|Release: July 16, 2013|
|Screen Resolution: N/A||Blood, Language, Partial Nudity, Sexual Themes, Violence|
The lethal nature of battles keeps them fairly short, but the high risk of disaster and frequent encounter rate means that only players with a high level of patience and an established love of turn-based combat will have the energy to get very far in Shin Megami Tensei IV. There's absolutely nothing wrong with this, because the game does what it does very well. We'll call it Dark Souls for the turn-based crowd. If you're up for a game that, like its demonic inhabitants, doesn't care if you live or die, this one is more than happy to welcome you into its thorny embrace.
There's been some debate over the aesthetics of the game, although the SMT series has never been known to be graphically on the cutting edge. Outside of dungeons, many activities take place against still backgrounds that resemble nineteenth-century paintings in their general style and color palette. Dungeons and other dangerous areas feature 3D graphics, though battles switch back to 2D sprites. Although somewhat dreary and lacking a unified style between the 3D and 2D segments, I found the graphics to be properly evocative of the game's themes, and the 2D sprites (especially the demons) to be as excellently designed as always.
In fact, if you've never experienced the crazy menagerie that is SMT's demonic compendium, this game might be worth it simply to do so. Inspired by folklore and religions from all corners of the Earth, the demon designs range from adorable to genuinely creepy to delightfully bizarre. Everybody loves the cuddly Jack Frost, but the Dybbuk possessor demon is designed to make you shiver, and the ambulatory penis-demon Mara just dares you not to crack a smile. Even more than the Persona games, SMT IV demonstrates why this series is sometimes referred to as Pokemon for grown-ups.
The game's soundtrack is highly atmospheric, lacking in the cool hip-hop tracks that pervade the Persona games. Instead, it ranges from grinding electronica to traditional organ music, depending on the situation. It's just about exactly the kind of music one might expect from the kind of game it is, and it tends to set the mood quite effectively, even if none of it will ever get stuck in your head. The voice acting is completely unexceptional; it's not awful, but there's not a lot of emotion put into it, either. In general, the look and sound of the game contribute to its atmosphere, but they aren't particularly exceptional examples of video game art.
Shin Megami Tensei IV is the kind of game that has some people doing their happy dance and others running for the hills. If you're looking for hard-won victories, an impressive collection of demons, and some genuine Crazy Japanese Stuff (I say that with all affection) to be had from the story, then congratulations. This game is for you, and like me, you'll get a kick out of it. If you're more interested in heartwarming stories, relatable characters, or relaxation from your RPGs, I recommend checking out the Persona 3 and 4 instead.
Date: July 18, 2013