E3 2013: Dungeon crawling through Shin Megami Tensei IV

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I firmly believe that we need a better kind of preview platform for RPGs at events like E3 2013, because it’s difficult to glean much information from 10-15 minute previews. Some companies create specific scenario demos to get around this, while companies like Atlus do what they did with Shin Megami Tensei IV this year. They provided a demo that put players in the shoes of the hero, Flynn, a group of already leveled up demons and sent us to find a samurai that was stuck deep within a dungeon. Though it didn’t show us everything Shin Megami Tensei IV was capable, the demo was still quite effective.

People familiar with other DS and 3DS Shin Megami Tensei games and spin-offs will be taken aback by Shin Megami Tensei IV in the first moments of the game. This title’s dungeon demo looked more similar to the PSP port of Persona 3 Portable‘s dungeons than those found in Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey. In fact, they even look far better than Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers. Everything was crisp, clear and detailed, and after turning the 3D effect up, I’m pleased to say Atlus can be counted among the companies that can get 3D right on the 3DS. At least, so far.

I didn’t get to learn too much about the Shin Megami Tensei IV world from the E3 demo, but people get a general idea. Flynn and his associates have just turned 18 and undergound the Gauntlet Rite. They’ve been chosen as samurai recruits for the Kingdom of Mikado, and he now chooses what happens next and who he will side with. I didn’t get to see such deeper story elements, however, as my primary focus was finding the missing man.

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The battle system has also slightly changed for Shin Megami Tensei IV. They are still turn-based affairs, but there are some new inclusions that made fighting easier or more interesting. To start, players demons’ boost Flynn’s abilities. If your demons share some of your skills, then Flynn’s version of those skills will be more powerful. It’s an added bonus, and could devastate many opponents. Another bonus involves application of those skills. Once again, if a party member hits an enemy’s weak spot, they’ll get an extra turn. However, they can also smirk when this happens, which boosts all of his or her stats. I found it was a good way to make quicker work of some tedious battles than usual.

Also interesting were the ways in which dungeons are explored in Shin Megami Tensei IV. There are not only multiple levels, with staircases to check and doors to ascend or descend, but there are special blockades. At one point, I came across a wall that had a small gap and saw an unusual icon appear near Flynn’s head. The Atlus attendant said that this was a spot where I could explore further by crawling under the wall to enter new areas.

Which brings me to perspectives, something any Shin Megami Tensei fan would be curious about, given the series’ tendency to switch between first and third person. The Shin Megami Tensei IV demo offered both. When exploring a dungeon, I had a third person view, a la the more recent Persona installments. During battle, I had a first person view that was akin to Soul Hackers.

The Shin Megami Tensei IV demo ended when I found the missing samurai in the dungeon. It was then that I was treated to some of the full voice acting, which sounded more than adequate, and saw a little exposition. It wasn’t enough to give me a better feel for the full Shin Megami Tensei IV story, but did convince me that the casting for this installment was well done.

Shin Megami Tensei IV is coming to the 3DS very soon, and you’ll be able to either buy a cartridge or download it from the eShop on July 16, 2013. Just be aware that it is more expensive than the standard 3DS game, at $49.99. Also, if you pre-order from Amazon or GameStop, you’ll get free DLC.

Site [Shin Megami Tensei IV]

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