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Shin Megami Tensei Review: Important, but hasn’t aged well

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Title: Shin Megami Tensei
Price: $7.99
System(s): iOS
Release Date: March 18, 2014
Publisher (Developer): Atlus (Atlus)
ESRB Rating: N/A, Rating 12+ on iTunes

The Shin Megami Tensei series has become such a staple in gaming, especially in recent years, that it’s easy to forget that we haven’t always been able to count on each installment being localized. But, it wasn’t always that way, and the first game is the perfect example. It’s controversial natural and other factors meant the SNES classic was never released outside of Japan. But that’s changed, and 22 years later, Shin Megami Tensei is on our iPhones.

shin megami tensei ios

It’s the worst kind of invasion.

We all have strange dreams, but the hero of Shin Megami Tensei may have just had the oddest one. He saw himself walking through an odd labyrinth, where he encountered two men, one being crucified and another tortured, and a bathing woman. When he wakes up, he learns that his mind may not have been playing tricks on him.

It starts when he goes to his computer and learns somebody named STEVEN sent him, and others, a Demon-summoning program in the hopes that some people will step up as heroes to fight monsters invading the city. When the hero heads out into Tokyo, he learns that man’s experiments with teleportation technology has somehow opened up a gateway that is letting demons into our world. Oh, and he just so happens to be joined by the two men and woman he saw in his dreams.

A war is breaking out, lines are being drawn, and three different factions are bracing for a showdown. In the midst of it all, our hero could become the deciding factor.

The entire system is stacked against you.

shin megami tensei iosBefore I get into the Shin Megami Tensei review, I have something important to tell you. If you play, tap the gameplay screen the moment it loads up. The game starts in portrait mode, which looks something like this. It makes the while affair nearly unplayable on an iPhone or iPod Touch, because everything is so tiny. You have to tap the screen to shift to landscape more, which means the game bearable.

Now, once that the game is in a position where it’s actually playable for over a half hour at a time, it’s other issues stand out. Shin Megami Tensei is revolutionary. The story is interesting and looks at the issues of good, evil, and even the grey areas in between. The translation is flawless, as is common with Atlus games. Not to mention, even now, the Shin Megami Tensei‘s focus on political, religious, and social issues is quite rare and uncommon.

However, the actual gameplay is overcomplicated and will turn all but the most dedicated away. Battles are turn-based, with players using physical, ranged, and magic attacks against enemies. As with all Shin Megami Tensei games, enemies can be recruited to the party by talking with them and, depending on your alignment and the moon’s phase, you may be able to get a new party member or perhaps even some item.

The problem is the presentation and execution. It’s a first person dungeon crawler, and just finding your way around places or realizing what you have to do next is quite a trial. (I recommend having a walkthrough open in Safari while you play.) Experimentation is inadvertently punished, since Shin Megami Tensei has the same rules as Soul Hackers. You have to pay to summon a demon, and once they’re summoned, you expend Magnetite just by walking around. It’s expensive, and can often mean level-grinding is a necessity just to survive. Not to mention, some of that money has to be saved for equipping your human characters. This is a Nintendo Hard-era game, which means the odds are stacked against you.

Which doesn’t translate well to an iOS game. Perhaps I’d be more forgiving of such restrictions on a Vita or PS3, where power wouldn’t be as much of an issue and I’d have a bigger screen and no virtual joypad taking up screen space. But it seemed like I was constantly worrying about the battery power and wondering if it could have perhaps looked better on a handheld or console.

shin megami tensei ios

It’s important to have roots

Shin Megami Tensei is an important game, there’s no doubt about that. Anyone who’s loved this series and its offshoots would do well to see where it all started. However, it hasn’t aged well. It’s obvious after only a hour of play that much has changed over the years, making each installment more solid and engaging. While we’ve benefited from that and gotten games like Shin Megami Tensei IV, Persona 4, and Devil Survivor as a result, it makes the original’s flaws stand out all the more for it. Truly devoted fans should pick it up as a novelty, especially since it’s on sale for $5.99 until March 31, 2014, but others should grab a copy of one of the more recent games instead.

Site [Shin Megami Tensei]

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