Review: Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse (Nintendo 3DS)

Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse: Official GBAtemp Review

Nintendo 3DS 8,588 views 16 likes 26 comments
Reviewed by Krista Noren, posted Sep 15, 2016, last updated Sep 15, 2016
Sep 15, 2016
  • Release Date (NA): September 20, 2016
  • Release Date (JP): February 10, 2016
  • Publisher: SEGA
  • Developer: Atlus
  • Genres: RPG
  • ESRB Rating: Mature
  • PEGI Rating: Eighteen years and older
  • Single player
    Local Multiplayer
    Online Multiplayer
    Co-operative
Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse is a semi-sequel to 2013's well received JRPG, Shin Megami Tensei IV. Let's see what's new in the demon infested world of post-apocalyptic Tokyo.
Krista Noren

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Apocalypse Now

While Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse might sound like a definitive version or a direct sequel, it’s actually an entirely new game that takes place halfway through the events of Shin Megami Tensei IV. Newcomers to the series need not worry; Apocalypse quickly brings you up to speed on what’s going on in the story, so you don’t need to have played the previous entry to understand the plot.

Instead of focusing on Flynn, this time you’ll be playing as Nanashi, a young Hunter Cadet. Hunters are a group of people dedicated to protecting the citizens of a devastated future Tokyo from demons, which have overrun the city. During a simple mission at the very start of the game, Nanashi is killed by a demon. As he wanders the afterlife, he is soon approached by an entity named Dagda, who promises to bring Nanashi back to life, with the condition that he becomes Dagda’s “god slayer”. Seeing no other option, Nanashi accepts the offer, and sets in motion the events of the story.

 

The conflict between humans and demons is a very interesting one, and there’s a vast world to explore, with many, many lines of dialogue that help build a strong, cohesive narrative. Nanashi himself is a typical, blank-slate protagonist, with limited text box choices which determine his personality. He’s more of a literal vessel for the game’s plot. Luckily, the major characters you meet along the way are all great. There are a 7 different teammates that you come across throughout your journey, and all of them are interesting and memorable. These partners will aid you in battle, and each of them have their own unique abilities, like stat buffs, insta-kill moves or healing spells. A Notes option in the menu also allows players to see messages between the main cast, which adds an extra bit of characterization. There’s also a lot of familiar faces for those who have played Shin Megami Tensei IV, and it’s nice to see how some of them have changed between the events in the two games.

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Visually, this game has got to be one of the best looking titles on the Nintendo 3DS. Environments are nicely detailed, and are heavily varied, ranging from simple underground bases, to lush forests, to decrepit burnt towers, while character portraits and animations look excellent. The slightly gritty art-style really suits the ruined city of Tokyo as well, and the game manages to be vibrant and colorful without it looking too out of place. Although there is no Japanese voice acting available for the dialogue, Atlus’ standard dub team do a great job, as usual. Apocalypse’s soundtrack has some superb standout pieces, and all of the tracks are ambient and fit the moments when they’re used in-game. There’s a few returning songs from SMTIV too, including the boss battle theme.


Returning Shin Megami Tensei fans should know exactly what to expect from the battle system in Apocalypse. For those who are new, this game uses the Press Turn method of combat. Every turn, both you and enemy get a set amount of icons, which represent how many times you’re allowed to attack or use items in a turn. Usually, most actions use up only one icon. However, if you manage to dodge or nullify a foe’s move, the opposing side loses an extra icon. Should you use a skill that the enemy is weak to, you will then gain icons, allowing you to have more chances to attack during your turn. This battle system can be used to your advantage, but it can also be used against you, and the AI here will surely make matters difficult . The Shin Megami Tensei series is known for offering tough battles that require strategy in order to come out victorious, and Apocalypse is no different. Although the game wasn’t too challenging, normal difficulty will definitely keep players on their toes. There’s also an easy and hard mode, for those looking for a reprieve/challenge.

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One of the biggest new additions to Apocalypse is the revamped overworld map. As opposed to the previous game’s clunky map system, this game clearly labels the world, and even has objective markers, which really helps those who manage to get lost easily. This made traversing through all of the towns a simple and easy task, and is a well-accepted new feature.

Throughout the game, players will come across challenge quests, which are standard subquests that require you to defeat a certain amount of an enemy, fight an optional boss, or do a set amount of damage in a single turn. These challenge quests serve as a nice break in between story-heavy segments, and are also a fantastic source of EXP.

There are two main endings to the game; anarchy and peace. Not to mention there’s a wealth of different dialogue options and responses. Conveniently, there are 5 save slots usable; 1 for the game cart, and 4 that are stored on the system’s SD card. Having multiple save files helps tremendously for those who want to see both endings without playing a New Game+.


SMT series mainstay, demon negotiation, is also back. Instead of fighting it out with every opponent you see, you can also talk to the demons you find. Should you be able to answer their questions, or charm your way through, they will then join your party, and be usable in battle. There are hundreds of demons to collect, so chances are, you’ll almost always run into something new. When you have two or more demons, you can fuse them together to create a different, stronger demon, which inherits its attacks from the initial two creatures. This system allows for an expansive amount of tweaking, fine-tuning, and customization. Between this and the combat system, the game is exceptionally fun and engrossing.

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Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse is an essential 3DS JRPG. It’s an absolute blast to play through, and is easily recommended to those who enjoy great characters, fun combat, and a good story.

Launch Trailer

 

Verdict
Pros
+ Fun and interesting combat
+ Great cast of characters
+ Tons of varied enemies
Cons
- The final dungeon
9 Presentation
SMTIVA is one of the best looking games on the platform, with lots of detailed, wide open spaces to explore. The demon and character spritework is also nicely done. The soundtrack is very ambient, and fits the tone of the game very well. The UI and map system has been greatly improved since previous entries, and is much easier to use.
9 Gameplay
The gameplay here is fantastic, with challenging foes ensuring that you're always paying attention to what's going on at all times. The press turn system is very fun, and easily keeps players interested in the combat mechanics throughout the adventure. The fusion system is also rewarding, adding a lot of depth for players that want to customize and perfect their demon's movesets.
9 Lasting Appeal
There's a ton of content in SMT4A. Between completing quests, going through dungeons, trying to fill the demon compendium, and finishing the main storyline, this is at minimum, a 40 hour game. The two different endings, and amount of varying dialogue, not to mention NG+ features mean players will have a lot to sink their teeth into.
9
out of 10
Overall (not an average)
Boasting top-notch writing, visuals, and gameplay, Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse is one of the 3DS' finest titles and an experience well worth your time.
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