There are some game series out there that seemingly get better with time; which apparently is against the norm for the industry that is only be interested in driving every idea they have into the ground. The overarching Shin Megami Tensei has not only managed to evolve and improve its story telling since it was introduced, but the gameplay and interface doesn’t seem to be afraid to mix things up enough to make it simply not the same game presented a year later. The only real downside that can be mentioned is that the series seems to have an arbitrary naming convention, which when it comes down to it is probably the least of things to fault a JRPG with.
It wasn’t that long ago that almost every SMT game to come out rightfully earned the moniker of being only for the hardest of the hardcore gamer. Over the last decade the series has been slowly stepping away from that, and while some of the challenge remains in additional content or side story quests, most of the game is not much harder than many other classic JRPGs. With this newest addition there is even more of a modification as the game has introduced the ability to change the difficulty level if needed, allowing newer players to reduce the game to an easy mode. The game is now allowing players to continue even after they are killed by buying their way out of Hell with either Macca (in game currency) or Play Coins from their 3DS, although seeing as how it is now possible to save anywhere in the game it seems like it would just make sense to revert to a recent save then shit through the process of losing money.
Mega Ten 4 is also rather well written with an interesting mechanic of fading in and out of focus whoever is talking. The style of the story telling works rather well on the 3DS, and most segments are fully or partially voiced in some way. While the story focuses on several new recruit Samurai, basically the local cops of the area, it quickly spreads from that and establishes the world around it as something that is living and breathing. It isn’t enough to follow the heroes as they stumble through the world, the game also introduces a weird dichotomy between haves and have nots in society, and even a world where people don’t know about literature. It isn’t so much painting a story about strong willed heroes going on an adventure in a new world, it is a fantastically realized world in which these people find themselves on an adventure.
The battle mechanics of the game are relatively similar to what they have been in the past, turn based combat where the player’s goal most of the time is to hit the enemy’s elemental weakness to cause the most damage and gain an extra move. This time around the heroes’ team fights first, then the foes have a turn, and back and forth until one side either dies or is recruited by the player. One of the larger differences this time is that the NPCs that will randomly escort the player through an area will join in the battle, although they only engage in random attacks. The largest change is the way that merging demons works, in that the game presents “recommendations” for what it thinks that the player should have at that moment, strangely most of which are normally pretty good about being very useful in a given area. It is possible to look through a list of possible fusions, but it does normally require a little digging to find it.
For anyone who is a fan of JRPGS with a 3DS should run out and buy this game, and anyone who doesn’t own a 3DS and enjoys the genre should really start considering buying one. Not only are there enough great games out for the system, but the entire venture has officially reached a tipping point to where it is easy to point to one game and declare that is why you bought the handheld. That game is Shin Megami Tensei IV. It is out now and it is worth every penny that they are charging for it.