Shin Megami Tensei IV was a bit of a breath of fresh air when it was released three years ago. A darker, more ‘realistic’ RPG on the 3DS where the characters felt human and less like an anime cast. It was the first game in the SMT main series in over a decade. This game takes the story from that previous game, continues where it left off and streamlines a lot of the mechanics present in that game. It all makes for a much improved experience on an already stellar game.
SMTIV: Apocalypse is a sort of pseudo-sequel / side story to the original game released back in 2013. The events of this game take place about three-fourths of the way through the original. You see Flynn and his crew of samurai as they are finishing up their fight to save Tokyo and the world. From there you are cast into the role of Nanashi, a teenager who has aspirations to help save the world as well. The game takes place a number of years after the events of the first one and many of the things we take for granted today have become lost to time and regarded as legend by some people. You, and your friend Asahi join a group of fighters called Hunters. They work on the edges of the fight to help Flynn. Occasionally your paths cross and Flynn will help you. You work to make Tokyo livable amongst the fight between angels and demons.
Like its predecessor the bulk of this game and its combat mechanics, which are brilliant and incredibly well designed, revolves around demons. Your party consists mainly of yourself and your team of demons, which you recruit throughout the game by fighting and negotiating with them. The other characters, like Asahi or a returning character from the first game who’s taken on a slightly new form, are limited to supporting roles and will show up and act on their own during battle. Each of the demons and their attacks revolve around a number of different elements. They are strong to some and weak to others. Learning these weaknesses and how to combat them will absolutely be necessary to your survival.
As with the previous game you recruit the demons through negotiating. During a fight your character can converse with them. If they take a liking to you during these conversations they’ll join you. You have to figure out exactly what each demon wants, though, and it’s not always easy to decipher that. Sometimes you have to show strength by intimidating them. Sometimes you have to show compassion, give them or a gift or just show that you want to be their friend. Each demon is different.
Once you’ve gained a nice stock of demons you can begin to fuse them together. Doing this will take the skills and stats of those demons and combine them with another to make a stronger demon. There are some limitations to this system such as not being able to fuse demons of a higher skill than you are, but there are ways to get around that. If you’ve played a game in this series, or the Persona series you’ll know exactly what to expect. If you’re new to the series the demon fusing can be a bit overwhelming. Luckily the game does a very good job of explaining and making this process as easy as possible. People who really get to know the system can utilize it to create special combinations to create unique, very powerful demons.
What this game does well is streamlines the whole game making it more accessible for new players while giving series veterans plenty of new toys to play with as well. Most of this is done through apps on your smartphone (a recurring theme in the world of Shin Megami Tensei and its spin-offs). These apps let you customize and tailor the experience to your liking. You can make it easier to convince demons to join your fight. You can earn rewards from recruiting them to your cause. Other apps allow you to increase the size of your demon stable, learn more skills to give you more advantage in fights or to pinpoint locations on the map that will be very useful to explore. The best part about this app system is you can use as few or as many as you like adjusting the challenge of the game in your own way. You do have to earn app points to unlock these apps and that’s generally done by leveling up your character. Completing challenges in the game can also earn more app points. You’ll find yourself revisiting the different apps on your phone as you play through the game. Once bought you can’t turn apps off so make sure you know which ones you want when you purchase them.
Fans of the first game will recognize some of the locations you explore, but even these familiar locations will have new places to peek around in. The Tokyo underground is the main hub for the game. There you’ll find all the various shops and places you’d expect to see in RPGs. You’ll meet characters that can give you little tidbits into the day to day life of people in Tokyo and you’ll find the world’s quick travel hub there as well. The dungeons in the game, despite being set in a very dark and grim world are actually quite different from each other. You’ll go from dark, underground areas, dilapidated city blocks to overly colorful fairy forests.
What I did find was that I enjoyed myself as much, if not more, in this game than I did with the game back in 2013. The story of Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse continues in a really nice way. You get hints of what’s happened to the characters of the first game in the years since. At the same time you get to learn the stories of a new set of characters that are, I think, even more likeable than the first time around. You’ll not be disappointed spending another 70-100 hours or more inside this game. It’s a great way to revisit a world that’s familiar while making it feel brand new at the same time.
Review copy of the game provided by Atlus
Played through the full story.
Total Play Time: 75 hours