December 9, 2016
“Oh those pesky angels and demons seem to be waging war once again with humans caught in the cross-fire. And here I am without a mobile phone signal.”
Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse is the much-anticipated next game in the turn based JRPG series by Atlus for Nintendo 3DS. But rather than being a sequel, the storyline is more of parallel continuation of Shin Megami Tensei IV, set during the latter half of Flynn’s storyline fighting for the human race against the forces of Lucifer and Merkabah.
You play as the rookie Hunter Nanashi living with the last remnants of the human race in a dystopian Tokyo forced underground (or more accurately, under a dome) as a result of the war between Heaven and Hell as well as several nuclear strikes. You are accompanied by a stereotypical annoying and ditsy female sidekick Asahi (and yes, she specialises in healing). And while the story starts off as a rather lame choose-your-own-adventure (or lack thereof), you only need to wait until one of your first battles, and then you die.
Now the fun really begins!
Nanashi is resurrected by a demon Dagda and becomes his weapon in exchange for another chance at life. Armed with a smart phone that can summon demons (yes, there is actually an app for that), as well as a blade and gun, you pit yourself against the forces of Heaven and Hell with a storyline that stays true to its predecessor offering multiple endings depending on the alignment you choose.
SMT IV: Apocalypse is what you will get if Pokémon were from Hell.
You collect (i.e. bribe or threaten) demons you encounter and then using the app Mido, you can fuse together compatible demons to form new, and more often than not more powerful demon forms with the ability to customise moves for your new creation. Each brings with them different moves and abilities that have advantages and disadvantages over different types.
Does this sound bizarre? That is because it is.
With a soundtrack that skips between captivating and elevator torture, a storyline that is extremely slow to start with, and a plethora of completely useless NPCs to waste your time, it is this continual “upgrading” of your demon team that captures your attention.
Some of these creations will be instantly familiar from mythological stories, some are truly horrific creations and others are just downright silly or hilarious. It would be nice if a bit more variety was used for their voices and conversation choices, but these are overall quite minor criticisms.
The artwork of the demons is quite amazing, and overall this is simply a beautiful game. Well as beautiful as a dystopian world can be.
The graphics when you travel around the world are smooth and fluid, unless of course you encounter an NPC who will literally slide you across the map if you stop in their path. The battle graphics are far more simple though you quickly become accustomed to the style after a few hours of gameplay.
If anything the only drawback to the look of the game are the repetitive and at times uninspiring map designs. Tokyo contains many iconic suburbs and these could have been incorporated more effectively.
The gameplay is not overly difficult and most battles can be won by using default attacks rather than exploiting your enemies’ weaknesses. This being said the controls are responsive and menu system quite easy to navigate in battle mode.
There are three difficulties to play as (Skirmish, Conflict or War) and I chose Conflict, mainly because I am still scarred over the difficulty to the point of no-longer-being-fun levels in the recent title Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest.
That is not to say that the game is not without challenge. It is a shock to the system once a boss character appears to start thinking about healing and buffs to win with minimal losses. Expect your demons to die. A lot. They can be revived and you have access to your active line up during battles for relatively quick replacements if need be.
You also have the aid of a “partner”, a NPC who accompanies you and provides funny (or annoying) banter depending on who you choose, with each partner adding a different tactical advantage to the battle.
You may struggle getting into this game, but I urge you to spend some time to enjoy its entertaining bizarreness. If you like the turn-based gameplay of RPGs such as those by Square Enix, and the “catch them all” aspect to Pokémon you are in for a treat, and if you are a mythology buff such as myself you will enjoy collecting these creatures more than the overall storyline.
If you are after an engrossing storyline, take a deep breath. The overall plot is quite fascinating, particularly in hindsight, however it is slow and choosing your path seems most of the time as quite pointless, as most of the “decisions” regarding NPCs end up with the same immediate result.
- Beautiful graphics and artwork
- Addictive gameplay
- Choice of character alignment
- Very slow storyline
- NPCs become annoying
- Stereotypical characters
Overall a fun and captivating game to continue the Shin Megami Tensei IV storyline. Will provide hours of fun but you will find yourself mindlessly skipping the conversation screens.