An Imagining of a Western Icon
This is an artist’s impression of Thor used as a representation of the mythological figure in the Playstation 2 game, Persona 3. As opposed to other games in the “Shin Megami Tensei” franchise, also abbreviated as MegaTen or SMT, the mythological entities in Persona 3 are alter-egoes, or “personas,” rather than fully corporeal entities. In other words, they’re on the inside, not the outside.
In this game, only the main character has the special ability to be able to “change his persona” and gain the strengths and weaknesses of the entity imagined.
“Thor” is one such being.
Although this is a new artist’s illustration, I first encountered the modern SMT impression of Thor in a classic, rather hardcore game, Shin Megami Tensei 3: Nocturne, where Thor was an in-game NPC (non-player character) for a fair bit of the game, operating as the 2nd in command of a militant demonic organization trying to bring order to a mad world in the ruins of a post-apocalyptic Tokyo.
To join this organization as part of the plot, you have to prove yourself by fighting Thor, and winning.
It is no cheap or easy challenge.
What I want to impress upon the reader, because those unfamiliar with these niche role-playing games would not be able to tell from the image above, is that this Thor, if he was standing at his full height, would be about three times the height of the player, putting him at oh, maybe 16 feet tall. He is typically shown on one knee because well, if he wasn’t, he wouldn’t have much of an angle to smash you to a pulp with.
Now, in Persona 3, gaining access to Thor – which you can’t do unless you go through some trouble in the game’s role-playing elements – gives you some other benefits. Being a non-corporeal, summoned “persona,” these spirits can be fused with “blank” weapons to create custom weapons infused with a supernatural presence. But when you fuse “Thor,” you get Mjlonir in your own, loving hands.
This is a special weapon which does not inflict physical damage. Rather, it inflicts lightning damage as if it was a thunderbolt in physical form. The weapon even provides a bonus, albeit a small one, to all lightning damage, including damage from the weapon itself.
But the weapon does not achieve its true power unless you use it with a re-summoned and maxed out Thor.
At top level, Thor has a few tricks that make acquiring his aid worth the trouble.
First, he gains a skill to increase the attack power of not just the main character, but the entire party, for the first three rounds of combat. This affects both physical and magical damage.
Second, he gains a souped-up lightning damage boost skill, increasing the power of any lightning attacks he has. He possesses a single-target, high level thunderbolt spell by default, but could have learned others through the acquisition process. Also, he has a combination attack with another persona, a Japanese thunder god, that is an all-enemy attack (rather than single target) and has a very high chance of inflicting Shock status, which temporarily paralyzes opponents and makes them very easy to bowl over. It’s a little expensive in terms of the player’s mystical energy, but the results are nearly game-breaking.
Third, and this is just icing on the cake, Thor’s highest level skill provides a bonus to the normal physical attack of blunt weapons.
This includes Mjlonir.
So with this combination, Thor + Mjlonir brings a lesser and a greater boost to lightning damage, an additional boost to physical damage with blunt weapons that applies to Mjlonir, and starts every battle with a three-turn license to do extra damage in beating the enemy to a pulp.
This is in addition to one of Thor’s default moves: using the spiritual hammer version to create a wide area shockwave that does huge helpings of blunt damage to all opponents. Plus, of course, Thor has beefy stats that make the damage as high as possible.
When you have Mjlonir in your hands, every problem really does look like a nail.
(I was waiting all post to write that line. – J)
Anyway, the point of all this is really saying, this started with an impression of a mythological Norse figure who did mortal combat with giants of legend, slaying them with the force of his might and the power of his mystical hammer.
In game terms, this is a well thought out homage to the mythological figure, and a lot of fun to play around with, especially considering all the trouble a person has to go through to get all this set up. It’s like a complete supernatural fighting style, all providing the player with some seriously souped up lightning and brute force powers to play with.
In cultural terms, this isn’t a Japanese version of Thor. It’s an adaptation of the Germanic pagan deity, taking the concept and running with it, dressing it up in game mechanics, the artwork you see at the top of this post, and model animations for when Thor (in spirit form) brings his mighty hammer down or reaches to the heavens (with his off hand) to call forth a crushing, brutal thunderbolt from the heavens.
Through it all, one gets the sense of Thor as a larger than life presence, both in physical dimensions and in the might at his command. Also, if you take a good look at the artist’s illustration, he really does look like a force of nature encased in flesh and armor, barely contained by the trappings of humanity’s image of him. He embodies the ferocity of the angry heavens, the soul of the Teutonic warrior, and the might of a proud race.
This is good stuff.
What I’ve tried to do here is demonstrate that even though this is an element of a foreign culture, and indeed, a foreign religion, it has been adapted into a Japanese role-playing game with its own distinct mystique. This is emblematic of how modern Japanese culture works: don’t dismiss other cultures – bring them in! Make them part of a larger whole. Honor excellent pieces with the care and attention Japanese people provide to their own culture, and share the result with the world.
And why not?