(continued from Part 1)
Though Shin Megami Tensei is far from mainstream, it wasn't long into its history that it began experimenting with spinoffs to reach different audiences. Shin Megami Tensei if…’s 1994 release traded nuclear devastation for a high school setting that served as a hub for abstract dungeons and a focus on the eroding psychological health of its villain—a much more intimate subject than previous games, establishing that “the side games… [treated] smaller themes compared to mainline [SMT].”  The second major spinoff was 1995’s Devil Summoner, a mix of detective pulp and occult matter which “was kept relatively simple and straightforward so that players could enjoy the story as it unfolded."  Though narrower in scope, these spinoffs were still clearly cut from SMT’s cloth.
Of course, there was another spinoff, 1996’s Persona, which saw the potential of SMT: if...'s high school setting and psychoanalytical concepts and ran with them. Its very title and central concept refer to the work of Carl Gustav Jung, famed psychoanalyst, and don’t stop there: terms like Shadows, Philemon, personas originating from a "sea of the soul," and many other premises and interpretations derive from Jung's work. The psych angle was a natural fit for the Megami Tensei franchise, as Jung is still known for popularizing the psychological interpretation of myths and the religious experience. What were once gods and monsters physically manifesting through computers could now be personality-changing "masks" originating from internal rather than external sources, without the need of technology.
But it would be naive to say that the creation of Persona was entirely for the purpose of exploring psychological matters. Kaneko admits that, compared to the main series, “Persona was geared towards a younger audience."  The switch to casts of high schoolers and a heavier story and dialogue focus was all about appealing to different demographics. This turned out to be a seemingly magic formula, as adding a more relatable human element to Megami Tensei's modern settings paved the way for the breakout hits of Persona 3 and Persona 4. But what exactly is behind the popularity of these modern Persona games, and how would their success impact Atlus and the Shin Megami Tensei series as a whole?