Top 100 Games of All-Time: #68

Shin Megami Tensei IV

Release Date: May 23, 2013

Platform Played On: 3DS

2018 Placement: #43 (-25)


What It Is:

Shin Megami Tensei is most famous for the Persona series (which has now dropped the SMT label starting with Persona 5) but has a lot of other franchises underneath its belt. From the SRPGs of Devil Survivor to the long-named Devil Summoner: Raidou Kuzunoha vs. the Soulless Army, there are plenty of different games within the SMT umbrella. But of course, there is also the mainline numbered Shin Megami Tensei games, the most recent of which was IV on the 3DS.

The SMT series proper plays partly like a demonic Pokemon: it’s a turn-based RPG where you find and recruit demons into your party and fight other demons. It uses the Press Turn mechanic, where if you exploit the weakness of the demon(s) you’re fighting you get an extra turn, but if you hit one of their strengths you’ll lose extra. Similarly the enemy can exploit your weaknesses to get extra turns as well so you have to be careful which demons are in your party so you don’t give enemies an advantage. It’s an intriguing system that adds extra layers to battle that could be perceived as difficult, but once you get used to the system everything flows together nicely. Oh, and eventually you fight God. Because it’s not an SMT game if you don’t challenge God at some point.

Why It’s Important To Me:

Persona 3 was my first SMT game and while I tried to get into Nocturne, it didn’t really click for me. I enjoyed Devil Survivor because I’m an SRPG slut and I still have an unopened copy of Devil Summoner 2 with the Raiho plushie somewhere. But it wasn’t until SMTIV that the non-Persona SMT formula just clicked for me. I put over 90 hours into this game on the 3DS and dethroned multiple gods along the way and had a blast doing it. It’s a fun battle system and has the same addictive gotta-catch-’em-all style collection as Pokemon, along with a pretty bleak yet hopeful story.

It also pulls a surprise twist on the players as it starts out in a very feudal-like setting, with the main character being a Samurai in a country called Eastern Mikado. But a few hours into the 80+ hour game your group decides to head down a tower into the “Unclean Ones’ Country” and the player discovers that Mikado is actually an alternate world and you descend into an apocalyptic Tokyo. It blew my mind when I was playing it even though nearly every SMT game takes place in some form of an apocalyptic Tokyo. I think that was what hooked me: between the story beats and characters that were in your party (that weren’t demons) it really grabbed me from the very beginning.

My Strongest Memory:

If you know anything about Shin Megami Tensei games, you’ve probably heard legends of the Matador fight from SMTIII: Nocturne. That’s the boss fight where the game stops fucking around and tells you “learn how these systems work or you’re not getting any further.” It’s a “tough” fight that’s fairly straightforward if you’re following the rules of the game, but will absolutely kick your ass if you’re trying to brute force your way through.

Which brings me to my favorite boss fight of this game, the absolute beast of the Minotaur. It’s not quite the same level as Matador, but the Minotaur is still the “skill check” boss fight of SMTIV and can be quite difficult if you aren’t prepared for it. He also has the best modern design of any new demon – I mean look at that picture above. Look how awesome that character design is! AND this is the first time the “boss” battle music kicks in during the game and it fucking slaps, giving the battle even more weight. AND he basically precedes the Tokyo reveal so he’s not only a skill check boss, but he is the boss right before a big twist in the game. Long story short, I was gripping my 3DS tight the entire battle and was ecstatic when I succeeded at beating him.

(If you want to watch his intro/see the boss battle, watch this here. It’s so good.)

Why It’s #68:

It’s a damn good RPG and the SMT series outside of Persona shouldn’t be slept on. They are some fantastic RPGs with stories that are slightly more adult than what Persona’s high school drama brings to the table. If you’re looking for a little less anime-ass-anime tropes, SMTIV does a good job of not delving into questionable territory (as far as I can recall). It also provides just enough of a challenge to be satisfying but not annoyingly so. It’s good shit.