Shin Megami Tensei IV Review (3DS)

I’m a huge fan of the Persona series which encouraged me to check out other Shin Megami Titles including Devil Survivor, Soul Hackers and Digital Devil Saga. Finally, Shin Megami Tensei IV has released in Europe, but is it worth the wait?


I can safely say yes, yes it is. I could stop the review right here and tell you to buy it, especially at its bargain price, but I’ll review it like any other game (even though you should totally buy it!) I’ll start with the story and characters, as usual with my reviews, where you control Flynn (or whatever you decide to name the main character) as you journey to become a samurai and undertake quests to help various cities; there are many twists and turns, and the story merges sci-fi and fantasy perfectly.


Shin Megami Tensei IV is set in the Eastern Kingdom of Mikado, a medieval inspired town, and a futuristic Tokyo which is overrun by demons; these two contrasting locations offer plenty of variety, and each have multiple places to visit. The characters are formal and well-spoken, but this doesn’t hamper your ability to fall in love with them, although Flynn is a silent protagonist. It’s interesting to see how the characters react to technology, having not known what it is all their lives, as they fight to unravel the secrets behind Mikado, Tokyo and the demons.


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Although the story and characters are hugely appealing to me in a Shin Megami Tensei game, it’s also the gameplay that contributes to my love of the series. It plays like a traditional turn-based JRPG, but it has addictive elements that enhance the already solid gameplay such as being able to negotiate with demons for money and to have them join your team, and fusing them to create stronger demons.


Negotiating can be hard, and you’ll be forced to give over items, health, money and mana to appease your enemy, and they may just take your stuff and run away regardless; you can try and deceive them, but they may see through it and then try to kill you, although many have hilarious responses.


When you’re not battling hordes of demons, you may be searching the world map to find Demon Domains which, as you may have guessed, allows you to battle certain demons in their homes; these tend to be quite gruelling, so make sure you’re properly levelled! Many side-quests will require you to slay monsters for certain items, or you’ll have to search specific areas to dig up items; you get decent rewards for these challenges, so it’s best to do them as you progress through the story.


There’s an app system in the game which allows you to buy apps to gain new skills ranging from new negotiation techniques, the ability to learn more skills for both you and your demons, allow your demons stats to level up in higher amounts, the ability to fuse demons during battle and much more. You get app points when Flynn levels up, and levelling up can be quite a slow grind but some battles give you an insane amount of experience, especially those in the demon domains.


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Visually Shin Megami Tensei IV is a beauty with both the 3D and 2D art standing out as spectacular, especially on 3DS and the grand scale of the game. You’ll be familiar with many of the 2D assets as they’re mostly updated from previous Shin Megami Tensei IV installments, but I don’t feel that Atlus need to re-create them as they’re great as they are and are consistently updated to look crisp and fresh. The art for the main characters is also very nice, and each come with a variety of expressions ranging from happy, sad, blushing and angry.


Battles are in 2D, but much of your area navigating will be in 3D and third-person, allowing you to see Flynn in his visual-changing equipment and the worlds around you. You won’t see much life other than other demons due to the danger of being outside, but you’ll be passing other people by when in a safe haven. Demons appear as blue pixels on the map and the only hint you get of what you’ll be fighting is if the set of pixels is flying, tall, or small; you’re able to get first hit on them and can being the battle preemptively and vice-versa.


There are cinematic cutscenes in the Shin Megami Tensei IV, although they’re static rather than dynamic. Don’t expect these scenes to be packed with action, as it tends to be still imagery as the camera pans over them, creating the effect that they’re moving, almost like a picture book. They look lovely, although it seems the 3DS isn’t the best console for cutscenes as they to come up as grainy, especially when compared to how clean everything looks on Persona 4 Golden on PlayStation Vita.


If you’re a long-time Shin Megami Tensei fan then chances are you’re expecting a sweeping soundtrack to accompany you on your adventure, and fortunately Atlus aren’t ready to let you down yet. The soundtrack is a mix of rock, light techno and ambient sounds, creating an amazing atmosphere with tunes ready to get your blood pumping, your tear ducts leaking and will keep you on your toes as you negotiate with the most annoying demons.


I couldn’t find a fault with the English dub of Shin Megami Tensei IV; everyone brings personality to their character and the voice director has done a superb job in finding the right talent. Navarre has to be one of the most brilliantly posh characters I’ve had the pleasure of hearing, and it perfectly matches his smug and prim personality.


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Shin Megami Tensei IV’s campaign lasts dozens of hours which can easily be expanded if you choose to undertake the various side-missions, something you most likely will as the demon domains are both hugely challenging and enjoyable. There are multiple endings which are affected by the choices you make, so the game invites multiple playthroughs.


Atlus are one of the largest forerunners of the JRPG genre and Shin Megami Tensei IV shows that the mainline series isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, and that they still know exactly what makes the series great. There’s no shame in changing the difficulty to easy if normal mode frustrates you, as it’s well known for being a highly challenging game regardless of the difficulty you choose, so maybe try the harder options on your second playthrough. Shin Megami Tensei IV is one of the Nintendo 3DS’ must play games, and I recommend that you buy it as soon as possible.

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