Sorry, I couldn't bring myself to just use one of the same two pictures floating around. So here's the big purple tyrannosaur.
I was watching this SNL episode the other day when update came on, and Seth Myers said something about the "largest feathered animal" next to a picture of what looked like an orange Dilong. I was like "neat, another feathered tyrannosaur. THAT'S interesting enough to make weekend update." I don't remember the joke either, because it wasn't very good, or because drunk uncle was so good the rest of update seemed like a waste of time by comparison.
Just today, I got the urge to look it up (which made me remember how pissy I get when a new extinct dinosaur makes the news and everyone describes it in what I like to call "retard language," and conveniently forget that the animal actually has a fucking NAME), and it took a while for it to register, but I'm now realizing that, at something like 9 meters long, this MIGHT actually be a big deal. I think.
Let me take you back in time, back before Tianyulong. The world was a very different place. People lived in sin and shunned the sun, dangerous mutants roamed the land in droves and science was no more sophisticated than banging two sticks together. These were truly the dark ages, when it wasn't immediately apparent that Ornithischian "quills" and Theropod feathers had a common source.
Back then, people still ran around like a chicken with its head cut off every time they found feather impressions in the extremely detailed Chinese rocks that I believe have to do with lakes and mud or something... well, I'm not an armchair geologist, you know.
Anwyas, so Dyzio is regarded as some bullshit about... I don't even remember, it's bullshit, though. "Feathered dinosaurs" isn't redundant yet, and generally the only dinosaurs that people admit to having feathers are the ones from China with impressions of them, because I guess logic is optional in cases like these. And I'm talking about the time when feathers weren't just limited in known specimens, but obviously in range. Maybe this will be a surprise to some of you, but maniraptorans are MOST dinosaurs by an overwhelming majority. The fact that all the little tropical feathered specimens from Cretaceous China happen to be... except for maybe one or two (and remember we're in a time machine, so they haven't found Guanlong yet) all maniraptorans shouldn't surprise anyone. Most folks interpreted this to mean only Coelurosaurs have ever had any kind of feathers (we knew about pycnofibres, but, again, the world before Tianyulong was a scary, dark place where nightmares live).
On top of that, all of the feathered dinosaurs at this point weren't very big. Maybe like 2 meters long for some of the raptors, but that's it. Because of this kind of attitude where, instead of interpreting this information to mean that a lot of different lineages of dinosaurs had feathers, they interpret whatever specific dinosaurs they find with feather impressions on to have feathers, and every thing else to be some sort of Jurassic Park-mutant-chupacabra-abomination-from-hell. Naturally. It was around this time I became aware that, aside from the more logical "we haven't found feathers on a carnosaur (remember, Dyzio doesn't count for contrived reasons), so only dinosaurs from the base of the earliest fuzzy one should have feathers (coelurosaurs)" there was what I like to call the "Elephant Rule."
See, in our post-Tianyulong age of enlightenment with free podphones for everyone where you can download your mother over a D6 FTL ADSFASDFGADF connection, it seems obvious that, in an environment where mostly the smaller, more delicate animals survived and/or attract attention, clearly that doesn't mean that ONLY animals of a certain size have feathers. But back then, there was this idea that, like Elephants aren't particularly hairy animals, feathers have a purpose in heat regulation, and above a certain size they aren't really necessary. Fair enough. Only, mammals aren't dinosaurs. It sort of makes sense, but a Loxodonta is only like 2 meters tall, maybe 3, and there are living dinosaurs that big that are covered in all kinds of feathers. Still, the notion that there is a size threshold where feathers stop serving any purpose and perhaps risk the danger of overheating has been something a lot of folks are expected to assume for the good of the country.
You might be able to tell that I never really liked that idea. Fast forward to our utopian post-Tianyulong society with hive-minds and floatr and mammoth-cloning and here I am looking for why no one has come forward about feathered sauropods. Logic dictates the earliest sauropodomorphs, at the very least, MUST have had some sort of hollow integument roughly analogous to pycnofibres, proto-feathers, and ornithischian quills. But alas, where are the fuzzy Panphagias? Even I sort of have to admit, as an endotherm myself, that at a certain point being fuzzy is a death sentence, especially in the Cretaceous, but what IS the limit? The sky? If you ask me, that's kinda too lame, but I suppose a fuzzy Amphicoelias MIGHT be a little out-there.
But then comes along Yutyrannus, at 9 meters long, which is the biggest fuck you to the elephant rule I've ever seen. Motherfucker isn't even "just some quills on the arm" ala Concavenator, he's straight up a giant Dilong.
So, all of that was basically to reflect on this:
0.7m - Tianyulong (Jesus allegory) & Sinosauropteryx (orange compsognathid)
0.9m - Sinornithosaurus (Dave)
1.6m - Dilong (first fuzzy tyrannosaur)
2m - Argentavis (~8m wingspan), Psittacosaurus, Velociraptor
2.2m - Beipiaosaurus (therizinosaur)
3m - Guanlong (second fuzzy tyrannosaur)
3.6m - Dinornis (largest moa)
6m - Concavenator (only arm quills?), Dilophosaurus (Dyzio is beyond fuzzy)
9m - Triceratops (only tail quills? [yes, there are skin impressions for the rest]), Yutyrannus (beyond fuzzy)
So the only trend I can see here is that Ornithischian quills don't really follow the same rules as straight-up Theropod feathers. Other than that, it seems weird that a 9 meter long tyrannosaur is completely fuzzy while the 6 meter long Concavenator "only" has arm quills. In fact, I don't believe that in the slightest. Doesn't it make more sense to say that all they saw of an integument where the scaled belly and feet, and the quill nobs, and then took a exclusionary attitude and said that's all there is, rather than using deductive reasoning and saying "hey, carnosaurs had feathers too... maybe we should check out Dyzio again."
Meanwhile, a chinese tyrannosaur turns up, and nobody questions it... double standard, or hypocritical? You decide.
Anwyas, the point here was to just look at the "elephant rule" and what evidence there is to support it that I know of. So far, what we know about endotherms (me included) says that at some point a heavy coat is going to boil you alive, and that dinosaurs aren't mammals, so we can't expect it to work exactly the same, and so far we have not found a definitive limit for theropods, although it seems like Triceratops really is the elephant rule for ornithischians. That said, I don't REALLY expect advanced thyreophorans under 9 meters long to be particularly fuzzy, but you get the idea.
Feathers: I could have told you this stuff years ago.
Next up: Did Amphicoelias have advanced flight feathers? Inquiring minds want to know!
A hell of a lot better than the first two. Wow those were terrible. And for the record, I'm not blaming it on any of the difficulties with the translation Aeon Genesis did, I'm blaming it on the fact that it's impossible to recruit demons (THE WHOLE POINT OF THE GAME) and not five minutes in you have absolutely nowhere else to go.
But those easily fixable problem were totally fixed in SMT3, and then some. In fact, other than the usual flaws inherent to the whole series (Cerberus = three heads. a five year old could tell you this.) there is only one thing I can find to bitch about: the camera angle. First person is not only doable, but pretty mainstream by 2003, so I don't understand why the vastly inferior third person camera was picked over what every other main series game (and more than a few spin-offs) had used.
But, when the only thing you can find to bitch about is the camera, and it isn't because it kills you, then you've got a winner.
So, for those of you who don't know what the Shins of Megaman's Tenuous grap on reality games are about, let me give you a little crash course:
Digital Devil Story is a late 1980's Japanese novel wherein some crazy Japanese kid writes a program to summon demons. But in a very, VERY loose definition. Case in point: Loki comes out of his computer and starts boning his teacher, and blah blah blah the kid (Akemi Nakajima) summons cerberus and has to set right what he once set wrong. If you're interested in a Japanese novel about Cerberus fighting Loki, there is a translation done by a fan floating around on a blog somewhere. I've never read it, but then again, I don't really care.
The story of MegaTen as most know it begins with a late 1980's VIDEO GAME (that's right, they skipped the movie phase and went straight to the game, an unprecedented move and one I can only think is mirrored in the Splinter Cell games) with a first person(!!!) viewpoint, wherein the player character (unambiguously Akemi Nakajima) must dungeon-crawl his way through some sort of dungeon that Loki is in.
The real kicker about the game, though, is that you don't just get Cerberus. You can actually talk to any demon you happen to run into, and try to negotiate with them into leaving, giving you items or money, or, and remember this is the late 1980's, get them to join you as your minion.
And maybe I wasn't clear on this earlier, but these demons are not new flashy modern characters, but the oldest of schools. "Cerberus" isn't a codeword, it's like, you know, Cerberus. The "demons" of the series are pre-existing gods, monsters, and heros from mythological cycles all over the world from all different eras. Fenrir, those cool Dogu statues, Quetzalcoatl & Tezcatlipoca, occasionally Cthulhu & Nyarlathotep, Sedna, Mara, Arachne, Yurlungur (as a rainbow serpent, but explicitly not Wanambi), Buer, Metatron, Dagon (yeah, it's Yog-Sothery Dagon, but still shows some Ugaritic love), Asherah & Anat (see, told you), Christine (the killer car), and FUCKING BAPHOMET all rear their heads at some point in some game in this huge labyrinthine franchise.
And you collect them and make them fight for you. Like Pokemon.
To drive home how cool this concept is, here is what kind of roster I'm currently looking at in SMT3:
Arahabaki (a slit-eyed, spaceman type Dogu)
Succubus (totally not overkill, Succubus inherited an ice-type move, plus she's like level 37)
High Pixie (don't laugh, she's the starter and if you keep her around she becomes Queen Mab)
Xuan Wu (the tortoise/snake from the ssu-ling? cardinal direction chinese guardian things)
and some others...
I mean, that's just cool. And remember, this is prior to even the earliest planning stages of Pokemon, but my post about the totally ludicrous bullshit "pokemon vs. digimon" war that never existed except in the heads of stupid children from the late 1990's will wait for another day. Just want to point out quickly that POKEMON is the rip-off. And it isn't ripping off digimon, it's just SMT for kids.
Anywhichways, after two Megami Tensei (means "Rebirth of the Goddess") games on the NES (first person games on the NES? Take that, id software :P), they made the jump to Super Nintendo with SHIN Megami Tensei. You might be aware that "Shin" which translates in english to "true" was used in context of video games as "Super" was here. They stuck that on a game for Super Nintendo to differentiate it from the predecessor or just make it seem better. Most consoles have a version of this phenomena, like "64" as a suffix, "Advance" as a suffix, cleverly inserting the initials "D.S." into the subtitle, stupid stuff like that. Shin Megami Tensei would of course mean "Reincarnation of the TRUE Goddess," but not literally. Sort of.
At any rate, the Super Nintendo games apparently catapulted the series to greatness or something, because ever since then "Shin Megami Tensei" was the headliner the whole damn media empire was labeled as. Sometimes referred to as "MegaTen" to acknowledge the pre-SNES titles and the books (which was a trilogy? There were definately two), Shin Megami Tensei was still the name plastered over a slew of spin-offs and assorted paraphenalia from 1995 or so onwards. And man, there are TONS of spin-offs.
So usually now if you say "SMT" or "MegaTen" it's like taking a shot in the dark. A little ironic since at first the series had a very simple chronology:
1987 - Megami Tensei (based on novel)
1990 - Megami Tensei (sequel to first game, takes place in post-apocalyptic setting)
1992 - Shin Megami Tensei (unrelated to original novels or timeline, same formula, etc.)
1994 - Shin Megami Tensei II (sequel to first SMT, like you would expect)
1994 - Shin Megami Tensei If... (side story to SMT in a high school, in slightly different timeline, Tokyo isn't destroyed)
1995 - Old Testament Megami Tensei (enhanced remakes of MT1 & 2)
...and then it all went to hell. There were turn based strategy games, standard fantasy setting, top-down gameboy rpg's, and fucking persona where you can't even recruit demons, making that whole series overpriced firewood.
The confusing part here isn't that the series branched out, as this is what successful video games do, but that the games that weren't branching out, the actual next SMT games, were considered spin-offs.
Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner and Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers are a pair of "spin-off" MegaTen games that play exactly like the originals, are apparently in the same timeline as SMT If..., and what's more, Soul Hackers is seen by fans as a true classic. I don't understand the logic behind this, I'm not gonna lie, even though the "Devil Summoner" sub-series eventually developed something unique (it's not turn based in DS3 and 4), saying that it took 9 years for a sequel in the main series is a little bit more than a little misleading.
At any rate, there was definately a gap between DS2 and SMT3. Persona is to blame for this. Yes, I'm aware that Persona 2 is the only SMT game to feature Hastur, but you don't summon monsters in that game, you make them... "personas" or something. You can't recruit them, and that's retarded. People latch onto the things because they're just oozing with weeaboo pheromones, and the ramifications of Nyarlathotep being Hitler are lost on dumb shut-ins, but whatever. That's not what I'm talking about, I'm talking about collecting all parties involved in Ragnarok so you can use them to kill god.
SMT3 is way different in the best of ways. You can really feel pokemon's influence here. It used to be that demons, unlike human characters, never gained experience. The only way to make existing minions stronger was to fuse them into higher-leveled ones. Here they not only gain levels like pokemon, they not only learn moves as they level up, but they EVOLVE like pokemon too. It's a little odd at first, but I don't think Lilim evolving into Lilith is really too at odds with the mythology of them. Lilim's are basically Lilith born from parthenogenesis, correct? Makes sense. Some stuff is a little weird, but none of the very few evolutions are very far from acceptable.
Leveling monsters up and gaining new skills is important to the psychological appeal of these games. If you were forced to fuse the lower leveled ones, you would never be able to pull together a dream team which is what really drives the collection and training aspect of pokemon. The inheritance of skills from fused demons also plays a big role, and makes demons customizable in a way leveling up alone wouldn't allow. All this means that you can put together any party you want, any monsters you want, and tailor their skills to fit any situation.
In the original games, if you could ever manage to recruit a single fucking knocker, you were limited to what skills they had, and your choices of monsters, and therefore skills, was limited to what you could run into. This sort of limitation is understandable in the early stages in a monster-collecting game, but those same limitations are going to follow you in SMT1 & 2. A short glance at a strategy guide for one will show that there are some bosses where, outside of grinding, you're bottlenecked into catching specific demons to fuse in order to get a hold of specific skills. I don't think I'm even half way through SMT3 yet, and thanks to the flexibility of the demons and the "demonic compendium" (Bill's PC), I have so many options it's not funny. In a series that has a widespread reputation for being fuck-you impossible hard, this is a VERY good thing.
But catching them all isn't your only priority (and that really is a priority, at first your limited summon-bank makes it look otherwise, but with the demonic compendium and the ability to summon any demon you've ever owned at any time, "catching them all" is a pretty good idea), another thing that SMT games are well known for are their dark themes, post-apocalyptic settings, philosophical quandaries, and heavy-handed aesops. Maybe.
One of the core elements of the series from at least the first Shin Megami Tensei is that the world (keep in mind, Japan blah blah isolationist blah blah xenophobia blah blah sun revolves around Tokyo bullshit) equals very over and YOU, a dumb kid, is going to use your demon summoning powers to carve the path of the new world order and reshape the remains as a paradise on earth, or a cesspit of murder and mayhem. Except not really.
SMT games use an alignment system identical to D&D. The primary division isn't between good and evil, however, but between Law and Chaos. Each game shows these paths in different ways, but they remain more or less consistent throughout the series. Typically, the Law path will be one devoted to creating a world where god (as in YHVH, the classical jewish/christian/whatever god) reigns supreme and the just live peacefully without fear. Of course, if you know anything about that particular deity, or indeed about christians or... fuck, religious people period, you're aware that this is a REALLY horrible fate. The upside is peace and order, the downside is living in a totalitarian military state where freedom and individuality are snuffed out like embers in the night. A world where good and evil are as concrete as the streets the angels slam your brother's skull into when they find out he used to think Metallica was pretty cool. In some, it can be as dark as only a kingdom for God and his angels, and sometimes is as light as "we totally wanted an honest to goodness peaceful paradise for all, but we're extremely naive, and don't realize Metatron is kind of a dick."
The chaos path is only slightly better. For what it's worth, they do have the right idea. This will usually take the form of a return to pre-human natural structure. We live and die by the might of the sword, to put it in a poetic way. At worst this is a bastardization of "might makes right" where demons are trying to compete with earthlings on the same level, and of course a bear can't kill Fenrir, so that' not exactly fair. They also, in the games, tend to focus on the "might" part, implying it to mean pure brute strength rather than an ability to adapt and survive. Of course, there are versions where literally nothing but demons exist, which is fine in some respects, since, again, these apocalyptic scenarios are mostly contained to the greater Tokyo metropolitan area. They can have it, I guess. At best, for example the chaos path in SMT4 (subtitled Strange Journey and without the "4," but it's been pretty explicitly stated that it isn't numbered because of the localization confusion this would cause) is straight up a return to nature for humans. Demons give us an ultimatum, and we lose the computers for swords and subsistence off the land in a very direct way. Not a bad idea, it doesn't remove your "humanity" and isn't cruel, but does serve to limit us in a way that is blah blah blah it's the hippy ending, and it's justified.
Then there's the neutral path. This, on one extreme, is the path where the protagonist paves the way to a new kingdom of freedom and individuality. Pain and suffering exist, but are dealt with, and not in a ridiculous overcompensating manner. Perhaps there is a new democratic government. Maybe humans go on living as they have, but form a pact with the demons and live peacefully with them. Maybe things go back to how they where, and the demons are sealed back into their hell hole. The other extreme is to simply tell all the other alignments to go fuck themselves, and reject everyone. Maybe nothing changes at all, and you're just stuck in post-apocalyptic purgatory. From compromise to nihilism, the neutral path is generally considered the "canon" path for various reasons.
This creates problems in gameplay. Demons also have alignments, and depending on what alignment you have, you won't be able to recruit demons on the far end of the spectrum. With limited potential for demons, this is pretty harsh, and usually means picking anything but the neutral path is probably a death sentence. Oh yeah, you really need to know what ending you want because of this. That's right, you need to choose a preset number of actions whether or not you agree with them in order to fall into one of the paths and play the game a certain way. On the surface, the philosophical aspect sounds pretty intriguing, but when it affects gameplay to the point where you can't get such-and-such item or weapon or whatever unless you agree with Yama the chinese judge of the underworld, then shit is clearly not what it said on the tin. Like so much in these games, GREAT idea, piss-poor execution.
SMT3, thankfully, doesn't have this problem. In place of the three static paths are "reasons." The following might be a bit of a spoiler, but basically the way it works is that there are three philosophies you can choose to follow that resemble the law/chaos/neutral paths but... aren't. They certainly don't affect what demons you can recruit either. Angel and Lilim on the same team? I've done it. So follow whatever you feel like makes sense. You know, like a Silent Hill game or something. I THINK I've been in situations by now in the game that have affected my ending, but I don't even care. I just answer all the questions honestly and I'll see what I get, which is EXACTLY what I expected in the first place, and SMT3 gets it right.
Even better, those three paths don't represent neutral or chaos at all, really. Actually, you aren't forced to agree with anyone. You can just tell them all to go fuck themselves. Or you can agree with Lucifer... I think? There's a lot of endings, and I really don't know what causes what, and that's EXACTLY how I want it to be.
So for all intents and purposes, Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne is the gateway game of the MegaTen series. SMT4 on the DS is a classic first person, alignment driven game that shares far more in common with 1 & 2 than SMT3 does, but it's a modern game, which I'm assuming means leveling up, skill swapping, and general playability. Also it doesn't assume Tokyo is the center of the universe, but Antarctica is, which is entirely accurate, as Antarctica is the most amazing place ever.
There's also the Devil Summoner games to think about, as 3 and 4 were localized here and are a few years old on PS2, perfect games to pick up for 10-20 dollars at a Game Stop. These two, Raidou Kuzunoha vs. the Soulless Army and Raidou Kuzunoha vs. King Abaddon take place in 1930's Japan, is an timeline where the... I wanna say Taisho... era doesn't end in 1926, but goes on longer than it did in the real world, alleviating some of that militaristic drive the country picked up in early Showa times that would eventually cause them to make really dumb foreign policy decisions. Your character is a "Raidou Kuzunoha," a title, not a personal name, who is magic and can summon demons somehow. Shit goes down and you gotta save the day. Two things about these games that are the most important issues:
1. It isn't turn-based. YOU ACTUALLY GET TO FUCKING PUNCH DEMONS!!! FUCK YES!!!
2. 1930's JAPAN!!! Come on, bitches, you KNOW that shit is beyond hype.
I've heard you can only summon one demon at a time, and yet I've seen videos on youtube with Alice and... I think a Succubus summoned at the same time. So, maybe it's just one in the first, but more in the sequel. What's more, you can sort of guide their actions ala Digimon World, but generally they act on their own. So it's suddenly less like playing with pokemon, and more like having creatures with actual personalities ride into battle by your side. When you ride into battle with Alice and Baphomet... well, suffice to say, these games look pretty fucking awesome.
And what of the translated SMT1 & 2? Well, there are three main problems that kept me from enjoying those games:
1. Can't recruit demons no matter what I do
2. Don't know what anything is
3. Don't know what I'm supposed to be doing
I'm hoping that after enough experience with SMT3 and hopefully some of those others I have an interest in, my absolutely befuddled flopping around can be limited, if not eliminated. Nothing in the game tells you what anything is or does, so seeing a special move named "Mabufula" is just that. You have no fucking clue what that means, and no one is going to tell you. So some familiarity there should totally help, but what about the other things?
Well, eventually I'll have to cave and check out a walkthrough, which is kinda lame, but whatever. I've done it before and I can do it again. They ARE from the 1990's, of course, so this sort of thing should really be expected. But here's the kicker: I've heard that the reason I can't recruit any demons in SMT1 is because I alloted the points all wrong and I don't have enough of something or another to negotiate, which is a problem a walkthough might could help me with (but it doesn't change the fact that allowing the player to make the game impossible to win at the FIRST POSSIBLE INTERACTION is the single worst design choice in the history of video games), but the problem with that is, in SMT2, where your stats are chosen for you, I have the exact same problem. So the stats seem to be a copout. I would be interested in picking these games up again and seeing if I can't make more sense out of them, but this is a fatal flaw, and if I can't get around it they're too fucked to even think about.
Anwyas, I thought I'd post something, because I noticed I had two new followers. Not sure how that happened, but whatevs. Unlike youtube, where there's 30 people following me for no readily identifiable reason, here I can actually post stuff sometimes without any hassle. So, here you go, a wall of text about demon summoning games.
For the record, Aboriginal is the best pre-modern mythology, because it a) accurately describes landmarks from tens of thousands of years ago, making it obnoxiously old, and it's spread ORALLY, b) the myths are, because of this, based mostly on geology rather than entirely focused on creation myths or central sun gods, and c) Megalania god vs. Rainbow Serpent. That's just cool.
Aztec and Norse jostle for second. Goetic and Voodoo are up there, too.