E3 2013 Impressions: Shin Megami Tensei IV (Nintendo 3DS)

It’s incredible to think that it has been almost a decade since the last main entry in the Shin Megami Tensei series. Unlike Nocturne though, the latest installment is making the leap to portable consoles in the form of Shin Megami Tensei IV for the Nintendo 3DS. While I would have preferred a full on console entry, it certainly didn’t stop me from stepping up to the plate to check it out.

The saved game that I loaded up already had a party pre-built for me, and firmly planted right in front of a dungeon to explore. As I cycled through the cutscenes, the most obvious change from Nocturne is that, rather than a modern day Tokyo setting, you play as a samurai from the middle ages. The main character, Flynn, and his comrades are journeying through what appeared to be a cavernous tunnel before stumbling upon a nervous samurai that lost track of one of his compatriots near a suspicious looking wall. As he flees for the hills, it’s not hard to figure out what comes next: time to figure out what’s behind the wall.

You are transported to a world/dimension that serves as a trap set up by demons. To find your way out, you must navigate the dungeon from a third-person perspective while occasionally battling a few demons from a first-person view (not unlike Strange Journey on the DS). Fortunately, you don’t have to battle them alone. Flynn has a set of demons that battle alongside of him that can be recruited by talking to them in battle. Once on your side, they can then be fused with other demons to create more powerful ones while still maintaining some of the innate skills they had before fusion. I didn’t have an opportunity to experiment with this, though I suspect it will operate similarly to the other SMT games.

Also returning is the ability to exploit your enemies’ weaknesses in order to get additional turns in battle. For example, if you encounter a foe that is susceptible to fire, using abilities with that element will grant you an extra turn. This can be abused multiple times throughout the fight (the downside being that the enemies also have this advantage). In addition, it may cause your character or demons to smirk, temporarily boosting their overall statistics.

Of the many 3DS titles I’ve had the opportunity to play, this is one of the few that I can say pulls off the 3D effect correctly. It lends the dungeons depth during your exploration, and even during cutscenes involving still portraits, it creates a neat effect of being able to tell which character is standing in front of which. SMTIV is also fully voice acted (with an English language track to boot), so there is a lot going into the presentation of this game.

The game looks great so far, and while I didn’t check out enough of it to see whether or not it was worth the $50 price tag, it’s definitely shaping up to be a title that SMT fans are going to enjoy. Shin Megami Tensei IV releases July 16, 2013 on the Nintendo 3DS.

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