62 to 86) is absurd in power. Vishnu’s main weaknesses are all types of gun skills – he dies to those pretty quickly. He also has a weakness to Electricity, Nuclear, and Gravity, but he resists/nullifies all sorts of other damage pretty well, making Vishnu surprisingly solid. That said, I won’t be going any further into the demon Vishnu – the Persona is really its own entity from this game, and I probably will do a separate write up for Vishnu in a different article. And how do any of these Personas tie into who the Protagonist of Megami Ibunroku Persona is? Well, in a way, all of them do. If you had picked the absolute best dialogue choices for the True Ending of the game, the Protagonist is shown to be a natural leader, compassionate, while having a blunt side of him, interested in finding his true self while discouraging any attempts to hide the truth. Seimen Kongou does not necessarily reflect these qualities as well, but it could be assumed that as an initial Persona, Seimen Kongou shows the protagonist before he grew to be his “canonical†self. Amon Ra reflects his wish to find the truth, looking to find what is essential, and Vishnu reflects his position as a leader, who is also compassionate. All-in-all, Persona design in Megami Ibunroku Persona was a plain mess, and this was vastly improved upon in Persona 2. Nonetheless, the Personas here still hold a connection to their users – however, the existence of Yamaoka as a Persona always proved that a Persona coming from mythology isn’t a set rule in the university, but truly does reflect what is in the user’s soul.
  3. 1 point
    I suppose it would be impossible to do a separate article on the Personas named Vulcanus and Maia – the first two Persona stories featured designs from Kazuma Kaneko instead of Shigenori Soejima, and unlike the man he would later give the position of character designer for Persona, Kaneko didn’t really seem to focus on giving any themes to the Persona design themselves. However, that isn’t to say that he didn’t give each Persona similarities, but I think it’s more true to think of each Persona design in the earlier Persona titles to be more intrinsic to the identity of the Persona and the users, versus a theme like the superhero-esque Personas of Persona 4. Vulcanus’s design scheme has two parts to it that are fairly obvious for me to look at, but if there’s anything else to its visual scheme, I have no idea what those are. For what I do know, there are a lot of spikes on this Persona, mainly around the hip and the shoulders. The spikes could mean anything, really – I think those are meant to be a more styled design for the exhaust pipes of a motorcycle. The gas tubes, gas pump, and the pressure gauge located right above where the heart is are all important pieces that make up a motorcycle. Couple those elements with the jumpsuit that Vulcanus wears (it’s probably a motorcycle jumpsuit, although not the same kind Tatsuya usually wears), it’s pretty obvious that Vulcanus is meant to reflect the biker image that Tatsuya owns. However, the bronze schemes of the spike and the mask, as well as the design of the Personas face, are not that obvious to me. I still wonder why the Persona has a crown, except it might go hand-to-hand with the design of Maia. Maia’s design is a little easier to understand – Vulcanus reflects more of what Tatsuya’s character actually is, but Maia’s concept was generated upon two relationships: the relationship of the Atlas’s seven daughters (the Pleiades, in which Maia is a part of) and the Chinese Jade Emperor’s seven nymphs, as well as the relationship between Maya Amano and Jun Kurosu. The visual concept of Maia holds more oriental characteristics when compared to the other Personas in Persona 2, which is a nod towards the story of the seven nymphs of the Chinese Jade Emperor. The circlet it wears around its eyes could be interpreted to be a visor, although I’d like to think it must go hand-to-hand with the crown on Vulcanus’s mask. Although it would be a bit more obvious to pick a figure that had a strong connection with Vulcanus, given the nature of Tatsuya and Maya’s relationship with the Persona 2 duology, but the character of Maia was selected because she was the mother of Hermes, the figure that would become the Persona of Jun Kurosu. Again, this is significant because Jun Kurosu held a friendship with Maya Amano that was like a son to his mother, partly because of his strained relationship with his own mother, and at one point, he even wished for Maya to become his true mother. Maia appears in Eternal Punishment, the second half of the Persona 2 duology, while Vulcanus does not appear for story purposes. In this game, Maia’s circlet obtains more spikes located on the back of the head, but more or less appears to be the same. Perhaps the slight change in design is meant to reflect Eternal Punishment’s version of Maya Amano, which is not the same as the Maya from Innocent Sin. Much like Orpheus from Persona 3, Vulcanus and Maia also obtain evolved forms in Vulcanus Prime and Maia Prime. The basic designs of Vulcanus and Maia are still the same in their Prime form, although Vulcanus Prime has more spikes on its body, and holds something that I think is a spear, while Maia Prime has even more defined sleeves on the dress and a stronger red scheme. The design for Maia Prime is completely different in Eternal Punishment, where it’s simply a duller palette swap of the original Maia design. Megami Ibunroku Persona and Persona 2 differ from Persona 3 and Persona 4 in that any party member is technically a “wild cardâ€, instead dealing with the affinity of the Personas and the users, while also eliminating the Fool Arcana as a necessity for any of the protagonists. Vulcanus and Maia are of the Sun and Moon arcana, respectively, which is also a strong indicator that in the story of Persona 2, Tatsuya Suou and Maya Amano share a connection than what is first shown in the game. Although Vulcanus and Maia share little background together, the ultimate Personas of Tatsuya and Maya are Apollo and Artemis. How about that for a symbolic relationship in a video game? Apollo’s design isn’t anything special save for one characteristic: the mask. The rest of the body is similar to that of a clown’s, which could be a toss towards JOKER, an antagonist within the Persona 2 story. However, the mask is amazing – with the basic concept of a man’s face on fire, the intricacies of the mask speaks out nothing more than badass, and it’s hard not to admire that face of Apollo. Artemis, on the other hand, is far more interesting, mainly because I really do believe that the appearance of the Persona also shows the overall in-combat properties. For example, Artemis is characterized by the luster found all over its body: there are gems on the elbows, thighs, hip, chest, and head. In Persona 2, Artemis reflects all sorts of magical power, but is fragile in the face of physical attacks. That’s incredibly interesting, but also not too unsurprising: much of Kaneko’s design often reflects both the legend and in-combat characteristics of demons and Personas alike. Within Eternal Punishment, unlike Apollo, Artemis has a much different color scheme, with a overall darker palette. Within the game, Maia is so much superior to Vulcanus, it’s almost absurd. While it’s acceptable that Vulcanus has weaknesses to Water and Ice spells, it strikes me as strange that Maia has no actual weaknesses. In-game, it would seem that Maia should technically have a fire weakness, especially with Maya’s pyrophobia, but given the character’s background in Innocent Sin, I can also see why the Persona of Maia wouldn’t have a weakness to Fire. That said, I still think Maia needed a weakness. Vulcanus and Maia specialized in Fire and Ice spells, respectively. In Eternal Punishment, this was changed with Vulcanus not making an appearance and Maia specializing in the Water element. Again, the change in elements for Maia is probably a reflection of Eternal Punishment and Innocent Sin’s versions of Maya Amano. Apollo and Artemis are what you expected: the former specializes in Fire and Nuclear spells, and is probably the strongest hitting Persona in the game, while being immune to Fire, Nuclear, Light, and Dark spells (although its weak to water and ice spells). Artemis, on the other hand, has healing, Ice, and Almighty spells, with the occasional Light damage in spells like Crescent Mirror; its also reflects every single kind of magic attacks, but is weak to all kinds of physical attacks. Seriously, why is Artemis more interesting than Apollo in almost every aspect? It feels like Apollo’s only saving grace is its mask and the high damage it deals. Indeed, Artemis appeared in IMAGINE, the only game for Shin Megami Tensei (it’s not that good, but I digress), while both brother and sister appear in the special version of Megami Tensei II (Artemis was level 55 and had comparable stats to Vishnu, while Apollo was level 61 and more comparable to Ahura Mazda, especially in skills). Artemis’s design in IMAGINE is a palette-swap of Diana’s appearance, with the colors of the Persona Artemis (white and blue). That said, I still think both Artemis and Diana look really freaky outside of Persona, mainly because of all the naked breasts around their body. It makes me shudder. Also, another thing to note of interest are the color schemes of Apollo and Artemis: red and black are the typical colors of Chaos-aligned characters, and white and blue are worn by those who are Law-aligned. This also surprisingly reflects the canon characters of Tatsuya Suou (who is wild yet caring, representing both the bad and good of Chaos) and Maya Amano (who is kind-hearted yet prone to being too optimistic, characteristic of many Law characters). Just food for thought.
  4. 1 point
    Yuugami

    Demon Design: Izanagi

    Izanagi is a surprisingly established figure in the MegaTen universe, despite having only small appearances throughout the setting until Persona 4. Izanagi was an important figure in the original Digital Devil Story novel, where the main character, Akemi Nakajima, was revealed to be the reincarnation of Izanagi, alongside the female lead, Yumiko Shirasagi, who is the reincarnation of Izanami. The character of Izanagi would go on to appear in a few more titles, most notably Megami Tensei II as the deity who would lead you to the final battle, Devil Children as the ultimate boss, and Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne, where he would reward the player on a new cycle with an extra Press Turn icon if they had completed the Burial Chambers challenge in their old cycle. Prior to his role in Persona 4, Izanagi was often portrayed with the typical Kunitsu demon appearance: long, dark hair that was often tied with buns, a Japanese-style garb, with bands around the knees and upper arm. Often times, he was dressed in white, and in a lot of ways, he resembled Okuninushi without the armor. In other words, he wasn’t super distinctive in his appearance – his original appearance from the novel was the exact same as Nakajima’s, which is appropriate since those two are technically the same person. One could argue that his Kunitsu appearance could be the reason why that specific design was used for that race at all – the Kunitsu themselves were probably descendants of Izanagi to begin with. Of course, if we were to discuss the Persona 4 design of Izanagi, I would summarize it like this: it really makes no fucking sense. On one hand, the Personas of Persona 4 all have their own thematic element – they resemble superheroes, and Izanagi, for better or worse, looks like a badass banchou superhero figure. Like, Izanagi’s design is cool – you take the Thanatos meter and you crank it up to fucking eleven, and you get Izanagi. However, unlike Orpheus, Izanagi doesn’t really resemble the Persona 4 protagonist (in who we will now call Yu Narukami, because that’s his canon name) outside of maybe the color scheme of silver and black. If you consider the story significance Izanagi has to the story of Persona 4, it makes sense why the Persona wouldn’t resemble Yu Narukami in any capacity – it isn’t necessarily a Persona born from his psyche. If I had to name what Izanagi was, it is probably a “parasitic Personaâ€. In a lot of ways, I think Izanagi is more similar to Thanatos than to Orpheus, if we were to compare the Personas of Persona 3 and Persona 4. Much like the protagonist of Persona 3 (whether it be the male or female one), the Fool Arcana is pretty much their default Arcana because of gameplay purposes – the Death Arcana was more representative of the Persona 3 protagonist, and the Star Arcana is much more representative of the Persona 4 protagonist. And a lot of what Persona 4’s story supports that thought. For example, the Death Arcana in Persona 3 is maxed automatically, much like how the Star Arcana in Persona 4 is maxed automatically. Much like how Pharos and the Persona 3 protagonist are very similar figures in concept, Teddie and Yu Narukami are alike in many elements as well: in fact, I would go as far as to say that Teddie’s affinity for the Star Arcana is probably a result of his friendship with Yu. Another example comes from what is revealed about the Izanagi Persona near the end of the game – in this event, it is implied that Yu’s Izanagi is a manifestation of “Hope†for mankind. The concept of Hope is a major ideal in the Star Arcana, which is represented by one’s feelings of hope and joy for the present and the future. In a very ironic sense, I would like to bring up the anime as well, Persona 4: The Animation. If I were to make the assumption that the staff of the original game played a big part in making the anime of Persona 4 happen, then I would also like to point to the scene where Yu obtains the Persona of Lucifer. Even though one would assume Lucifer is just there because he’s the strongest Persona in terms of base level (you can only fuse Lucifer at level 93), I think it’s interesting to consider that the ultimate Persona for the Star Arcana, Helel, was the identity of Lucifer prior to his fall from grace. In the Persona 3 and Persona 4 games especially, they split Lucifer’s angelic and demonic appearance into two different Personas, respectively named Helel and Lucifer, and perhaps Helel himself is fairly representative of Yu Narukami, much like how Thanatos was for the Persona 3 protagonist. Really, I think the visual design for Izanagi is meant to reflect that this is a Persona that doesn’t necessarily belong to Yu Narukami. In all seriousness, I also think that a big part of the inspiration for the design of Izanagi was probably from Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure Part 3: Stardust Crusaders: in more ways than one, Izanagi resembles Jotaro Kujo, whose Stand was a manifestation of the Star Arcana as well. In fact, there’s a lot of things about Persona 4 that reminds me about Stardust Crusaders, although I can’t recall (and do doubt) Soejima ever really took inspiration from the manga series. If he did, I wouldn’t be surprised. A lot of things in the Japanese entertainment industry can find traces of Jojo in it. In the game itself, Izanagi is actually a pretty good Persona – unlike Orpheus, whose terrible resistance and purely balanced stat spread (not specializing in a stat isn’t good in any Shin Megami Tensei title), Izanagi actually has a 3 in Strength and Agility, while having 2 in everything else. Even if you don’t consider the two extra points Izanagi has over Orpheus, the slightly more specialized stat spread, alongside the excellent resistances Izanagi has for an Initial Persona, makes Izanagi useful to around levels thirteen to fifteen. Also, unlike Orpheus, Izanagi has some really good moves in Tarukaja and Rakukaja, which while not as strong in Shin Megami Tensei games, are still valuable skills to have. Orpheus’s main use until his fate as fusion fodder mainly comes from the Cadenza ability he can use when you have both Orpheus and Apsaras, which is pretty useful as it raises evasion and heals your party for a significant amount, but also uses 20% of your spirit points. I suppose Izanagi feels so much superior to Orpheus because Personas don’t have combination skills in Persona 4. However, much like Orpheus becoming Orpheus Telos/Messiah, Izanagi does have an ultimate form as well: Izanagi-no-Okami. I have a lot of thoughts on Izanagi-no-Okami. Despite my earlier statement on how Izanagi was not truly Yu Narukami’s Persona, I think Izanagi’s evolution into Izanagi-no-Okami is probably something of a marriage between the Izanagi Persona and the Star Arcana representative of Yu Narukami, as the creation of Izanagi-no-Okami is the result of a few people’s hopes for humanity, not unlike Persona 3 when the protagonist acquires the power of the Universe Arcana. Even if Izanagi-no-Okami still doesn’t bear too much resemblance to Yu (not even color scheme anymore, I like to think that Izanagi-no-Okami is the true appearance of the Izanagi Persona, attaining power because of Yu Narukami. In a way, my imagination gives me the image of Izanagi-no-Okami tearing itself out of the Izanagi Persona, much like how Thanatos did the first time Orpheus was summoned in Persona 3. In any of the releases of Persona 4, Izanagi-no-Okami was unlocked for fusion by beating the story in its True Ending, and then starting a new cycle on that save file. Izanagi-no-Okami is a very unique Persona – it is the sole Persona of the World Arcana, and unlike Orpheus Telos, it learns a bunch of magic skills such as Megidoloan, all the single-hit dyne spells, Mind Charge, and a bunch of Amp abilities. In other words, it’s a very powerful offensive mage Persona, with strong resistances across the board. You can choose to specialize the Persona into specific elements, or make it a jack of all trade. Although the Persona has balanced stats, the stats are the absolute highest any Persona will ever get (Izanagi-no-Okami has easily 50 stat points over Lucifer, who would be the next best Persona in terms of stats) with 80 across the board. Thus, the weakness of being “too general†is just eliminated off of pure numbers. That’s absurd. In the original Persona 4, Izanagi-no-Okami was also unique in that you could not fuse any spells from the Personas in its fusion recipe: it had a fixed skillset, and only attained new moves through leveling. It also could not be fused away, and it did not have a place in the Compendium, meaning you cannot buy it back – this made sense since you couldn’t fuse the Persona to begin with, but it’s sad that you have to fuse the Persona again for future cycles. This was changed in Persona 4 Golden, where you can fuse Izanagi-no-Okami and also have it learn moves from its predecessors, making it a truly malleable Persona (and some of the Personas you fuse to create Izanagi-no-Okami have some kickass abilities). However, even in Persona 4 Golden, it does not have a spot in the Compendium, meaning you would have to refuse it. Izanagi-no-Okami’s final unique quality is that it holds the largest fusion recipe in the entire Persona series, if not the entire Megami Tensei franchise. You need a total of twelve different Personas to create Izanagi-no-Okami in what is called a Dodecagon Spread Fusion; in the game, you’re only allowed to hold up to twelve Personas max, and to fuse Izanagi-no-Okami, you need to fuse all twelve Personas at once. The recipe of Izanagi-no-Okami is also interesting – in the Japanese release of the game, the first character in each of the Personas name spells out the phrase “create Izanagi-no-Okami†in the game: specifically, Izanagi, Sandman, Nata Taishi, Girimehkala, Norn, Okuninushi, Kartikeya, Mithra, Tzitzmitl, Cu Chulainn, and Legion. Man, Izanagi-no-Okami is a special snowflake, isn’t it? Much of Izanagi’s current popularity within the MegaTen franchise comes from its role in the most popular game, Persona 4. The cool and sleek appearance, combined with the fan favorite Yu Narukami, makes Izanagi a very iconic figure within the Persona and MegaTen brands. Even then, Izanagi already had a history as one of the most important figures within the MegaTen universe, even if he didn’t necessarily appear in too many of the titles. …I brought up Lucifer/Helel in this article too often (this was more like a discussion of Yu Narukami than Izanagi), but it’s also interesting to note that Lucifer and Izanagi do have a very strong connection within the MegaTen universe, although Shin Megami Tensei did dumb this down in most of the games, with Masakado taking Izanagi’s place as the representative demon of the Neutral route. However, Izanagi probably remains an interesting parallel to Lucifer within the universe, and I do hope that relationship is revisited in future titles.
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