Shin Megami Tensei IV - Import Impression

Shin Megami Tensei IV

Platform: 3DS
Developer/Publisher: Atlus
Release Date: 05.23.2013

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As Above, So Below

Shin Megami Tensei IV is a game that loves to flaunt its apparent contradictions. The heroes hail from a pseudo-European country with a Japanese name and demon-summoning samurai, but a lot of the game's coverage dealt with an obviously post-apocalyptic Tokyo cityscape. What gives? I decided I wouldn't start this impression until I'd figured it out.

"I can look Lucifer himself in the eye and make him take a step back. Press turn that, smurf."

Twenty hours in, I thought I was on to something. Thirty hours in, I knew I wasn't. Forty hours in, I was thrown for a loop. Fifty hours in, I managed to reduce the entire planet to oblivion, and the final credits rolled. After reloading and beating the "final" boss again (which took three more tries), I determined that I really did have a choice as to whether or not the planet's existence continued past that point, which was kind of a relief. I have seen game worlds obliterated before, but this would be the first time I personally am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.

Sixty hours in, and I'm standing in a mildly non-Euclidean palace with a maniacal clown mask on my face. I'm an oathbreaker, a friend-slayer, and I'm pretty sure I'm about to commit genocide, but for all that I'm on the path to the Lawful ending. I've faced down angels and devils, demons have whispered strange secrets in my ear, and by now I've got enough allies and magic skills to face down anything. I can look Lucifer himself in the eye and make him take a step back. Press turn that, smurf.

Okay, okay, all gonzo attitude aside, here are the highlights.

• The Press Turn system is nigh identical to what's in Nocturne.

• This includes the difficulty. Ever been ambushed and killed by level 2 pixies? Embarrassing and possible, early on.

• Demons do whisper in your ear, and you do learn magic from them. You can even stack the same spell a few times for a power bonus.

• Most of your ready cash comes from scavenged materials, so always remember to pillage then burn.

• Even if you're K.O.'ed, your demons can still fight on and save the day.

• And even if they can't, Charon (ferryman of the river Styx) accepts 3DS Game Coins as a sufficient bribe to avoid game overs.

• I'm not sure who all is involved with the art work this time around, but some of the major bosses have a very different aesthetic going on. I'd almost swear that Medusa, at the very least, was a product of Yasushi Nirasawa's bizarrely fertile imagination.

• Finally, the non-obliterative Neutral ending is a real bugger to get. I'm going to have to wait for someone to completely hash it out before I try again.

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