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Shin Megami Tensei IV Review


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On 07/10/2013 at 12:00 PM by Jon Lewis

One hardcore RPG.
RECOMMENDATION:

For players looking for a challenging RPG, with lots of depth. Beginners might want to do some research before giving it a try.

Aside from a brief escapade with the Persona series, I pretty much have had zero experience with the Shin Megami Tensei series. The name is familiar to me, but all I knew about the series is that it’s widely loved, and has spawned many spinoff series that have all garnered some success. While I really enjoy what I’ve played of the Persona series, I still had no idea what to expect when booting up Shin Megami Tensei IV for the first time. I was afraid that I wouldn’t even like this type of game. In the early goings I felt that my fears would be confirmed, but I eventually found SMT to be enjoyable, despite being new to the franchise.

When I started Shin Megami Tensei IV, I was immediately intrigued by the animated intro. One of the things that drew me to Persona is the anime-like vibe that game gives off, so this was a plus. I was a bit conflicted about having a silent protagonist for this adventure, but it was the presentation of the over world that surprised me the most.

Rather than exploring an open over world on foot, you are given a list of areas that you can visit, such as your room, the tavern, and even dungeons. Initially, this really bothered me because I’m used to manually exploring big cities, but I got used to it in time. This format takes out some of the fluff from other RPGs, instead focusing on the actual dungeons.

What I wasn’t initially aware of is that Shin Megami Tensei IV is somewhat of a dungeon crawler. Much of the game involves exploring these demon infested areas, fighting and collecting items. The environments are fully rendered in 3D, adding some depth to the exploratory sections.

Battles take place in a pseudo-first person fashion. Enemies show up as drawn sprites on the top screen, and the majority of your data is displayed on the bottom. Attacks all have interesting effects, and sport different animations depending on if they kill an enemy or not. Simply hitting someone with a fire spell looks like your run of the mill magic attack, but the enemy will burn to ash if it’s a killing blow. It’s a nice touch that I appreciated very much.

Recruiting monsters to help in battle makes the combat system even more interesting, reminding me of Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World. This mechanic is a lot more important to success in this game however, as battles quickly become very difficult. It’s not only imperative that you recruit monsters early on, but it’s important that you learn how to recruit them properly.

One of the things that initially turned me off from the game was the method for recruiting monsters. You have to persuade them to join you, which will only happen if you make the right choices or compromises. However, if you miscalculate you can be punished. As someone new to the series, it was extremely discouraging to find that a demon would swindle me. Sure, it makes sense to distrust a demon, but the process made the battles even harder than I was expecting.

At one point early on, I was simply trying to build up my party so I could take on some of the tougher enemies that were ahead. I had little to no other party members with me, and unfortunately had to deal with demons cheating me out of money, items, or even HP and MP. It took me a bit longer than I would have preferred to get the hang of it, and at one point I was ready to put down the game out of pure frustration. That said, once I got the hang of it and managed to recruit a few demons, I felt really comfortable in battle. I began to enjoy it even more when I discovered the fusion system.

Demon fusion is exactly what it sounds like. If you have two compatible demons, you can combine them to create a stronger demon. Upon gaining a few fusions, battles became easier and I found myself enjoying the dynamics of combat. Battle flow ultimately comes down to exploiting enemy weaknesses. In each battle, you are allotted a certain amount of actions. However, hitting with critical hits, or hitting with an enemy weakness grants you an extra action.

Conversely, missing an enemy or hitting it with an ineffective attack will deduct actions. Many battles, especially boss battles, come down to finding a weakness, then exploiting it as much as possible to get as many actions in as you can before the end of a turn. It’s extremely fun in practice, and while the enemies can counter you with the same tactics, it becomes very satisfying when everything clicks.

I admit, I was scared that I wouldn’t enjoy this game after my first couple of hours with it. As someone new to the series, I felt that the sudden difficulty and the slow to start story would persist. However, once I figured out the flow of the game and got into the narrative, I found myself wanting to play more and more. Fans of the Shin Megami Tensei series will have a lot to enjoy, as it’s a well-produced package with a great soundtrack, featuring full voice work. Newcomers might need to adjust to the style of game, but will also find a lot to enjoy after they get over the learning curve. There is also a beginner difficulty that you can unlock which does take some of the heat off, though don’t be surprised if you get surprised by an enemy who will proceed to crit you until you die. Ultimately, I feel that Shin Megami Tensei IV is a really good game, and only adds to the stellar 3DS library, and those looking for a quality RPG experience on the handheld should consider this one.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:


All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.


These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.


This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.


Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.


Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.


A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.


 

Comments

BrokenH

07/10/2013 at 01:11 PM

Shin Megami Tensei games are known for being pretty difficult. Even as a rabid fan of the series I wouldn't hold it against you if you did not click with it. You're also right about demon negotiation. It can be annoying at first until you learn the behavorial patterns of every demon.

Regardless, glad you finally clicked with it,Jon! If Persona 5 comes to the 3DS as well I just might have to pick one up.

Jon Lewis Staff Writer

07/10/2013 at 10:24 PM

Thanks, im glad it clicked with me too. And yes, I really hope we get some persona on 3DS, that would be awesome.

mothman

07/10/2013 at 01:23 PM

I was going to rage about you only giving it 4 out of 5 like a troll but I wasn't sure you'd see the humour in it. :)

I'm looking forward to getting this next Tuesday. All other games (outside of AC) will likely be put on hold for a while.

I'm sure I'll love it but like Nocturne I may never finish it. The end game in Nocturne is infuriatingly difficult with boss battle after boss battle  against enemies with no weaknesses. It started to feel like work so I quit.

Jon Lewis Staff Writer

07/10/2013 at 10:23 PM

haha, glad to know you considered my feelings! 

Jokes aside though, I think you're gonna like the game though, especially if you're a vet. Its got some pretty high production values, and a lot of bulk.

jgusw

07/10/2013 at 03:42 PM

I can't wait to check this game out.  I really need to get a 3DS though.  $200 for a 3DS xl is just too pricey. 

Jesse Miller Staff Writer

07/10/2013 at 04:01 PM

In my opinion it's totally worth it.  I bought the original before the price drop and upgraded just a couple of months ago.  No regrets.

jgusw

07/10/2013 at 04:09 PM

I have the money, but I also have a pregnant wife that's due any day now.  I don't want to make any big purchases.  I have to wait till the baby is not so new.  I'll probably get a 3DS xl during the holidays.  I'm sure I can save at least $50 on one by then. Laughing

Jesse Miller Staff Writer

07/10/2013 at 04:13 PM

I got a little one on the way as well - she's due in just a couple of weeks!  I can understand the budgetary restraints that come with a bundle of joy like that.  I've been puting money away for my PS4 purchase every check so that won't have to come up with the sum at the time.

Congrats to you!  You'll love both your child and your XL when they come!

jgusw

07/11/2013 at 08:43 AM

Thanks!  Cograts to you too!  This will be my fifth child.  If you're having your first, then I advise you to keep your games and anything else you want to keep out of child reach.  They destroy everything. Laughing

Dandichu

07/10/2013 at 10:10 PM

I just upgraded too! I'm seriously stunned at how beautiful AC:NL (and anything for that matter) plays on the bigger screens. *droolface* :B

Ryan Bunting Staff Alumnus

07/12/2013 at 08:27 AM

The Shin Megami Tensei games are definitely not for the faint of heart - there will be a good deal of grinding, but the story and characters are deep and lovable, and make for a great gameplay experience. I've loved the SMT/Persona games for a long time. The ability to keep the demons/summons in your party instead of just summoning them makes a huge difference in gameplay style compared to other games in the series, but to me it's a welcome, intuitive change.

Dandichu

07/27/2013 at 09:52 PM

I agree with this comment 150%. :3

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