Review Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Review Copy Provided By: ATLUS
Release Date: July 16, 2013
Admittedly, I was never really exposed to the Megami Tensei video game series by Atlus growing up. My first experience with a Megami Tensei was when I got a chance to review Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers for the 3DS a few months back. That game was okay in it’s own right. I mean, it wasn’t really bad, but it wasn’t really that good either.
I feel like I got a chance to experience the series for the first time all over again though, with my review of Shin Megami Tensei IV, because the game is so vastly different than what I experienced with Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers. In fact, if I didn’t know it was within the same series, I wouldn’t think the two were related.
I get that the Megami Tensei series is known for its many different spin offs and stories, but still. I think the fact that Shin Megami Tensei IV was so different than my previous dealings with the franchise works in its favor. I was expecting another meh, bland JRPG that I’ve played 1000 times and what I got was decidedly different, decidedly better.
In Shin Megami Tensei IV, gamers are dropped in East Mikado, a place reminiscent of medieval Japan. When your character passes an ancient ritual by the name of the Gauntlet Rite to become a member of an order of elite, demon hunting Samurais, he must stop a mysterious Black Samurai from turning people to demons and solve the world before it’s too late.
The first thing that I noticed, which I loved about this game, was how gorgeous it was. The environments and characters were all very well done and look very good on the 3DS. I especially loved how detailed the backgrounds were when exploring various dungeons. They stood quite well, especially with the 3D switched on.
My next favorite thing about this game was the way you fought and battled various demons. As your character free roams around dungeons, pixelated monster shapes will randomly pop up. You have two choices. A) you can bust out your weapon and try and attack with a preemptive strike that will give you a combat advantage or B) wait for the enemy to attack you. Either way, you’re soon launched into a turn based, first person battle scene reminiscent of what you’d see in Dragon Quest or Golden Sun.
Shin Megami Tensei IV differs from other JRPGs with turn based battle systems in two ways. For starters, gamers have access to something known as press turn mechanic. This allows gamers a chance to add a bit of strategy to their fight by giving them the opportunity to earn an extra attack in the round based upon what they do. At the same time, gamers can be penalized as well, offering the chance to get put in a serious disadvantage.
For two, gamers can opt to try and bypass fights altogether by negotiating with the demons fought in an attempt to make them an ally. If done correctly, they join your team. It made for a really fun battle experience and one of the most refreshing systems I have come across in a long time.
It was a good thing the battle system was so refreshing too, because Shin Megami Tensei IV is freaking hard. Battles are unforgiving and all the demons you fight, even early on, have the ability to wipe you and your team of allies out in the blink of an eye. Planning is all but crucial if you want to succeed and I’ll be honest, sometimes it can get a bit frustrating. If you’re a gamer that appreciates a good challenge, you’ll like the level of difficulty presented in this game.
Don’t worry though if you aren’t accustomed to games with such a high level of difficulty. The game does a great job of dolling out tutorials in nice little bits and portions (presented in the form of missions) over the first hour or so that get you acclimated to the type of gameplay you can expect before things really get tough. That’s a good thing too, because the mysterious and very engrossing story hooks you in deep really fast. By presenting the tutorials the way it does, the game gives you a chance to get the basics out of the way quickly, allowing you to focus on the great story.
At first, I had a bit of a hard time trying to find something that I didn’t like about Shin Megami Tensei IV. It’s one of the better JRPGs I’ve ever played. However, as I went over the game in my mind and the various features, it hit me. The game has a sort of menu based map system that in all honesty, sucks. When you look at how good the game is (with its rich backstory and mythology) it makes you want to be able to explore the world of Mikado in person, again, like the over world exploration in Dragon Quest or Golden Sun, in more detail (preferably in third person like you’re able to do in dungeons in the game). The fact that you’re required to travel between locations via a menu and don’t get a chance to explore is a bit of a drag.
All in all, Shin Megami Tensei IV is an excellent game and in my opinion, one of the finest games ever to be released on the Nintendo 3DS (right alongside Animal Crossing: New Leaf and Fire Emblem Awakening). It’s engrossing, offers hours upon hours of gameplay and best of all, it’s fun! If you own a 3DS, it’d be a crime to pass this title up.