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Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse

Score: 95%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Atlus
Developer: Atlus
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: RPG


Graphics & Sound:

What are you supposed to do when angels and demons begin a war in your city and wall off the sky from the ground? Most people would probably say you hide and cower or get the hell out of town. Some others may enslave the demons and use them to fight back. For those who answered the latter, I have good news! Thatís exactly what weíll be doing in Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse.

I can already feel the urge to just start ranting about the amazingness of this game, but we have a system to follow, so letís take it slow and steady. Now then, the graphics. I generally tend to highly underestimate the graphics in handheld games, and I came into Apocalypse with that same notion. Again, I was blown away. The 3DS prides itself on its 3D, so naturally 3D games are going to be no problem for it and youíll definitely see that in Apocalypse. Beyond the technological aspect of the graphics, I was truly impressed by the game's attention to the details. Tokyo genuinely looks like a post-apocalyptic world and feels very immersive with the 3D settings turned up. Needless to say, I was pretty impressed with the graphics all around.

I cannot express adequately how much I loved the soundtrack in this game. No, seriously, Apocalypse did an amazing job with the soundtrack. Every track fit the environments very well and I was always pleased with just general exploration thanks to how great the soundtracks were, coupled with the environments. My most favorite soundtracks definitely had to be the battle tracks, though. I went picking fights when I was on the verge of death just to hear them. The slow, melancholy tune that preludes a normal encounter that suddenly breaks into a significantly heavier, fast-paced wonder of a melody was amazing. Boss battles felt so much more epic because of the rock-esque track playing. Let me say again: Apocalypse has an amazing soundtrack.


Gameplay:

Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse is very similar to many other entries in the SMT franchise. Itís a role playing game where players take control of a silent protagonist and use summoned demons to battle enemies. Players are able to explore the world as Nanashi, an upcoming Hunter, to try to do what they can to aid the war effort for the humans. Youíre able to run around and explore different environments by using the Circle Stick and you can interact with the environment or people with the (A) button. The (Y) button pulls up your smartphone, which allows you to check Skills, Items, your Party status, Quests, fuse Demons, and access Options, among other things. You can also control the camera with the (L) and (R) buttons or re-center it with the (B) button.

Quite often youíll come across what appears to be sentient data streams. These are demons and if they spot you, theyíll begin to chase you. You can initiate battle with them by pressing the (X) button. Apocalypse allows each character to take one action per turn, starting with whoever has the first advantage in battle. Your partyís HP and MP are shown on the bottom screen, while the enemyís HP is shown when you target them. Normal attacks are free cost, but spells all cost some amount of MP. If you hit a weakness on a target, youíll gain an extra turn for each character that attacks a weakness. This is the most effective strategy since you can wipe out entire teams before they even get a chance to act. You can even check an enemyís weakness if youíve forgotten by pressing the (Y) button in battle and selecting the desired opponent. Enemies can also get bonus turns this way, so try to be aware of what they can do and swap your demons accordingly.

Demons are important to your success, odd as that may sound to some people. Nanashi is pretty capable in battle by himself, but having your demons helping makes battle significantly easier. You can swap your demons around under the Party menu. Initially, the number of demons you can have is pretty low, but youíre able to purchase upgrades which allow you to increase your stock. This comes in handy when youíre ready to use the Cathedral of Shadows to fuse demons and get stronger ones. You can perform simple two demon fusion or special fusions which usually require three or more demons. Keep in mind that you have to be the same level as the demon you wish to fuse in order to fuse it, but the level limit can be upped through upgrades. You can also register demons in the Demon Compendium, so you can re-summon them. Keep your stock of demons up to date so you can stay in the fight.


Difficulty:

Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse gives the player the option to choose from among three difficulties to begin the game, but the difficulty setting can be changed at any time during the game by going to the Options and selecting Difficulty. The first setting is Skirmish. This setting is more targeted towards newcomers to the series and is balanced around giving them a challenge they can handle. This is effectively the Easy difficulty. The "Normal" difficulty is Conflict. Returning fans of the series would probably enjoy this one the most. The "Hard" difficulty is War, which is targeted at the hardcore fans of the series. Iím almost afraid to know how that one is balanced, because I had a decent struggle playing on Conflict.

Game Mechanics:

You know what my favorite thing about exploiting weaknesses is? The Smirk, and not even because of how good that status is. I just love seeing "Nanashi smirksÖ" after I hit a weakness. It just makes me feel cool, but the effect is pretty good. In past games, most abilities would have a chance to trigger some bonus effect when used. In Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse, when you hit an enemy weakness, you have a chance to get the Smirk status. This allows you to always trigger a bonus effect when you use certain abilities. For example, when you have Smirk status, the Mudo and Hama spell line will trigger their instant kill effect. Aside from just exploiting weaknesses, you have the chance to trigger a Smirk status by getting a preemptive strike for the advantage going into a battle, so look out for those chances also.

Demon fusion is a really good way to obtain demons, but you have to start somewhere. Youíre able to recruit enemy demons to your side with the Talk command in battle, which allows you to convince them to join you. You have to go through some dialogue with the demon, choosing the proper options, before theyíll join you. If you mess up, the demon will remember the past dialogue choices and react accordingly. If you attack them prior, theyíll remember that also and may not talk with you. You have to be the same level or higher than the demon you wish to recruit, otherwise they wonít join you. Be a smooth agent and youíll recruit all the demons.

Nanashi and his demons can handle a lot on their own, but supportís always nice. Thatís where your partners come in. You can select one person as your main partner and they will aid you in battle with their own specialized skill set. Some partners may heal you, while others may provide you with beneficial buffs to your team. Thereís also some who specialize in an attack skill set, so thatís always nice. As your partners take turns in battle, an assist gauge will gradually fill. Once itís full, your partners will interrupt the next enemy turn and unleash a torrent of attacks on the enemy. Itís really helpful, but kind of hard to control when itís used. Try to save it for meaningful battles rather than when you already have an enemy on the run.

Now I can finally say it. Again. Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse is amazing. Itís super amazing. Itís so amazing I donít know how to wrap this up without saying itís amazing. Everything meshes so well together to create a truly great game and best of all, itís on the 3DS so you can play it anywhere! So if youíre still on the fence (I have no idea why you would be), get off of it and go pick this game up immediately. SMT games never disappoint and this is no exception. Stop reading and go get it!


-SS-54, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ren Plummer

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