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.

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