Why We Will Always Need Shin Megami Tensei

By Ishaan . January 18, 2014 . 9:30am

Last weekend, I finally saw Shin Megami Tensei IV through to the end. I’d been making my way through the game for months, a little at a time, and upon completing it, I excitedly took to GTalk, to rave to one of my friends about how incredible the whole experience had been and how he needed to finish it. He, like me, had bought his own copy at launch, but where I’d continued to whittle away at the game over the course of half a year, he’d stopped soon after arriving at Tokyo.

 

That is to say, he’d stopped right as the game gets interesting. I was aware of this, naturally, and would badger him on occasion to return to it, but Rune Factory 4 had seduced him away by then, and was not to be denied. The timing couldn’t have been any worse either—it was right after a point when Shin Megami Tensei IV demanded just a little more patience from the player before it truly opened up.

 

It then occurred to me that I actually knew quite a lot of people that hadn’t completed Shin Megami Tensei IV, despite having owned the game since its release in July.

 

One of them is among the most patient, tolerant gamers I’ve ever known, having sat through not one, not two, but three dungeon crawlers in the same year, in addition to a Pokémon-themed roguelike. She, too, had sung praises of Shin Megami Tensei IV earlier in 2013, and clearly didn’t dislike the game. Why, then, hadn’t she completed it? This was someone that regularly ate games for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and would routinely voice her distaste for how little patience I had for “slow” games. And now, she had given up on one of the best RPGs I’ve ever played. Why was that?

 

As it turns out, quite a few people I’ve spoken to about Shin Megami Tensei IV have the same complaints about the game, which they say prevent them from seeing it through to the end. They say it’s a gorgeous game with an interesting setting, but that the characters feel flat, and that that it feels like there aren’t very many story incentives to keep you going. They also point out that the overworld is confusing to navigate and often requires the use of a FAQ, which can be off-putting.

 

Fair enough. That point about the overworld is entirely valid. The Tokyo overworld map can be rather cumbersome to make your way around, especially in between major story segments, when you’re required to travel between various districts, rendezvous with different NPCs, and figure out just what you’re supposed to do next. There were several occasions on which I had to consult a FAQ myself, particularly towards the end of the game. That having been said, the idea that Shin Megami Tensei IV is lacking in the story department is one I simply don’t agree with—and I feel I’m in a reasonably good position to make that judgment, having spent over sixty hours with the game.

 

I can certainly see why people might have issues with the way Shin Megami Tensei IV tells its story, though, and I think that’s more a result of us growing accustomed to the way most Japanese videogames tell us stories—by clubbing us over the head with them, often with no restraint or subtlety. You go on a quest, you complete your goal, you watch a lengthy cutscene. Characters tend to fall neatly into predictable archetypes, protagonist motivations are usually clearly broadcast; and of course, there’s that annoying obsession Japanese developers have with teen romance, despite almost never doing a good job of effectively conveying a realistic relationship. This is what passes for a narrative in most JRPGs, and we take it, because—God help us—that’s what we’re used to.

 

Shin Megami Tensei IV does none of these things.

 

When people say Shin Megami Tensei IV’s characters are “flat,” they’re usually talking about your party, which consists of the main protagonist (whatever you choose to call him), Isabaeu, Jonathan and Walter. While your three companions are given a certain degree of characterization—Walter and Jonathan, especially, who represent the ideals of Chaos and Law—it’s true that Shin Megami Tensei IV doesn’t go out of its way to give you the inside story on your team of four. The game isn’t interested in making you feel like the centre of the universe. Instead, Shin Megami Tensei IV’s narrative is centred around another character entirely—the city of Tokyo.

 

Shin Megami Tensei IV is not a story about you and how cool you are. It doesn’t care if your favourite food is ramen, or about your childhood friend, who is now a buxom beauty with a large chest. It’s the story of Tokyo and her people. Your goal, throughout the entirety of the game, is to get to know the city inside and out as you make key decisions in shaping its future, and find out along the way the kind of man you are.

 

Not only is the story different from most games, it’s also littered with clever little references to modern society’s habits. For instance, the fact that virtually everyone has smartphones and uses them to summon demons, either for noble or nefarious purposes. That was a nice nod to Twitter, in my opinion, and the way it allows one to make themselves heard with minimal effort. In days past, making yourself heard required effort, dedication, and a platform people paid attention to. Now, all it requires is a tweet. Some use Twitter to be productive, while others use it as an outlet to misbehave, much in the way that the people of Tokyo utilize demons.

 

Then there’s the societal hierarchy in the Eastern Kingdom of Mikado, which is a stunningly accurate depiction of the way society is structured in developing countries like India. You might find society in Mikado to be absurd and backward, but the way the lower class citizenry constantly find themselves in the servitude of the middle and upper classes—often left with no choice but to put their heads down and accept their designated role in society—is quite real.

 

The main difference between this and other games, however, is that Shin Megami Tensei IV’s story isn’t fed to you—you have to go looking for it, often during various quests that you undertake for the Hunter’s Association, who have made it their job to protect Tokyo. The depth in which the game explores Tokyo and its citizenry is often amazing. Did you ever meet the old lady in Shinjuku that used to run a bar and was now waiting for death to claim her? Or the lonely goddess attempting to resurrect her deceased husband? Did you ever find the the lowest underground chamber of the Counter-Demon Force’s base in Kasumigaseki? Or the demon whose son had been kidnapped by a group of hunters?

 

Did you ever go back to revisit these people or places after completing certain quests to see if they had anything new to say or how they’d changed over the course of the game? If you didn’t, you missed out—and that’s the difference. Shin Megami Tensei IV doesn’t tell its story through dialogue, it tells it through exploration. It’s a very “gameplay-focused” RPG, often encouraging one to take pleasure in the simple act of running around and exploring their surroundings. Why else is so much of the story dependent on discovering different parts of Tokyo? Why else does the game have the best environment design of any Atlus RPG to date? Why else is the music for different places in Tokyo so catchy and immediately identifiable?

 

Moreover, Tokyo isn’t comprised of your regular RPG dungeons that you run through once, in order to find and defeat bosses. Instead, Tokyo is made up of districts, and you’ll return to them time and again, getting to know them a little better each time. Tokyo is your playground, and it often feels like a real place. (Well, it is, but, you know…) The point at which I realized this was when I caught myself navigating the confusing underground passageways of Shibuya without having to consult the map. I’d gotten the lay of the land over the course of numerous repeat visits, and my brain was treating it as though I’d been there in real life. Very few games have ever made me feel like that, but Shin Megami Tensei IV’s locales just tend to have that effect on you.

 

Chances are, you’ll even make one of them your “home” when you aren’t on a mission. Mine was Shinjuku. Whenever I wasn’t busy with the game’s main story, I would go back to Shinjuku. Sometimes it was to take on jobs for the local branch of the Hunter’s Association, and sometimes it was just because I wanted to save my game while I was “at home”. Ueno had that gorgeous park with the lotus pond in the middle. Ginza had that awesome shopping district with the expensive Samurai gear. But Shinjuku, for some reason, just made me feel more “at home” each time I visited it, and so I just chose to spend a lot of my time there. At first, it was Mikado… but as the game progressed further and further, I stopped going back to my character’s actual home and grew fond of Shinjuku instead. Honestly, I couldn’t even tell you why.

 

And that’s just it. Shin Megami Tensei IV simply likes to do things differently. The story takes a good seven or eight hours to pick up, cutscenes are few and far in between, and unless you take the time to really run around and explore every nook and cranny of Tokyo, chances are you won’t see the best the game has to offer. (Oh, and you’ll want to do it on the Neutral alignment route, because it’s the one with the most content.) It isn’t a game that cares for the habits of your character. You’re a cog in the machine—a rather large and important cog, but a cog nonetheless—and as such, the conflicts and decisions you’re faced with are much more about how you’ll influence the world around you. What do you do when you’re in possession of power and influence? That is the question Shin Megami Tensei IV asks you about yourself.

 

The game also leaves a lot up to your imagination, just like a lot of older games did, before the days of CG cutscenes and Skits and Social Links. This, too, is a deliberate decision on its part. In an age where stories are more than happy to really try and drill a point home, Shin Megami Tensei IV is content with dropping hints and letting you join the dots yourself. In fact, some of the best voice-acted dialogue in the game arises out of situations like these.

 

To cite one example of this method of storytelling, you may not even learn the truth about your own character if you miss a certain optional conversation that is available in the game.

 

Director Kazuyuki Yamai once said, “Twenty years ago, fantasy-style RPGs were the standard of the genre. Shin Megami Tensei on the Super Famicom was something of an antithesis when you compared it.” He wasn’t kidding. And it is his love for what Yamai calls a “punk-minded approach” to the genre that makes Shin Megami Tensei IV so special. After spending over 60 hours with the game, I find that its subtlety and gameplay-first approach is its greatest strength and its greatest contribution to narrative in videogames. It’s a game that’s confident enough to be itself, without compromise, and if you’re interested in discovering what it’s like on the inside, you’ll need to spend time with it.

 

Do so, and you’ll be rewarded with an experience that addresses just about every complaint that the gaming community has ever levelled against JRPGs and their unwillingness to grow up, both in terms of storytelling and gameplay. And this is why I believe we will always need Shin Megami Tensei—to remind JRPG developers that there are ways to be different and still succeed.

 

Food for thought:

1. The above is a scene from a certain point in the game. Jonathan’s “…Eh?” is one of the best-timed, best-delivered pieces of videogame dialogue I’ve ever had the pleasure of hearing. Saying why would be a spoiler, but if you’ve played Shin Megami Tensei IV, you’ll probably remember it. It’s at the end of the desert segment.

 

2. Director Yamai’s love for the older Shin Megami Tensei games is apparent in a number of Shin Megami Tensei IV’s characteristics, the most prominent of these being the use of the familiar Law theme from the very first game in the series.

 

3. At one point in the game, I was faced with a decision that I genuinely needed a couple of minutes to think over, because it really made made me question what I would do, were I ever in that same position in real life. I was playing in bed, and I put my 3DS down in my lap, staring at a wall in deep thought. About half a minute later, I heard my 3DS say, “Master? Is everything all right? You’re spacing out.”

 

4. The amount of content in this game is absurd. Even after defeating the final boss, there’s a lot more you can do, and you could easily miss it if you don’t check around.

 

5. I am the most impatient, unforgiving kind of gamer. I notice the slightest dips in framerate, complain endlessly about pacing in games, care greatly for details such as my character’s running animation and how his/her feet feel against the ground… and Shin Megami Tensei IV was easily my favourite game in 2013.

 

6. Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem has a lot to live up to.


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  • HershelLousyton

    Fuck Rune Factory. SMT IV is where it’s at!

    • ShawnOtakuSomething

      Hex love SMT

    • Serge

      Why not both? D:

  • DesmaX

    This was quite a nice read. And I gotta agree, I’m really starting to dislike this trend of JRPG’s just shoving information right down your throat with infinite cutscenes. I just miss some sublety in the genre

  • Garry White

    I just dont understand how underappreciated this game is. Its just so….perfect. I will admit, it was my first time playing a game like that (Ive played every FF, Suikoden, Persona, etc.) and it took a little effort to stay interested in those first few hours after the first few hours (if that makes sense :/ ) but after that first initial hook…..it turns into an obsession. From the demon fusion, the seriously deep questions they ask you, the epic turns in the story, the rewarding level system, and high levels of content, the game keeps you as entertained as you want to be. But the artwork….man……how is this game not loved by every JRPG fan ever? How??

    • Laer_HeiSeiRyuu

      Because they like Final Fantasy 7 and its emotions.
      Honestly its the difference between people who like books and people who like movies. Games bridge that gap. I like the way books push us to think and imagine , movies are more of following what’s going on and looking at what they want you to see.

  • Tatsumarii

    I just completed my first playthrough last month. SMT:IV is by far my favorite game of all time. I acquired the neutral ending and never felt so satisfied and content with life in general. It drastically changed my perspective towards humanity in an enormously positive way. The atmosphere, the battle system, the music! All of it is perfection! Buy this game! It will change your life!

    • Kaetsu

      That’s a pretty bold statement and I highly respect it. Although I didn’t finish the game I have played games that have made me feel the same way you did.

      • LaserVision

        Not too surprising since the underlying message of the P3 and P4 was “Go out. Dont be afraid to put yourself out there and meet and understand new people.”

        Which is a fantastic message, even from an, ahem.. 80 hour RPG.

    • Thom

      Weirdly, I understand exactly this. I’m about halfway through (um, I’ll pick it up soon again!) but I had previously spent a lot of time on SMT 3, an experience that made me appreciate life again. Something about a handful of young people wandering alone in hell in search of personal meaning really struck a chord with me then.

    • katamari damacy

      Chaos was absolute freedom without John Stuart Mill’s Harm Principle, which obviously leads to anarchy.
      Law was absolute control, which leads to tyranny.
      Neither of which is palatable to anybody. The neutral ending is you pretty much say “they’re both bad and we should strive for something in the middle.” Which is really the only correct answer.

      • Laer_HeiSeiRyuu

        Life is about balance. In every aspect. Down to our existence.

        Your body tells itself to die when you upset it’s balance.

  • Scipio

    Only 60 hours? lol, try 200, scrub!

    Joking aside, this was a very good article to read. I agree about the map becoming frustrating in more than one occasion, but through various playthroughs and challenge missions, I was able to memorize that sucker. I think that that was the whole point of the map. It when along nicely with the challenge the game provided, there was no hand-holding to be had.’

    Also as much as he was a smug prick, Navarre’s voice really made his character for me, the guy was a riot.

    • Ouch My Head Said Dionysus

      Liam O’Brien is always a scream when he plays a posho.

      • Laer_HeiSeiRyuu

        Liam is best voice actor ever.

        • Scipio

          He’s pretty good.

  • Tatsuya Fabre

    Great read, I’m hyped now… My SMTIV edition Japanese 3ds should be arriving this week so I can actually play it. I NEED IT NOW.

  • NoLastName

    This has reinvigorated my anticipation for SMTIV, please Nintendo, announce a release date.

  • DigiWing

    Great article. It’s similar to a game like Demon’s Souls / Dark Souls, where there is a ton of content, the world is rich with history and lore, but its up to the player to see and experience these things. Connecting the dots on your own is very satisfying and that’s what makes you feel so immersed.

    To be honest, I still haven’t finished the game and I love it. I’m maybe..20 hours or so in. Too much time playing BlazBlue and FFXIV which totally eat up my free time for gaming. I think it’s time to pick up the 3DS again and get back into SMT4, though!

  • Arizato

    Seriously considering importing a 3DS now so that I can finally play this game. We haven’t heard anything on SMTIV in Europe for almost a year now!

    • Kaetsu

      I’m sure it will happen eventually. As to when that will be I have no clue.

    • mitOmega

      I did end up importing one via videogamesplus and whenever I talk to my mates I start complaining about how they have not played one of the best games of 2013, SMTIV, I then remember that for some reason it hasnt even been brought out here..

      This was my first real SMT game outside of the Persona series and I think I will be going back to play things like Digital Devil Saga now because of it :)

    • Suriel Cruz

      This game is TRULY the main reason for me to have bought 3DS, not Pokemon, not Zelda, not Fire Emblem, but Shin Megami Tensei IV. The game delivers and much more, when you know its roots and you know Shin Megami Tensei games. The art is also an addition to the brilliant game that is.

  • Cazar

    It’s weird how you posted this literally minutes after I finished my post play survey of this game on Club Nintendo…

    I actually rather liked the story, the premise in particular. But I agree with the complaints about flat characters. The order/chaos archetypes seemed forced and they backfired on Walter & Johnathon’s believability as characters. Many of the minor characters and antagonists can be described the same way. The only character I really liked was Isabeau.

    One other thing that bugged be was that the presentation felt like it had regressed in some aspects from SMT III: Nocturne. The environments (with the exception of the Tokyo map) were great, but I didn’t like the sprites; not that I dislike sprites but the spritework here just wasn’t very good (the smaller sprites, not the full portraits) and it was a step backwards from the 3D npc and demon models of SMT III. I guess I was just expecting more from a core entry of such an important franchise.

    • Laer_HeiSeiRyuu

      I thought it was an interesting allegory on how people in life lose their identities as people.

  • karldeck

    Meanwhile in europe we are starring at it in front a big glass wall that needs a 130+taxes dollars hammer to break.

  • James Enk

    i am not an old SMT fan but since i played my first game in the series i fell in love with it

  • TobeGrendizer92

    I never played SMTIV (I try to avoid games I feel are anti-religious), but I could barely stomach this article. It started with the title, as many series may be good to have, but we don’t “need” any of them. The phrase “left with no choice but to put their heads down and accept their designated roles in society” sounds defeatist, as if only the heroes have any hope of changing things. Then, the author notes that you could easily miss an important plot point if you don’t see a minor optional conversation, except this is presented as a good thing.

    Maybe this makes more sense if you’ve played the game.

    • Kaetsu

      I would say we do NEED SMT games. There aren’t many hardcore JRPG’s out there with cruel, thought-provoking decisions to make. On top of that SMT does it the best so I think we really need more games or games like SMT on the market.

      • TobeGrendizer92

        We don’t need JRPGs, either. If we didn’t have them, we’d still continue on, no worse for wear. There’s a difference between something being good and something being essential.

        • Aesma

          …oh God, you are not seriously saying THAT here, aren’t you?
          Might as well do away with all games then. They are not essential after all.
          But then…. What are you doing here in this site?

          • TobeGrendizer92

            Something can be both enjoyable and non-essential. In fact, a great number of things are. JRPGs are one of my favorite video game genres, but I realize that I don’t need them.

          • Akemi Nakajima

            I don’t think what you like and what you don’t like is a matter for anyone.
            I don’t get why you’re trying to talk at a topic about JRPG if you don’t even like it.
            I’m a JRPG fan that’s why I’m here on this site.

          • TobeGrendizer92

            Because they’re among my top three or so favorite genres. I’m just terrible at getting my thoughts across.

          • Akemi Nakajima

            Both enjoyable and non-essential = have no interested.

          • TobeGrendizer92

            How could I have no interest in something I find enjoyable? The problem was that I took “essential” to mean things like civilization, food, air, electricity… things that, if we lost them, we’d have at least a great chance of dying out. I should have known that not everyone would’ve used the term like that.

          • Akemi Nakajima

            You could have no interest in something you find enjoyable easily.
            But whatever, you just comment here to get downvote.

          • TobeGrendizer92

            That’s a rather unusual accusation. Really, I find it disappointing that my messages were awful enough to get downvoted so much.

          • Kaetsu

            That was what bothered me the most. In fact it would suck if any genre of game disappeared. I may not like all of them but there will always be those that do.

        • Kaetsu

          At this point your just being idiotic. Sure JRPGS aren’t as big as they were during SNES and PS1 days doesn’t mean people don’t like them. Ask any user on this website if they like JRPGs and they will probably all say yes. JRPGS are great and as much as I love WRPGs I wouldn’t want to live in a world where there the only RPGs on the market.

          • TobeGrendizer92

            I take it that people have been using the word “need” to mean “enjoy a great deal”. I kept being confused because my own definition is much stricter than that. I apologize.

          • Aesma

            …well, for me, it’s this part that annoys me,
            ‘If we didn’t have them, we’d still continue on, no worse for wear.’

            I’ll say that in a world with all genre of games except JRPG, I will be ‘worse for wear’.

          • M’iau M’iaut

            Yet personal comfort and relaxation is a need. The game was something which made Ishaan happy — that is where his use of that particular word came from.

            Google Jim Valvano’s speech at the ESPYs sometime — the one where he is all but dead from cancer and is literally walked to and away from the podium. Vitale is there at his side should his body give out and collapse. Jimmy V mentioned three things which every one should do every day — laugh, think and cry. If SMTIV accomplished any of these for Ishaan, it certainly filled a need. Nothing wrong with that. Such things are good things.

    • godisdead

      If you actually played the game, you would understand why that phrase the author chose to use makes perfect sense. They don’t exactly live in the most carefree and inviting world.

      And you avoid games that you feel are ‘anti-religious’? Well that sucks, as you’re missing out on a great game experience because of something so silly.

    • M’iau M’iaut

      Please lets not turn this thread into a slew polemic responses. We all have reasons not to play a particular game that someone else might disagree with. Keep the community friendly, folks.

  • Timovisch

    Sometimes I want to be an american…I wouldn’t have to worry so much for ATLUS games to be released. *sigh* I should just give up on waiting for this game to be released already.

    Once upon a time (at Nintendo Direct). We will release SMT: IV to Europe. -a very long break- ….. Uhhh…hello update? Notification? *sigh*

    • NoLastName

      Knowing our luck, Persona 5 will be region-locked like Arena and take forever to come out here too,

      • Timovisch

        Very likely yes. I still have more hope they’ll eventually release P5 to us. For SMT: IV I wouldn’t be suprised if they’d cancell it. =

        • Ouch My Head Said Dionysus

          I think it’s extremely unlikely.

      • mitOmega

        it’s sucks that great games from the likes of Atlus take so long to come out in the regions while a copy paste of COD basically get s a global release..

      • TrueDefault

        Think positive!

      • Hound

        Arena was region-locked because the english release was too similar to the Japanese release.

        With Atlus’ tendency to dub over and translate the entirety of their RPG releases so far (with no Japanese audio track), there’s bound to be too much of a difference between the releases for a region lock to be sensible.

    • Ouch My Head Said Dionysus

      I’m in the UK, and knowing I’d have to wait ages for this and Soul Hackers, I ordered a US machine :>

  • malek86

    This reminds me of SMT3, although with a few differences. In that game, characters were also not the center of the story, but Tokyo wasn’t either. The different ideologies pushed the game forward. And the soundtrack, I guess. From the few tracks I heard, the one in SMT4 feels somewhat similar, so that’s a good thing.

    I’m looking forward to this (whenever someone will feel like releasing it in Europe… heh).

  • Zimmer Remmiz

    Fantastic article, I beat the neutral route a couple weeks after the game was released and I absolutely love it, I’m really glad that someone else feels the same way that I do about it, I’ve seen far too much negativity about the game…

    • Kyle McDaniel

      The negativity comes from it not being traditional and or not having “muh social links”

      • Akemi Nakajima

        I don’t see anyone complaining about this game not having social link at all.
        Everyone pretty much know that this is a mainline SMT game,
        a mainline game with social link is BS.

      • Ladius

        There are actually pretty legit complaints from traditional Megaten fans, even if people are obviously free to disagree. Let’s not turn this into some absurd SMT vs Persona rivalry, especially considering I have never seen anyone attacking SMT4 because of its lack of social links.

        • Laer_HeiSeiRyuu

          I’ve been playing Megami Tensei since it was on the Famicom.
          I’ve nary a complaint. SMT 4 is a gamers game. Hence why its on the 3DS, the old school revival platform as Ishaan would say.

        • Calintz YT

          There is nothing “legit” about “traditional fan’s complaints” that can’t be attributed to things such as a difference of taste.

          And please stop it with your faux call for a ceasefire when you started your comment by attacking Persona. If you didn’t want to start an e-war over the two you wouldn’t have said anything in the first place.

          • Ladius

            Maybe you confused me with another user? I only mentioned the SMT vs Persona controversy since it was brought up by Kyle Mc Donnel’s posts (not only the one I was answering, but also another in this same discussion), where he said people criticized SMT4 because it lacked social links, parodizing the reactions of the Persona fanbase in a way that made it look shallow and unable to draw differences between those franchises.

            Since that mimicry was based upon a piece of criticism that I have never seen used in a serious manner (i.e., SMT4 being bad because of the lack of social links), I pointed out that there was no need to create an antagonism between the Persona and SMT fanbases, especially when criticism was also raised by fans of mainline SMT games (something he partly recognized, too).

            That said criticism is due to differences in taste regarding narrative, characterization, dungeon design, challenge and art direction is something I fully agree with, but in my eyes legit criticism isn’t an absolute truth (I thought I made it clear when the “free to disagree” bit) but rather a motivated opinion.

            I hope to have clarified my post, but there was nothing in it that was meant as an attack to Persona, SMT, or their fanbases.

      • Hound

        Personally, I disliked the inclusion of Charon, saving anywhere, and how easy the great majority of the game’s bosses were if you build your stats & team like a traditional megaTen game. Maybe it was the lack of a hard mode, but the way I lumped my stats in my first playthrough, every boss was silly easy after Medusa, and I could avoid cannon fodder monsters as much as I’d like..

        After the final boss, I found myself wondering “is that it?” Much like I had felt the first time I played Final Fantasy VIII of all things..

        I didn’t even have to change my demon team for bosses, which was disappointing. Early on, I really appreciated how streamlined they made demon fusions in IV. Fusions were made simpler, and you no longer had to re-roll stats/skills to get the demons you want. They made it really easy to make a new team and get ready for a boss, but dropped the difficulty and micromanagement of its predecessors (thus, making a once difficult task simple, and then eliminating the need for its simplicity.) This troubled me. Etrian Odyssey IV was more of a complex battle for survival than the sequel to Nocturne -.-

        That’s not to say it’s a bad game. Amongst 3DS rpgs, I’d put it pretty high up there. It’s kind of like Radiant Historia or Persona 2. It’s a good game, but the gameplay doesn’t bite quite as hard as (SMT 1/2, Nocturne, Digital Devil Saga, Strange Journey, Survivor, Etrian Odyssey, Persona 3/4, or Trauma Center..) well.. everything else.

        And if casual gamers are saying they found navigation staggering and the main story to be lacking, then it didn’t quite hit either target despite the positive points that everyone’s lauding over.

        • Aesma

          After the final boss, I found myself wondering “is that it?”

          Fiends? Red Rider? At hard difficulty? If not, then nay, that’s not it. You still have to fight the damned Antichthon spammer.

          • Hound

            They actually have the full set of fiends? I found it severely tedious just to encounter the one I was aware of..
            I guess I have something to look forward to when I get back to beating the game on master difficulty..

          • Aesma

            Here’s a tip, you can either save and get out of the game and reload.

            Or you can stand on the place where you ‘may’ encounter the Fiend, start a DLC map quest (Such as the one for app points), save near the DLC map exit. And go out. When you stepped out, if there’s no Fiend, then reload your save, step out, and check if there’s a Fiend. And so on.

            Red Rider is only available to Neutral Route, behind the door that needs Luck. And if you beat him, you’ll get incense (for all stats if I remember correctly, I forgot how many…).

          • Hound

            I can’t believe they made them such a mess to encounter. You practically had to pray that you could get away from them in Nocturne. (especially the one by the save point in manikin town)

          • Aesma

            …I just recalled Persona 3 and 4′s Reaper.
            Persona 3, Tag, where he chases you, SMT III Nocturne is quite ‘similar’.
            Persona 4, Hide-n-Seek in chest, SMT IV, hide-n-seek in certain place.

            Coincidence?

          • Hound

            Maybe we’ll be hunted once again in Persona 5 XD

            I often wondered if you could actually skip the fight with Matador in Nocturne like you could with Hell Biker & White Rider, but I keep forgetting to try..

          • hng qtr

            You can refuse hunting the Fiends when the young boy asks you to retrieve the candelabra. You’ll miss a ton of content if you do though.

          • Hound

            No no. I meant avoid the fight with matador and go back later. The fight requires a lot of preparation to survive at that point in the game, but you can “not wait” for Hell Biker and White Rider to show up when they’re in the way on the bridge & in-front of the manikin town save point.

            It’s not always successful (I think success may rely on the phase you’re in), but you can avoid both of them if you’re not prepared at the time.

          • hng qtr

            It requires Sukukaja and that magatama that gives you wind resistance. That’s it, unless you don’t have enough demons that aren’t weak to wind.

          • Hound

            Don’t put light on the situation. Matador is disastrous on Hard mode. And simply acquiring the force magatama is a grind fest (since hard greatly increases the cost of healing, using the compendium, buying items, etc.)

            So, I was simply curious if it were possible to skip passed him and remain underfunded and underleveled like you can with every other fiend in the game (which would actually make the next part of more interesting.)

          • hng qtr

            Hard mode is pretty much RNG roulette in the first 10 or so hours.

  • Kaetsu

    Very well written article. I stopped playing at around Tokyo and for some of the reasons you stated and I really wish those obstacles weren’t getting in the way. I really wanted to finish the game and see all the content and see all the weapons and armour but the game’s flaws are sadly stopping me. That said though, I’m really excited for future iterations of SMT and I will buy them immediately especially if they fixed the issues I had with SMTIV(which I’m sure they will). Hopefully SMTxFE ends up being a great game although with it being made by Intelligent Systems and Atlus, I’m sure it will.

    • Laer_HeiSeiRyuu

      They arent flaws. They set out to do something that doesnt appeal to you .

  • Craig Mikucki

    Yea! That is me as well! Once I got to that overworld, I just couldn’t figure out what to do, and walkthroughs didn’t help much. Guess I just suck. Shame because I was enjoying it. Guess I’ll just sell it on eBay. :[ It sucks because I got the special edition, which comes with a little guide. But holy crap does it not help at all.

    • Kaetsu

      The guide helped out A LOT more earlier in the game.

      • Laer_HeiSeiRyuu

        The game got much easier to navigate when I saw the bottom screen says what district you’re in

      • Hound

        The guide only covers the early game. Oddly enough, it goes out of its way to tell you “not to bother” with a great number of rather easy boss quests and doesn’t help at all when it comes to locating osiris’ coffin (or whatever the isis fetch-quest was.) Overall, the little guide isn’t worth much.

    • ShawnOtakuSomething

      yeah it stops half-way

    • Shinra

      Getting a map of Tokyo would really help you. Real life Tokyo.

      • Craig Mikucki

        Seriously? Huh. Thank you. I’ll keep that in mind if I ever decide to try playing it again.

  • http://watercrown.info/ Ryusui

    I need to finally get around to my New Game Plus run sometime.

    The game’s alignment system is pretty unforgiving, and I found myself on the Law Route when I didn’t mean to. Fortunately, the game provides a quick-and-easy “Bad Ending” route that gives you an out if you end up locked on an endgame path you don’t want…

    • Aesma

      …that’s actually good. Law has only 1 New Game+ demon (And can be get from Neutral too), and therefore is best done in the first run.

      Chaos has a lot of NG+ demons, suggested to be the second run.

      And the ‘hardest’ to get route, Neutral should be the last, also to give player a feeling of accomplishment (That I feel is lacking in other routes).

  • Rake

    I still need to buy a 3DS and this game…

  • Akemi Nakajima

    …Loving a game and understanding a game is rather two different things about Megaten, I think.

    • Laer_HeiSeiRyuu

      Tell me about it.

      People look at Xenoblade, see the big environments and the sidequest dump you’re given to level up and they think its sort of MMO-ish.

      But the funny thing is, if you play the game like an MMO you do way less damage with a Reyn-Shulk team and play like him with a tank ect.

      The game is far more similar to Chrono Trigger in combat, where your combo’s are social based. Real Time Action Turn Base System.

      Every aspect of Xenoblade encourages exploration. Find the landmarks so you can quick travel, here gives you exp. You’re going that way, there is a quest from earlier to go there. Oh blue item on the floor along the way, oh an item that ups your social relationship, here’s a quest for that too.

      Strong enough now? Good, go over there and grind on that enemy you’re close to, got that item? Good, here’s another one to increase your relationship, time to explore so more.

      And it goes on till you’re level 99 then have 120 monsters to beat with those gems and skills you earned due to exploring and completing the quests.

      The game pushes you to explore by rewarding you for it. Hence the quests.

      But nope people just think its an offline MMO game with a great story and deconstruction of characters

  • Manny Being Manny

    This article seems more like a rant against normal JRPGs then anything. Personally, I’m a huge JRPG fan but dropped this halfway through since it wasn’t really too appealing to me since it was too different from your normal JRPG.

    • Akemi Nakajima

      MegaTen series isn’t anyone normal JRPG at all, mind you.

      • Manny Being Manny

        Pretty much. I play the genre for the characters and story for the most part… While Megaten 4 was really lack luster in both of those elements. It was more of a collectathon that gave you no real direction or story/characters to care about. I had no reason to care about any of the quests I was doing or any of the places I was going.

        • Aesma

          Characters lacking? Yes.
          Story lacking? Nay.
          It’s just the matter of perspective.
          Do you consider a story:
          1. Interaction between characters?
          2. A tale of certain event or variable?
          If 1, I see what you mean. If 2, then I don’t know what you are talking about.

          • Manny Being Manny

            Well, as someone who had only played Persona 3 and 4 from the Megaten series beforehand, the story was no where near as engaging or as big a part of the game as those were. It was pretty much just “Go here, go there, kill this, etc” like MMO quests.

          • Aesma

            Ah, then you are type 1. Most Persona players are like that. I play both, so I understand the difference.
            Persona story is more about social interaction and ‘drama-like’.
            SMT story is… well, it’s conflict between ‘greater force’ (Ideals), and the ‘story’ focus more on the latter part, and through sidequests.

            If you are planning to replay this game one more time, go for Neutral Route. For a Persona player, that should be the one they enjoy the most.

          • Serge

            “As someone who had only played Persona 3 and 4 from the Megaten series beforehand, the story was no where near as engaging or as big a part of the game as those were.”

            Are you serious? Rlly? Maybe the end of P3 was good, but P4 having a better story than SM4? I don’t think so.

          • Laer_HeiSeiRyuu

            Do you like Xenoblade or The Last Story more?

        • hng qtr

          MegaTen is usually more focused in gameplay than character interaction, SMT also
          having more exploration than normal for a JRPG( except 3, the weakest
          imo). If you liked the fusion system and the “Pokemon” aspect of the
          game you should try Persona or Devil Survivor. These have much more
          story and dialogue and are pretty straightforward on how you progress and where you should go.

  • Aesma

    “Last weekend, I finally saw Shin Megami Tensei IV through to the end.”

    …as in, all Fiends defeated, all 3 Routes finished (Bad End optional), and all ‘important’ quests completed? Most ‘unique’ demons acquired?

    …if you have, I’ll congratulate you. All I’m missing from SMT IV are the ‘Heroic’ demons. …Yoshitsune and Guan Yu just won’t appear to me… (I did get the rest).

  • ShawnOtakuSomething

    my Europe friends need this game

    • Ric Vazquez

      My soul cries for the people of Europe.

  • Kyle McDaniel

    It’s nice to see an article about SMT on a website that isn’t just a bunch of Persona wank.

    • M’iau M’iaut

      And somehow Ishaan expressed his appreciation for this title without choosing to tear down another. No civil war posts, folks.

  • JohnNiles

    This is the first editorial I’ve seen here. It’s a chance of pace from the usual news blurbs.

    I haven’t finished SMT IV, though to be fair, I haven’t finished a lot of games. When I realized I’d misjudged the alignment points and gotten stuck on the Law path, I flew into a rage. I figured I would just blaze through the rest of the game and do another playthrough, but then I decided to explore the far-off corners of the world map. I picked up a new demon, then another, yet I was never convinced that I’d gotten a demon that wouldn’t become obsolete. I didn’t get access to all the demon skills, and I never fused Alice because I wasn’t satisfied with the results. So months later, the game sits, untouched.

    The long lead-up to SMT IV’s release was out of this world. People screaming, “Where’s our SMT sequel??” every time Persona was in the news; people fighting over Strange Journey’s place. And those trailers.

    The Law/Neutral/Chaos system is ambitious but sort of falters near the end. I liked Jonathan and Walter as colleagues, but once the fateful decision was made, I stopped seeing them as people. Given what’s at stake, I would have liked the opportunity to ask, “Do you understand the consequences of the choice you’re making? Will you be happy with the results?” I greatly preferred Devil Survivor 2′s treatment: everyone understands what’s at stake, makes the decision that’s best for themselves, then you throw down. No hard feelings. And their reasons make sense too.

    Speaking of Devil Survivor, those two games did the “demon summoning via modern communications devices” thing first. The COMPs in the first game looked exactly like DSes!

    I did not like the you-know-what’s that showed up after the choice. While being the main character of a game necessitates that you are the pawn/linchpin, I didn’t like those people telling me so, and linking the other four games together in such a heavyhanded way.

    Some of the sidequests were kinda weird. The one with Nozomi and the fairies came out of left field.

    What I will take away from this game: shouting “Such is the power of a Samurai!” at every opportunity.

    • hng qtr

      “People screaming, “Where’s our SMT sequel??” every time Persona was in the news”
      I’ve seen the opposite a lot more though.

      • Akemi Nakajima

        Both are true sadly

      • Aesma

        …both true.
        Well, I’m just happy enough that we get another localized Atlus game.

        …should I make a third side that demands Devil Survivor sequel? Nah, those two groups have done enough war without a third party…

        • Tylor Boreas Makimoto

          I want DeSu 3, too :D
          Should probably play 2 and finished Overclocked, though.

          • Aesma

            Is it only my feeling… or does Overclocked Lucifer is easier than DeSu1 vanilla’s Lucifer?
            Or maybe it’s thanks to the new demons?

    • Laer_HeiSeiRyuu

      I’d love to see an SMT game where they let you input your own choice and they run an algorithm that decides how it affects your alignment. It should use a percentage pentagon for that.

  • Aaronrules380

    I agree completely, and stuff this article has said is stuff I’ve actually noted before. I love how you have to piece together the truth of the story, how you have to look for it and how so many things are never directly spelled out for you, but with a little thought can really lead to big aha moments. It’s a shame you don’t find more people discussing the background behind the main story when it comes to this game, because as you said there’s so much to talk about and speculate about if you’re really willing to look

    • deadMastershiro

      I know what you mean there were some background characters that want as main characters.

  • kuroneko0509

    Nice article, Ishaan. It somehow makes me wanna replay it again :D

  • Kyle McDaniel

    SMTIV is easily the best game I’ve played in the past 5-6 years and I’ve played some pretty great games during that time.

  • https://twitter.com/Ni_Go_Zero_Ichi Project 2501

    Ishaan, you are totally right in every way about SMT IV’s narrative/storytelling. Bravo.

    My one big complaint about it though is that even compared to previous SMT games, IV feels especially nasty about slippery-sloping your character once you’re locked into a particular alignment. The Law and Chaos factions are ridiculously extreme, so much so that no sane person could knowingly side with either of them by the end, and being forced to do all this extreme stuff you don’t want to in the last act (if you haven’t succeeded in the ridiculously precise balancing act necessary to get the Neutral route) feels like a betrayal. Up to that point the game is incredibly immersive, and if the two opposing factions felt like legitimately competing ideologies with their own pros and cons – and not just two equally terrible polar extremes – it would’ve continued to feel like that.

    All that said, it’s still my GotY 2013, hands-down, for all the reasons Ishaan mentioned and more.

    • https://twitter.com/Ni_Go_Zero_Ichi Project 2501

      But I mean seriously – SPOILERS – refusing to kill my opponents in a barbaric for-profit gladiator game puts me on the slippery slope to agreeing to wipe out an entire city because an angel told me to do it?? I call BS.

      • Aesma

        …well, I guess they should have put three choices in that part. 1 to spare(N), 1 to punish(L), and 1 to kill(C).

        • https://twitter.com/Ni_Go_Zero_Ichi Project 2501

          That would’ve been an improvement for that particular choice, but it still doesn’t address the heart of the problem, which is that both the Law and Chaos factions are absurdly unsympathetic and you end up railroaded into one of them whether you like it or not unless you manage to stay Neutral.

          • Aesma

            Hmm… well yeah, they seem to be very radical in this game.
            I thought it’s justified though, since this is not the first time they have ‘fought’.
            Confirmed Law vs Chaos:
            1. Flynn’s previous incarnation (Nameless Demon Hunter, Ace of National Defense Divinities, Masakado’s Partner), chose Neutral. Though in Blasted and Infernal Tokyo we’ll see what happened if he chose Law or Chaos.
            2. Possibly Akira (Aquila), we don’t know which side he chose, since he:
            a. Left Tokyo and moved to Mikado to find his sister. (C or N)
            b. Joined Mikado and fought off ‘invaders’ from Tokyo. (L or N)
            c. Worked with Masetema trying to seal the Archangels (? Dunno if this can be considered L, C, or N). And this confirmed that his signature demon is Aeshma.
            3. Flynn himself.

            Though, I assume that there’s a lot more conflict than that, since there are four Whites. And if we assume Whites are ‘failed’ heroes…

            Edit: Well, what I mean is, the long battles they fought may made them more… radical.
            One DLC mentioned that M (Masetema) and Aquila (Akira) planned to seal the Archangels into the prisons (Where we saved them, from Asmodeus, who is derivation of Aquila’s favorite Aeshma), because they have become too radical, M mentioned that YHVH won’t want them to take things this far.

          • Laer_HeiSeiRyuu

            Unfortunately that happens in life.

      • Aesma

        …well, I guess they should have put three choices in that part. 1 to spare(N), 1 to punish(L), and 1 to kill(C).

    • Kyle McDaniel

      “ridiculously precise balancing act necessary to get the Neutral route” I got Neutral just by playing naturally.

      • hng qtr

        Me too.
        We got lucky, believe me.

      • hng qtr

        Me too.
        We got lucky, believe me.

      • hng qtr

        Me too.
        We got lucky, believe me.

      • Ouch My Head Said Dionysus

        here here

      • Ladius

        You were very lucky if you aimed for the Neutral ending and obtained it without following a guide andor carefully balancing your answers.

        • http://www.siliconera.com/ Ishaan

          Really? Everyone I know has found their way onto Neutral by going with the most natural answers. I feel SMTIV was designed such that anyone with a relatively normal moral compass would get into the Neutral route.

          • Ladius

            I’m not saying getting into the neutral path is impossible without a guide, far from it, but it’s also not the easiest outcome of a blind playthrough.

            Neutral ending is the most difficult to obtain simply because of its point requirements compared to law and chaos: neutral goes from +8 to -8, but the answers can take you to +100 and -100 and there are many choices with +-5 or even +-10 payoffs, making it difficult to balance your alignment if you don’t follow a guide, especially considering lots of choices aren’t black and white, there isn’t a neutral option most of the time (even if some lawchaos answers seems common sense they will still bring you toward their morally extreme side) and the alignments themselves change their world view drastically after the twists in the last part of the game.

            Add to this forced alignment changes (some events and subquests will change your alignment points without any sort of choice) and choices with uneven changes and you could end up with law or chaos if you didn’t check the point value of every answer, or played assertively without trying to balance each side at every opportunity. Apparently there’s a little trick you can use to stay neutral, choosing the first answer in every choice, but even if that’s true (I didn’t check it) it can still be offset by the aforementioned forced changes or by subquests, since that method only considers the choices in the main quest.

          • Ladius

            I’m not saying getting into the neutral path is impossible without a guide, far from it, but it’s also not the easiest outcome of a blind playthrough.

            Neutral ending is the most difficult to obtain simply because of its point requirements compared to law and chaos: neutral goes from +8 to -8, but the answers can take you to +100 and -100 and there are many choices with +-5 or even +-10 payoffs, making it difficult to balance your alignment if you don’t follow a guide, especially considering lots of choices aren’t black and white, there isn’t a neutral option most of the time (even if some lawchaos answers seems common sense they will still bring you toward their morally extreme side) and the alignments themselves change their world view drastically after the twists in the last part of the game.

            Add to this forced alignment changes (some events and subquests will change your alignment points without any sort of choice) and choices with uneven changes and you could end up with law or chaos if you didn’t check the point value of every answer, or played assertively without trying to balance each side at every opportunity. Apparently there’s a little trick you can use to stay neutral, choosing the first answer in every choice, but even if that’s true (I didn’t check it) it can still be offset by the aforementioned forced changes or by subquests, since that method only considers the choices in the main quest.

          • Calintz YT

            Ishaan’s brainless attack on Japanese story-telling is ironic since his/her
            criticisms can be applied to WRPGs as well. But of course people like Ishaan will never admit that their western gods have faults.

            “by clubbing us over the head with them,
            often with no restraint or subtlety.”

            You mean like how Skyrim, for example, presents most of its
            characters as being 2dimensional? With only a few characters or factions
            not falling into that. See Thalmor

            “You go on a quest, you complete
            your goal, you watch a lengthy cutscene.”

            You mean like skyrim’s novel length opening?

            “Characters tend to fall neatly
            into predictable archetypes,”

            Wow…again, Thalmor.

            Your analysis tend to be so vapid and woefully racists at times.

          • RifleAvenger Sashiro

            Honestly, I felt that I had to make choices I was uncomfortable with, or else I would very quickly find myself deep in the Law alignment. It’s very easy to gain a lot of Law points really fast just trying to be kind to people. I got very lucky that there was a side quest that gives -10 alignment whose outcome I agreed with.

            It doesn’t help that I find I cannot agree with Walter much when it counts, since he jumps straight into “flood the world with demons” after meeting Lilith. Or that some optional quests have stupid alignment point outcomes (getting Hugo wine gives you as much Law as a Hall of Ethics question? Ok…).

            Also, Law in SMT has the very bad tendency to lock you in and only later reveal why it’s the designated “you are an asshat” alignment.

            Ex. SMT2

            Zayin: Hey, Aleph, want to help me protect Tokyo Millennium?

            Aleph: That doesn’t sound that bad

            Later…

            Satan: And now to kill every living thing on the planet!

            Law Aleph: :’(

            Honestly my biggest problem with SMT 4 was that just before I hit the alignment lock question, I was honestly thinking I had a long way to go. This game doesn’t have an alignment slippery slope, it has an alignment cliff.

            That said, I liked the game enough that I went back for NG++ and finally getting Neutral.

  • Eclipse

    Ah, SMT IV… That game was one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had with an RPG in years, and the soundtrack is absolutely beautiful~!

    In fact, it’s my 2013 GOTY.

  • Tylor Boreas Makimoto

    I’m guessing the indecision point you speak of occurs somewhere in Tokyo, in the place with the choices. If so, I had an issue, where I could not decide on the last question. I don’t cry when I game–or ever, really–but putting that question in perspective, I could not help it. Just so thought provoking ;~;

  • Prithivi

    Great article, now I’m more hyped than ever!

    Come on ATLUS, Europe also wants this game. I know a lot of people in Spain who are willing to buy the game, but they are beginning to lose interest because of the lack of news regarding an European release :(

  • Torraint

    you’re right that recent games fed the story to gamers
    most of my friends didn’t take the quests and finished the story in 40 hours said the universe feels shallow.. i’m on the contrary just reach reverse hill in 70 hours (several quests taken) but feels the game feels alive

  • RagingTiger44

    I didn’t pick up this game up initially because I don’t really like rpgs with first person combat. Then I remembered that I beat Earthbound as a kid and loved it. So I figure why the heck not. I too heard the characters were flat but I figure I would be the judge of that. However since I enjoy watching characters interact and develop over time in the JRPGs I play, I probably would have thought they were flat too. However, after reading your article, I am highly intrigued with this style of storytelling. In the JRPGs I’ve played I always talked to EVERYBODY in the town…twice. But this was only to see a little extra dialogue here and there, ranging from mundane to outright funny. But to hear that now if I were to do that in SMTIV, it would actually lead to me discovering story-relevant information or see how characters in Tokyo develop for that matter is a very exciting prospect. Add to the fact that recent SMT games have bunch of replay value to begin with (my reason for wanting to pick it up in the first place) makes this even more exciting. Thank you Ishaan. I now have one more reason to get this game.
    /wall-o-text

    • Laer_HeiSeiRyuu

      Think you’ll enjoy it immensly

  • kmantle

    I differ with you oppinion.
    Gameplay wise, SMT IV is awesome (except for the overworld map, the combat mechanics and demon-fusion system were excellent), but storywise, it’s pretty lackluster. I found it very predictable and lacking imagination, a lot of parts felt forced, and even the music was as good as other games. I actually enjoyed more Strange’s Journey story (let’s not talk about Nocturne), and Soul Hacker’s boss battle themes were superior to SMT IV boss themes (hell, ‘Devil Summoner Sound Collection – Hyper Rearrange Collection – boss battle’ track is one of the most awesome things I’ve heard).
    And, I’m not trying to troll or anything, but the game was very, very easy. I’ve read A LOT of people complaining about the difficulty of Naraku, but a little exploitation of the demon’s weakness made the game a breeze. I actually never died until the Minotaur fight, and still, my first difficult fight was until the Beelzebub side-quest, and I still NEVER activated easy mode (I never paid Charon’s fee).
    Even the artbook was dissapointing (too much on the ‘walkthroug’ part, very little ‘art’)… but the CD was very good (especially the remixes of the first 3 SMT games)
    I know a lot of people is goinf to differ, but still

    • Laer_HeiSeiRyuu

      That’s only the beginning of the game for me.

      You tend to die if you make a stupid mistake in SMT 4. Blight’s happened to murder me and take my money more times than I can count. Luckily I’ve streetpassed a lot of people and used that to up my Macca skills. And I hoard relics.
      Quite literally, I’ve died to enemies much weaker than me and one shoted the tough enemy bosses by exploiting the hell out of them.

      • Hound

        Dying from stupidity can still happen, sure. But, dying from lack of preparation, or as part of the learning process is very easy to avoid from early on until the end of the game. It’s like Pokemon. Once you get the flow of battle and set up a balanced team, the world its-self loses its challenge so long as you don’t set out to fail.

        And then the game has a great number of safety nets:
        Main character can die, you can save absolutely everywhere, most bosses until near the end of the game have rock-paper-scissors weaknesses (and can hardly take a hit), all major bosses have easy to guess dialogue options that give you a handicap, demon fusion & skill acquisition is very easy to re-roll (and can be done at any time),

        And if THAT’s not enough for you, Charon can revive you exactly where you were, no strings attached for a pittance and in fact, tortures you with a long “cinematic” if you refuse his offer. (it’s actually a lot faster to turn the 3DS off, restart the game, and run from your last save to where you were than pay Charon to revive you.. and it’s faster to beat whatever may have killed you and move on than refuse revival.) And then if, for some reason you still feel the game is too hard for you, it’s kind enough to wave Easy Mode in your face if you happen to die a couple of times.

        And if that’s not enough safety nets and hand-holding for everyone that’s ever played an RPG in their lives, there’s paid DLC that can give you massive sums of exp in almost no time at all. (I think someone stated that you can jump to level 99 in an hour or two.)

        • hng qtr

          I’d like to point that in every numbered SMT besides Nocturne your character could die. It’s not a safety net, it’s just how the game is.

          • Hound

            However, this wasn’t the case for several of the more recent RPGs Atlus had released, so it’s worth pointing out in addition to charon, saving everywhere, game-breaking DLC, easy mode, sub-par storyline bosses, easy skill acquisition, easy demon re-rolling & party tailoring, etc.

          • hng qtr

            The MC can die in EO Untold, Radiant Historia and the Devil Survivor games. Besides these the only RPG’s they developed in the last years were Strange Journey and the EO series. Everything else was remakes, ports and some JP only games I didn’t play.

  • konsama

    This is by far one of my instant favorite games, the music the voice acting, the lore. Was one hell of an experience, many peope look down on it just for being on 3DS or for not being fully 3D.

    But this is one game that don’t need any of that, the story and depth in the world and everything lft most stuff to ones judgment, as mentioned here. It don’t needSquare enix graphics to make a person think and embrace this dark story, like reading a book that engraves in ones conscious.

    Also love the fact of multiple endigs, makes evrything more rewarding, the fruit of your actions even if they wee the incorrect ones to certin peoples stan.dards.

    I agree on the mp thing, but i thought at some point, “hell dark souls did the same”, with your own capacities, basically forces one to adapth and learn your sorroundings be in 3d or an ovrworld map.

    O my “home” was ueno, i felt most comfortable there at some point lol.

    • Laer_HeiSeiRyuu

      It is fully 3D.
      SMT and Fire Emblem are similar in the story is what you make of it.

      • konsama

        Last i saw, so a few minutes ago, the game has lots of parts where you navigate through menus, and the battles are sprites, not like EO4 ones. I could delve even more but meh.

        That goes in my book as a not fully 3D game.

        • Laer_HeiSeiRyuu

          Those are in 3D.

          The demons are animated holograms

  • John Pena

    I also had bought this game on its release date, but have yet to play it due to the fact that as an rpg collector I have to many rpgs that I must play, I am currently playing tales of xillia!

  • Josué

    I feel SMT IV is the most mature JRPG ever, it’s just like you said, it focuses on telling you about a disturbing world and your role on it, but when it come to the characters, it isn’t just about shoving their personalities in your face, but it makes them part of the world. It’s awesome.
    Edit: It’s like in Okami, when you finish the game, you’re just wondering what happened to all the character you met (including Amy) instead of “oh, I just saved the world, I guess this is over”

  • ivanchu77

    sight, if only they weren´t such huge assholes to europeans maybe i would like atlus as much as you guys do, with huge delays and most of the time the games not coming over , and especially with things like the persona 4 arena fiasco i find it hard to have interest in them

    • Aesma

      …blaming Atlus will get you nowhere. I am from Asia, where we have to import all region of games, USA, EUR, JPN and so on. But you won’t find me complaining. It’s just how it is in my area, and I have to accept it.

  • http://guillotineghosties.tumblr.com Ghosties

    I’m actually stuck in SMT IV right now. I love the game and the characters and they don’t feel flat at all, and I enjoy exploring every new area and talking to everyone, but…I finally got the ferryman to take me to Shinjuku, but now in order to move forward in the story I have to take a quest to defeat the…firewall demon? But I need the head from another demon for it. But I go to get that quest as per instruction of a walkthrough, but the character won’t give it to me. Did I miss a flag somewhere?
    I always have a ton of trouble with world maps and it’s so easy for me to get lost or to miss something.

    • Torraint

      is this about jirae talisman?

      • http://guillotineghosties.tumblr.com Ghosties

        Yes, that was it! According to a walkthrough I read, someone I speak to guarding an area is supposed to give me the quest for it. But he doesn’t, for whatever reason.

        • Torraint

          if i’m not mistaken, it was related to 2 quests
          the main quest was jirae talisman search from ring of gaea (which guarding an area) & challange quest in shinjuku

          • http://guillotineghosties.tumblr.com Ghosties

            That’s what I’d read–but neither of those quests become available to me. I’ve done all of the available challenge quests, too, both in Shinjuku and Mikado. I don’t know where I missed a flag is the thing? I finished the Counter Demon Force Base quest, and from there as I understood it, I was supposed to go on the quests to get that talisman. As it is now, I’m in a demon lair and kind of stuck because it’s much stronger than I am. I just started going to all of the lairs trying to see if clearing those out wold do anything.

          • Torraint

            have u visit the ikebukuro entrance & talk with Kaga? i think the main quest to find jirae talisman start there..

  • Lazulis

    You may be a main character, but the people in Tokyo aren’t going to treat you like a messiah. They got their own shit to deal with. Their world doesn’t revolve around you. And that’s great. I loved retalking to everyone (oh god, the people in the Beelzebub sidequest, ohhhh was that plalce messed up)

    Man, there were so many points where I just put my game down for a while. Like that lady in the room who you can only talk once to, or when you had the switch…

    The story is great. Though I was miffed at the chaos route. Walter…

    I haven’t had the chance to get to far in NG+ to get law, then neutral, bc…ugh, it’s law

    • Laer_HeiSeiRyuu

      I like having sub alignments.

      Chaos Neutral is the best

  • klkAlexar

    I loved this game although I got a bit burned out in my third playthrough. I think my least favorite part is the randomness of getting some demons. Gotta go back to finish chaos and neutral sometime.

  • Carl

    Oddly enough I just beat SMT4 this past Monday and that is after having it SINCE LAUNCH.

    My problem was the map and the really opaque quest descriptions. I only beat it by essentially giving up and ignoring side quests and using an FAQ to find out where to go next. I had to use two different FAQS and three different player made maps to even figure out where to go. I’m 38 now and have been playing JRPGs since 1988, so maybe I’m just getting too old…but goodness was that crazy.

    As for characters being flat….ehhhh…that’s a given considering this was a part of the main SMT saga. They are all essentially dungeon crawlers. I played SMT1 and 2 back when the translations came out and those REALLY had flat characters and poor progression. They were great dungeon crawlers though. Like a JRPG Wizardry.

    Great article.

    • Thom

      Yeah that’s been part and parcel for the SMT series. Lots of maps out, fusing guides, item locations, etc. I have a savegame somewhere from Digital Devil Saga 2 with items acquired from DDS1 after a lengthy (obscenity laden) playthrough.

      Playing SMT games is definitely the cold shower after messing around with autosave-style games for several years.

    • http://www.siliconera.com/ Ishaan

      I wouldn’t call SMTIV a dungeon-crawler, personally. Nocturne was much more of a slogging dungeon-crawler if you ask me, but if you want to apply that descriptor to SMTIV, I would call it a very, very advanced “dungeon crawler”. There really aren’t many “dungeons” to speak of. So many areas in the game are just seamlessly built into the rest of the world. I love that so much.

      • Laer_HeiSeiRyuu

        Its like Zelda. When its not Hubworld Skyward Sword.

        • http://www.siliconera.com/ Ishaan

          …kind of? Dungeons in Zelda are very clearly “dungeons”. SMTIV doesn’t have that… it just has places. There are no dungeons, outside of a select few, and the Demon Domains. Nearly everything in SMTIV is just a “place,” which is why it almost never feels like you’re going through a dungeon. I wish more RPGs would do that.

          • Laer_HeiSeiRyuu

            In Zelda they sort of feel like underground ruins. I think they’d feel that way if the game was different thematically

        • Hound

          If anything Nocturne is like Blaster Master. And SMTIV is like Ultima IV-VI or maybe an open-world MMORPG where travel between towns and important locations is done on a road map (minus the directory and annotations)..

  • brostar

    “Why we will always need Shin Megami Tensei.”
    I don’t disagree with you but where is it’s fucking European release date? We don’t even have a fucking date and all the time people are raving about this that I and other European MegaTen fans can’t play. So you know what? Fuck you Nintendo. Fuck you Atlus! Especially a big fuck you to Nintendo and your retarded region locking system.

    • Laer_HeiSeiRyuu

      Nintendo never talks about games until they’re in the same year of release these days.

      • Adrián Alucard

        Mr. Shibata talked about SMT IV the last April (2013) in a Nintendo Direct

        He also talked about Devil Survivor 2 in 2012 and never got a release in stores (only by mail order)

        sigh…

        I think we’ll never get SMT IV, the DeSU 2 for 3DS and de FE crossover

    • Shane Guidaboni

      It’s just a game, dude. Calm down.

  • UUDDLRLR BASTART

    From the description it seems SMTIV employs some of the same design elements that make Vagrant Story and Demon’s/Dark Souls the only RPG’s that I ever fully enjoyed. Alas SMTIV still has too many faults in common with almost every other RPG coming out of Japan such as gameplay mechanics stuck in the early 80′s.

    If Japanese developers are to take notice and be inspired by an RPG series that dares to be different and is the best in the genre for it, I rather they look at and learn from the Demon’s/Dark Souls series instead.

    • Laer_HeiSeiRyuu

      Demon’s souls and dark souls combat is from the 80′s too.

      Most Action RPG combat is.

      And SMT’s base combat system is from 2003.

      Shit FPS’s are still stuck in 90′s

      • UUDDLRLR BASTART

        Yeah, timing and position sensitive 3D melee combat mechanics with long weapon dependent attack animations were totally borne on 1980′s home computers.

        I hear these archaic game mechanics were inspired by and an electronic implementation of Dungeons and Dragons board games originally designed to be played using graph paper and dice rolls. The Souls series really shows its roots…

        • Laer_HeiSeiRyuu

          Tales of. Ys series, Actraiser looma looma
          The 90′s yo. Step it up.

          But sure if you’re going to be delusional about the game mechanics in a genre as weirdly diverse in the RPG genre and then com around talking up how nothings changed, then you should still be playing Diablo 2.

  • niko

    I got this game because of the buy 2 get $30 deal. It essentially cost me $20 for the game so I thought what the hell. I was in Japan at the time. Played a little, kind of liked it, played a little more, kind of liked it, wound up playing about 50 or so hours well after i came home. Great game, really makes you think, the gameplay is fun, and it’s good enough that the valid complaints (the map system) aren’t that much of a chore. Not sure it was my favorite game of 2013 like author, but that’s only because FE and Zelda and MH4 are just so sick.

  • $61526767

    My first time into the game, I got murdered in the beginning and didn’t played it again until I got that motivation feeling again. It took me a lot of hours and tries to unlock the neutral ending. Didn’t really go back and unlock the chaos ending for some reason.. I was going to get it and fight the secret demon that is in the tower, but didn’t really feel like spending more hours unlocking more content. Overall, the game was really fun and enjoyable. Not to mention my favorite character would have to be Walter & Isabeau.

  • chocodino

    why most didn’t finished it, maybe because they didn’t know what the series is about, I mean, like 80% of the people didn’t even knew about the franchise before the 3DS, so most copies must have been “let’s see how this is”

  • Brandonmkii

    I got the neutral ending and I really enjoyed it. The thing that bugs me is I don’t have any idea what happened. I’m sure I missed some stuff here and there and I didn’t do any of the DLC either. Would doing Chaos or Law make things more apparent to me? I just wish they could have driven home the really important stuff in a more traditional manner. That aside, great game.

    • Aesma

      Joining Chaos will help you find out about a certain person’s true plan. But it won’t reveal much. Some sidequest help a bit more with the story.

      Joining Law will help you gain perspective about what is happening to Mikado, and the Archangels’ plans. Again, it won’t reveal much.

      About the DLC, there are 4 ‘story’ DLC.
      Clipped Wings: Where Flynn went back to the past and helped M seal the Archangels into the ‘prison’ (the one we saved them from Asmodeus), at the end, it is revealed that M is Masetema and he had been helping Aquila (Akira). Those two were planning to seal the Archangels because they have become too radical.

      Ancient of Days: Where we returned to Blasted Tokyo, and found Akira and Kiyoharu being attacked by Ancient of Days (One possible name of God from Bible, in this one a part of him that is sent to slay what is left of Tokyo), as we fight AoD, AoD mentioned that ‘old humans’ (Tokyo) are not needed anymore, and it is the age of ‘new humans’ (Mikado). After the battle, cocoon containing people of Mikado dropped from the sky.

      Eternal Youth: Where we returned to Infernal Tokyo, and found Akira hiding from a demon who came out of nowhere (Actually came from another planet.), Sanat-Kumara, the Lord of Living Flame, Eternal Youth. Sanat-Kumara claimed that he is there to see the seeds he had planted (Assuming he meant, freedom and Chaos) and would like to test mankind’s strength. At the end, Akira is accepted as people’s new king.

      Tokyo Guardian: Where we are sent tot he past and met STEVEN. Our mission is simple, stop (AKA help), the raging Masakado (Masakabro, Brosakado, whatever you want to call him), in his Gigantic form. Who has become like that to guard Tokyo from ICBM attack but went berserk. You have to find a way to break through his Null all and resist Almighty (Need piercing abilities, for all magic elements from Aeshma (Clipped Wings), for pierce physical from Sanat-Kumara (Eternal Youth)) with time limit of several turns. After we damaged him enough, he will wake up and guard Tokyo as a ‘shell’, and it is said that the Kingdom of Mikado is built on top of his back.

      That’s all the story DLC. If you have anymore question, I’ll be glad to answer.

  • http://LevelUpGeneration.blogspot.com/ KALiverin

    Great write-up, echoes my thoughts exactly. I’ve always thought that Shin Megami Tensei was one of those very few franchises that actually deserves its M rating. Nobody in this game is truly good or evil. They simply do what they believe is right. This is one of the few games that seems to have no villain. Yes, there are final bosses, but are they evil, or are they just misguided? Is it even right for the main characters to invade Tokyo the way they did?

  • deadMastershiro

    I know what you mean by ”home” because i moved shinjuku two weeks ago.

  • Lynx

    Honestly, I would’ve loved a map function, whether a skill or otherwise.

    Nocturne’s was easier to navigate and that’s something.

    • Hound

      I found this strange as well. SMTIV is like an expanded version of Persona 2′s map, while Nocturne is a mobius-shaped desert… And yet.. traveling wasn’t nearly as cumbersome.

  • http://keiserone.tumblr.com/ KeiserOne

    The map was no problem for me since it’s a throw back to olden games where gamers were supposed to keep track of the dungeons on paper. Only gripe I have is with the camera and ennemies that zoom in on you directly when you climb up/down a ledge sometimes.

    • Laer_HeiSeiRyuu

      Yeah some times I wanted to use the dpad to move around

  • Shane Guidaboni

    Am I the only one that wasn’t confused at all by the world map?

    • Ryuki

      I think it’s cause the map seems so overwhelming at first. After all, you start off in a place where you just choose where you want to go then bam! This huge world map lays before your eyes.

      • Laer_HeiSeiRyuu

        I was staring at the top screen for the majority of the early game that I never noticed what district I was in till I got to ikebukuro XD

    • idrawrobots

      I think it was supposed to be like that. But perhaps living in Tokyo changes that.

  • Rinne111

    EUROPE NEEDS SMT IV

  • Ouch My Head Said Dionysus

    I’ve been a fan since SMT since the mid-90s, and SMT 4 is probably one of my favorite games ever. It really exceeded my expectations in every way. Here’s hoping we don’t have to wait another ten years for the next installment.

  • Ryuki

    SMT 4 is one of my favorite games as well but there were some issues that irked me about the game.

    1. Naraku at the beginning of the game is kinda strong. I know it’s an SMT game but still, the fact that you can be what? Over 4 levels of a demon and still be one shot? It’s irritating.

    2. The artwork. Don’t get me wrong, I like some of the new artwork we got for the demons but not for the four archangels. I kinda wished that they went with this; If you sided with Law then the archangels would keep their angelic appearance but if you go Chaos or Neutral then instead, the new artwork would show, showing that the angels are not quite pleased with your actions.

    • Laer_HeiSeiRyuu

      You can still get one shot no matter what level you are.
      I did it to several demons in areas I wasnt supposed to be in the second I got to Tokyo.

      Naraku is the tutorial.

  • PowerSerg

    I totally disagree with this post, I think SMT 4 was over priced and unperformed in story. I play a lot of rpgs and this does have plenty of common troops. This place is like a fantasy, oh but really this is post apocalyptic. I never had to think about a choice except for like maybe one but that’s no where near the level of thought I had put into other games in the series. Even when moral choices are light their are rpgs that make all the time you spend playing it choices on it’s own.

  • SetzerGabbiani

    Waiting for Atlus to use this as part of their PR package. I know they have some lurkers and participators on here.

  • jayzisdabomb

    I agree completely with your sentiments. This game isn’t very character focused but the themes it brings up are so thought provoking. The message of how people in a world of one extreme will yearn for the extreme on the other side instead of a balance is so interesting and applicable to real life. And the high difficulty of gaining the neutral ending is a great way to convey how hard it is to not just shift to one extreme. I really love how there is so much to think about in this game.

  • Robgoro

    Was that friend who stopped at the beginning Kris? He has a BIT of a tendency to do that. ;) I can’t wait to dive into it and chat with you, then. It’s been sitting on my shelf for too long.

    • http://www.siliconera.com/ Ishaan

      Close, but not quite! It was a “Chris”. :P

  • Ladius

    I think SMT4 is a good game with an extremely interesting setting that encourages a Resonance of Fate-like search for npc dialogues in order to gather more informations, a tried and true battle system, lots of side contents, some great locales and an atmosphere that could easily captivate newcomers to the series and jrpg enthusiasts, but I have to disagree on some of the assessments regarding the characters’ depth and the plot’s pacing and overall quality (other issues I noticed were the dungeon design of some areas and the less than cohesive art direction, among others).

    The lesser npcs were actually quite charming and colorful, but the main cast felt underdeveloped (especially after the prologue) and acted more as symbols for their respective alignment than as persons; while this is all but new for SMT games, it’s also true that other Megatens were able to do it in a subtler and less blatant way. The story had some real issue in terms of pacing and I didn’t felt it was able to convey in the best way its overarching narrative, even if I can definitely see people playing this as their first Megaten enjoying it a lot because of its themes.

    • Laer_HeiSeiRyuu

      It was sort of hammy no doubt. Honestly I think the cast stopped being themselves in their entirety, and that was the point of them. But you know, Isabeau’s the most interesting out of the lot for a reason I feel, but she’s sort of odd anyway.

      Humans arent exactly cohesive. Why would demons be? They’re holograms manifestations.

  • SetzerGabbiani

    This game was an instant fave, and I agree with Ishaan’s sentiments entirely. The game is very deep and it takes time to really engage with like most really good games.

  • M3LTY-BLOOD

    * Why we always need ATLUS.

    SMTIV is a good game but Persona’s Press Turn made that the game has become to easy.

    • Blerg

      Persona’s Press Turn..?
      Uhhh…. Press Turn is a SMT thing, Nocturne started this
      Edit: in 2003

      • Ni ~UNREAL BLACK THINGS~

        shhh. didn’t you know that persona started everything in JRPGs? :p
        jk

        • Blerg

          Riiight… ;)

  • Blerg

    Fantastic article… fueled my want for this nicely (lack of 3ds), that said, you are among very few people i’ve seen who thinks SMTXFE would be great through a SMT perspective

    • Laer_HeiSeiRyuu

      Its an SMT game directed by Fire Emblem people. Will no doubt be an SRPG

      • Blerg

        Is it? Not the other way..? Well in any event, i’d like for the two styles to be blended, not SMT in FE-verse or FE in SMT-verse, ya know?

  • Attribule

    I liked this game but it’s been on my backlog ever since I reached the city portion as well.

    The reason is that it feels like a hassle to even play the game. In order to progress I have to keep altering my entire team just to withstand a single boss fight, then redo my entire team AGAIN for the next and so on. It doesn’t give you a fair balance of benefits for each side; “Stick with this team and you can make it work!” and “Revise your team for better strategy!” aspects are completely imbalanced.

    This wouldn’t be such an issue if the battle system wasn’t how it is where your entire team is absolutely devastated by even normal mobs if they so much as hit a weak point ONCE. The tides can change instantly from just one turn. Another part of this issue is that you can’t even know when a boss will appear, generally, or even if you can you can’t know what attributes it has in order to structure your team with.. you know.. actual strategy. You essentially have to save every 2seconds and when a boss comes up you take the ass beating so you figure out its strength and weaknesses, reload your save and go back and redo your team properly in order to actually win.

    It’s a HUGE turn off. I can never let go of the feeling that I’m being forced down a narrow hallway at all times while playing it since it is essentially forcing your playstyle… in an RPG. That’s like having an RPG where you have 5 class choices but the game is hinting at you at all times, “Oh, you picked this class! …. but don’t you actually want to, you know.. win? 4 of the 5 classes are guaranteed failure. Literally! Just default to this class instead!”

    I want to actually finish this game, but it’s designed in the most irritating way. I feel less challenged by it and more like I’m just being burdened with chores. The story is nice, but the gameplay itself isn’t.

    • JustThisOne

      Hmm, you may want to give this game a second chance. When you make it to the city, things get a lot easier. I’ll use Pokemon as a comparison. I always feel that the first or second gym is the hardest, because you never have enough type coverage early game. I had a tough time pre-Tokyo as well, because you don’t have a wide variety of demons and skills to work with yet.

      Later on, when you have enough demons to work with, you can revise your team mid-battle to adapt to changing circumstances. New enemy wrecking your weak points? Switch it out. You don’t have to have a boss-killer set. You certainly can, but you don’t have to. The whole point is to keep building or improving your team.

      I dunno if this mitigates your issues with this game in anyway. But if it doesn’t, this game just might not be for you. I personally love that normal mobs can wreck me if I’m not careful. I did get stuck at bosses a couple times, but I never had to completely rebuild my team for it. All I had to do was swap out a demon or two and figure out the pattern. So… I can’t say I’ve ever felt like I’ve been “forced” down to a single playstyle, if you know what I mean.

    • Lumi

      When in doubt, try to recruit any new demons. Once you do, you’ll be able to check their weakness in the middle of battle. And before every boss fight, Burroughs WILL tell you there’s a boss ahead. And if you religiously (heh) recruit and fuse demons any time you can, add some Luck to your mc so that recruiting get easier, it’ll become so much of a breeze in the later game that i only have to switch around demons before boss fights (which isn’t necessarily a good thing)

      And having a large variety of demons is what you are expected to do, just like fusing. Demons in stock do get experience points (just less), so this game is completely in favour of the “recise your team” aspect.

      The only place where this aactually is frustrating is at the very start, where you have to try recruit demons at level 1, no party members

    • Seta Soujiro

      the game isn’t really that hard. effective demon fusing has never been so easy in a mainline megaten as in this one!

      1. pay attention to what you’re doing when you fuse..check if it is an actual improvement stat-wise and elemental protection-wise.
      2. always have a good dedicated healer with some strong elemental magics when healing is not needed.
      3. try to cover as many elemental magic with your mc and the other demons.
      4. later on, the magics that reflect physical and magic attacks are very useful.
      5. it is usually easier to have a magic focused mc than a physical one.
      6. don’t underestimate buffs and debuffs.

      try retaking the game, it is definitely worth it. :)

      • Morricane

        …rules valid for every other megaten game too! :)

      • hng qtr

        The first 2 or so MegaTen games you play can be hard, after that every single one becomes a cakewalk( if we exclude post-game content).

        • Ni ~UNREAL BLACK THINGS~

          WHAT!? a demon just attacked you after 15 minutes of gameplay and you need to go to the end of map? and you have no demons? LET’S PUT A RANDOM ENCOUNTER FOR EACH 3 SECONDS YOU MOVE IN THE MAP!

          SMT 1 have the most frustating early game events that I ever played in a rpg

          • hng qtr

            I can see you didn’t get past the first 15 minutes and never saw the weapons of mass destruction known as Zio and nerve bullets. It’s the easiest game in the mainline. You can auto-battle bosses and GROUPS of enemies 20+ levels above you and win without much problem.

            And SMT I have the most frustrating late game events I ever played in a rpg. The encounter rate in the dungeons after “that” happens is like “fight this 3 battles against groups of 6~8 enemies every time you move a step forward”. That’s not an hyperbole, I’m being dead fucking serious here.
            tl;dr: SMT I isn’t hard in the least, but requires superhuman patience to play through.

          • Ni ~UNREAL BLACK THINGS~

            I finished the game, bro. I just said that the beggining of the game can really piss people off

  • Lumi

    Ohhh, the quest npc actually has different dialogue later on? That sounds great!

  • Fidelis

    The game is good in moderation. If you force yourself to complete the chalice of hope quest in one sitting, you’ll swear off smt games. Or at least thats how it was for me, because there weren’t any guides out and the conflicting info circulating on message boards was maddening..The world mapdidnt make things any better but its completely tolerable with that spell that lets you skip weak enemies

    • Laer_HeiSeiRyuu

      Well thats grand, its on a handheld so you can pick it up and play.

  • Thom

    Love this article. And SMT3: Nocturne is my favorite game of all time, I decided, after putting in nearly 60 hours back around 2005 and getting the “best” ending. :)

    I love that SMT inspires great, thought-out game criticism like this and not just graphics/sound/replayability round ups.

    Not to diminish the amount of effort that went into Last of Us or GTA 5, but SMT IV will always be the game of the year ’13 for me. It’s deep in a way most games aren’t and doesn’t care if you can’t find the attention span to see it until the end.

  • Ikusaba Dotachin

    Nocturne is my favorite SMT game, having great time playing it

  • http://confitdent.com thedood7

    Wow. Ishaan-dood, this article was fantastic. This is the very first article I read the moment I woke up this morning. Fired up my iPhone, checked Siliconera and then boom, I read this. This article really fascinated me. I like how this game isn’t something you can just play at face value. It’s all about the patience and the drive to explore the game little by little.

    And it made me crave for the 3DS again! Especially that one that got stolen from me. But this article has encouraged me to keep on working so I can save enough money to buy another 3DS again and play this game.

  • Mrgrgr and Unacceptable World

    Great article Ishaan and i agree with you 120% there.^_^ I played this game around 100+hours in the first playthrough using magic build and i clearly feel the same way as u there.^_^

    The people in Tokyo or better to say the Tokyo grow as we progress. The people we know before some died after certain decision we take while some simply change their opinion on the others. The battle is also great and fast paced as it actually makes me to grind to level 100 even before facing the final boss lol.^_^

    I really hoped that more people will give chances for this game here. As i truly would love to see more rpg like this. Maybe Shadow Hearts?T_T

  • NocturneDream

    I agree. A lot of RPGs have taken too much in direction of Final Fantasy and forsaken subtlety. Dragon Quest and Shin Megami Tensei remain my two favorite series because of their respective unique ways of being themselves.

    SMTIV did a LOT to be as good as Nocturne. Nocturne’s still my favorite but SMTIV came very close and I really did love the story.

  • Aspenharls

    My only problem with this game is the combat. Everything in the game seems like a glass cannon. It makes for either very tedious, or very frustrating experiences. The story in this game is utterly fantastic though, and I need to pick it back up again. I think I’m nearing the Alignment lock, and I’m gearing towards Chaos.

    • Laer_HeiSeiRyuu

      My only weakness is Ice.

      You can buy stuff to make it easier
      From the shops.
      Though everything I wear is stuff I found in the game and the free DLC equipment

  • Jirin

    I agree with this post but the reasons I haven’t completed the game aren’t mentioned in this article.

    I find SMT: Nocturne to be one of the most immersive JRPGs ever and I feel like SMT: IV made an effort to do the opposite. Like, Burroughs keeps interrupting you to say “I’ll write that down as a quest! The quest is going well!” Something about having every little thing you have to do embedded in some quest system makes it feel like the game is screaming “DO NOT BE IMMERSED, I AM A GAME”. I hate billboard quest systems in general, I think goals should be given you in-world.

    Also, in SMT: Nocturne the ending given to you was just based on what character you naturally sided with in the story. At the beginning of the game it comes out and tells you outright “SIDE WITH THIS PERSON TO GET ONE ENDING SIDE WITH THIS PERSON TO GET THE OTHER.” When you put it this way, your decisions feel less natural and less immersive.

    I also find portrait conversations completely unimmersive and I wish if they were going to go down to a handheld they would have taken a more SNES-like approach of expressing emotions through characters’ moving around the screen rather than the completely emotionless expression of characters standing completely still with one of four possible faces.

    I think the combat is wonderful and I enjoy the story. But the wonderful story is difficult to enjoy when the game keeps interjecting and screaming at you that it is, in fact, a game.

    Burroughs: THIS POST IS GOING WELL! I will mark it down in the journal!

    • http://www.siliconera.com/ Ishaan

      I’m going to have to disagree with your assessment of Nocturne, I’m afraid. Or rather, I’m going to have to disagree now. Six or seven years ago, I would’ve said the same thing about Nocturne, but I find it very difficult to go back to that game today.

      While I love the world and setting, Nocturne isn’t very good at streamlining and the random encounters (and high encounter rate) are extremely off-putting.

      I actually went back to both Nocturne and Digital Devil Saga while I was waiting for SMTIV to be released, and I couldn’t bear to keep playing Nocturne after the hospital area. I did get a little further in DDS, but that game has issues of its own, primarily to do with the battle system and how you learn skills.

      I feel like SMTIV is the most “considerate” and streamlined MegaTen game to date. I love that enemies are visible on the map, I love how much exploration there is to do, and how the game makes it fun to explore and search around for relics. This kind of ties in to why I love the “gamey” aspects of it, too.

      The UI being tech-driven and gamey was a nice touch that plays to the series’ tendency to combine the occult with technology, in my opinion.The circle that spreads out while you’re exploring and lets you know that there’s something in the vicinity waiting to be found, the square grid and sound effect that rises up off the floor when you’re picking up an item.

      The way you stand in front of a door, wait for a second, and your gauntlet registers it. You’re right that SMTIV very much does want to remind you that it’s a game, but personally, I love that.

      Metroid Prime does it, too. Those three games are so good at creating these fascinating worlds and pulling you into them, but at every step, they reinforce their gameyness with things like “You found the Morph Ball!” or “You found an Energy Tank!” It shows a certain level of pride on the part of the designers, in my opinion, and I’m personally fond of seeing that. I like it when games take pride in being games.

      • Hound

        What’s not streamlined about Nocturne? The entire game goes in a very forward direction, with most towns and dungeons working as tubes to the next locales, making the confusing overworld simple to navigate. Since every chunk of its overworld was sectioned off by major events, it’s far easier to navigate its very samey desert landscape than SMTIV’s very samey streets and very samey location icons.

        When Nocturne deviated from its forward momentum, there would be a new (or relocated) NPC in a rather prominent spot (such as by a save point) to remind you that activities are shaping up in another area (usually located after a savepoint jump or in one of the few places you may go in the overworld located there.) SMTIV on the other hand relies on your ability to navigate to a rather non-descript locale to get to a Japanese town most of us wouldn’t be familiar worth. To make matters worse, getting there may or may not require committing yourself to plot flags.

        It really needed a more visually approachable world map like Persona 2:IS. Or a map editing system like the Etrian Odyssey series. Or for the world map to be sectioned off more cleanly, like they were in Nocturne.

        I’ll hand it to them. I haven’t played an RPG where I wanted a proper map this bad since I played Phantasy Star 2.

        • hng qtr

          That’s something I dislike about Nocturne. You can only advance in two directions, and one is completly dependent on the other. In SMT I and II you had these large open areas with dungeons and “towns”, so while these games have a linear progression you could do things at your own pace and was rewarded for exploring. That’s even more true in SMT IV, because it has all these quests and NPC’s, so there’s always something useful or interesting to find where you are, even when you’re wandering aimlessly because you don’t know where you’re supposed to go. I was lost most of the time in Tokyo but never felt that I was wasting my time.
          Nocturne was a lot less immersive for me than any of the other mainline games. It felt like a lifeless and uninteresting obstacle course.

        • Thom

          Don’t forget that Nocturne had the best soundtrack of SMT, and that’s saying something.

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Go0JWfE9nEw

          • Laer_HeiSeiRyuu

            SMT IV’s beats nocturne imo

        • http://www.siliconera.com/ Ishaan

          Exactly what someone below said. Nocturne is “streamlined” if you consider a relatively linear progression to be streamlining. There’s very little opportunity to lose yourself in “the world” as it were. Dungeons in Nocturne are dungeons.

          SMTIV’s streamlining is actual streamlining, in my opinion. Getting rid of random battles so you can actually explore without having to get in a fight every ten steps, dropping trinkets in every nook and cranny so you have incentive to explore, making demon fusion more convenient, allowing you to save anywhere, regardless of what you’re doing.

          At the same time, the game makes the world feel seamless and like one giant place instead of several dungeons.

      • Thom

        How far did you get in DDS? I got to the point in the first one where I was just slogging through it, but I persevered and ended it with all the optional quests too.

        I ask because I think that DDS2 has one of the best plot twists in all JRPGs and it happens early on. And then from that point on, I just found the story beyond absorbing.

        • http://www.siliconera.com/ Ishaan

          I believe the first time I played DDS (many years ago), I got about 3/4 of the way through? This time, though, I didn’t get very far at all, neither in DDS nor in Nocturne. I guess I just don’t have the patience for random encounters with high encounter rates any more. It makes exploration feel like a chore when you have to stop and fight every few steps.

          To cite another example, I was actually completely turned off by Bravely Default when we first learnt it would have random battles. But then, they came out with For the Sequel, and that allows you to adjust the encounter rate, so I’m looking forward to it once more.

      • DanijoEX ♬ the Cosmic Owl

        Ishaan…you’re the only person i know who loves Metroid Prime as much as I do. (Not to be off topic).

        Aside from that, I might play SMT IV one day.

      • MrTyrant

        I can probably go back to Nocturne and enjoy it. I think a lot of people should try it, there is a charm in that game that you seem to complain about.

        I think DDS and Nocturne to be a way above to IV for various reasons and DDS has an actual plot that everyone should see for god sake (Vishnu?) The random encounters are part of it’s difficulty but I don’t find it boring, there always a challenge in that and like most RPG you can reduce that when you are overlevel.

        • Blerg

          I could too, in fact random battles don’t really bother me if the battles aren’t slow-paced(which is why i don’t mind 1st person battles, they generally tend to faster in my experience ) and you usually have a way to deal with it for a while (Estoma, Holy Bottles, that sort of thing)

  • Seta Soujiro

    i loved playing through this game, though i cursed the hours wasted in KNOWING where i had to go but forgetting HOW to get there. -_-; they definitely could have done better in that aspect.

    that being said, i loved the way the story unfolded as it rewards exploring. i found the whole akira relation to another character very interesting and the red pills…that was sick but also cool and engaging at the same time. the game has lots of amazing “plots” and “subplots”, lots of “aha!”, “omg! really?” moments, and times when you put the 3DS aside and meditate in what really just happened or is about to happen depending in your decision. in short, the game is a gem!

    • http://www.siliconera.com/ Ishaan

      You might wanna remove that Akira bit. That’s a pretty major spoiler. I avoided mentioning it in my post, too, but that’s where the Jonathan screenshot is from. :)

      • Seta Soujiro

        done. :)

    • Laer_HeiSeiRyuu

      The info you need is on the bottom screen….. do you need an arrow pointing towards it? Learning tokyo’s rather easy if you know which district you’re in

  • Shippoyasha

    Man, those middle paragraphs almost read like blatant shots at Persona. heh

    Joking aside, I don’t think it’s wrong to actually enjoy and appreciate the modern styles of JRPGs when those supposed negative aspects are actually done well. Even the cheesiest of teen romance and archetypes can be fleshed out well and enjoyable on their own right and I don’t believe in liking one type of RPG over the other. It’s always in the execution and not the premise I feel.

    I do agree that this game sets itself apart as an SMT line of title, but I feel it’s all a matter of execution,. As for ‘teen romance’, I honestly don’t really get the sense most JRPGs even have that in quantity. Because most don’t really try hard with those plotlines especially when being considered a part of the main storyline (I hope Persona 5 intertwines character social links into the core plot a bit more).

    Personally speaking, I have more issue with JRPGs not even having a very involving narrative nowadays as a huge number of them are more like dungeon crawlers more in the vein of SMT. At least as far as JRPGs that never made it to localization.

    That said, I feel this game could have done a bit more with characterization wise even though I do understand it’s about the minimalist approach in that regard. More character banter, miniquests and such could have helped. It doesn’t mean the game has to go full Persona route, but I can understand why people may think it has flat characters. Though one has to understand where SMT series is coming from in regards to storytelling.

  • Ty Arnold

    SMTIV isn’t a game without its flaws, but I’d say that it has the best world building in any JRPG that I’ve ever played.

  • NeptuniasBeard

    I really gotta go back and wrap this game up -_-

    The game was pretty brutal at the beginning, but once I got used to demon fusing, and got that school uniform, I really only lose when I get jumped by an enemy

  • Abysswalker90

    Thank you for reminding me that I would never be able to play this game.

  • Arcade Bumstead

    I felt like this game had too much crap that tipped the balance in the player’s favor and spoonfed the main plotline which had nothing original to add to the series

    • NocturneDream

      I felt it had great themes. Nocturne seemed to be Nietzsche, Biblical, and Zoroaster themes mixed in with philosophical viewpoints.

      The theme of SMTIV was ostensibly clear early on if you did the David quest.

  • NocturneDream

    I’m so glad to see a website that shares the love for the series. However, I totally disagree about the characters. They weren’t cardboard cutouts. They were well-written and well-developed. Walter even took a page away from Chaos by acknowledging it’s flaws but that he felt the alternatives were worse.

  • Ni ~UNREAL BLACK THINGS~

    >I actually knew quite a lot of people that hadn’t completed Shin Megami Tensei IV, despite having owned the game since its release in July.

    this situation have occured alot of times with my friends in every Main Line MEGATEN. I’m the only one that is able to actually finish the games. They find the pace, character and writing of the game boring. they always drop the game and go back to tales, persona, FF, Atelier etc.

    -
    MEGATEN is one of the two RPG franchises that actually makes me stop playing when some events occur because the games makes me really think in the ‘why?’ and ‘what if it was me?’. This aspect is awesome in a game.
    In regards of the gameplay I loved that we can see the enemies in the map (i’m against random encounters in today JRPGs), but i didn’t liked the old school approach in battles, a 3d field would be better.
    SMTIV was a good SMT since it (for me) was more like the first two SMT games compared to Nocturne who went in a more different approach (but still is a good game).

  • http://wiredjungle.wordpress.com/ DrakosAmatras

    “Did you ever go back to revisit these people or places after completing various quests to see if they had anything new to say or how they’d changed over the course of the game?”

    I definitely did; even jotted down small notes about pretty much every interesting infobit I came across. :)

    • Hound

      Etrian Odyssey’s notating system would have been very welcome here (the 3DS is quite handy for that.)
      Hopefully Persona Q will have it in some form.

      • Laer_HeiSeiRyuu

        Use your 3DS’s game notes feature…

  • MrTyrant

    Sadly the game turn to be extremely easy after Medusa. I had some difficult with the chinese woman but just that. Particulary the smirk system played more in my favor than against me. The DLC challenge are interesting enough.
    What I like the game the most is how they improved the skill and demon fusion system. My complain is that I couldn’t obtain demons of hero class >:

    Also this review came really late you know? most people did what you did and didn’t bother voting for it as one of the best games in 2013.

  • Rafael

    I want to play SMTIV so bad for so long but I can’t afford 600$ Just to play it and maybe Bravely Default then the 3DS will be retired to me

    • Laer_HeiSeiRyuu

      Err Atlus has 6 other rpgs on the 3DS and 20 on the DS

  • Dave Kokandy

    I’m slowly but surely making my way through the game again, but I also set it side for a few months after a boss that kicked my butt several times before I finally got him. Since then, I’ve been moving through pretty quickly, and I agree with your comments about the great feel of the locations in the game, and the incredible amount of content in the game.

  • Calintz YT

    Ishaan’s hatred of Japanese story-telling is ironic since his/her criticisms can be applied to WRPGs as well. But of course people like Ishaan will never admit that their western gods have faults.

    “by clubbing us over the head with them,
    often with no restraint or subtlety.”

    You mean like how Skyrim, for example, presents most of its characters as being 2dimensional? With only a few characters or factions not falling into that. See Thalmor

    “You go on a quest, you complete
    your goal, you watch a lengthy cutscene.”

    You mean like skyrim’s novel length opening?

    “Characters tend to fall neatly
    into predictable archetypes,”

    Wow…you are just blatantly lying now.

    Your analysis tend to be so vapid and woefully xenophobic that it makes me cringe.

  • LightZero

    As someone who played and love SMT4, this is a good review. It makes me even want to replaying it again.

  • drios07

    Great ending ( if you choose neutral) and the dlc’s are nice. Forced me to re make my entire team.

  • NimbusStev

    I’m guilty of the same thing you mentioned in this article. I’m pretty much the biggest SMT fan I know, always trying to get other people into the series that has quickly become one of my favorites. But despite that… I still haven’t finished SMT4 either!

    I got the game when I had very little time to play it, so I’ve been crawling through it at a very slow pace. Add that to the fact that I have 3 or 4 other unfinished RPGs that I’m also progressing through, and it makes sense why it’s taken me a while.

    Absolutely love the game though. And I totally experienced the same moment as #3 on that list! I literally had to think for a good minute or two about how to react to a situation. The game is just so deep!

  • Ric Vazquez

    I agree entirely with the review, one of the best JRPG this year,if not one of the best ever!

  • Carlos Escalante

    I still have this on my backlog, which has gotten huge because of my GRE studies, impending wedding, and work commitments. I have slowly been clearing my log, and recently finished Project X Zone, which also took me 6 months to clear, because I easily got fed up with it. It took me like 70 hours, and I am not sure if that time was wisely invested. In contrast, I cleared Fire Emblem Awakening in about 3 weeks, logged a whopping 90 hrs in it, the most time I have invested in a game in that amount of time, and am having difficulty letting it go…..but more to the point:

    I have Tales of Xillia, SMTIV, EO IV, Zelda, Time & Eternity, Atelier Ayesha and Holy Sorcery Story in my RPG backlog. I may play different games at the same time, but never of the same genre. I want to play SMTIV next, but am afraid of the time commitment, since I think it is the longest of the bunch….to those who have played it, how much will it take to make a full play through, and how hard is it to get the Neutral path?

    • http://www.siliconera.com/ Ishaan

      Congratulations on your engagement! It took me about 62 hours to get through the game on Neutral. Getting Neutral for me was simply a matter of making the choices that felt most natural, but your experience may vary. There are a number of solid guides out there on how to get Neutral, though, if you’d rather not risk being locked into Law/Chaos.

      After defeating the final boss on Neutral, I spent another 4 hours or so doing post-game stuff. You can go back to older areas once more and there’ll be new things to do. I also kept fighting and trying out new Demon Fusions, but obviously you may not be as invested in the game as I was.

      The hardest part of completing the game, IMO, is going to be the last 5 or 6 hours of the Neutral path. There’s this one quest you have to do, which consists of doing a number of other quests. When I came across it, I put the game down for a few weeks, since there was other stuff I wanted to play at the time. But once I got back into the game and began to do those quests, I found that they helped flesh out the world, so I just kept going and completed the game over the next few days.

      I guess the lesson is, don’t be afraid of putting the game down and coming back to it. It lets you save anywhere, so you can comfortably turn it off and return to it whenever you want. There certainly are points where you’ll want to stop playing for a while, and if you do, that’s okay.

      • Carlos Escalante

        Thanks for the reply and the good vibes :). I guess I’ll start this then in a couple of weeks, when my schedule clears up somewhat. I just “know” I will fall in love with it, the world map music tells me so! 62 hours seems OK, after the semi-torture that was PXZ, which lasted longer and the glory of Fire Emblem, which was an unexpected time sink. I’ll keep in mind trying to just go with the flow instead of just devouring it like I usually do, maybe that way of playing games will suit me better in this period of my life.

  • Shuga Suenaga

    ahh i need to play this game again :D… Havent finished it yet though

  • Göran Isacson

    A very interesting article with a very interesting conclusion. A game that truly demands your time and attention is a rare commodity these days, and I kinda compare this to Bravely Default which I’m playing right now, which in my opinion does a good job at offering options that ease up the game for you. True, even if one can argue that making the random encounters so easy once you’ve done my particular brand of overlevelling, that you can pretty much auto-play through them at fastforward as gaming sessions on emulators of old means their battles are uninteresting. But I swear, some of the boss battles they throw at you, the ones that actually MATTER, really push you to explore the options that the jobs give you. And I have no idea how people who HAVEN’T hella overlevelled and cheesed out OP gear from the sidequest village stores even handle some of these bosses.

    At any rate: this article makes me interested in playing this game, though I am curious about a few things. You mention that you used guides at a few times, if only for efficiency and timeplanning. Do you think this is in and of itself a negative aspect of game design, or can it be forgiven depending on the nature of the game? At times I wonder, because an argument I can’t stand in defense of some JRPG’s is “but if you bear through X hours and read a guide, it’s totally awesome!”. I can bear a slow start, mind you. I can bear a difficult start. What I won’t bear is an obtuse, poorly designed and frustrating start. Would you say that this game is more of a “hang on through the slow start until it really gets going” than a “bear a rain of slingstones, poison-coated arrows and fire while wearing nothing more than ragged newspaper articles as armor until you finally get a break eight hours in” game? Because this article makes the game sound like Shin Megami Tensei: Majoras Mask what with the involving sidequests contrasted to a minimalist main storyline, and I am ALL for that jazz as long as I am not overwhelmed by a slog of a start.

    • Torraint

      well.. there’s a slog of a start IMO

      i even get a game over in the battle intro

      the world map wasn’t intuitive enough since we can’t see the area’s name without actually wandering around.. in that case, maybe a guide is the best solution to avoid time wasting

      • Göran Isacson

        I see. So there is a certain amount of unwieldyness to the GUI. Seems like that’s something of a trend in RPG’s for the 3DS. Their menues and such are often hella cluttered and not always very intuitive.

        • Laer_HeiSeiRyuu

          Um the District Area’s name is on the bottom screen. Its not cluttered actually (Its right at the top of the bottom screen.(You guys gotta pay attention…)

          Personally I didnt realize that till I was in Kasumigaseki and I spent hours wandering around wrecking monsters

      • Laer_HeiSeiRyuu

        You dont need a Faq for SMT 4.

        You may need one for Xenoblade but not SMT4.

        Pay attention to your bottom screen, it says the name of the district right at the top.

    • http://www.siliconera.com/ Ishaan

      You mention that you used guides at a few times, if only for efficiency and timeplanning. Do you think this is in and of itself a negative aspect of game design, or can it be forgiven depending on the nature of the game?

      I think FAQs are part of gaming culture nowadays and I feel that certain games can and should take advantage of that. SMT is clearly a game that’s aimed at enthusiasts who are willing to dig deep and put in the time, so I don’t think the fact that you require a FAQ at certain points is bad design.

      At times I wonder, because an argument I can’t stand in defense of some JRPG’s is “but if you bear through X hours and read a guide, it’s totally awesome!”.

      I’m with you there. I hate the “It gets good after 7 hours!” argument, and in a way, it is kind of hypocritical for me to say the same about SMTIV. That having been said, I think the primary difference is that most games that take so long to get going are badly designed, whereas in SMTIV’s case, it’s more of a deliberate design decision. The entire game is designed very differently from your standard RPG.

      Like Yamai said… it’s something of an anti-thesis. If you think about it, it’s kind of amazing that this game got made, and that it stayed so true to what it was trying to do, despite the fact that it flies in the face of what most people consider standard design convention for RPGs. It really is what makes Atlus special.

      Whether or not you start to enjoy it after you’ve spent 7 or 8 hours depends on what you want out of the game. Do you want an experience like Persona or Tales? If that’s the case, you won’t find that here. There isn’t that much interaction between your characters, and the story isn’t really very much about “you”.

      Instead, it’s a very gameplay-focused RPG. Sometimes, you’ll go hours without the story progressing too much, but the gameplay experience all throughout is top-notch, because you’re exploring these amazing locales with some of the best RPG music I’ve heard in years. During the long stretches that you aren’t being fed any story, you’re just kind of “in the zone,” feeling like a badass, running around to awesome music, wearing a bunny/samurai/ninja/Sub-Zero/whatever outfit and killing and fusing demons.

      It’s a game that relies on its world to pull you in, not its story. If you like the world enough, you won’t want to leave. If you aren’t as much of a “world” person and value story and character interaction more, this may not be the game for you.

      • Göran Isacson

        Just to clarify (language barriers and what not): when you say that it’s no the “story” that pulls you in, but you also praise the sidequests and the way that NPC’s struggles and characters develop in the article, do you consider those things to fall under “world”, which here seems to mean “dungeon and world designs and events that you only notice if you look for them”, rather than “story”: which seems to mean “the main partys conflicts with the main antagonist(s) that the game presents to you upfront”?

        Because at any rate, I do believe this game sounds, at least from your description, a bit Majoras Mask-y. You can blow through the temples and just go for Skull Kid and get back to Hyrule, or you can really wander off the beaten path and check out all the sad, melancholy and heartstringtugging fates Termina has to offer, along with all the masks that give you new abilities… then again, I’m making that comparison presuming you have played Majoras Mask to begin with. Might not be the best idea, that.

        • http://www.siliconera.com/ Ishaan

          I mean that the general atmosphere and “worldview” of the game keeps me invested in it. The desolate state of Tokyo. The music that plays while you’re running through the streets. The way people talk and the things they talk about. The choices you have to make. The art style.

          Those all constitute the “world” or “worldview” of the game to me.

          “Story” constitutes the story of the main protagonist and his direct conflict with the antagonists. On that front, SMT isn’t like other RPGs. There is a story in place, but it’s scattered and you have to go searching for it. Very often, you’ll go a few hours without anything happening, story-wise. That’s because it’s all in the form of a brief conversations you have with NPCs, where they’ll make references to stuff, and it’s up to you to catch it and piece it together.

          Because at any rate, I do believe this game sounds, at least from your description, a bit Majoras Mask-y.

          No no no, not at all. Majora’s Mask was more focused on character development. It took a small set of characters and fleshed them out. You could monitor their daily routines and how they changed, depending on the things you did. SMTIV isn’t about a handful of characters, it’s about an entire city and the general populace of that city.

          In some cases, certain characters are given a bit more attention than others, but for the most part, it’s the “world” that keeps you invested. If you don’t like the world, you probably won’t like the game.

          You mentioned playing Bravely Default, so let me use that as an example and see if it helps. SMTIV is a very, very intense game. The music in every area has a very unique feel to it. It’s not “happy” music, it’s more badass music. The battle theme practically screams “KILL HIM!!!” The spell animations during battle are all of demons being shattered into tiny pieces, zapped by lightning, burnt to a crisp. It’s very… intense.

          In contrast, Bravely Default is more mellow and fantasy-like. Going from SMTIV to Bravely Default is like listening to five hours of metal and then listening to classical music immediately afterward. I don’t know if that made any sense, but that’s how I felt, going from SMTIV to the Bravely Default demo. :P

          • Göran Isacson

            Aaah, that clarifies matters. I think I would use the word “mood” for what you describe as “world”, but now things are looking a little bit clearer. Not too sure if I would like the game though… I’ve played the Digital Devil Saga games and Nocturne, and while I did like both of them well enough (DDS for plot and the concept of eating your enemies, which appeals to me because of strange reasons) and Nocturne’s mood was pretty darn neat at the time I played it, that was back when I had a lot of time to really get down and explore. I am unsure if I would have the time and the inclination to really hunker down and invest in this world if there’s not at least ONE strong character and will driving the plot… but then again, it’s not like I have to decide on buying it straight away being European and all :<

            Ha ha it's funny you say that about Bravely Default, since… well I totally get it and that was the impression I got as well, but while I'm not superfar into it I gotta say: Bravely Default goes to some DARK effing places with great regularity. Granted, not in the bleak and oppressive way this game seems to do dark, and I'm not sure the at times melodramatic storyline is going to go somewhere GOOD, but I have to admit- I feel like it's far darker so far than say, Final Fantasy XIII… at least, to me.

          • http://www.siliconera.com/ Ishaan

            Yeah, it doesn’t sound like SMT will be your cup of tea. It certainly isn’t for everyone, and it does require a significant time investment if you want to get anything out of it.

            Heh, I’ve heard people say the same thing as you did about Bravely Default! I’m curious for the full game, but sadly, the demo didn’t make a very good impression on me. I thought the battle system was kind of confusing. I need to sit down with a FAQ or something one of these days and figure out how it works.

          • Göran Isacson

            The battle system is a strange beast if you go in expecting it to be like the regular Final Fantasy ATB system. At the moment I’m pretty comfortable with it, but it has a MASSIVE amount of choices to it that I’m not always sure are strictly necessary. The game makes a large point of certain supermoves, which I have yet to really need or make much use of.

            Most of my battles are won by speedy characters, funnily enough. When you can store up four “turns” in one go, then have a speedy character who can strike several times in one turn, you can easily waste large amounts of enemies like they’re nothing. Speed really is one of the more useful stats in this game, next to M.Def. It’s how I pretty much do most of my battles: one character has a bow and a job that gives them expertise with the bow and great speed, and they can pretty much slaughter everyone they come across.

            Granted, if any enemy actually SURVIVES the onslaught things can quickly turn very sour… but so far, speed has been the most useful stat for me.

          • Laer_HeiSeiRyuu
  • ElAbuelo69

    Perfect read. My GOTY as well sir.

  • ApexCactus

    Sir, you just made the best “review” of the game I have ever read, and one of the most fun and cool videogame articles I will probably read in my life.
    Thank you.

  • Nickienator

    I’m about 45 hours into the game (got it a little late because I’m from Europe as well), and although I agree with most things you say, I have to say for me as a experienced MegaTen fan the biggest problem with the game is its difficulty. It has so many small changes and elements that make it just a little bit easier, and they combine into the game just being too casual on the possible difficulty settings (which are bullshit in the first place, it should be a challenge not a challenge ‘but not if you don’t want it to be!’). It has the sometimes annoying backtracking and finding out where you have to go a SMT game should have. As you said, it has the worldbuilding and decisions a SMT game should have without pandering to the self-insert player like Persona does. Now if only it had the harshness in terms of battles, time it takes to make a perfect team, etc. a main series MegaTen should have. Why pander to casual players in that way while keeping other elements that will probably chase those players away?

    I really like the game, but not as much as a lot of other MegaTen games. It may get difficult when I get closer to the end (I’m probably pretty far in though), but walking around destroying random encounters before they even get a turn loses its charm fast, and a lot of boss battles doesn’t make up for those boss battles being slightly longer random encounters without any real challenge.

  • Ferofax

    The main reason people nowadays fail to finish games is that we have an absurd amount of quality games popping out at an absurd rate, and to experience most of them would mean literally blazing through every single one. We’re that impatient now. This game demands more time than that, if you want to really enjoy it to the fullest.

    My first playthrough was at 120+ hours, very thorough, but still missed a lot. Pretty much the same length that I sank on SMT Strange Journey.

  • chroma816

    What/where is that optional convo that gives you the “truth about your character”?

    Like the author’s friends, I’ve yet to beat the game, although i’m at least in Tokyo now.

  • keichy

    Russian guy is very wants this game

  • http://s932.photobucket.com/ usagi_san

    Great review. Whenever it comes over – if it ever does – I will pick it up.

  • Drew

    Solid article.
    …the only reason I haven’t completed the game, is because there is nothing else like it on any current platform, and I keep slowly coming back to it after I’m done with other titles. Pleasantly forgetting little bits here and there.

    I could go on, but SMT is a series with serious gravity…art, themes, music, systems…it never tires.

  • Jonathan Cronise

    Gods, this article really hits home… The only reason I haven’t finished SMTIV is because I’m at the end of the Chaos Route, playthrough 2, and I can’t beat goddamn Lucifer. Tried at least 5 times.

    In any case, I got a lot of enjoyment out of the subtleties of the story, especially that Jonathan moment of “…Eh?” I came to the same conclusion about the area earlier, but thinking back, there are tons of ways to interpret each event, not just that one. Does this alternate world take place in the future? The past? Both simultaneously? Even the smallest of comments (“Oh, wow, [X] looks a lot like [Y]!”) can contain a lot of exposition should you take a second to think about them.

    • Jonathan Cronise

      Ah, crap, non-stealth edit, Law Route. You don’t fight Lucifer on the Chaos route.

  • Laer_HeiSeiRyuu

    Unfortunately I know all to well about “real people” losing what made them who they are.

    I take it you’d like Wind Waker more than Majora’s Mask.

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