The lights are on
When Atlus released the original
Shin Megami Tensei on iOS devices last week, North American gamers got a
glimpse of the beginning of a now-beloved series. Considering this Super
Famicom classic is now over 20 years old, it's hard not to wonder: Does it hold
up for gamers who started off with Persona and the newer titles? Shin Megami
Tensei iOS certainly has a lot to love, but it has a few stumbling blocks, too.
I played the first few hours to determine some of the pros and cons of this new
Pro: It's Super Old-School
Fans of classic RPGs know everything
to expect in their favorite games: a secret to uncover in just about every
dungeon, the ability to bend and break the game systems to your will, and a
tough challenge that requires sincere thought for every move. Shin Megami
Tensei is no different, as this 1992 title is just about as hardcore as it
gets; not afraid to shove you into a dungeon with no on-screen auto-map and
limited access to healing items. The battles are tough and the dungeons are
just as unforgiving. If you find yourself a glutton for punishment in games
like Dark Souls, it might be worth checking out SMT.
Con: It's Super Old-School
On the other hand, fans of
classic RPGs also know their pitfalls: a complete lack of a
direction for the player, the requirement to know your exact location in a
dungeon where each hallway looks just like the next, and unfair battles where
you're doomed to failure before you've even started. Instant death spells lurk
around what seems like every corner. While some of the trappings of older RPGs
are quaint and fun, others remind us why they rarely show up in modern RPGs.
Finding yourself stuck in a dungeon, no save points in sight, with a few meager
hit points and no way to escape is not an ideal way to go through a game. Maybe
that's for you, but there's a chance you just don't have the patience for that
kind of torment.
Pro: Seeing Demon Negotiation At
Shin Megami Tensei started the
demon negotiation seen in later titles like Soul Hackers, Nocturne, and, most
recently, Shin Megami Tensei IV. The system hasn't changed drastically in
structure, because it works. Luring unpredictable demons to your side is part
of the fun. SMT requires you to choose whether to approach a demon aggressively
or with a gentle touch, and then lets you schmooze to get the demon into the
party. Bribing or brute force can make them see why they need to be on your
side. However, demons are notoriously finicky, so you may not always get the
answer you want even if it's approached oh-so-delicately. Expect plenty of
trial-and-error to convince them to join your fight.
Con: The Controls Are Terrible
Chances are you've played a
classic console game hastily ported to a mobile device before, and the
experience is usually unimpressive. Unless an extensive amount of work has gone
into the mobile version, it probably uses the old standby: a virtual d-pad and
set of buttons. SMT does this and finds itself significantly worse off for it.
Navigating through the first-person dungeons is frustrating, and without an
on-screen auto-map, turning yourself around with a quick touch does nothing but
get you lost. Tapping left or right will rotate the character, but tapping down
flips him 180 degrees – something that happened often. Sure, you can dig into
the menu to figure out your location, but when this happens every few minutes,
the time loss is terrible. Combine that with the fact that nothing has been
made truly touch-accessible, and the experience is far from kind.
Pro: Law, Chaos, and Choices
Part of classic Shin Megami
Tensei's appeal is the fight between law and chaos. Will you choose a side?
While most games make it cut and dried, only letting you to choose between two
extreme stances, Shin Megami Tensei gives you three paths: Law, Chaos, and
Neutrality. This allows you to watch the world's battle with the demons play out
in different ways. While they may not be as gray as Geralt's choices in the
Witcher, not every choice is as simple as it seems on the surface. If this
sounds reminiscent of any number of other SMT titles, you've hit the nail on
the head, as with many of the other features in Shin Megami Tensei, this was
the origin point for the idea.
Con: Uninteresting Story and
Atlus USA's new
localization is just about as good as you can get, considering the source
material. This game released in 1992, where video game storytelling was still
in its early stages; most games didn't offer the rich and realistic dialogue we're
accustomed to now. While there's certainly a big story to unravel, most
interactions are as mundane as they get, with little flavor amongst the
different characters. Shin Megami Tensei also suffers from "Repetitive Dialogue
Syndrome," where characters never seem to react to anything and just keep the
same facade going all game.
Shin Megami Tensei is worth a
look if you're especially interested in how the series has and hasn't changed
from its beginning. Getting a glimpse into how this franchise evolved is
entertaining in its own right, but it comes with overlooking some flaws of
early video game design and some awful controls on the iOS. However, the engaging formula that uses demon recruitment and
fusion is still present and that may be enough to get you through. Just don't
expect it to be an easy ride, but most SMT fans wouldn't have it any other way.
Did you or will you be picking up
SMT for iOS? Why or why not?
Email the author Kimberley Wallace, or follow on Twitter, and Game Informer.
I'll consider buying it if it comes out on Android. Which could be a while.
I'd def' buy it if I had the right phone.
I really like Atlus and the SMT series but I won't get this.
I'll be buying it if/when it comes out on Android.
I haven't bought it yet, but I'm pretty sure that in the original version of SMT the Law Hero had a "Mapper" spell that showed you the map on your screen.
Well, it was on sale, so it's on my phone now anyway.
Who want's to play a 40 hour RPG staring at a phone screen while dealing with a phones touch screen?
I'm playing a patched version of the SNES game. It was buggy for a while, but a new, bug-free patch has been released, and another mod adds the automap hotkey from 2, the lack of which seems to be the biggest problem with the original game.