Shin Megami Tensei IV Review
Shin Megami Tensei IV Box Art
System: 3DS
Dev: Atlus
Pub: Atlus
Release: July 16, 2013
Players: 1
Screen Resolution: N/A Blood, Language, Partial Nudity, Sexual Themes, Violence

The lethal nature of battles keeps them fairly short, but the high risk of disaster and frequent encounter rate means that only players with a high level of patience and an established love of turn-based combat will have the energy to get very far in Shin Megami Tensei IV. There's absolutely nothing wrong with this, because the game does what it does very well. We'll call it Dark Souls for the turn-based crowd. If you're up for a game that, like its demonic inhabitants, doesn't care if you live or die, this one is more than happy to welcome you into its thorny embrace.

There's been some debate over the aesthetics of the game, although the SMT series has never been known to be graphically on the cutting edge. Outside of dungeons, many activities take place against still backgrounds that resemble nineteenth-century paintings in their general style and color palette. Dungeons and other dangerous areas feature 3D graphics, though battles switch back to 2D sprites. Although somewhat dreary and lacking a unified style between the 3D and 2D segments, I found the graphics to be properly evocative of the game's themes, and the 2D sprites (especially the demons) to be as excellently designed as always.

Shin Megami Tensei IV Screenshot

In fact, if you've never experienced the crazy menagerie that is SMT's demonic compendium, this game might be worth it simply to do so. Inspired by folklore and religions from all corners of the Earth, the demon designs range from adorable to genuinely creepy to delightfully bizarre. Everybody loves the cuddly Jack Frost, but the Dybbuk possessor demon is designed to make you shiver, and the ambulatory penis-demon Mara just dares you not to crack a smile. Even more than the Persona games, SMT IV demonstrates why this series is sometimes referred to as Pokemon for grown-ups.

The game's soundtrack is highly atmospheric, lacking in the cool hip-hop tracks that pervade the Persona games. Instead, it ranges from grinding electronica to traditional organ music, depending on the situation. It's just about exactly the kind of music one might expect from the kind of game it is, and it tends to set the mood quite effectively, even if none of it will ever get stuck in your head. The voice acting is completely unexceptional; it's not awful, but there's not a lot of emotion put into it, either. In general, the look and sound of the game contribute to its atmosphere, but they aren't particularly exceptional examples of video game art.

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Shin Megami Tensei IV is the kind of game that has some people doing their happy dance and others running for the hills. If you're looking for hard-won victories, an impressive collection of demons, and some genuine Crazy Japanese Stuff (I say that with all affection) to be had from the story, then congratulations. This game is for you, and like me, you'll get a kick out of it. If you're more interested in heartwarming stories, relatable characters, or relaxation from your RPGs, I recommend checking out the Persona 3 and 4 instead.

By
Becky Cunningham
Contributing Writer
Date: July 18, 2013

RATING OUT OF 5
RATING DESCRIPTION
3.5
Graphics
The demons are great; the rest is competent but not exceptional.
3.5
Control
Initiating battle can be awkward sometimes, but otherwise, it's all menus.
3.7
Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The music rarely asks for attention, but supports the game's atmosphere well.
4.0
Play Value
For its audience, SMT IV offers a palpable challenge and many hours of demon-collecting fun.
3.8
Overall Rating - Good
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
Review Rating Legend
0.1 - 1.9 = Avoid 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 3.5 - 3.9 = Good 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair 4.0 - 4.4 = Great 5.0 = The Best

Game Features:

  • A World to Discover, A Mystery to Uncover: The life of a Samurai is fraught with peril. Players must leave the safety of the kingdom in order to defend it from the invading demons. There the story unfolds as they become involved in a fierce battle between God and demons. Shin Megami Tensei IV is a single-player experience.
  • Demon Collection and Fusion: The core mechanic of the Shin Megami Tensei series returns with more than 400 demons to recruit, collect, and fuse together. Players will constantly be challenged with balancing the strengths of their demons to ultimately excel in battle.
  • Choices and Consequences: Throughout the player's journey, they must choose their own path. The choices will affect them, other NPCs, and the overall outcome of the story. Branching story paths require careful consideration since the Eastern Kingdom of Mikado and the post-apocalyptic remnants of Tokyo hang in the balance.
  • Pressing the Combat Advantage: The Press Turn system requires strategic thinking for every battle. Pinpointing an enemy's weakness will provide a vital extra turn for players to exploit. But there are dangers as well...reckless attacks against demons cause players to lose their turns and give the enemy an opening to strike back.
  • An All-Star Development Team: A decade in the making, the development team boasts the creative talent of staff from such well-known games and series as Persona, SMT: Nocturne, Devil Summoner, Trauma Center, SMT: Strange Journey, Digital Devil Saga, and Soul Hackers.

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