First Impressions – Shin Megami Tensei IV (the game, this time!)

I’ve put about 10-12 hours into the game since picking it up, that should be enough for a quick rundown of my thoughts, yeah? I’d make this a full review, but I prefer to save those until I’ve actually beaten the thing, on the chance that something unexpectedly horrible should pop up. Anyway, let’s get started.

First, let me just say that this game is all about convenience for the player. Whether it’s the ability to save everywhere or being able to manually pick the skills that fused demons inherit, Shin Megami Tensei IV understands that some things from the series could stand to change. The game plays like an upgraded version of Persona 4, allowing you to run around and smack demons for a guaranteed preemptive strike. One of my favorite little touches about the running around bit of the gameplay is how you can actually interact with your environment. See a chest on a ledge above you? Well, jump and get up to it! It’s a really small thing, but the ability to go up ledges or jump across pits makes it seem more ‘real,’ for lack of a better word. It’s not like Nocturne where finding a pit means you’ve gotten find another way around.

In terms of non-exploration gameplay, the game does some pretty cool stuff as well. Anyone who’s played a MegaTen game knows the frustration when the enemy gets off a lucky Mudo on your main character, especially if you haven’t saved in a while. Your main character can finally die without you having to start over, which gives you a bit more choices than ‘make sure the main character has a ton of defense and resists or nulls dark magic.’

Speaking of magic, Shin Megami Tensei IV does something I’ve never seen with its Demon Whisper mechanic. Whenever a demon learns all of its natural abilities, it can pass the non-passive ones onto the main character, or upgrade ones shared by the demon and human. I really, really enjoy this mechanic because it gives you an incentive to keep your demons around until they’ve learned everything, just in case you can upgrade Fang Breaker or Agilao.The game does have a pretty big issue in my book, though. The sidequests, called Challenge Quests, are… clunky to say the least. While most other games let you do the sidequests alongside the main story, Challenge Quests are the exact opposite, forcing you to put the story on hold (which limits where you can go) for the sidequest to work.

I’m not totally sure why they did this, as most of the sidequests involve places you’ve either already been and have ‘cleared’ from a story perspective, or places that you wouldn’t go anyway. The fact that you can only have one sidequest at a time going, outside of the ‘collect X of this thing’ ones, is a pain in the ass as well. You can’t just go beat up a dragon, then save a kid from a forest, then go hunt someone down in Tokyo. Nope, you’ve gotta manually select the ‘beat up dragon’ sidequest, do that, select another one, rinse and repeat.

From my admittedly-limited experience of the game, I’ve gotta say that this is the best in the series. It’s not as ridiculously hard and unforgiving as Nocturne, but it remains challenging enough for a MegaTen game. I’d say this, combined with the limited edition I mentioned in my last post, is more than enough for fans of the series to pick it up and the convenience of it makes it a nice entry point for folks looking to get into MegaTen. Anyway, I’m out for now. As always, thanks for reading and have a good’un.

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