Shin Megami Tensei IV

Review: Shin Megami Tensei IV

I have a confession to make, despite owning several of the Persona games digitally I have never owned physically any game in the Shin Megami Tensei series plus I've only briefly played one of them, so naturally I don't exactly feel like I'm exactly the best 'qualified' person to review this but I've just been curious about the series for so long that I couldn't resist the opportunity; cue game series history paragraph!

SMTimage11Starting at the beginning with the very first game 'Megami Tensei' - which translates to 'Reincarnation of the Goddess' apparently - was released in 1987 only in Japan and is based on the 'Digital Devil' story novels, being that these stories have a modern-day setting it immediately eschews one of the first cliche elements of a lot of Role Playing Games at the time which is the typical 'Medieval' setting so it seems the series certainly started well. Over the years it seems that all of the SMT mainline series has remained either exlusive to Japan or America, indeed it's only recently that us 'unworthy' Europeans managed to get anything close to it - sepcifically on Nintendo platforms - with various spin-offs including both Devil Survivor games on the DS, Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers on the 3DS and of course there is the huge crossover of Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem coming to the Wii U at some point in the future with no definite date as of yet. In many ways SMTIV is still a first as it's the latest game in the series, exclusive to the 3DS and is available in Europe only a few months after being released elsewhere; also handily it would appear that it takes place in a world seperate from the rest of the series so I'll take that as my cue to dive right in! 

There is a sense of an immensely dark, forboding tale about to unfold from the title screen sequence accompanied by its music, upon starting the story you're floating through the sky while you hear some random omnipitent voices until one asks you what your name is, this seems to be where you name your character but I went with the default which seems to be 'Flynn' after this you are reminded that your choices will shape the world around you thus the game begins. As you survey the destroyed city around you it becomes clear there is no support for the circle pad pro which is mildly annoying, though you can at least use the shoulder buttons to pan around plus the D-pad but you may have to reposition the camera behind you using 'B' sometimes; in any case you wander around until you're introduced to 'Walter' who warns you not to forget him, then another character named 'Jonathan' who tells you that you musn't forget that his future is apparently with 'you' and both of them seem to talk about making a world together, a young girl prays for you to revive her, the title rolls across the screen, then the game actually appears to begin as you awaken from a dream at a place called Lake Mikado alongside a mysterious youth named Issachar before being told to hurry to the Gauntlet Rite... an easy enough intro then.It isn't long before you become 'the chosen one' accepted by the gauntlet thus you go on a trial to become a Samurai where you're joined by other 'Prentices' comprising of Walter, Navarre, Jonathan plus Isabeau then you all journey to Naraku a place of demons where you accept three trial quests.

When in the dungeon characters can communicate with you through the hi-tech gauntlet, this is also how you access your menu functions with the touch screen appearing as if it were the screen on the in-game gauntlet, it's a nice clever interface but more importantly it allows you to save your game while in the dungeon in addition to being able to check out your items, equipments and stats. You can also view details about accepted quests to which will display the objective, a description plus what the reward is for succeeding.

Running into SMTimage15enemies on the field will begin the battle though you can get a pre-emptive strike in first against the demons, the battle system is turn based, you get a number of turns to attack though if you hit an enemy who is weak to your element then you get to attack once more for bonus damage. If your attack misses or is cancelled out though you will actually use up more turns than normal which makes for a steep learning curve especially if you make a few simple mistakes early on, it works both ways though so you need to use it to your advantage to change the flow of battle; as your level goes up you will earn stat points which you choose how to use, your five stat categories are St, Dx, Ma, AG and Lu... they all abbreviate from the usual categories you would expect to find in a title like this.

You will also earn App Points for each level up gained, these will allow you to enhance electronic AI Burroughs capabilities - as if she wasn't helpful enough already - one of these apps you get early on is called 'Scout' which allows you to talk to demons so you can recruit them as allies which is an essential element. Once you initiate a conversation with a demon they will ask you questions which if you answer correctly they then may agree to join you for a price, this will usually involve them taking some of your HP or asking for some Macca in way of monetary compensation, in my first instance of recuiting for example I was asked 'Where does thy hapiness lie?' to which I chose the right answer, allowed the demon to take around 12HP plus 7 Macca which seemed to satisfy it; thus a lvl 1 Yoma Centaur was then at my service who has an Ice element attack, then I got a lvl 2 Fairy Napaea who took a little more 'persuading' with items, then finally a lvl 2 Night Mokoi who's a tricky little conversationalist and a reasonable barterer who brings with him powerful lightning attacks.

As an interesting sidenote when your Demons lvl up learning skills of their own they can then pass on 'Whispered Skills' to your main character, if it also happens to be a skill you already know then it will be strengthened instead, this can be a rather useful way to learn new skills quickly. Some higher level demons might refuse to join you even after successful negotiation, though they will depart a useful item or two to you for your troubles; you may also come across 'Relics' which appear randomly within dungons, these are definitely worth picking up as you can get them appraised at a shop who will give you a decent amount of Macca for them which is the currency used in the game; also if you want to hold onto lots of it then try to avoid dying as if this happens you'll be taken to the underworld where you meet a shady fellow who will offer to bring you back for a fee usually paid in Macca or Play Coins... alternatively you can just reload your last save though which I ended up doing frequently thanks to the save anywhere system.   

SMTimage8Finally for your last training quest you make us of the 'Mapper' app which handily places a map of your surrounding area on the bottom screen, after you've completed this quest you'll have a better idea of what to really expect from this game plus you'll gain a deeper understanding of how it all works as ultimately it's still an RPG... just one with many choices along with more than a few quirks which you're unlikely to see anywhere else; it's also worth noting that it took me more than three hours just to complete the 'Training' quests so it's sufficiently in-depth. Upon returning the game really begins as you'll start making choices which I assume end up affecting the ending ultimately though I wouldn't worry too much about it, you also get introduced to 'K' the eyepatch-wearing 'bartender' who owns K's Tavern which ends up being a hub where you can pick up lots of Challenge Quests put up on the blackboard by residents which are from seperate to your main ones because it's always nice to have things to do plus it's a good way to gain experience and rewards early on.

Though it's Burroughs who handles you main applications it's 'Mido' the strange old man who is in charge of Demon Fusion which takes place in the virtual 'Cathedral of Shadows' app complete with Organ music playing in the background; Demon Fusion is a forbidden process wherein multiple demons are fused together to create a new demon, sounds simple enough. You can create quite the array of different demons this way so thankfully there is something called Fusion Search which will help you on your way to fruitful fusion being that you can search under various categories, alternatively you can just go with the Recommended Fusions to save time, fusion can carry many benefits such as making your demons and thus your party stronger, you can also view entries to currently encoountered demons via the Demon Compendium but not only that as it also allows you to simply summon demons that you've encountered in exchange for Macca which can be particularly useful if you've perhaps been not so lucky in talking the demon which you want over to your side.

Even a good ten hours into the game things don't seem to let up much at all so you will find several points where everything slows down as you'll find the need to get up to a certain level, fortunately there is a shortcut you can take when battling as by pressing the right shoudler button you'll activate 'Auto' mode which will make your party just go in for the default attack but at three times the usual speed, I only discovered this around nine hours into the game though being that the flow of battle can be unpredictable until you've gained a few levels this isn't a bad thing though you will want to be aware that it's there at least. There other intricate factors to consider such as the 'Smirk' status which can be triggered a variety of ways including landing a decent hit on your enemy or the enemy attack missing completely, right through to an elemental attack hitting your same element demon unwittingly healing them; upon gaining the status of 'Smirk' you will notice several enhancements such as being able to land critical hits easily but not being able to be felled by one, a range of stat boosts and if you're fortunate enough to get all four party members with a simultaneous streak of smirk through the lot of them then you'll have all of your HP plus MP restored which is very welcome indeed being that it can be tricky to restore MP at the best of times, though this only happened once when I was playing so it seems to be a rare event.

Indeed most of the time it can seem as if you're just barely getting by in the game though perhaps this is normal for a Shin Megami Tensei title, always harshly balanced with the difficulty against you following a steep learning curve which you might curse at times yet once you make a small bit of progress it certainly feels uniquely rewarding as I can honestly say that I've not quite played another RPG quite like it in my life-time in which I've played quite a few especially thanks to regularly writing retro reviews but this has certainly been an eye-opener even for myself as I truely went into this being a total novice and I get the feeling that it's an experience which you could play from start to finish yet still not feel as if you're an expert at it by any means.       

Quests range from slaying demons toSMTimage9 having breakfast - no really - so you'll genuinely not know what to expect from them but what you can anticipate is falling into a routine of getting so far, then reaching a sticking point which will require you to return to Naraku - the games main dungeon - so that you can level your party up some more which in itself will see you finding the best spot, running between demon spawning points, getting the first strike in, turning on auto battle - if you're feeling complacent - and perhaps picking up a few relics inbetween in addition to nabbing useful drops that you can sell for macca; occasionally you might opt to talk to the particular demon in battle who you know will most likely give you a HP/MP recovery or an item for having one of its species on your side though this becomes less of a regular occourance once you purchase more apps such as one that replenishes your main characters MP with every step which is particularly useful seeing as it doesn't get filled that often.

Different paths are apparently included based on some of the various choices that you'll make during the game which is nice for anyone who intends to play through the game multiple times but if you only play through it once without worrying too much about your actions then I'd still wager that you'll still get more than enough enjoyment out of it, so the sign says. For anyone who doesn't appreciate the rather crawling pace of the game though you can opt to purchase various pieces of dlc from the eShop for a small fee though it must be noted that a good proportion of the content on 'offer' is already obtainable in the game at some point so you're merely paying to unlock some of it earlier which I don't really agree with but I can appreciate that some players may find it useful so I have indeed accepted it; personally I found playing through the vast majority of the title satisfying enough though it's good to know that there are such brilliantly diverse, dense RPG experiences available for those willing to invest the time as I can honestly say at least that I have never played a game quite like this before so it surprised me and I have since purchased some of the earlier titles with the Shin Megami Tensei label on them purely based on my experiences here.

Of all the games I've ever played on the 3DS I must say that the use of 3D is most impressive here as while a lot of the game takes place in menus, when you actually get to delve deep into one of the dungeons, you can't help but become fully immersed in the spectacular world which has been created here as it really leaps out at you from the depths of Naraku as you feel the presence of digital demons surrounding you. Adding to the atmosphere with aural aplomb, the game soundtrack is expertly composed with each track bringing every new area to life in spectacular fashion; from the Ancient Japan feel afforded by Mikado Castle to the ominously haunting yet up-tempo battle theme with its eerie undertone of bagpipes right through to the later sections of the game which will leave you reeling for more, even the sound effects of your character differ depending on which set of armour you're wearing so there really is a great amount of detail present.

Being that this is my first experience of the Shin Megami Tensei series I can safely say that it has more than piqued my interest something which I was always aware of yet hadn't ever dipped into, now that I've had a taste of it though there is an undeniable thirst for more so if there is anyone else who has yet to give this series a try then it's definitely worth it just so long as you are aware of how intense the experience can be at times; it's something which I was seemingly unaware of before this review yet I'm glad to feel more informed on it now. For those who have been playing the series for some time already then it is more than likely that you'll want to indulge in what is certain to become a future classic so please don't hesitate in downloading this demonic digital delight as soon as is humanly possible.

N-Europe Final Verdict

A delightfully deep RPG which shows that an overworld isn't required in order to deliver substance in style. Featuring an excellent cast of characters, a list of likeable demons to collect plus plenty to keep you interested; Shin Megami Tensei IV is surely a new zenith for the series.

  • Gameplay5
  • Playability4
  • Visuals5
  • Audio5
  • Lifespan4
Final Score



Addictive formula
Striking visual style
Plenty of demonic depth
Interesting characters & storyline


Grind-heavy emphasis on progress
Might be too difficult for some

© Copyright 2024 - Independent Nintendo Coverage Back to the Top