Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse Review – Choose Your Own Apocalypse

Shin Megami Tensei IV Apocalypse
Developer: Atlus
Publisher: Atlus
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Release Date: September 20, 2016 (NA) December 2, 2016 (EU/AUS)
Players: 1
MSRP: $49.99

This is a review coupled with a supplemental video review. You can watch the video review above, or read the full review of the game below.

Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse isn’t easy and it sure isn’t filled with pleasantries.

You’re constantly reminded of the mortality of man and how you are little more than tools, weapons, or even food to your supposed betters. You will often see dead bodies of your fellow hunters haphazardly thrown about with little care.

Pools of blood, mass suicides, and children thrown as bait are just a few things I found in the environments of this game. Without a strong sense of survival and hope you won’t last long in this hellscape of Tokyo.

In order to survive in this world your going to need to make tools of the demons. You can convince the demons you fight to work for you. Each demon has a cost and sometimes it’s pretty steep.

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Some demons will only work for you if you pay them, some will request a chunk of your health or magic power, and some just want to be sweet talked the right way. Whatever way you convince them to work for you the end result is always the same. They will turn into a digital program and get sucked into your smartphone.

Once these guys are in your phone they will obey your every command. In combat this means being able to summon up to three at a time. You’ll be able to use any move from their disposal and after they have learned everything, they can possibly teach their skills to you.

After you have fully leveled up your demons you can transform them into stronger demons by fusing two or more together. The new demon will get a portion of the abilities that came from what was fused and you can learn new moves from this new monster.

While it may feel like it’s you and your demon soldiers are against the world, you are not alone. Throughout the game you are constantly getting new friends and allies. Some may be NPCs that try to instill in you a sense of hope, others are side characters that actively help you in combat.

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Combat is set up like a traditional Japanese RPG.

Your character and his demons are on the bottom screen, represented by their portraits detailing their health, magic, and level, as well as any status effects they’re going through. Your enemy is on the top screen as a 2D character as well as how many moves you have left until the end of your turn.

Each turn you will get up to 4 moves, one for you and each of your demons. If you hit an enemy’s weakness or make a critical hit you will earn an extra move. There is also a chance to score a unique status called Smirk when making these hits, or if you dodge or block a move that your strong against.

Smirking increases your attacks strength, the accuracy of each attack, and makes the hit a critical hit. On defense it makes you more evasive and it covers your weaknesses making it only normal damage. The greatest aspect of this status are the additional properties of certain skills when smirking, such as adding a status effect, or having an instant kill on light and dark spells.

This only applies when your not suffering from any status effect, and it only lasts for up to two moves. This also applies to the enemy as well so make sure to cover your weaknesses.

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After you’ve completed all of your moves for your turn your ally will try to help you out in combat. At the beginning of the game you will only have access to an ally that heals you or removes status effects. You have absolutely no control over what this ally does, but you can choose which ally you have on the field.

After they have made their move, a gauge will fill up, as soon as it’s completely filled all of your allies will show up to do significant damage to your enemies. Afterwards it’s the enemy’s turn having all the tricks that you could get, from the added turns to the smirk status.

While this games combat is incredible, this series has always been known for its use of choice to influence its many different endings. This game in particular has tons of choices that effect the course of the game from the very beginning to the very end. The game has four different endings and many smaller variations on those endings so you will have a chance to experience many different playthroughs.

I really didn’t like the cutscenes, however this was only an issue because of the system it was put on. For those of you who are new to the series, this game will kick your ass, punch your gut, and leave you in a choke hold as you fight desperately to play for just a little longer.

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Normally I have issues with the cast, with many games barely trying to develop side characters in place of developing the main character. That’s not the case with this game. Most of the side characters in this game develop into fantastic people and actively overcome the issues that they are going through. I can even say the mascot character slowly becomes reliable and understanding of his own issues.

This also had the inverse effect on the games main villain. I felt an absolute disgusting hate for him. He was terribly clever to the point of actually tricking me on a few occasions. His desires and reasons were in the end understandable yet his methods were absolutely terrible.

It felt like you always had to wait for the other reveal to drop and it was this terrible environment that made this game as fantastic as it was, as well as making victory taste so sweet. Victory, however, is not only the end goal: it’s the process, the path that makes this game great.

I will say I had two big issues with this game. While this game relied heavily on narration to express the actions and dialogue, the use of cut-scenes was terrible. To me it feels little more than an anime slideshow. While I’d like to blame the developers for such a lazy showcase of some of the most important scenes of the game, one could easily wave it off as limitations of the system it was made for.

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My other issue is that the ending to the game felt rushed to me. In the ending I chose I felt that the final dungeon had little to no purpose. It felt like it wasn’t connected to the central plot of the story at all and felt like nothing more than an afterthought.

It felt like it was there due to tradition rather than necessity. This might not be the case for other endings, but on the one I took it felt pointless. These issues are honestly small and don’t greatly impact this game too terribly

When I started this game I was full of dread at not fully understanding anything that was going on. I was afraid the subject matter was too heavy and that it was going to be a terribly hard game.

The only thing I should have worried about was how hard it was, because outside of a crushing difficulty the game is great and is a fantastic entry point into this series. If you have ever been interested in playing the series I would highly recommend you start with this game.

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Shin Megami Tensei IV Apocalypse is fantastic. The combat and general gameplay is engaging and just challenging enough to not have me pulling my hair out of my head.

The story is twisting and had me dreading what was going to happen at each twist and turn. The atmosphere was heavy and on many of occasions left my stomach churning.

Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse was reviewed on Nintendo 3DS using a digital copy provided by ATLUS. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.

The Verdict: 8.0

The Good:

  • Side Characters have extraordinary personal growth.
  • Combat flows exceptionally well.
  • Story leaves you with a string of hope and ruthlessly tears it away from you.
  • Demon collecting is fun and very fulfilling.

The Bad:

  • Audio was unremarkable at best. There were no memorable tracks.
  • The ending in the route I took felt tacked on. I felt there was no purpose behind it.
  • Death had absolutely no meaning.

FEATURED GAME



  • Tenith

    “The music was great and left me pumped for each boss fight” and
    “Audio was unremarkable at best. There were no memorable tracks.”

    Fucking hell, which is it? These are two completely contradictory points. Either the music is great or its unremarkable at best? Why should I take any review you write seriously when you contradict yourself in your own bloody fucking review?

    Also the video audio is terrible. All over the place with crackles and such. And how the fuck is 4 characters the norm in most rpgs? I mean there’s 1 member, 3 member, 6 member and sorts of other fucking configurations in the genre.

  • Obbliglol

    You wrote two completely different opinions about the music – so, I’m not quite sure what you’re getting at here. I loved the music personally and feel that SMT:A’s main theme (the intro and credits, also used in the incredible anime trailer) are possibly my favourite main theme out of any SMT game and its spinoffs. I hope you correct this because it sounds to me like you liked the music outside of the bullet point at the end? I love the 80’s feel the music gives me. Tokyo could basically be Japanese Mad Max, but with less cars more synth and demons.

    I’ll agree with you about the endings though – SMT endings always seem a little weak to me, but their philosophy always seems to be “it’s the journey, not the destination” and I would agree. What ending did you get? Massacre or Bonds?

    I am assuming you’re talking about Vishnu when you mention the villian. Yeah, he was great. The Divine Powers were able to make humanity, Lucy and Dorkabah band together against them and they still outmaneuvered them in the end. Great baddies. Unfortunately Merkabah came across as completely unlikable and evil, which was a problem in SMTIV and Lucifer still comes across as the better option.

    The final dungeon was fucking awful. Boy, I sure do love these two SMTII beats repeating again and again and again and again. Plus it was four hours long – the two final bosses are pretty challenging though, and stronger than SMTIVs bosses for sure.

    I feel that Atlus’ sleazy DLC shenanigans should be pointed out – they cut out the top Lady/Tyrants demons to sell as DLC (Cleopatra and Mephistopheles). The weird DLC caper involving Hugo is blatant cut content that should’ve been in the game (the DLC rewards you with nothing but a little bit of backstory on Hugo) and the Twisted Tokyo DLC item is completely shameless. The only bit of DLC that should’ve been released was the cool one with the past heroes – SMTI Hero, Aleph, ma boi Demi-Fiend and Flynn all team up to do a very nostalgic SMTI-inspired dungeon with the final boss being a recurring figure in the series. It’s hard as nails and imaginative, but it’s a shame that Atlus decided to gouge out its own fanbase (especially since it’s fanbase has now expanded, with DP taking on PAL publishing duties).

    Lots of mainline fans have criticized the characters as being way too Persona-esque, and they’re kinda right – Nozomi is probably the worst example of this, and they don’tr serve much of a purpose in the two main choices of the game (Bonds is full on power of frienshi-I meanm humanity). Massacre is your standard SMT good ol’ “kill all your friends” and ONE MORE GOD REJECTED. They’re ok, but I personally don’t want this precedent set for future mainline games.

    It’s still a fantastic game with some pretty fucking raw scenes – it’s better than SMTIV imo, with a much better map and quality of life improvements. No more retarded Fiend hunting, no more demons locked to certain routes (this pissed me off in SMTIV). All in all, probably the best JRPG I’ve played in a while.

  • There was an error in the editing presses that was caused when I was adding the video in, between edits that left that line about the boss music, lets just say “Misplaced” Thank you for noting it, sorry for the confusion.

  • Jumanji Joe

    I’m not surprised about the ending being shit after beating smt 4.

  • Michael Richardson

    You can definitely tell this reviewer is new to the series.

    “The story is twisting and had me dreading what was going to happen at each twist and turn. The atmosphere was heavy and on many of occasions left my stomach churning.”

    What’s funny is that almost every SMT vet I know who has played this game, me included, feels like this game has almost nothing in the way of creepiness or atmosphere. I’m not even talking about the nightmarish notes of Nocturne: the level of foreboding and atmosphere in this is a significant step down even from SMT IV.

    “Normally I have issues with the cast, with many games barely trying to develop side characters in place of developing the main character. That’s not the case with this game. Most of the side characters in this game develop into fantastic people and actively overcome the issues that they are going through. I can even say the mascot character slowly becomes reliable and understanding of his own issues.”

    The characters aren’t terrible, but it’s weird to play an SMT game so full of traditional anime waifu types. Some of the character development works, but other parts remind me really terrible anime tropes.

    “While this games combat is incredible, this series has always been known for its use of choice to influence its many different endings. This game in particular has tons of choices that effect the course of the game from the very beginning to the very end. The game has four different endings and many smaller variations on those endings so you will have a chance to experience many different playthroughs.”

    Disagree. This is by far the worst SMT I’ve played when it comes to actual roleplaying. There are four endings, but two are fake, obviously bad endings that don’t go anywhere. Of the remaining two, one is a glorified villain route. It’s actually a lot like Undertale in the way that it presents its morality: do you try to win with the power of friendship, or do you become an obvious edgelord who has no issues sacrificing all of your friends for your own ambitions?

    “The only thing I should have worried about was how hard it was, because outside of a crushing difficulty the game is great and is a fantastic entry point into this series.”

    It’s really not crushingly difficult. Particularly with all the available difficulty options. Even on War mode, it’s extremely manageable. I get that if this is your first SMT, it might take time to adjust to the Press Turn system, but compared to other games in the series, it’s pretty easy.

    I definitely agree on the terrible cutscenes and pointless, horrendously boring final dungeon. Still, even with its lack of atmosphere, anime trope characters, low-quality cutscenes, and terrible final dungeon, it’s the most fun I’ve had with a JRPG in ages. In particular, the dungeon design, difficulty balancing, and gameplay twirks put this miles ahead of the original SMT IV. Definitely my GOTY.

    Thanks for the review. I wasn’t trying to tear your opinion down at all, just offer a differing perspective. I liked getting the opinion of a new SMT fan on this game.

    But yeah, definitely fix that thing where you offer two different opinions on the music.

  • Montrillian

    I was completely new to the series. Only games in the franchise ive played were Tokyo Mirage Sessions, and Persona 4. I was actually avoiding this series because of how difficult, and dark it was. I was afraid I’d fuck something up terribly. It wasn’t nearly as terrifying hard as I thought. I heard other games had a crazy morality system.

    Thanks for letting me know more about the series and your perspective on it! I really appreciate it. Any suggestions on the next game?

  • Michael Richardson

    Hey, thanks for the response!

    I’m actually playing TMS at the moment. Censorship controversy aside, it’s a fun little game.

    I think people kind of overstate how difficult these games are. I mean, yes, they can get rough (particularly Nocturne on hard mode), but they’re usually pretty manageable if you play intelligently. Moreover, kind of like Souls games, they’re easier to manage when you’ve beaten a couple of them. I initially cut my teeth on Devil Survivor, for example. Even though the SRPG-ish gameplay is quite different from the gameplay in the core series, learning to exploit weaknesses, cover defenses, constantly fuse demons (this part is hard, as it is easy to get attached to your initial set of demons), tell what different sorts of spells did, etc. really helped me when I got around to other games in the series.

    I actually really like the difficulty balancing in SMT IV: Apocalypse. It gradually ratchets up the challenge, but, aside from fighting two or three bosses in a row during midgame, which sucks, it almost never feels unfair or overwhelming.

    As to suggestions… it depends.

    If you want challenging dungeon crawlers that are lighter on story but have deep gameplay and fantastic dungeon design, go for SMT: Nocturne on the PS2 or SMT: Strange Journey on the DS. They’re some of the best games in the series.

    If you want games with more of a traditional JRPG focus, try the Digital Devil Saga duology on PS2.

    The Devil Survivor games are good if you want something with more colorful characters and themes that are similar to what you’ll find in the core series. Also, the SPRG elements freshen things up a bit!

    Soul Hackers on the 3DS is a fun little dungeon crawler if you can adjust to some dated game mechanics (it’s a polished-up Sega Saturn game). It’s also one of the easier games in the series.

    One thing to keep in mind if you play the older Persona games: the first two games in the series (well, first three, since Persona 2 is a duology) are nothing like P3/P4. They’re significantly darker, have none of that social link stuff, and more like straight-up dungeon crawlers.

    Well, sorry for the long post. Atlus has really reignited my love for RPGs, particularly with their superb SMT and Etrian Odyssey series, and I love talking about them.

  • Obbliglol

    Ah, cheers m8. That makes a lot more sense.

  • Obbliglol

    Don’t worry so much about the difficulty – it’s a fun meme to spam Matador and Memory Aleph, but the games are not unfairly hard. You always have the tools i.e. demons at your disposal to do well, just get used to fusion. The demon fusion system of SMT is one of the biggest aspects of why I like it (and it probably helps that I love Pokemon/Digimon/loved Monster Rancher/Dragon Seed, all that good monster raising stuff).

    For your next SMT, it’s gotta be Nocturne. It’s just a fantastic game, and it emulates near-perfectly nowadays. You can buy it on PS3 as well, and it runs fine for me (I just got to the ice prison, can’t remember the name right now – but no freezes or crashes so far).

    SMT demon petting sim when, Atlus.

  • Raziel Barkrai

    I gotta agree. The gameplay is the saving grace of this game and I wish the option of getting a game over after dying was an option instead of unlocking it as an app for an absurd amount of points.

    Team Maniax so far is at least able to deliver with fun gameplay, but they desperately need better writers.

  • Montrillian

    Don’t be sorry! It’s extremely informative and one of the reason I love you guys on here! I had heard so many horror stories about this series, one of them was that even doing tiny things could ruin your chance for a good ending. It made it even more hectic because all the RPG’s I had ever played had always been ones where you can actually see your character, It was a strange thing to have to get used to but I came to really enjoy seeing the demon’s I had been fusing finally showing up in 2d form. Really made the wait worth it. I agree whole-heartedly that demon fusing made this game and the entire series into what it is today. It is a great mechanic that sucked me in, getting me to play for much longer than needed.

    If you like I have a review for TMS, though looking back on it and having played this game I can see that I made several mistakes on just how many aspects play into the general feel of SMT. It’s much easier than SMT but it’s a pretty good game.

  • Montrillian

    I will say the area in the game where they completely subverted that trope was extremely well done. It was the one area that had my stomach churning the entire time, I couldn’t decide if it was motion sickness from the area, or just the sheer……disgustingness of the situation. That was extremely well played.

  • Will3316

    SMT Nocturne is a must play. It makes the Souls games look like child’s play and it has one of the most unique plots to a JRPG I’ve played. SMT Digital Devil Saga is really good too, though I haven’t even finished Part 1 yet.

  • sanic

    “Death had absolutely no meaning.”

    Sounds like the deepest game of all. I hope it has the boss battle theme From SMT IV though that was something I enjoyed.

  • Tubsiwub

    Perhaps, like most games, it has many tracks and the only one that had any value was the boss theme.

    Just my idea.

  • WallyWallyWoxenFree

    As usual it seems NicheGamer is ignoring anything that doesn’t involve literal asskissing.

  • Random Dude

    Yes it does. It plays against specific bosses (notably against the resurrected-and-soon-to-die-again Medusa).

  • True Goddess Reincarnation

    “The characters aren’t terrible, but it’s weird to play an SMT game so full of traditional anime waifu types”
    The first SMT had “2” of them

    come on son

  • I just checked, and you are full of shit, there are no comments from you in spam.

  • WallyWallyWoxenFree

    You were saying?

    imgur. com/HKL72yh.png?1

    Neither of those comments appear on the article page.

    archive. is/Wfy22

    Perhaps you would like a minute to reconsider your previous statement.

  • I think Bonegolem needs a laugh or two from time to time, so please do so and kill yourself after.

  • WallyWallyWoxenFree

    You think ethical concerns are a laugh or worth killing yourself over?

    And I thought this was a pro-GamerGate website. My apologies, I had no idea that NicheGamer catered to the SJW mindset!

  • If you’re pro-GG, killing yourself will help the cause. That way you won’t clutter Deepfreezes Bonegolem with false reports and your general retardation won’t slow GG down.

  • Classic JRPGs predominantly give you 4 slot parties and the contradiction was fixed, it was an editing issue.

  • I honestly disliked this series as a whole but I was in love with Devil Survivor (SRPGs seem to be my cup of tea), and I thought trying out SMT would help me with that itch.

    I would have never thought I could be so disappointed. The demon dialogues are pointless at best, their likes/dislikes are actually chance based even if you’ve tested the same mob type dozens of time and it’s just tedious type of grinding in general. The story isn’t touching me in any way, I actually cared about the chars in DS.

    But I guess it’s my fault for trying out SMT4 first? What do you guys suggest? I still have a PS2 if anything good is in that section.

  • catazxy

    Great review, I didn’t expected much out of this game. Still, you might want to work on the audio a bit, audio quality is more important then video…

  • Etherblaze

    I’m not sure I liked SMT 4 A. One one hand smirk could get really fun for a crit-focused character. But then when bosses can move 3-4 times in one turn it’s common for them to smilecharge > smile powered up move, which instacrits, which gives them an extra turn for them to do it again. On top of that was the final dungeons and ending.

  • Montrillian

    Honestly I enjoyed the music but there were no tracks that made me want to listen to it over and over again. When I find something i really like in music i will put it on my playlist and listen to it over and over again, Castlevania Is a great example of a game that hooked its fangs into me and still hasn’t let go. So yeah I acknowledge that the music was nice, but there were no true hits, and that blew it for me. Does that help explain my feelings a bit better?

  • Tubsiwub

    I was only trying to guess what you meant for the sir above that was annoyed by your review. I felt like it was fine to state that you felt engaged by the boss music, but overall you disliked the music of the game.

    Again, it makes sense to me.

  • Raziel Barkrai

    SMT Nocturne is commonly held in high regard among fans although it does have the things you mentioned not liking. There’s also the Digital Devil Saga games if you want something more story focused. Both have the same combat system with some minor differences from SMTIV.

  • Montrillian

    Gotcha!

  • Well, I’ll try those… I dropped SMTIV out of a combination of all those things, so if older games can fix some of the bullshit, I’d love to try them out…

  • Montrillian

    This was my first time recording anything, and my audio interface was a cellphones Mic. I’m getting a real mic and I will make the next one i do 10 times better! Thanks for letting me know that it’s something to work on!