As you hopefully know by this point, another team released an official patch for Persona 2: Eternal Punishment’s PSP version yesterday, fully translating the game, all its menus, and the Tatsuya scenario into English.
Myself and the others working on our version were completely blindsided by this, and had no idea it was in the works until it came out, same as everyone else. There was initially a great deal of panic, confusion, and disappointment, especially since one of the team had formerly been helping us out with coding and graphic modifications on our project.
Fortunately, once the smoke cleared, we were reassured that none of our work was used in the final product, which I’ve personally confirmed. The new patch is just modifications to the original Atlus PS1 translation, similarly to what our project had planned, the only key differences being that the graphic formatting and fonts are different, and this version uses honorifics(which I tend to localize or make variations on).
That said, our team was still left demoralized by this sudden announcement, and it’s been decided that without the need or momentum to continue our version, we’ve decided to cancel our in-progress build.
As some of you also sadly know, we’ve been met with no small amount of harassment, insults, and hateful responses. Thankfully, the others on the team haven’t been the public face of the project like I have, so I’ve been largely bearing the brunt of the drama. That said, it personally saddens me to see how the SMT community has degraded into something like this, as someone who’s been playing games and been part of the scene since the mid-90s. Toxicity like this is what contributed to other long-term community members and fan translators like AeonGenesis leaving the SMT scene and avoiding future projects of the like, and now, I can unfortunately understand why.
I hope everyone can take this as an opportunity to leave things in the past and move forward to just enjoy the game and support the series as well as any other fans working on SMT projects without undue harassment or hostility. This is something we do in our spare time, for sheer love of the game, and nothing else. We have never taken donations, and never will. During the course of the Eternal Punishment project, we’ve endured family deaths, a pandemic, and even an ongoing war that personally affected a member of the team.
Persona 2: Eternal Punishment is near and dear to me. I picked up my copy of Persona 1 in the late 90s, and Persona 2 at a store in Tampa in the early 00s. It remains one of my favorite RPGs ever, and nothing is liable to change that. Going forward, I plan on enjoying the new release of Persona 2’s translation as a fan, and look forward to whatever else Atlus brings in the future. If the renewed interest leads to Atlus releasing an official remake or re-release of the older Persona games, then that’s even better, and I fully plan to support that as well, and hopefully you’ll do the same.
In closing, just remember to do as Maya does.
P.S.: this is in no way affects the progress of ongoing projects. Devil Summoner is still in the translating/editing phases, as is Fate/Extra CCC. As always, we appreciate the support and patience.
Anyone familiar with the Atlus SMT spin-offs known as the Devil Summoner games are probably familiar with their eclectic primary antagonists: the Phantom Society. The game says very little about them apart from giving them a sprinkling of screen time here and there, so without further ado, my attempt at piecing together what little we know… which is actually quite a lot.
Who are the Phantom Society? To try and answer this question, we have the established canon of the four Devil Summoner games to help us out(Devil Summoner, Soul Hackers, Raidou 1 and Raidou 2)… and even the forthcoming Soul Hackers 2, but we’re also going to need, in true Devil Summoner fashion, to do some investigating of our own, as well as a healthy amount of sheer guesswork.
Of course, the Kuzunohas themselves exist as the counter-balance for the Phantom Society’s dark influence, but for purpose of this essay, we’ll be focusing on the background and membership of the Phantom Society.
Expect spoilers for all four of the Devil Summoner games(SMT: DS, Soul Hackers, Raidou 1 & 2), though hopefully that goes without saying.
So what do we know about the Phantom Society?
The concept of the Phantom Society wasn’t literally introduced until the second game, Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers. This may be the first time they’re mentioned, but SH explicitly informs us that they’ve operated from the shadows for centuries.
Even in the very first game, the primary antagonist, Sid Davis, is a dark summoner working to revive the ancient goddess Inaruna on behalf of “the organization”. Who else could he be referring to but The Phantom Society?
Which leads to another question: how far back does their influence extend? Even as far back as the Taisho era, there’s still the presence of Dark Summoners, namely Rasputin(or a facsimile thereof) and Dahn Tsukigata. While the latter’s connection to the Phantom Society is unlikely, since he strictly works for himself with the goal of freeing his sister from the influence of the Tsukigata clan, it’s unlikely the robot we know as Rasputin(hereafter referred to as Rasputin for convenience’s sake) obtained the power and influence he wields without outside help.
While we discover that he comes from the future(likely that of SMT2’s Tokyo Millennium), for all we know, he was created by the Phantom Society in that era and sent back to ensure their influence remains unaffected by Kuzunoha the XL’s meddling.
There’s also the possibility that Actual Rasputin was himself a Dark Summoner, which would explain why he was so damn hard to kill. Why else would the future use him as a basis for their robot if he didn’t have strong ties to the occult?
So with the potential timelines of influence established(from Taisho 30 in Raidou to Tokyo Millennium from SMT2), let’s break down our list of Phantom Society members.
From Devil Summoner: Raidou Kuzunoha, there’s Grigori Rasputin(1) and Dahn Tsukigata(2).
From Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner, we have Sid Davis. There’s also a few stray summoners here and there(and idiots like Takashi), though they’re less likely full-on Society members and more “nuisances”.
Lastly, from Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers, we have easily the most. Carol J, Urabe Kouichirou(former), Judah Singh, Finnegan, Mayone, Naomi, and their foremost executive(at least in Amami City), Nishi(aka Azazel). Certain demons also have major sway within the Society, such as Shemyaza and Satanael, the latter of whom raises interesting questions about a certain ‘hero’ character… but we’ll touch on that later.
What of the true antagonist of Soul Hackers, Kadokura? Based on his position within Algon Soft, he’s “just” a programmer and being kept out of the loop of the Phantom Society’s activities, much to his annoyance. It seems clear to assume he’s just an outsider, though one could assume that he knows much more than he lets on, especially since he’s the hinge pin figure behind Manitou’s revival. Perhaps Kadokura was simply fed up with being just a bit player, or perhaps being a pawn in a game of demons.
This also brings up another question: are ‘Summoners’ really in control of the Phantom Society, or is it just a front for demons being truly in control? The biggest players(namely Nishi) reveal themselves to be actually demons, so maybe the rank and file just think that they’re running things.
Without further ado, back to the major players of the Phantom Society. We could start with chronological order, but I feel it’s best to start with the release order, since that’s where the lore was formed from.
With that in mind, we’ll start with none other than the series’ first Dark Summoner, and one of the most purely despicable: Sid Davis.
What do we know about Sid Davis? He’s a feared Dark Summoner. Even Kyouji Kuzunoha falls to his abilities, though we don’t quite know how, it’s safe to assume that he either got lucky with a stray spell(presumably Mudo), or he trapped Kyouji in some way.
Kyouji is just one step towards his real goal, though: the revival of the goddess, Inaruma. He needs to perform an elaborate ritual to make this happen, and the main character(& his girlfriend) just happen to be unfortunate enough to be in his way and a requirement, respectively, since Kumiko is revealed to be a direct descendant of the goddess herself.
Sid Davis’ front is that of an unassuming priest, presumably Catholic, since his grimoire is a literal holy bible. Having a Catholic priest is Japan isn’t as strange as one might think, as it’s a very present, if niche, religion within Japan. It’s also appeared in other Devil Summoner games: see the Catholic Church found in both Raidou 1 and 2, which is, ironically, Lucifer’s primary hangout… might wanna beef up that security, or at least invest in some wards.
Is his faith legit, or did he see being Catholic as the easiest way to accumulate knowledge and influence? Based on his devil summoning and ties to dark magic, we can probably assume the latter. Sid is far from being a shining example of a priestly lifestyle.
Then at the end of the game, Sid meets his end at the protagonist’s hands, despite having fulfilled the goals of his “organization” by reviving Inaruma(though she joins Sid real soon).
After the end of Sid Davis, we can presume that the Society went quiet for several decades… until the events of Soul Hackers, somewhere in the mid-21st century, or at least the 20th century’s depiction thereof.
The events of Soul Hackers reveal that the Phantom Society have since moved up in the world, now having direct control of what’s effectively becoming a megacorp: Algon Software. Having started as a simple computer software group(likely the results of Kadokura’s engineering), they’ve grown to basically control everything that goes on in and around Amami City. This is primarily thanks to their innovative VR software and its own self-contained virtual world(“Paradigm X”), which is starting to make them known on the global stage.
While nowadays it might not seem like a big deal with real-world technology like Oculus and PSVR, but back in the late 90s, it felt like the wave of the future, even if it’s only now making real strides towards the public at large.
Of course, their utopian virtual world is little more than a front for the true goals of the Phantom Society: gathering the souls of the hapless users participating in its public beta test, providing the fuel for the revival of another ancient deity. Though unlike the plan to revive the Japanese Inaruma in DS1, this time they’re going for a different nationality: the Native American deity Manitou, a Great Spirit integral to the balance of life(based on mythology and the knowledge provided by Kinap).
Soul Hackers also takes its time developing several major players both in and around the Phantom Society, primarily via vision quests, in which the last moments of key figures are relived from the player’s perspective. First, there’s Urabe, a former member of the group who’s since resigned, and is now trying to steal their new Nemissa software… only to meet his end at the hands of a former co-worker, the vicious Finnegan.
Then we meet Judah, who still actively works for the group, who meets his end during an assignment… and lastly, Naomi, more of a freelancer who takes odd jobs for the Phantom Society, only to wind up being overpowered on the job. By fulfilling Nishi’s contract to set free an ancient deity, she becomes yet another sacrifice lost just to help the Society’s overall goals.
These are only the three we meet through Vision Quests, though; they also have other major players encountered as enemies throughout the game, albeit some only appearing literally in a single scene, like the assassin Mayone. Carol J, another hitman for the group, gets a bit more screentime, but he effectively becomes little more than a stepping stone for the player towards taking on the more major players in the organization.
Although it isn’t explicitly made clear what the Phantom Society mean to achieve with their goal of Manitou’s revival, presumably it’s similar to their goal with Inaruma in DS1: giving their faction the power to widen their influence to a global scale, and having the might of an ancient deity backing them up is a massive step in the right direction. Unfortunately for their faction, Kadokura proves he’s no longer content to side back and let the Society dictate the course of his creation, so he decides to step in and take control himself… merging himself with Manitou in the process.
After defeating both the end result and Manitou himself, the deity expresses gratitude at being set free, and vanishes from Amami City altogether.
Their proposed process also raises another problematic element of how the Society operates: lack of free will. They would have simply bound both Inaruma and Manitou to their ends. Not only is trying to control an ancient deity typically a bad idea, especially when keeping it in check against its will, it also proves they have no hesitation about stepping on the backs of both persons and ancient gods alike to accomplish their goals.
While the Society tasted bitter defeat in SH, even losing most of their top brass, it seems they’re back with a vengeance in Soul Hackers 2, and actively going after summoners themselves, specifically what appears to be the power of their own souls upon demise(referred to as their ‘Covenants’).
Although it remains to be seen just what their goal is this time, it definitely seems like they have a new approach to obtaining it, which is bound to be anything but good for the world at large, even one as technologically advanced as that within modern day society. The most recent trailer states that they could “destroy the world” once obtaining enough Covenants, though one would hope they have less basic aspirations than that. Still, it’s fun to think that for all their wild-day modern aspirations, they got their start from a crazed Dark Summoner-nee-Priest with delusions of grandeur who definitely didn’t skip arm day.
Boy, do I have some opinions about this here SMT game.
Where do I begin?
SMTV is a game of blessings and curses. I’ll start with the good.
The gameplay is top shelf.
Press turn is back, which is nothing surprising, but in addition, Atlus added an absolutely unprecedented insane amount of customization. There’s new physical skills, new magical skills(and a new tier, -barion), skills that let physical builds use their physical stat to inflict magical damage, meter(Magatsuhi) skills that allow for broken abilities to be used for an entire round(namely guaranteed criticals, full restores and revivals for the entire party, auto charge and pierce, etc), and best of all, Essences.
Essences are the biggest game changer since manual skill inheritance. You can get an item that basically contains all of a demon’s inherent skills, which can be freely applied to either the MC or the demons in his team at your leisure. This means you not only get to customize the MC however you like, any demon in the team becomes near endlessly customizable.
Pairing these two factors together, and this is the freshest, most innovative and widely experimental core gameplay has ever been.
Which brings us to the other big game changer… the world itself.
As you’ve likely heard, yes, SMT V is a full “open world” experience.
Sort of. There’s five major hubs in Da’at, which… are kind of different, but not really. One’s a desert, one’s a red desert, one’s a… white desert? You get the gist. Sadly, they’re mostly the same atmosphere with shuffled architecture and a different filter applied.
While repetitive, I give credit given where due: the open world is a joy to explore. The areas are full of massive buildings that you can either access from stairs, adjacent highways, or even stray ledges. There’s lots of nooks and crannies to explore, with little secrets and bonuses that reward exploration, namely the collectible “Miman” creatures that allow the MC to learn new skills and gain new items over time.
The trademark overworld map from 1/2/3/etc is also still present, though only in the “real world” that you only go to like five times.
Then there’s the dungeon. Not dungeons. Dungeon.
SMTV has literally one of note: and it has everything I wanted! Great design and aesthetic, platforming, interesting gimmicks, secrets to look for and explore, and… that’s it.
There is no final dungeon. There’s a massive world leading to it, and then a long tunnel with a few battles.
It’s a crying shame. Look at that architecture. It could have been a massive dungeon full of platforming and verticality. It SHOULD have been. But it’s not, and the game just leads you right to the climatic boss fights.
Then… there’s the story. God, where do I start.
From the get-go, the cover makes it look like there’s going to be all kinds of factions vying for control of Tokyo, since it depicts four demons and the MC.
There’s even a (very marketable) cast of humans! Surely they’re all going to be well fleshed out, have lots of dialogue, and massive impact on the plot, yes?
Nope. They barely factor into the plot at all. After the introduction, hope you liked talking to them! You’ll barely ever see them again.
See this girl here?
This is Sahori. She’s an NPC who goes nuts, and murders a bunch of bullies with her demon partner after making a soul-sacrificial pact for power.
She is far more interesting than any of the major players shown above, and she’s only in the game for all of three scenes. Therein lies SMTV’s major narrative problem.
There are interesting characters here, and their designs are great, courtesy of Masayuki Doi. Sadly, it’s all surface. The duo above, Yakumo and Nuwa, are one of the more interesting narrative threads, and even they barely appear in the story.
SMTV has interesting ideas, in very broad strokes. This is a world in which Lucifer won. The armies of heaven are scattered and listless, and chaos runs rampant, but even Lucifer himself is nowhere to be found. There could be a ton of great stories told in a universe like this. A power struggle between warring factions of angels and demons, internal fighting, a return of the Divine Powers/Polytheist Alliance from IV, and on and on. V does almost nothing with this potential. Even when a group of the lesser deities from Egypt, Greece, Hinduism, and so on show up in the late game, they barely factor into the plot. They’re just bosses to be slain and obstacles to be stepped on. They barely factor into the alignment decisions if they even get to make an impact at all.
You make a choice at the very end, and do some extra quests if you want a “true” final boss. That’s about it. Again, sadly, this reeks of wasted opportunity. V feels rushed. They had a ton of interesting ideas, but the team lacked the time or maybe even the ability to properly utilize them.
I will say that when V’s writing is strong, it excels. The tone of the Chaos ending was particularly enjoyable, raising genuinely philosophical questions about what living in a Chaotic world would really entail, and how successful the goal will actually be. It’s a shame the rest of the game’s narrative couldn’t rise to meet it.
In closing, the music should be made note of. The main composer of SMT IV, Ryota Kozuka, has basically taken over the main line series, which I am totally okay with, as his work for IV was nothing short of incredible.
I had high expectations for V, and… well, for better or for worse, it is a very different type of soundtrack.
Whether by design or by direction, SMT V has a very ambient, ominous score. By and large, it nails the tone, and fits the oppressive open world areas very well.
Sadly, with a few exceptions, none of the boss themes have the bite of, say, Divine Powers from IV: Apocalypse.
They are absolutely solid tracks, but anyone looking for a repeat of IV or its successor’s majesty will be sorely disappointed.
I wish the same could be said of the game itself. SMT IV was clearly the product of Kazuma Kaneko’s original design and ideas, as is clearly credited.
V has no such pedigree to fall back on. On the gameplay front, Atlus deserve lauding for the wonderful flow of combat and exploration, and for all the new innovation added.
However, they still have a long way to go if they’re going to fill the narrative shoes that Kaneko, Okada, and Tadashi left behind. Hopefully with this template in place, they can step their game up for the next go round.
This is kind of a long story. If you want that, read on after this.
If you don’t, uh, just watch this.
Still with me? Good!
Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner is a spinoff of the SMT series. It was originally released for the Sega Saturn(wise choice) and then later for the PSP(tough call) and then never localized(thanks Sony. NOT).
What separates Devil Summoner from SMT? In a nutshell, Devil Summoners are basically the same as SMT’s protagonists: normal humans who work with demons. The difference is, Devil Summoners are more, shall we say, hands on with their demons. Demons tend to get more personality and have more influence in the story, and be more friendly with their summoner, not just tools for a job. (Especially in the Raidou games.)
Basically, Devil Summoner games are more ‘street level’ and character-driven. That’s how I like to think of it, anyway.
Devil Summoner takes place in 199x, where a college student with terrible luck winds up having to save his girlfriend, the city, and maybe the world from the machinations of a Bible/Grimoire-wielding dark summoner hell bent on reviving a goddess and wreaking all kinds of the hades(props if you get that).
This brings us to a few years(?) back when on 4chan’s “SMTG” community, a user I’m fortunate enough to now-know as Fukuzatsu decided he was going to translate the game for the PSP.
At least, until he hit the worst of SMT walls: demon negotiation. It’s been hell on him.
Thankfully, we’ve been busy, so here’s where a few things stand.
Persona 2: Eternal Punishment
As you may or may not know, I was able to test out the first playable build earlier this year.
Unfortunately, it only gets me so far, so I’ve been asked to keep it on hold until the rest of the gameplay text can be finished. This is fine by me, as it will make testing worlds easier on me, my Japanese is NOT that good.
Thankfully(?), the updates are largely handled by the CCC team, so be looking forward to that soon-ish.
Things That Were Completed
(disclaimer: iwakura.p was only cursorily involved in some of these. Napple Tale and YaruDora in particular are the results of hard work by people I’ve worked with and am more than happy to signal boost.)
Napple Tale, c/o Cargodin and EsperKnight:
A quirky Dreamcast RPG with a devout cult following.