Shin Megami Tensei IV Developers Talk Difficulty, Multiple Routes And DLC

By Sato . June 25, 2013 . 12:50pm

It’s been a month since the release of Shin Megami Tensei IV in Japan, and Atlus have kept a few things to themselves until fans have had a chance to play through the game. In a recent Dengeki interview they discuss some of these subjects now that the game is out. We’re staying away from spoilers in this report, so feel free to read on without worry.


The Shin Megami Tensei IV developers that participated in the interview are director Kazuyuki Yamai, character designer Masayuki Doi, and sound composer Ryouta Kozuka. The three shared their opinions on various aspects of the game, including some tips for current and new players.


The game has been out for a month, but there are still a lot of new players jumping into Shin Megami Tensei IV. A lot of newer players have voiced their opinions on the game’s difficulty, which Atlus touched on.

Shin Megami Tensei IV features Novice and “Cadet” difficulty settings. The difference between the two difficulties is said to be quite vast, as the Cadet mode is much easier, and once you get a knack for the game, it’s fairly simple. As previously detailed, this mode appears after you let Charon resurrect you twice. Atlus mentions that there are no demerits for changing the difficulty, as they’d like people to play according to what they feel comfortable with.


According to Yamai, there were many on the development team who felt that the Novice mode was still a little too tough, so they prepared the Cadet option for players that would prefer something easier. However, he believes that RPGs should have a good level of difficulty, so he personally recommends playing on Novice instead.


“The game actually has multiple endings, and I ended up getting the Chaos Route on my first try, without changing the difficulty,” says sound composer Ryouta Kozuka (more info on endings and routes here). “There is some content which can only be seen in specific routes, so it’d make me happy to see players who’ve already beaten the game try out and enjoy all the other routes.”


Director Kazuyuki Yamai adds, “I also didn’t change the difficulty, and the playthrough was pretty tough. By the way, I  got the Neutral Route on my first try. This route doesn’t give as many indications on where to go next, so I struggled.”


“In regards to the Neutral Route, there were parts that were made to be extra difficult,” adds Shin Megami Tensei IV character designer Masayuki Doi. “In this reality, I think the hardest part was to put things into moderation. There are even times when everyone is your enemy, so we had to keep things balanced at all costs. We wanted to make a route that lets you feel the difficulty of being in such situations.”


“However, it doesn’t mean ‘Neutral Route = true ending’ or anything of the sort,” he continues. “There are no rights or wrongs for the choices the players make, so we wouldn’t want any of you to have that misunderstanding. The goal was to have something different for each route upon completion.”


Doi also mentions that there are still many mysteries for players who clear just  one route, so even clearing the Neutral Route alone will leave a lot of unanswered questions in the air. There are even some characters that only appear in certain routes, and some mysteries that won’t go solved unless you talk to certain NPCs.


Yamai weighs in on the subject, adding, “I believe that a lot of games as of late don’t actually require you to speak to NPCs. In addition, most routes you take (for those games) have the same content, so there isn’t a lack of games where you can see the whole picture after beating it once. This may be a trend in today’s busy age, but it’s something we never want to do for Shin Megami Tensei.”


We’ve reported on multiple pieces of DLC for Shin Megami Tensei IV, which varies from features that allows busy players to have an easier time leveling up to new boss fights for players who’ve beaten the game and are in need of a new challenge. The sixth wave of DLC will be available on the Nintendo eShop on July 4th. Dengeki asks their reasoning for releasing so much DLC in such a short span of time, and whether all the additional content will be making it a title that boasts the most volume of the series.


“Honestly, I believe that the main game alone has a considerable amount of volume,” says Yamai. Yamai then jokingly goes on to add that it may indeed have been a bit too soon to begin rolling DLC out for the game.


Dengeki then asks about what kind of downloadable content we can expect to see in the future.


“To an extent, there will be some downloadable content that is connected to the main story, but we made it to where everything essential is concluded with the main story alone,” Yamai replies. “There aren’t any direct answers to some mysteries, but for example, there will be hints that will get you thinking about information A and B, which will conclude with information C when you put the two together.”


“Furthermore, I believe that using downloadable content to complete a story for a game that the players paid for, is quite rude, and something we wish to never do.”


Finally, Yamai shares a few tips for players who’ve yet to finish the game and to those who are about to start their Shin Megami Tensei IV journey:


“As for strategic tips, take advantage of the Demon Fusing feature. It might be hard to fuse a demon you’ve grown attached to, but find a way to overcome that and please continue making plenty of new demons. It’s been designed so you can win properly, as long as you put consideration into your demon’s level and affinity against a boss. Also, I believe that there are some people who forget that they’re Samurai from the Eastern Kingdom of Mikado during their playthrough. (laughs) I hope that some of you guys will occasionally return to your hometown.”


Shin Megami Tensei IV will be released on July 16th in North America.


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  • Chris Yuen

    I want those gauntlets.

  • malek86

    Whenever talking to people about SMT3, I always got the feeling that pretty much everyone goes for the Neutral route (if not the True Demon route), perhaps trying the others later. And now I also hear that the Neutral route in this game is the most difficult to get. So, despite the devs’ dismissal, I have to wonder if perhaps the Neutral route isn’t technically the true one.

    It’s also a bit ironic that, in a series that is all about choice between chaos and law, most people seem to prefer siding with neither. I’m not sure if it means that people still have some morals, or simply that they don’t wanna have to deal with whatever consequences either side would have.

    • Keima88

      I am just speaking for myself but either side is just too extreme for my tastes.

      • riceisnice

        Totally dude. They like to make the Chaos and Law side look like slaughter-happy fanatics.

        • Keima88

          Law : total obidience, everyone is equal that means no competition = no progress = no change. Everyone dont have any choices anymore. Its decided for them.

          Chaos : total freedom, the strongest/smartest survive, the weak suffer and gets oppressed. No need for compassion and culture that sets us apart from animals.

          Note that this an extreme example on the spectrum of the chaos/law meter for me. I can relate to both of them if they down it a little and just combine the best of both worlds.

          I gues its thanks to the shin megami games why I am always neutral minded towards new stuf.

    • Brimfyre

      The games previously have heavily favored the Taoist mindset, with everything being in perfect Balance. From SMT perspective there isn’t much difference between chaos and law as they are both pretty sinister. The best path to take is straight down the middle.

      The Neutral Endings for I and II were True Endings until Nocturne invented the Amala Network which in theory makes every ending canon in a way.

      That said, I’ll pick the route with the prettiest girls.

    • Teddy

      In SMT, there are no “true routes”. There are routes that get sequels following them, and routes that don’t.

    • Wait what

      I got True Demon on my first Nocturne playthrough. I think a lot of people get True Demon because they want to beat all the bosses and dungeons and that locks you into it. The people that got neutral were probably trying to be the “good guy” since all the other endings have you siding against the majority of people eventually.

      • Exkaiser

        On the other hand, Neutral route is the one where you have no allies at all. Since you aren’t likely to do the Labyrinth of Amala on the normal Neutral route, you probably won’t even have Dante!

        I have one friend who’s played the game several times but only ever does True Demon. Her metric for game progress is Kalpas completed.

  • Keima88

    Once a shin megami game player, always a shin megami tensei player.
    So I am sorry in advance that I cant return to my hometown anymore.

  • Ben Ruiz

    As in with most SMT games, the Neutral route is generally the hardest to achieve and generally the hardest when you are put on that route, but feels the most rewarding.

    • Charles Parker

      Or the most harrowing. In Strange Journey you ‘save’ humanity in all three routes, but in the neutral route you end up with pretty much all your friends dead. Well, all of them important enough to have a character portrait in conversations.

      • Tom_Phoenix

        Then again, since this is SMT we’re talking about, chances are that your “friends” don’t turn out to be all that friendly.

      • kmantle

        “all of them important enough to have a character portrait in conversations”
        Remember the ending of neutral route? There were (I think) less than 10 people alive out of 4 squads of hundreds of people each (and Jack’s squad).

    • kmantle

      Well, in Devil Survivor Overclocked, I found Chaos route/ don’t kill civillians as the most rewarding route, although I found Gin’s as the hardest.

  • Brandon001


  • SetzerGabbiani

    Exactly 3 weeks remaining.

  • ChiffonCake

    “Furthermore, I believe that using downloadable content to complete a
    story for a game that the players paid for, is quite rude, and something
    we wish to never do.”

    These guys know what’s up.

    • Hidayat246

      but is not EA thinking with MAss Effect

      • Ric Vazquez

        And SE with FFXIII-2, that was sad :(

      • The Watcher

        more like FFXIII-2, you have to pay for the epilogue. Mass Effect 3 had an ending.

  • ragingmerifes

    I’m not sure whether to buy it physical only and wait three painful days or buy the physical and the digital to play while I wait…

  • Aesma

    …’Novice’ is difficult, …are we speaking about Japan Difficult, Nintendo Hard, or Atlus ThatOneBoss? Better known as Matador Difficulty or Mot Dilemma.

    • Exkaiser

      You talkin’ about the Nocturne version of Mot? I thought he was one of the easiest bosses in the game… though I did get fairly lucky on that since I favor lightning element and so three of my characters had it.

      • Aesma

        Easy, yes quite…
        …not when you are trying to follow a set of rules though. It’s my habit to finish all endings in SMT games and then play with a set of rules. Example: Not fusing demons and just use demons I recruited. Or not using demons who is strong against the enemy (Got this idea from Elizabeth in Persona 3).

        …well, maybe it was my mistake to do that. But it’s kinda fun to play like that… On example is playing Strange Journey with Angel permanently in my team…

        • Exkaiser

          Ah, I see! That would make him trickier. Hm, I imagine he’s not too tough to take down with fire or another element, since he actually doesn’t resist them as much as the game wants you to believe, but it would certainly drag on without the press turns. Just as long as you still avoid melee.

          • Aesma

            The first time I fought him, it was simple…
            The second time (With limited team), I was met with:
            Beast Eye, Makakaja, Beast Eye, Beast Eye, Makakaja, Makakaja, Megidolaon (Or Megidola? I forgot). It gets downhill from there…

      • ChiffonCake

        He’s not that complicated, but he can still fuck you up if you just happen to be unlucky, as this classic Youtube video would show you:

  • Jirin

    …You are allowed to play on hard your first time through, right?

    • Tom_Phoenix

      Unfortunately, no. Hard only becomes available after your first playthrough.

      • Jirin

        …Why would they do that? I might not even play the game twice, I don’t have as much time as I did in college.

        They say ‘They want people to be able to play at the level they’re comfortable at’, but they ignore that some people are more comfortable playing with a challenge. That really sucks. I hope they at least have a harder level than ‘Novice’.

        • Aesma

          We don’t know how difficult the Novice is though. Maybe it is quite difficult, they did say that the difference between the difficulties are quite vast. And, “According to Yamai, there were many on the development team who felt that the novice mode was a little too tough.” So hopefully, it will give quite a challenge. …hopefully…

          • Jirin

            But then why would they call the only difficulty available to you the first time through ‘Novice’? Why not call it ‘Normal’? ‘Novice’ means ‘For beginners’, so why not give an option for those of us who’ve been through Nocturne, DDS, and P3-4 on hard?

            I need to ask around and see if there’s a way to hack hard mode open.

          • Aesma

            …well, some difficulty are changed when they localize it into English. …maybe the English version will call it ‘Normal’.

            However, that is quite an interesting point. This is just a guess, but maybe they mean ‘Novice’ here as those who just played Shin Megami Tensei IV and haven’t finished it yet (AKA non-new game+). No offence meant but Japanese sometimes used literal English translation in dictionary and not commonly known definition.

        • Hunts Rattata

          Some games design their highest difficulty setting around the assumption that the player has prior experience with the game, and put the player in situations that would be outright unfair without their already knowing how the game goes “normally.” This could be one of those games.

        • As someone who has played SMT games before, Hard in this series means “really super hard”, and usually you *need* the new game+ extras to survive it. ;D

  • Ouch My Head Said Dionysus

    Faceless Isabeau

  • ShawnOtakuSomething

    I want those outfits!!!… and hey if you wanted to make the game harder , go for it!! no really….go for it, make us 3DS owners rage quit

  • piichan

    This would be my 1st SMT game and would definitely buy this since it has easy mode. I wanted to try and play the main series for so long but the difficulty keeps me away.

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