Shin Megami Tensei IV takes place in the feudal era with a twist. Players start as a new prentice to the samurai, honored warriors for the kingdom. After a few assignments, players face the Black Samurai who uproots the lives of the hero and his comrades, turning logic on its side. Beneath the kingdom is a post-apocalyptic version of Tokyo, running rampant with demons. It’s an intriguing tale that’s ripe with mystery and a decent set of characters, if not somewhat predictable and cliché.
For newcomers of the series, think of this as a splice between Pokémon and a turn based dungeon crawler. Players will take on story missions, along with side quests, and traverse dungeons in the name of killing demons and looting treasure. The hero can recruit demons, with three accompanying him in the party, and multiple other demons tagging along in side slots. Demons can also be fused together, creating more powerful monsters. The gameplay is deep, yet straightforward and easy to understand. The actual game itself is brutal and demands experience grinding. There are remedies, however. The difficulty can be lowered if players die twice, plus for a bit of gold, or SpotPass Coins, players can revive themselves with progress intact. It’s tough, but fair.
In terms of the art design in SMTIV, it’s great. The dark colors, mixed with the moody atmosphere are both unsettling and enticing. Unfortunately, it all falls a little flat as well. Characters are simple 2D drawings with no depth along with the monsters, which again, are well crafted. The environments suffer as well from repetitive and uninspired designs. The music is a decent enough mix of rock and electronica rounding out the score. What the game lacks in a modern sense, it makes up for with tons of content.
Shin Megami Tensei IV is a great throwback in the vein of old school design and classic RPG elements. It’s got an insane amount of depth to it for hardcore gamers, while offering help to the new crowd as well. It doesn’t strive toward newer amenities and the story is a bit lacking, but hey, as far as RPGs go, this is one of the best of the year. Plus for tired Pokémon fans looking for a more grown up version, this is the drug.
Score: 4/5 Stars
Special Notes: This article was originally published on October 15, 2013 via my Examiner account before the website shut down.