Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse on Nintendo 3DS
Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse is technically a followup to the original Shin Megami Tensei IV, picking up just before the ending of the original game and carrying things well past that. With a host of new characters and a brand new storyline that changes the events of SMT IV, you don’t necessarily need to have played the original to enjoy or understand Apocalypse. It’s full-fledged, new adventure in a demon infested Tokyo that stands supremely well on its own, keeping its events self contained and efficiently catching players up with backstory.
In Apocalypse, the world is victim to a devastating attack by demons, one that wipes out most of the planet’s population. The citizens of Tokyo live under a giant rock dome that was erected during the attack, saving the city from devastation. Demons have infested the city, along with the opposing forces of angels, and different groups of humans have banded together to survive and combat both menaces.
One of these groups is called the Hunters Association, who use a “Demon Summoning Program” on their smartphones to capture demons and use them to fight and protect themselves. Your character, called Nanashi by others, is a young novice hunter just barely learning the ropes of surviving in Tokyo with his lifelong friend Asahi.
Apocalypse really does pick up right at the end of Shin Megami Tensei IV with Flynn, the main character of the original, about to make his move against the forces of Lucifer (demons) and Merkabah (angels). Nanashi and Asahi head out on a routine food gathering mission with their mentors, where they’re suddenly ambushed by a group of demons. Their mentors are killed and Nanashi has to make a deal with a mysterious being named Dagda to survive, who then makes you his “Godslayer.”
Things get kicked up a notch when you’re tricked into releasing powerful beings into the world known as “The Divine Powers.” This third faction immediately takes over part of Tokyo and has a grand plan to defeat the demons and angels, and bring about mankind’s Salvation.
The story really is one of the main draws of Apocalypse as well, telling a gripping tale of opposing divine powers and the humans trying to survive in between. Dagda has possessed Nanashi and protects him from death, communicating with you through your smartphone. As the rest of your party and the other humans start to learn more of you and Dagda, they begin to question your true motives. This tension comes into play the entire game, and for most of the experience, even you the player are questioning just what Dagda really wants.
The structure of Apocalypse is simple enough, with a mix of third-person exploration and world map traversal. The world map itself has you as just an icon moving around, and it’s dotted with various locations, collectibles, and treasure chests. You get quests sent to you by the Hunters Association on your smartphone in two different varieties, story quests and challenge quests. Story quests are exactly what they sound like and make up the bulk of what you’re doing, moving the narrative along.
Challenge quests are optional objectives you can undertake that vary in their objectives. Some have you exploring certain areas of the world to track down an item or defeat an enemy, while some might require you to capture a certain demon. These quests in no way have to be completed, but doing so can gain you quite a bit of experience and money. Relics of the days past dot the environments of the game, and by collecting them you can then turn the relics in later for a tidy profit at a shop.
On that note, Apocalypse’s gameplay revolves around the tried and true mechanic of the Shin Megami Tensei series: demon capturing. When you encounter demons in battle, you have an option to speak to them, and then choose various responses to their questions. If you answer the correct way and provide the correct tributes to them, the demons will join your party. There’s an enormous list of recruitable demons, and an in-menu fusion option opens up options to create even more.
Their designs can range from unnervingly cute to downright creepy, and the art as a whole is well done. It’s fun to try and figure out what responses work best for what demons, and it’s easy to craft the party you want based on your play style. The good news is as you expand your demon inventory, you can carry upwards of 20 at any given time, and they all gain experience from battle.
You’ll need to carefully create your party of course and plan for weaknesses, because Apocalypse can be a punishingly difficult game. Battles pit enemies of different types and weaknesses against you, and boss battles are even more challenging. Finding enemy weaknesses is the key to success in battle, but these foes can do the same to you.
Luckily, Apocalypse lets you change the difficulty between three different settings at any time. The settings go from Skirmish to Conflict, and then to War. Changing the difficulty doesn’t affect the rewards you get from battle in any way, letting players who just want to experience the story power through battles, while fans that want the challenge can keep it there.
Both your character and your demons level up when they’ve gained enough experience. Demon’s stat boosts are random when they level, while you choose how you want to distribute your five stat points. In addition to stat boosts, when Nanashi levels up you get 10 app points. These points can be spent in the menu to get a variety of things, like expansions for your demon stock, increases to your skill slots, stat boosts for your demons, and much more. Finding the dead bodies of Hunters in the world can also gain you app, once you send their info back to the society.