Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse

As a fan of the SMT games and a die-hard fan of their spin-off Persona games, I wanted to like SMTIV:Apocalypse, but I just can’t get into it. I played a bit of the first SMTIV and really didn’t care for it. This game is more of the same, but with less likable characters. I love the post-apocalyptic setting and the imagery, however the NPCs that you share living space with are completely devoid of character other than their names/descriptions like as “irrational woman” or “grizzly man”. No joke, these are the game’s style of naming unimportant NPCs. I guess it gives the idea that there are more people living in this tight area than if they only allowed you to explore your direct living space and an open gathering space. Still, if they’re trying to show over-crowding, I don’t get that vibe with one or two kids wandering around and a bar that only has 2-5 people to speak with.

I love the idea of summoning demons via smartphone apps, and that society still has smart phones and networks for such things. Let’s face it, we’re not giving that shit up as a people after the world goes to complete shit. There’s a lot that I do like about the game, but just as much that I just can’t forgive. There is zero support for the *New* 3DS in the form of controlling the camera with the nub or even a circle pad pro, should you have one. Instead, it relies on camera controls from the first Persona game, which is using the L and R buttons to pan left and right. Not only does that offer a terrible camera, it also closes off shortcut options. Perhaps the game doesn’t need shortcuts, but I haven’t encountered an RPG that wouldn’t be better with them, even if it’s just so you can advance dialog. I’m playing 4 other games along with this one, and each one of them use a second analog or the 3DS’ nub for camera controls, so coming back to SMTIV:A feels more like slogging through an old PS1 game that I only kind of like when I really just want to play Monster Hunter with my friends.

To me, SMTIV:A is a game made for fans of SMTIV. It’s a side story to the original, and often uses the characters from IV as a crutch to tell a story from the view of a regular person. You play as Nanashi who dies before you get past the introduction. A demon restores you back to your former self and grants you access to some of his powers if you agree to become his godslayer. Naturally, you agree so you can rescue your friend. Nanashi seems like he’s kind of a rebel and bad ass judging by his punk-like clothes, hair, and especially the look on his face. As it turns out, he’s a little fanboy of Flynn and follows in his shadow for over half of the game. After a while he comes out of Flynn’s shadow, and has a very enjoyable story of his own. Once that happens, it’s much more enjoyable. I just wish it didn’t take as long as it does to get to that point.

There are some highlights to the game. First, the map is much improved over SMTIV. Other improvements include the game’s tutorial is much more intuitive, smarter and faster to navigate menus and user interface, and an easier to understand demon fusion system. If you’re a die-hard fan of the series, ignore most of what I’ve said and continue playing, because you probably already knew all of this going in. It’s better than IV in some ways, and not so great in others, but it’s still SMT at it’s core. It just didn’t grab me.

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