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Game Guys review - Shin Megami Tensei IV

7:18 PM, Jul 23, 2013   |    comments
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  • Nintendo 3DS game 'Shin Megami Tensei IV' from Atlus.
  • Nintendo 3DS game 'Shin Megami Tensei IV' from Atlus.

Atlus' Shin Megami Tensei series, including its spinoffs such as Persona and Devil Summoner, have gained quite the reputation for being well involved.  The franchise's latest entry, 3DS game Shin Megami Tensei IV, is no different.  But those who tough it out will find the game offers a rather satisfying play experience rarely found on the platform.

Taking place in the core series' core location of Mikado, a kingdom that looks 70/30 inspired by feudal Japan and medieval Europe, players take control of Flynn (it's a default name that players can change to suit their fancy).  He gets recruited into the kingdom's very selective order of samurai and quickly meets his new brethren and the different moralities they represent.

Unlike many other JRPGs, players aren't just given a party of like-minded souls.  Rather, Flynn goes it somewhat alone and needs to recruit demons - yes, the very demons he's fighting - to aid him.  Recruiting them isn't all that easy, though, as each one has his or her own personality and may or may not join the protagonist depending on how he interacts with the demon in question.  It's an interesting concept and one that the series tends to be known for, though the learning curve is quite steep and will likely turn off some players.  Luckily the rest of combat is fairly industry standard (even its under-impressive "smirk" mechanic) and is fairly simple to grasp.

Of course, when it comes to the recruiting of demons, just adding them to your party is only part of the fun.  Demons can also be fused together to create something new entirely.  Accomplished thanks to the Cathedral of Shadows, players shan't be surprised to sink many hours into this part of demon management.

As far as characters and story goes, SMTIV isn't the strongest of the franchise.  Far from it, in fact.  For a series (spin-offs included) that tends to have a very interesting and intricate storylines and characters, this game comes off as flat and a bit bland.  While a couple of the characters do represent some very core ideals within the game such as Jonathan and Walter being stand-ins for the concepts of order and chaos, most are paper-thin and dismissible.  And, while the game often throws the player into this-or-that morality dilemmas, rarely does it seem like there will be long-term repercussions either way for many of the decisions.

As far as presentation goes on the 3DS, SMTIV does an alright job overall.  The game makes adequate use of the platform's 3D capabilities, through rather than having 3D-looking models things appear more as 2D cutouts placed in a 3D realm.  While the depth is very much there as is detail, one has but to wonder how different the game could have looked (for better or for worse) had the developers used 3D models.  Still, it's acceptable and seems to work okay for this game.

While there are some semi-minor aspects that knock this game down a few pegs (ie: flat graphics and a steep learning curve), Shin Megami Tensei IV is a pleasant departure from the standard fare of JRPGs, or even modern RPGs in general.  It's great that such a game was chosen as a 3DS title rather than a more hardcore-oriented platform such as PS Vita or the home consoles, as it gives the portable Nintendo gaming device something unique that should attract a more mature audience to an otherwise youthful platform.

19/25 19/25 18/25 15/25 22/25 78/100

Version tested: 3DS

(Atlus supplied a copy of this game for review.)

See how what our review scores mean and how the math adds up.


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