If you never played through Shin Megami Tensei IV on Nintendo 3DS, you won’t have to worry about feeling lost in the story when playing its pseudo-sequel. Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse takes place during the events of the original game, but through the eyes of a different protagonist. A lot of what’s already happened in the plot gets summarized through cutscenes and dialogue, but everything else is a treated like a new story. What makes Apocalypse stand out from its predecessor however, are the adjustments to the battle system that make it addictively fun.
The story of Apocalypse may have been interesting to me, but the combat is what made me want to keep playing. It’s simple and somewhat repetitive, but there is a lot going on during the battles you have against various demons you encounter in the game. Not only are the designs of every demon outrageous, but the way you interact with them in battle isn’t as simple as destroying everything on screen.
You can bargain and ally with enemies you encounter by simply talking to them and engaging in the right dialogue. Sometimes it’ll work and you can avoid battle all together, and other times fighting is simply inevitable. But the choice is still there for you, allowing for multiple ways of approaching the same situation.
This goes hand-in-hand with the ability to summon demons to fight on your behalf. Allying with demons is essential to Apocalypse’s battle system, which is fast paced and exciting all the time. Each time you ally with a new demon, they join your party and share their abilities with you in battle as they grow stronger. Much like other Shin Megami Tensei games, you can fuse together different demons to create even stronger ones for use in battle.
After exploring some of Apocalypse’s levels, I was able to gather a strong team of demons to progress through the game without a lot of hassle, though there was still a clear level of challenge. There’s still classic magic spells and special attacks from throughout the Shin Megami Tensei series, but some of them have moderately different effects in Apocalypse. Depending on the situation in battle, sometimes a spell that inflicts a status aliment may instead insta-kill an enemy because of their weakness.
The presentation of Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse is a mixed bag. The 3D environments you explore look OK on the Nintendo 3DS, but it’s the extra details within the menus and maps that look good. Small effects like blossoms falling from the trees or magical auras from various locations make the game look polished, while the menus with lots of detailed information about everything are clearly organized to be useful to anyone.
Cutscenes are similar to the original Shin Megami Tensei IV, with dialogue over static images, but there are occasional in-game cutscenes using 3D character models. The character models themselves don’t look that good and stand out a bit too much from the 2D drawings, but they aren’t a huge detriment to the entire package.
A great addition to Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse is the StreetPass functionality that helps you build up your inventory and the strength of your demon allies. Through the DDS system in the game, you can create a Hunter Card with your character stats and preferred demon to exchange with other players via StreetPass and the internet.
Though connecting to the internet can only be done once every few hours in real time, you get a ton of benefits from doing so. Not only was I able to gain lots of extra experience for my demon allies on my Hunter Card, but I also obtained plenty of new items that greatly assisted me while playing through the main story. This was great because it helped me progress through the game without spoiling or impeding on my enjoyment of the story.
If you own a Nintendo 3DS and want to play a great role-playing game, then you need to own Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse. Even if you never played its predecessor or know anything about the Shin Megami Tensei series, you will enjoy Apocalypse’s gameplay and story. The combat is great and the StreetPass functionality is an awesome addition to the game. Do yourself a favor and pick up Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse for your 3DS collection, you’ll definitely thank yourself later.
This review is based on a digital review code for Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse for Nintendo 3DS, provided by ATLUS.