We need more gameplay-focused titles. Story is an important facet in any modern game, but recently, releases like Beyond: Two Souls have suggested the apple has fallen a little far from the tree. That is exactly why Shin Megami Tensei IV is so fresh, because it emphasizes hardcore gameplay while simultaneously telling a formidable tale. The core of the experience is bent on fusing, battling and customizing your demons, making for both a deep and strategic playthrough. In short, if you have a 3DS, you need this game.
Two, Very Different Worlds:
For anyone unaware, Shin Megami Tensei revolves around worlds where both demons and humans live together. Low and behold, the humans the demons are fighting each other, causing you to get involved. In 4, you are a samurai in the Eastern Kingdom of Mikado, tasked with travelling to The Unclean One's country. It doesn't take long for players to discover that this unholy place is actually a post-apocalyptic Tokyo. I won't say much more, but know that your choices will bring about different scenarios and different endings, allowing for a more personal journey.
Though the story is strong, some of the characters are lacking. Both Jonathan and Walter are deep, interesting personalities, but others like Isabeau are archetypes in the anime genre. For example, Isabeau tends to stay neutral and laugh at the men's silly misfortunes. This does have an effect on the overall quality, but for the most part, I cared about the supporting cast.
One of my only issues with the title is the world map of Tokyo, which has you as a dot on the screen. It's very hard to navigate through, but not so hard that it will turn you away forever. For the most part, the only time it will be of any frustration is when trying to remember locations of certain side quests. And luckily, the bulk of your time is spent outside the world map, travelling certain regions like Shinjuku and Shibuya. Yet, exploration takes a backseat to the real star of the show: the combat.
It's Just A Press To The Left:
Shin Megami Tensei IV relies on the Press-Turn system, which operates much like its predecessors. Each time you use an attack that exploits an enemy's weakpoint, you gain an extra turn. Thus, strategizing becomes key, as an enemy uses the same system on you. I found myself dying in certain situations, only realizing I needed to change up my strategy. And the strategy relies on demons. In the game you will encounter demons in battle. By talking to them you can recruit them to your squad. This is done through conversation, which can end in the demon attacking you, joining you or even running away. The conversations can be hilarious, but can also weigh heavy on your wallet as demons will ask for gifts. But that's not all. You can also fuse your demons to make more powerful ones, bringing over traits from each fused demon. This allows players to customize what skill set each demon has. Do I want a physical attack demon, or one with magic and status ailments? It's up to you. Much like Pokémon, you are at liberty to make the type of team you want
Also of significance is that each demon is based on actual mythology. You'll encounter Greek gods like Dionysus or Norse ones such as Thor. Each also has a specific backstory. And accessing all this information is intuitive and fast.
SMT IV is a true portable game. You can save at anytime, battles are quick and memorable, and the demon fusion system is easy to manage. This gem will keep you busy for tens of hours.