The lights are on
After playing the opening of Shin Megami Tensei IV, I can
already tell the journey is deeper than what you see on the surface.
Thought-provoking premonitions start the adventure, with two distinct
characters offering me different paths. Walter urges me to make a world where
anything can be changed with will. Jonathan, on the other hand, wants me to
choose everlasting peace. Suddenly, a vision of a girl begging for revival
flashes in, and I'm left to ponder its meaning. Tragedy? Power? Heroics?
Anything is possible in the dark SMT universe, and the fourth installment shows
promise of continuing the series' pristine legacy.
[This preview originally appeared in Game Informer issue #242]
SMT IV begins in the eastern kingdom of Mikado, with
buildings reminiscent of medieval Europe's majestic stone structures. Here you
must take part in the Gauntlet Rite, a ceremony that grants you samurai status
and allows you to live in the Mikado castle. The ceremony is simple -
touch the gauntlet and it accepts or rejects you. Your character and his
friend's fates for a different life all hinge on this moment. The tension is
palpable as your friend is rejected and you earn your right to be a samurai.
"We kept the punk-rock soul of SMT alive by exploring mature
themes, non-traditional fantasy settings, and our own canon that pulls from
different mythos and religions," says director Kazuyuki Yamai. As the themes
wax philosophically, choices branch off into the classic SMT law/chaos
Eventually, the tale takes you to modern-day Tokyo, but
Yamai wants players to experience this themselves rather than give away plot
points. "Modern-day Tokyo is presented as seen through the eyes of someone from
of the Eastern Kingdom of Mikado," Yamai says. "The problems our society holds
will be made very clear through your eyes as a visitor." Yamai thought seeing
realistic problems like government distrust, class division, and the
disillusionment of youth would "bring more reality to the game."
Social issues aren't the only sources of conflict. True to
SMT, demons are at the root of a catastrophe, and you must defeat them while
finding out why they're invading the lands. Exploring the first dungeon, it's
clear that punishing battles return to SMT IV. The labyrinth is full of dead
ends, collectable relics, and deadly foes. Sneaking up on enemies and engaging
them from behind grants a preemptive strike. However, if they ambush you,
expect to start the battle at a disadvantage.
Demon recruitment is essential to your survival. With close
to 500 demons, options to alter your party are around every corner. Demons
acquire experience regardless of battle participation, but beware that putting
them on the bench gives a reduced EXP rate. Leveling up demons teaches them new
skills, which can be passed to the main character. This is a great way to customize
your skills, but only a limited number can be brought into combat. Four
equippable skills are available at the onset, but more slots open up throughout
SMT IV preserves the press turn system that originated in
Nocturne, where you can pass turns to the most desired character for the fight.
Striking a demon's weakness uses up just half a turn, while using a skill they
are strong against will expend two turns. One new element in battle is that
enemies and players can smirk - boosting all their stats, like magical
resistance, evade, and defense. Attacking a smirking enemy can be costly with
all its increased resistances. The smirk option becomes available by exploiting
weaknesses and scoring multiple critical hits.
If the daunting battles concern you, fear not. Dying more
than twice unlocks the option to turn down the difficulty, which can be adjusted
outside of battle at any point. "That doesn't mean we made the game easier and
toned it down, though," Yamai says. "We, the development staff, understand the
essence of each game system in the SMT series. We lowered the hurdle for
newcomers, yet made sure to maintain the soul of SMT."
After my brief sojourn with SMT IV, I want more. The
standout dialogue, engaging storyline, and hell-raising battles make the wait
until July that much harder.
Email the author Kimberley Wallace, or follow on Twitter, and Game Informer.
Oh, that's cool alright.
I loved Persona 4 Golden, but i suck at jrpg's, there is a very easy mode, so that helped a lot, will this have a 'noob' mode for people like me, this looks like it will have a great story, but i suck at the combat
So glad I pre-ordered the CE!
Definitely on my must buy list. I'm hoping to preorder this next month.
This game is a must buy.
2 months more!