Note: This’ll contain Major Spoilers for Devil Summoner 2: Raidou Kuzunoha versus King Abaddon and Major Spoilers for Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne.
Raidou 2 had one of the absolute best plotlines I’ve ever seen in the PS2 era of gaming. It wasn’t minimalist. It depicted fantasy politics of a small town village of assassins shockingly realistically. Moreover, the motivations of the Law and Chaos character — who are siblings and deeply care for each other — was by far one of the best aspects of this game.
Every stereotype of a Chaos character could arguably be made about him. Brash, arrogant, selfish, uncaring of societal norms within his small town, and constantly putting shame to the family honor and using violence to get his way.
So what was his motivation? Power for power’s sake? A world of survival of the fittest? Summon some Chaos God? Nope.
He wants to save the Law Character — his own sister — from being turned into a sex slave for a foreign community. His motivation is keeping the Law character protected at all personal costs, and even if that means that he uses dark, poisonous tattoos to decrease his life expectancy just to give himself an advantage in combat against his ninja kin.
His motivation is the natural love for his family. He understands that it’ll destroy the small-town’s economy, jeopardize the living conditions of his entire small-town and force them into extreme poverty that they may die from, wipe out an entire humanoid insect species that can’t reproduce through any other means, disadvantage his family – the rulers of the small town – and ruin the family traditions and even make him an enemy of Tokyo, which will use deadly force to capture and kill him. But, he’s willing to risk it all, because he can’t stand the idea of his sister becoming some sex slave at the convenience of a social system, even if it means everyone else will suffer for it.
Akane; sweet, innocent, and compassionate Akane. To me, she’s quite possibly the best Law character in all of MegaTen. No, I am not joking, I absolutely loved her character.
Akane has accepted her impotence in the situation and has become numb to what is expected of her. She just wants her brother to be safe and happy, for the townsfolk that she loves to remain prosperous and healthy, to obey family tradition and appease her father and to make certain that he doesn’t suffer any further heartache for the decision to put the clan, the townsfolk, and their living standards above her life and happiness. Above all, she calls in Raidou with the hope of stopping Dahn from getting injured or killed, and just as bad in her mind, Dahn injuring and killing clansmen as they get close to civil war due to Dahn’s incendiary and belligerent actions.
She just wants to make everyone happy, and if you play the Neutral and Chaos routes, it’s impossible to feel anything but sadness when you see her utter breakdown and how she uses Raidou as a scapegoat because she honestly doesn’t want to hate her own brother for pushing her so far after her father’s death, the deaths of so many of their clan, and the kidnapping and insanity that Shinado’s awakening stirs in the villagers. Dahn outright says that it was his own fault.
Raidou Kuzunoha the 14th himself
He plays such an intriguing role in all of this. As he meets another Kuzunoha and their apprentice, the player slowly uncovers the secret of the clan and learns of what Akane’s “marriage” really entails. And, in one of the most phenomenal aspects of storytelling, you are asked whether you agree or disagree with what they’re doing — having been told about all the pros and cons beforehand — and whether you speak as yourself or whether you hold yourself to your role as Raidou. As Raidou, you’re suppose to uphold this “foreign” system with respect to how it proves to be convenient for Tokyo’s interests, but you have to choose between what you understand to be leaving an innocent and compassionate law-abiding woman to become a victim of sexual slavery and gang rapes for the sake of keeping society protected or whether you personally disagree despite ultimately being forced to uphold the system. The sacrifice of one for the many is a lot more serious than in most other stories because the consequences are absolutely dire, if Akane doesn’t follow through. You’re allowed to either see it as inclusive or exclusive to either your personal beliefs or your role as Raidou depending upon your interpretation of what Raidou should be and what your role for Tokyo should be. You’ve been enlisted by Akane herself into keeping things in the small village peaceful and to try to resolve the situation amicably to ensure that she’s taken by the humanoid insects. It makes her sacrifice all the more gut-wrenching and her final moments all the more painful as she loses it all and reveals her burdened feelings.
Even more interesting is that there is a minority group — although no less prominent — who reject their human-insectoid modus operandi and yearn for death because they feel utter disgust for how their biological functions require sexual slavery of a human female to continue their own reproduction. It’s not solely a case of a fantasy race given a totally ridiculous idea behind it, the insectoid humans — the Tento Lords — are considered the Mushibito’s enemies. The game recognizes the plurality of the group in this way, even if it is split into specific opposing factions.
Next to Nocturne, this is probably the best interpretation of Lucifer. He equivocates with Dahn after the colossal failure of Dahn’s plans jeopardizes Tokyo. He informs the Mushibito to inform Dahn of what Dahn wanted to hear as way to save his sister by controlling the fantasy insects and their magic.
Lucifer’s actions are quite intuitively savvy. After the bloodshed rains down, Lucifer asks Raidou whether he believes that this process was done by a merciful and loving God or a wrathful one that exists only for it’s own sake. The implications of the conversation are also clear, especially with all the Abaddon conversations. While Lucifer helped propel events in a certain manner, it was by God’s decree that the massacre be allowed in order to begin reforming humanity because they’ve lost all hope. If Lucifer is to be judged for his actions, why cannot God also be judged for His? And, if you do judge them, which is worse — to lead humanity “astray” and impotent or to authorize mass genocide while claiming to love them?
Raidou’s actions are meant to symbolize hope and his title is meant to convey that his responsibilities are what will keep humanity in check so that God will not send Abaddon to annihilate humanity. The final boss essentially says this in his talks with Raidou. Raidou’s actions will define what God will choose to do next. There’s an interesting juxtaposition with Flynn from Shin Megami Tensei IV-IVA in this regard since Flynn’s story arc shows how the selfsame chosen one mentality can lead to being manipulated and used by others because you’re led to believe in hope. But moving on!
I loved how each of them didn’t represent just death, but also human despair and desire of nothingness as a sense of calm and peace. How frustration drove each of the individuals in the final dungeon to self-negation and summoning a fiend as a representative of those thoughts and feelings as a form of observation. Moreover, the Fiends choice of words to foreshadow SMT Nocturne, especially the “You’d best pick-up the pace, mortal! A conqueror is coming . . .” was extremely well-placed.
The connections probably feel more relevant in the Japanese bundle where Japanese players got a free version of SMT Nocturne Chronicle with the purchase. Nevertheless, I love how it expanded the lore of SMTIII: Nocturne and gave background to how long Lucifer had been plotting the True Demon Route and Ending of SMTIII: Nocturne. Raidou’s “spark” – his ability to change the future as proven in Soulless Army – was manipulated by Lucifer to thoroughly destroy an entire world’s possibility of creation and space-time. The only way Lucifer could win the gamble was if Demi-fiend trusted him of his own volition and agreed to become Lucifer’s hope for a future without God (whether it means the Axiom or YHVH is left ambiguous).
Skip to 7:19:
So… yeah: Captivating story in its own right even without the meta-references and I really wish it’d get more appreciation. The game is absolutely fantastic, but unfortunately it suffers from a completely terrible hard mode that just doesn’t have any good balance at all. Atlus isn’t as good with Action-RPG balancing as they are with turn-based games, it seems.
As a final point, I have to say that I absolutely loved the fantasy politics of the game. It felt stunningly realistic in terms of international relations and identity politics with what you — as Raidou or yourself — represent to this foreign community and your allegiance to Akane’s interests and Tokyo’s interests. I had thought that I was looking too deeply into Atlus stories until playing this game. Akane, Lucifer, and Dahn make for such compelling and fantastic storytelling. One would be an outlier, but all three? Definitively purposeful and shows just how amazing the story writing is. This was probably the best mix of fantasy politics, SMT, and Persona weaved together in a very disturbing and immersive story.