It’s been nine years since Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne, but the fourth entry in the SMT series is here.
Fans may have been worried that Shin Megami Tensei IV would suffer by being a handheld title on a Nintendo system, but don’t worry; SMT is everything fans will want and more.
The story picks up in the Eastern Kingdom of Mikado with your main character joining other Luxurors (upper class) and Casualries (lower class) 18-year-olds in taking the Gauntlet Rite. If a person puts on the gauntlet and it glows, they become a Samurai who is tasked with defending the kingdom.
Of course, you put it on and become a Samurai (if you didn’t the story would end pretty early, wouldn’t it). You quickly find out with the other recruits that the main threat is demons, a mainstay in the series, and you have to help solve the threat and the cause.
While the game seems to follow a pretty standard formula, there are some big twists in SMT IV’s story that really helps make it worth experiencing, including having a medieval setting compared to settings other entries in the series have had.
Another quick point to touch on is the maturity of the game. This isn’t lighthearted just because it’s on a Nintendo system. The game has plenty of drama and other maturity that past entries have had, and is a worthy title to carry the SMT title.
Even though it’s a handheld title, the series maintains a lot of mainstays as previous titles. The battle system is the still the Press Turn system, although it does feature a few additions. Each enemy has a weakness that can be exploited to give you extra moves in combat, but a new battle turner called the Smirk system is also displayed here.
By getting an effective attack, and enemy or ally can grin, letting them flash yellow and launch even stronger attacks in battle. This can either quickly turn a battle into your favor or make an easy victory become a crushing defeat.
This all ties into the difficulty the game has. While it’s nowhere near as unforgiving as a game like Demon Souls, it’s not afraid to drop you into the thick of things where one attack can destroy anything you’ve been working towards. However, a difficulty setting is unlocked after dying a few times, and you can revive yourself at the River Styx by either paying Macca or using 3DS Game Coins that you’ve accumulated, meaning I’ve taken to leaving my 3DS on more on the go.
Another big part of the game that’s back is demon talking. Sure, you can just kill the demons, but that won’t get you past the tutorial. Instead, you’ll have to talk to them throughout the game, giving them items, health, lying to them and more to make them befriend you to fight alongside you. Demons will also stop a fight if you talk to them and the same type of demon is in a party.
After getting a demon, you can level them to learn more skills (letting your character learn extra skills at the same time), fuse them into bigger, more powerful demons and resummons them with Macca to use again if wanted. The fusion system is well designed as well, giving you the three best fusions with the demons you have available or letting you customize the fusion as wanted. Don’t worry, there’ll be plenty of fusions in the game since it has more than 400 demons to find and collect.
While fights take place in the first person with sprites that don’t often move, walking around dungeons are a third person affair where characters can attack an enemy to try and cause a bit of extra damage at the start of battle or try to dodge enemies and avoid a battle. I’m not sure why they didn’t use a combat system similar to Persona 4, which would have worked well here, but the spell animations and occasional pieces of movement are still nice.
Dungeons have different levels to traverse, along with various missions and side quests you can accept at the Samurai bar. To assist with what quests you are doing and where to go is Burroughs, your guide in the gauntlet that lets you access the menu and helps you know where to go.
One thing to note is that, while the game starts out very menu heavy going between different parts of town, it does open up after the intro is over and you get access to the overworld. Once it opens up into more of an exploration-based game, expect to put at least 40 hours or so in the title, depending on how much you explore or work with the demon system.
One of the biggest worries gamers may have had were the graphics and cutscenes. Thankfully, they’re both top notch here, on par with previous entries in the title, and the game is even fully voiced. The soundtrack is also amazing to hear, as in past games, with tracks really playing up the mood in areas you travel through.
The 3DS is also utilized nicely for the game. The 3D effects in here actually made me want to play the game in 3D, a rarity with 3D titles for me, and Atlus made great work of the two screens. The top is used for combat and exploring dungeons, while the bottom is used for attacks, menus and stats.
Atlus has done a great job making another must-have RPG. Shin Megami Tensei IV is everything a RPG fan could want in a portable RPG and more. Sure, it may have some difficulty spikes and annoyances with demos, but the game is definitely a great game to add to any gamer’s collection.