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Thread: Review - Shin Megami Tensei IV

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    RPGamer Staff RPGamer Staff 7thCircle's Avatar
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    Review - Shin Megami Tensei IV

    After a ten year hiatus, the next entry in the Shin Megami Tensei series has finally arrived. Has the time been put to good use, or is this game's most progressive feature a large e-shop credit?

    Review
    Last edited by 7thCircle; 07-22-2013 at 07:51 PM.
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    Overdosing Heavenly Bliss Moderator ChickenGod's Avatar
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    Honestly 7th, I'm not surprised at the score. Wish I could comment more on my experienced based against yours, but the reality is that I'm only 20 hours in a (thankfully) 80 hour experience.

    A couple of the things you mention that resonate with me are the maps an dungeon design. For SMT, I think this is one of the weakest entries in the multi-branded franchise in that regard, which is a shame. As for the music, I actually enjoy some of the tracks, but the volume is awkwardly low. Even buffing up the output to max with headphones, I don't feel like I'm getting the whole piece as intended. Of course they aren't as strong as most of Meguro's works, but I think some of the boss themes and challenge quest music do a good job of amping the player up.

    And I completely agree with you regarding the early game difficulty. Where I'm currently at, I'd almost say it was imbalanced. Tetrakarn, and later on probably Makarakarn, have broken the past few boss encounters, where as the start of the game was brutal to the point where you felt you had to get lucky and just reload hoping to avoid the BS.

    Overall I'm enjoying the game quite a bit, but there are certain aspects of the series that I expected to make stronger appearances here than they currently have. Thankfully addictive bonuses like the whisper system, apps, and allowing you to choose which skills carry over on level up allow for silky smooth customization system that makes up for some of these short comings in my eyes.
    Last edited by ChickenGod; 07-22-2013 at 08:49 PM.
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    RPGamer Staff RPGamer Staff Wheels's Avatar
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    hmnn, interesting, I didn't find the early game balance bad at all.

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    A Serious Man Drav's Avatar
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    So, Dragon Age 2?

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    Based on what I'm seeing on Metacritic (it was one of my picks), hardly. This is probably one of the harshest reviews of the game on the net.

    Anyway, I see my $100 didn't get me much, heh.

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    RPGamer Staff RPGamer Staff 7thCircle's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TG Barighm View Post
    Based on what I'm seeing on Metacritic (it was one of my picks), hardly. This is probably one of the harshest reviews of the game on the net.

    Anyway, I see my $100 didn't get me much, heh.
    What do you mean? I was going to give it a 1/5!

    Given that after the game arrived I did nothing but play SMT4 every moment I was home, awake, and not working, and it took me 2 weeks to finish, I have to assume the earliest reviewers didn't come close to completing the game, and it's during the middle that I realized it wasn't grabbing me or nearly as well made as Nocturne, Persona 3/4, or Strange Journey. I don't read other reviews when I'm playing a game to review it, but I did skim a couple after I beat it and saw some things I would consider objectively inaccurate, like they played the first 20 hours and then made assumptions about what the rest of the game would be like.

    I'm not saying their scores would all be lower if they finished it, but rating and describing a game after 20 hours when it's going to take 80-100 to finish isn't going to yield the most accurate conclusions.
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    A Witness to Destruction Moderator DarkRPGMaster's Avatar
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    From this review, it's basically like Nocturne, huh? All the cons were the exact same cons I saw in Nocturne.
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    RPGamer Staff RPGamer Staff 7thCircle's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DarkRPGMaster View Post
    From this review, it's basically like Nocturne, huh? All the cons were the exact same cons I saw in Nocturne.
    I'd say there are many differences. Nocturne's bosses were much more strategic in nature, and it was common to need to rethink and reconfigure your party to take out a tough boss. In SMT4 I never needed to do this. Bosses were more like the strong, generic HP tanks in Persona 4.

    SMT4 also suffers from a bloated demon roster that encourages you to fuse and recreate your party each time you gain a level, but since skills are chosen by the player, the new demons are just like the old ones with a new sprite and name. The smaller roster in Nocturne led to me using demons longer, and they had varied skillsets and felt unique.

    Finally, the setting and plot direction in Nocturne were stronger. Locations were more unique and interesting, and the characters were deeper and evolved over the course of the game. It made Nocturne more effective as a story-driven game where in SMT4 the main quest objectives take a long time to complete and you rarely feel like you're actively achieving a story goal once you reach Tokyo. The deluge of optional quests keep resending you back to the same areas with vague directions, and overall SMT4 feels like you're doing the same thing in the same location with the same party for ~40 hours in the middle. That wasn't the case in Nocturne.

    I'd have loved to ramble more in the review, but word count limitations and what have you...
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    Overdosing Heavenly Bliss Moderator ChickenGod's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 7thCircle View Post
    SMT4 also suffers from a bloated demon roster that encourages you to fuse and recreate your party each time you gain a level, but since skills are chosen by the player, the new demons are just like the old ones with a new sprite and name. The smaller roster in Nocturne led to me using demons longer, and they had varied skillsets and felt unique.
    Can't say I look at a large demon roster as a con. That and picking which skills transfer is a huge plus in favor of SMT4 compared to Nocturne. One of the biggest annoyances to me in Nocturne was random skill assessment on fusion. With Nocturne you could still pick which skills you wanted to transfer, but at the cost of wasting time hitting the refuse button until random went in your favor. It was nothing but a needless waste of time for the player as far as I'm concerned. You either give the player free and easy access to what they want without a 15 minute workaround, or put actual restrictions in place, such as Zio weak demons being unable to learn Zio skills to keep things balanced.

    Regarding the size of the roster, when the number of available demons dropped off later on Nocturne, thats when I grew the most bored. Fusing in these games is fun, and by the end of Nocturne you had very little choices for new demons. In fact, you'd often keep many of the Fiends from earlier levels due to how powerful their resistances were. So far I'm not seeing a low level demon that has crazy good nulls like Daisoujou did, for example. None of the demons in SMT4 feel overpowered in their innate resists or nulls so far, which is the reason that Nocturne had some memorable demons in the first place. The HP/MP system in 4 helps prevents everyone from being copies simply due to the fact that if you put a whole bunch of high cost spells on a demon with low MP, they aren't going to be very effective mages, healers, or buffers. Long story short, all my demons in Nocturne had the best skills available because it was worth the hassle to do so. In SMT4 you get to do the same thing without being annoyed every time you want to fuse a new demon.

    Also, SMT4 is one of the few games that could make use of soft reset, yet doesn't have. Why?
    Last edited by ChickenGod; 07-22-2013 at 11:40 PM.
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    RPGamer Staff RPGamer Staff 7thCircle's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ChickenGod View Post
    Can't say I look at a large demon roster as a con. That and picking which skills transfer is a huge plus in favor of SMT4 compared to Nocturne.
    I was just contrasting Nocturne and SMT4. I liked how the demons I used in Nocturne were more memorable and had some character to them that carried over in battle whereas SMT4 did not, but didn't see that as a big deal and didn't mention it in the review.

    As far as the customizing goes, I think Strange Journey is the current high point for the SMT system for reasons I detailed in that review. SMT4 took out many of the gameplay mechanics I liked in Strange Journey and reverted back to something like a simplified, mainstream take on Nocturne that ended up stripping out much of the individuality of everyone and everything.
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    Overdosing Heavenly Bliss Moderator ChickenGod's Avatar
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    Yeah 7th, I can see how you could get more attached to some demons in Nocturne. Particularly the fiends. Plus, actually seeing their model in combat can do wonders too. Still, I mostly get attached to demons based off the art design I like the most over anything else. Seeing plenty of brand new demons, along with some redesigns such as Kikure-Hime is good enough for me. Wish they would go ahead and change some more of the sprites that they've been using since Soul Hackers though, even if its just the pose. Wendigo is seriously getting old!

    Also, I do believe SJ is a an under appreciated game. To be honest I probably didn't enjoy it as much as I could have. Maybe it was just me expecting another love affair like I had with Devil Survivor, I dunno. Seeing what happens to the people in SJ as you mentioned was very powerful, plus the dungeon crawling was excellent. Oh, and you had more control over your alignment. I've read its really tough to get the Neutral ending in 4, which sucks because I'm not following a guide or anything. Maybe I'll end up wanting Law or Chaos, but that doesn't look to be the case at the moment.
    Last edited by ChickenGod; 07-23-2013 at 12:12 AM.
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  12. #12
    I don't read other reviews when I'm playing a game to review it, but I did skim a couple after I beat it and saw some things I would consider objectively inaccurate, like they played the first 20 hours and then made assumptions about what the rest of the game would be like. I'm not saying their scores would all be lower if they finished it, but rating and describing a game after 20 hours when it's going to take 80-100 to finish isn't going to yield the most accurate conclusions.
    Fair enough. At least I gave them two weeks before I recorded the score.

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    A Serious Man Drav's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TG Barighm View Post
    Based on what I'm seeing on Metacritic (it was one of my picks), hardly. This is probably one of the harshest reviews of the game on the net.
    I've read several reviews that were about as middling as 7th's; they just forgot to back it up with a middling score. Read the IGN review if you want a laugh. Although I only really brought up DA2 because there are some similarities between 7th's review of that game and his SMTIV one.

    About how much weaker would you say this game is than Strange Journey, 7th? Besides, uh, 0.5 weaker.

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    sorry I totally disagree with this score ( yes we all have our own opinions). The game is utterly brilliant and in my opinion better than nocturne especially in story and setting. I would probably have given it a 4.5/5

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    Wanted to ask if I have only played Persona PSP trough and Persona 3 half-way this one will still have enough new stuff to warrant a purchase? I mean while reading the review it looked like for hardened Shin Megami Tensei veteran this would have too much the same and too simple. But would be interesting for a newcomer?
    Last edited by esuko; 07-23-2013 at 05:08 AM.

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    A Witness to Destruction Moderator DarkRPGMaster's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ChickenGod View Post
    I've read its really tough to get the Neutral ending in 4, which sucks because I'm not following a guide or anything. Maybe I'll end up wanting Law or Chaos, but that doesn't look to be the case at the moment.
    Actually, it's very easy from what I read if you know the trick. Somebody gave a minimalistic way of pulling it off, and from what I've heard it works. The downside is that you cannot take any side quests until after you're locked into the route unless you know which ones effect your alignment and which ones don't.

    Quote Originally Posted by esuko View Post
    Wanted to ask if I have only played Persona PSP trough and Persona 3 half-way this one will still have enough new stuff to warrant a purchase? I mean while reading the review it looked like for hardened Shin Megami Tensei veteran this would have too much the same and too simple. But would be interesting for a newcomer?
    It would be interesting for a newcomer. A friend of mine hadn't played a mainseries SMT game before, and he got addicted to it. The usual rules for SMT apply, beginning starts off hard, the game gets easier over time when you find out the 'tricks' to how the game operates.
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    I think the conversation on this thread is pretty amazing whether you think positively or negatively about the game. Its really something admirable the reviewer is so open to questions.

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    Member Jitawa's Avatar
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    I've liked it so far, but I can see what he means as far as the demons being less unique. I think they probably could've fixed that by having a longer fixed list of skills for each demon (So demon X always has Zio, dream shot, Pulinpa, and Resist Light on their skill list, you can only choose the rest of them... or whatever).

    Part of the issue is how short the skill lists are starting out. You have to "pay" for expansions to the skill capacity, and that necessarily limits how many skills a demon can have from the outset and learn as they level. Even later in the game, I guess they had to assume you might have never leveled capacity to the normal SMT length. If they'd defaulted to normal SMT and let you expand just how many skills you could transfer... maybe that would've worked for keeping the demons reasonably unique.

    I do hit a situation fusing now where any demon can basically be a carbon copy of whatever they were fused from, and that's different from the personality you might've had from certains Demon's skill sets in the olden days.

    I also preferred the 3D/polygon models in Nocturne though. I think the animations for opponents like Mother Harlot and even the basic movements of the demons in your party added a lot character over static pictures.

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    RPGamer Staff RPGamer Staff Wheels's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 7thCircle View Post
    SMT4 also suffers from a bloated demon roster that encourages you to fuse and recreate your party each time you gain a level, but since skills are chosen by the player, the new demons are just like the old ones with a new sprite and name. The smaller roster in Nocturne led to me using demons longer, and they had varied skillsets and felt unique.
    Is this something that happens farther in? I'm at 10 hours in and I've been able to stick with one set of demons for long stretches so far, fusing a new one or two every few levels.

    As far as the demon's being the same after fusing, I suppose that depends on what new skills the new demon has, whether they're just an upgrade as far as attributes etc. If you're caring a bunch of magic abilities over to a strong physical type demon its not exactly the same despite the same skill set no? Still there's no doubt this hurts the fun of fusion.

    Quote Originally Posted by esuko View Post
    Wanted to ask if I have only played Persona PSP trough and Persona 3 half-way this one will still have enough new stuff to warrant a purchase? I mean while reading the review it looked like for hardened Shin Megami Tensei veteran this would have too much the same and too simple. But would be interesting for a newcomer?
    I think so, as much as I enjoy the battle systems in the Persona series, the mainline SMT games have a lot more depth to them so you'll probably enjoy getting a full roster of demons to work with.
    Last edited by Wheels; 07-23-2013 at 07:14 AM.

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    Angel-Possessed Priestess Administrator Strawberry Eggs's Avatar
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    This will be my first numbered Shin Megami Tensei game, and my experience with the franchise as a whole is limited to four games. The shortcomings in the story and characters department sound disappointing, though only time will tell how much that will impact me.
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