Last Level Press

Review: Shin Megami Tensei IV

Reviewer: Olen Bjorgo

It is the year 1492, and you have been chosen to be a Samurai of the Eastern Kingdom of Mikado. With your Gauntlet you are able to summon and control the very demons you are expected to defeat in order to keep peace in the kingdom. When the peace is shattered by a mysterious figure in strange ebony armor known only as the Black Samurai spreading knowledge to the lower classes, it is up to you and your fellows to traverse into the land of demons and people known as the Unclean Ones: Tokyo. And let me tell you, it gets stranger because that’s not even the halfway mark.

Come at me, Brosuke.

Shin Megami Tensei IV is the latest title in the long running Shin Megami Tensei series and my first foray into the series proper. In all honesty, this game was not even on my radar until I discovered that Nintendo was promoting this game along with Fire Emblem Awakening, a game I have had my eyes on, so what better way to get a free $30 for the Nintendo eShop than to buy these two games at retail price and then register them on my Club Nintendo account? Yes, I’m that much of a fan of the company… and of free money to buy more games. But mostly the company!

The game is comprised primarily of still or limited-motion images, especially during story or dialogue segments, and feels very much like the Etrian Odyssey games, which are also made by Atlus. Unlike the Etrian Odyssey series, the overworld is in a third-person view and your movement is not limited to a field grid. The real shining gem of this game is the demon design. With creatures ranging from the traditional folklore from a wide variety of cultures to religious and mythical figures from ancient times, this game does not suffer from the color swapped enemies that other RPGs face. The artists certainly took their liberties with some demon designs while still retaining their original essence, which is a breath of fresh air since they didn’t go the easy route and go with traditional ideas of how some demons look.

Humans, on the other hand…I think we found one of

the “Unclean Ones.”

The music and voice work for this game is among the best you’ll find for the system. While there are only a couple of tracks that can be heard by themselves, the music for Shin Megami Tensei IV is best heard when accompanied with its place in the game: the music sets the tone for the game and the atmosphere you’ll find yourself in. However, this doesn’t mean that it’s easy to ignore or forget. The same cannot be said for the voice work, which leaves an immensely strong impression. Much of what you’ll hear from the main cast of characters will be spoken in a very proper, almost dated manner of speaking, while your first venture into Tokyo will have you encountering people who speak in a way that is more familiar to our ears in the sense that it sounds more modern. The performances given by Matthew Mercer and Orion Acaba, who voice your fellow Samurai companions, Walter and Jonathan respectively, are perhaps some of the best I’ve heard in a long time, if only because they sound so natural in their portrayal.

The controls for the game follow the Press Turn System: you and your party, consisting of up to three demons each, have a turn, with the order of the turns indicated by the number located on the upper-right corner of the profile pictures you’ll see on the touch screen with your options to perform during that turn. Unless your demons have the skill to use items, your demons will primarily be your attack force or can serve as your white mages if they possess healing abilities. While in battle, you can earn extra turns for you or your demons by inflicting a critical attack or attacking an enemy with something they’re weak against; the enemy can use this to their advantage as well, and earn extra turns as well if they score a critical hit against you or attacks a demon with an attack they’re weak against. And, much to my delight, since I’m a fan of the Tales series, you can see demons that will attack you on the overworld rather than face a random encounter. Unfortunately, this means that if a demon spots you and charges before you have a chance to make a first strike, they will get the upper hand and could be deadly.

“Are…are those tentacles?”

Since your demons are your primary attack force, you will run invariably into situations where your demons will simply become wasted space since they will eventually run out of new skills to learn and begin to suggest new skills to replace specific older ones. That’s when it’s time to use fusion. As the name implies, you are given the ability to fuse demons you possess into newer, stronger ones. Basic Fusion involves fusing two demons together into a demon you might not face for a long time, while Special Fusion is when you can fuse up to four demons to create a truly powerful entity, typically notable figures from mythology that are as familiar as Medusa and the Minotaur to ones that are more obscure or known best in their home cultures, such as Tam Lin or Ame no Uzume.

First and foremost, this game is definitely one that knows its themes and works that into its aesthetics and style. The box art alone will tell you that things will be seen in stark black and white with you stuck in the middle until you pick your side. The backgrounds for the Eastern Kingdom of Mikado are medieval, verdant, green, and peaceful (until hell literally breaks loose), the demon-infested realm of Naraku is dim and barren, and Tokyo is a destroyed mess of a city with demons running wild as people struggle to survive. The greatest time you’ll ever spend in the game is in Tokyo as you attack the countless demons that plague the city as you venture through the ruins of buildings and shops scouting for “relics” to sell since you’ll rarely obtain money from your battles.

“Yup.  That’s a tentacle, alright.”

The greatest tragedy is, despite knowing of the series that this game has the honor to be a part of , this is still the first one I’ve ever played. I won’t say that I intend to play every entry that has been made in its over 20-year existence, especially since many of them might not even have an official English release, but it has given me the curiosity to seek out other entries. If you own a 3DS or you consider buying one, this game is a great choice to add to your library. This is a must own for RPG fans and a great entry point into the series. With a 50-60 hour play time, plus the ability to get one of three different endings, the game is well worth the price. However, this game is undoubtedly not intended for children, and probably wouldn’t fly well with people who have fervent religious ideas. But if this game sounds like your cup of tea, try to seek out the special collector’s edition that comes with a CD with eight tracks from the series as well as an art and strategy book. The larger box it all comes in also looks pretty on your shelf.

Rating: 9.0

Visuals: 9

Audio: 10
Controls & Mechanics: 8
Atmosphere & Experience: 9
Entertainment Value: 9

  Consoles: Nintendo 3DS

  Developer: Atlus

  Publisher: Atlus/ Nintendo

  Release Date (U.S.):  Jul 16, 2013

  Release Date (U.K.):  N/A

  Release Date (JP):  May 23, 2013

Final Verdict:


Last Level Press © Copyright Cliff Davenport  Est. 2013.  Links | Legal Notices

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