Some Words About Shin Megami Tensei IV
If you have a 3DS you need to be playing Shin Megami Tensei IV.
It would be easy enough to leave it at that, and I almost feel like i should. There’s so many wonderful things going on in SMTIV that even talking about them with people who haven’t experienced them seems a bit blasphemous.
So what the hell is Shin Megami Tensei IV? Some of you have probably heard of, or heard us talking about, the Persona series of games, in particular Persona 4. To be more accurate, those games are actually called “Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4”. Or, in other words, the Persona series is a spin-off series of the original Shin Megami Tensei series. The last main series Shin Megami Tensei game was 2003’s Nocturne.
Each one of these games shares loose connections, post-apocalyptic Japan, demon negotiations, macca, etc. The core of the game lies in its unrelenting difficulty, which sounds like an odd thing to be said about a turn based RPG but you’d be a fool to underestimate it. While you have all the time in the world to plan out your turn, without the appropriate resources you won’t make it through that turn. Even if you do have the right resources the wrong choice will send you down a spiral from which you won’t soon recover, even as early as the first monsters of the game. Even if you spend hours and hours to try and grind your way past a difficult encounter you’ll find that the amount you’d need to grind instead of playing smart and setting up your party properly will take far longer. (Seriously, you’d need to be 20 or more levels higher than most bosses to ensure a consistent victory.)
Though these games are famous for their difficulty, they’re also known for having some of the most unique and interesting (and often times disturbing) stories in the JRPG world. Your typical anime cliches and world saving heroes aren’t to be found here, more often than not none of the stories end particularly well, even if you get the ‘good’ ending. And don’t forget that this all already taking place in a world where most of the population is dead, killed by disasters or consumed by demons. Things aren’t good in the world of Shin Megami Tensei and you’d be foolish to approach their stories in the same way you’d approach far more safe and generic JRPGs like the Tales Of series.
And then there’s the music. Games like Final Fantasy have very memorable music, tunes we can hum all day long, and games like Mario have music that makes us happy to be playing the game. But few games have a soundtrack that is as evocative as the Shin Megami Tensei games. The music in particular in SMTIV is used to not just serve to be noise, but to express and be part of the world you’re exploring. This song in particular is one of my favorites, the overworld theme for the ruined city of Tokyo. It speaks of a strange future, an oddly melancholy and desperate future chased by an unreasonably slim chance of hope. There is nothing more perfect for SMTIV than this song.
Though the characters in SMT games are usually little more than personified versions of the point of view they represent, the characters in SMTIV are given incredibly plausible and relatable reasons for being who they are. These are not people motivated by bizarre, unrelatable motivations, or villains whose only goals seem to be destruction for the sake of it, but people who react with horror and awe and confusion as you would expect them to.
Shin Megami Tensei IV is the best RPG you won’t let yourself play. You’ll say it’s too long, too hard, too intimidating, too Japanese.
And you’ll be missing out on one of the best JRPGs ever made.