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Game Info:

Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse
Developed By: Atlus
Published By: Atlus
Released: September 20, 2016
Available On: 3DS
Genre: JRPG
ESRB Rating: M for Mature (Blood, Language, Violence, Partial Nudity, Sexual Themes)
Number of Players: 1
Price: $49.99
(Amazon Affiliate Link)

Thank you Atlus for sending us a copy of the game to review!

Three years ago, Atlus released one of the most prolific RPGs for the 3DS, Shin Megami Tensei IV. In it we played as Flynn, a Samurai from the Eastern Kingdom of Mikado endowed with the task of saving humanity. The results of Shin Megami Tensei IV depended on the choices the player made, which meant there were four possible outcomes for Flynn. Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse plays out parallel to the events of the Neutral Path route from the previous game, though you don't need to play SMT4 necessarily to understand the story. Flynn is traveling with Isabeau, another fellow Samurai, as they attempt to deal with Merkabah and Lucifer in Tokyo.

At the start of the game we're introduced to our new main characters, Nanashi and Asahi. Though not related, Nanashi was raised by Asahi's father. Once the introductions are over with we're given control of Nanashi and things immediately begin to escalate. There's no slogging through Naraku for 10 hours before seeing Tokyo. Here, we're thrust right into the fray with deadly results. After a few small quests Nanashi and company are ambushed in a park, and things come to a gruesome end for Nanashi. Or so it would appear. Though he has in fact been killed, we find ourselves face to face with Lord Dagda. He promises to restore our life, but it will come at a heavy price. 

Dagda informs us that Nanashi is now his Godslayer, and from here on out we are basically his puppet. With another shot at life and the ability to summon demons, Nanashi must do what he can to help Flynn deal with the forces of heaven and hell. Apocalypse also introduces the Divine Powers, an alliance of powerful deities and gods, led by the divine being Krishna. He seeks to lead mankind to salvation through harvesting their souls with a giant snake named Shesha. His calm ruthlessness is quite a unique trait for an antagonist of a game.

Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse
Highlights:

Strong Points: Dozens of hours of gameplay; Deep and engrossing story; Phenomenal soundtrack; Consistent difficulty this time around.
Weak Points: Feels more like an expansion than a sequel; The overworld map is still easy to get lost in.
Moral Warnings: This game heavily focuses on the slaying of gods and demons; Blasphemic imagery and tones; Blood and gore depicted frequently; Strong language and sexual themes.

The Shin Megami Tensei series has often been compared to the Pokémon franchise in terms of gameplay. Recruiting demons is done by talking to one in battle. Each conversation with a demon is played out by choosing what you think it wants to hear. They may want money, items, or even an ally's life. This may sound like a gamble, and it has felt that way in previous titles, but here it feels like demons are more likely to join you more often than not. When the demons you possess are no longer strong enough to deal with your current situation, there is demon fusion. By fusing two or more demons a more powerful demon can be created. Demon fusion in Apocalypse has also been updated. Demons now have permanent increases and decreases to particular skills. Magic users might have a penalty to physical attacks - higher MP cost, lower damage - but they might have a bonus to a certain magic type - lower MP cost and more damage output. This change made combat much more intense as with most SMT games every encounter with demons can be your last. 

Speaking of combat, things remain fairly the same. This is still a turn-based RPG. The Press Turn system returns in all its glory. Striking with an attack that an enemy is weak to will reward the player with an extra turn, and may bestow the smirking status. Smirking guarantees a critical hit which also rewards an extra turn, but it can also grant secondary effects to attacks. This can be inflicting a status effect or even an instant kill. Smirking is by far the most important factor in combat as enemies can also gain the smirk condition. In situations where they do, it's not uncommon to lose every demon you control as well as your own life. Death no longer requires a trip to see Charon in the underworld. Though I missed being chastised by him for dying, not paying outrageous amounts of money to continue playing the game was greatly appreciated. 

Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 96%
Gameplay - 19/20
Graphics - 9/10
Sound - 10/10
Stability - 5/5
Controls - 5/5

Morality Score - 29%
Violence - 1/10
Language - 3/10
Sexual Content - 3/10
Occult/Supernatural - 2/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 5.5/10

Another welcome change is the partner system. In SMT4, Flynn was normally by himself, occasionally gaining a partner to fight with. In Apocalypse though, Nanashi will have the option to choose between many allies to take into battle. These partners each specialize in a certain type of skill. Most partners are actually characters from SMT4. For instance, Nozomi is proficient in gun skills, Navarre casts buffs and uses attack items, and Isabeau can cast powerful magical attacks. Along with partners in battle, a new action has been added to combat. A bar will fill on the bottom screen as damage is dealt, debuffs are cast on enemies, or you heal yourself. When it's full, and your turn ends, all of your partners will immediately end the opponent's turn and launch an attack of their own. This is immensely helpful against boss demons or just when things aren't looking too good.

As the story is played out, many familiar locales will be visited. Anyone that played SMT4 will find places like Shinjuku or Shibuya virtually unchanged. There are subtle changes to the environments, but for the most part, things felt the same. This can make exploring much easier for a seasoned veteran of post-apocalyptic Tokyo. Areas are still beautifully detailed with poisonous swamps and collapsed skyscrapers. Landscapes are both haunting and mesmerizing. Even with the constant threat of demons I still found myself looking around in amazement. Demons themselves are intricately designed and a feast for the eyes. The 3D is a bit harsh, but adds an incredible amount of depth when used.

Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse

The music in Apocalypse is phenomenal. As was the case with SMT4 before it, every single track is perfect at mixing seamlessly with the area it plays in. Most new areas will have its own unique track playing, making exploration an even bigger joy. Sound effects are just as effective as ever. Demons have such a wide arrange of sounds they can make. From gurgles and squeaks, to horrific screams and roars, each demon is portrayed wonderfully. The voice acting is also amazing. The amount of emotion found in most lines is astounding. Conversations can be cheesy at times, but moments when a death has occurred are genuinely saddening.

Morally, there's a lot of things to address. For starters this game focuses primarily on deicide, or the act of killing a god. As Shin Megami Tensei games are known to incorporate angels, demons, and gods from all nationalities and cultures, Apocalypse is not the first to have you slay a god. Though, it's much more prevalent than in previous games. Hundreds of religious figures are depicted, Yahweh included, and all can be killed. Gore and blood is not an uncommon sight. Bodies can be seen mangled and torn to shreds. Some male and female demons are overtly sexualized or designed to exemplify certain parts of their anatomy. Some course language is used throughout the game. To stress that this isn't a game for kids should be quite obvious as this is an 'M' rated game. To those with a deep connection to their faith, you may want to skip past this one as the game paints religions in objectionable ways.

Now provided you don't mind the moral issues, and to be fair there is a lot of morally questionable content here, it is hard not to recommend this one. The amount of content and polish is astounding. It's easy to play for dozens of hours and still not see everything, leading to new discoveries on subsequent playthroughs. Those looking for a deep RPG with a fair amount of difficulty and an absolutely perfect soundtrack will be thoroughly satisfied by what Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse has to offer. 

-Kyuremu

 

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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