Posted by: TWILT | August 5, 2013

Shin Megami Tensei IV — Devil In A Midnight City

SMTIV_Cover_Large

  • Developer: Atlus
  • Platform: Nintendo 3DS
  • Price: $49.99
  • Release Dates:
    • Japan: 05/23/2013
    • North America: 07/16/2013
    • Europe: 2013?

The year of the 3DS continues with already great hits like Fire Emblem Awakening, Animal Crossing: New Leaf, Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon, on the more niche side of things, stuff like Etrian Odyssey IV, and Soul Hackers, and still have yet to be released games like Mario and Luigi: Dream Team, The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds and of course, Pokemon XY.  Things are looking great for Nintendo’s handheld (I wish I could say the same thing for their console, but that’s a story for another time…)

Here we have a bit of a sleeper hit in Shin Megami Tensei IV. It’s another installment in the mainline Shin Megami Tensei series. Now, in the off chance you know me, you’d know that I’m actually a pretty big fan of the series. Persona 4 is among one of my favorite games, while stuff like Persona 3, Nocturne, and Devil Survivor (1+2) I really enjoyed too. Now we have the latest installment of the mainline series; lets see how it stacks up.

Shin Megami Tensei IV is a Japanese role playing game (otherwise known as JRPG). The main protagonist (whose default name is Flynn though you can rename him to whatever) is one of the five chosen Samurai who do duties for the seemingly medieval Eastern Kingdom of Mikado. When a Black Samurai (lolracismjokehere) is causing chaos throughout the land, turning people into demons, the Samurai must track them down in the rather dark underground demon-infested city of…modern Tokyo? It may seem like a strange concept at first, but stuff like this is what the series is known for, and it actually works rather well.

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The story, while I can’t reveal too much without going into spoilers, is for the most part dark, interesting and enjoyable. While it takes a bit of time for it to get going (though thankfully not nearly as long as most JRPGs), the pacing for the most part is fast enough without making you fall to sleep. The atmosphere will immerse you, just like any other good SMT game, into it’s mysterious and sinister air especially when you get to the Tokyo area.

The characters, while not as strong as say, characters from Persona 4, are for the most part, developed and enjoyable. You got the intelligent goody two shoes, Jonathan, the cool bad boy, Walter, and the serious, but manga loving Isabeau. There’s also lots of NPCs, which is huge compared to Nocturne where there were very few, who tell you what they’re feeling in the situation and help immerse you into the game. Some of them give hints and may even give you quests depending on who you ask.

Isabeau is my waifu, no touching.

Isabeau is my waifu, no touching.

Now of course, your decisions throughout the game will help influence what your path and ending will be. There’s a Law, Chaos, and Neutral path. If you’re lawful, support  your man Jonathan’s decisions, spare humans, make sure there’s order in the world, and kill all demons. If you’re chaotic, go ahead and do the opposite of that, and make sure it’s every man for themselves by supporting Walter. It really makes you think about what actions you should take. If you want to go towards a specific path, you may need to use a guide. I managed to get the Neutral path on my first playthrough, though I had to look up a couple things online. There’s four endings in total (including one “bad” ending), so there’s plenty of replay value.

For the game itself, you’ll be exploring areas, going from point A to point B, as you try to finish these tasks (though most of the time, you’ll just be exploring dungeons and killing demons). My only problem is perhaps the world map. It can sometimes be a tad confusing to navigate and you may get lost on where to go. While it shouldn’t take you too long to find your destination, the world map I feel could have been done better.

Moving onto the battle system, I think it’s where the game really shines the most. While most may be a little disappointed going from Nocturne’s 3D battles to a first person, sprite based screen, it more than makes up with everything else. The combat system is deep, customizable to your playstyle, and fast paced. Your main character can specialize in Strength (physical stat), Dexterity (gun/physical stat), Magic (magic stat), agility (determines how fast you get to go), and luck (determines critical/hit/dodge rate) or perhaps a mix of them. You fight with your demons, and utilizing a system called “Press Turn.” Basically, you get 4 moves in a turn, and if you managed to land a critical/hit an enemy’s weakness, you get an extra turn. Of course, miss or hit the enemy with a move that they resist to, you may just lose those turns. Those who have played SMT games will be very familiar to this.

You get demons by, during battle, talking to them, via a system called, “Demon Negotiation.” After meeting their demands, and picking the right choices, they’ll join your party. The system itself is a bit random (there was this one time I gave away like half my macca and the demon proceeded to run away with it…), but adds this certain charm to it of every demon being unique. You can even fuse demons together to create even more powerful demons, passing down their skills and traits. There’s over 400+ demons in the game, compared to Nocturne 100 or so. Lots of to do in this game.

Demons will also attack you in groups called Hordes.

Demons will also attack you in groups called Hordes.

These skills can also be passed down to your main character, via a system called, “Demon Whisper.” Basically, after the demon reaches a certain level (mostly after learning all their available skills), you can pass them down to your MC. If the MC has already learned the skill, it’ll get a little boost from lower MP cost to more damage. It’s a really cool system in my opinion, and I much prefer to Nocturne’s rather silly way of doing it. There’s a lot more to the battle system, such as the Smirk system, battle apps, and more, but it may be a little too overwhelming for you all.

Of course, it’s not Shin Megami Tensei without being brutally challenging. While it’s a tad toned down to welcome in newcomers to the series, it’s still a challenging game, that’ll test your skills to the limit. You will die a lot, though if there is an easy mode if you feel the game is too hard for you (which is unlocked after dying two times). You’ll get this satisfying feel when you finally overcome this difficult boss. If you’re up for a bigger challenge, you can unlock a hard mode upon being the game.

The music…man, I can’t get over the music. The soundtrack for this game is pretty awesome. The world map and area themes really help immerse you into this game’s atmosphere, and is a treat to listen to. The battle music is fantastic too of course. While people who are expecting stuff like Shoji Meguro’s pop music (NOW I’LL FACE OUT, I’LL HOLD OUT, I’LL REACH OUT TO THE TRUTH) may be a little disappointed, stuff like the Boss Battle Theme, the Quest Battle Theme, and the VR Battle Theme are really excellent. I could go on and on about the soundtrack, but it’s really awesome and I can’t stop listening to it.

The voice acting is top notch too. While not everything is voice acted, it’s still really nice to see how good it is. Even the demons themselves have their own voice, which was a really nice touch.

The game has some pretty nice sprite work. While some of the new demon designs are a bit too much for me (y’all should SEE the Medusa design in this game), it’s nice to see them animated and have life to them. The game visual themselves look great, at least my trusty 3DSXL. It’s a little blocky in some areas, but I genuinely feel that this game is one of the best looking 3DS games to date, up there with Kid Icarus Uprising, Fire Emblem and Resident Evil: Revelations. The 3D effect doesn’t add much, unfortunately, so you can play the game with it off and still greatly enjoy it.

These static images I found on google images don't do the game enough justice.

These static images I found on google images don’t do the game enough justice.

The game will take you about 40-50 hours to beat on your first playthrough. There’s also plenty of optional quests (over 100 of them if I recall), so there’s still plenty to do. From fusing the best demons, to beating them, to delivering items to complete quests, and more, there’s plenty to do in Shin Megami Tensei IV.

Overall:

Pros:

  • Story is interesting
  • Characters are enjoyable
  • Deep and fast paced battle system
  • Lots of customization
  • Thought provoking decisions
  • One of the best looking 3DS games
  • Soundtrack is godlike
  • Has this dark and immersive atmosphere to it
  • Lengthy and replay value
  • Challenging

Cons: 

  • World Map can be a bit confusing
  • Some stuff isn’t clearly explained
  • Maybe too hard for certain people

Nitpicks:

  • Pfft, some of the demon designs….

While Shin Megami Tensei IV isn’t a game for everyone, I still highly recommend checking it out if you love JRPGs. It’s up there with Fire Emblem Awakening as my game of the year at the moment. Is it one of the best games for the 3DS? Absolutely. Is it one of the best games in the series? Absolutely. Is it among my favorite games ever? Hmm, might be too tough to tell. Either way, I can’t stop playing this game, and have already started my 2nd playthrough. The $49.99 price tag might be a bit too steep for some people, but I highly recommend getting it if you can…except for you Europeans where the game hasn’t even been given a date yet. Sorry guys, lol.

9.5/10

Shin-Megami-Tensei-IV-Tokyo

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