Shin Megami Tensai: Apocalypse IV is a follow up to the fourth entry in the series. The game is set in an alternate universe and focuses on a rookie hunter, Nanashi, who was recently killed while on a mission and is brought back by a demon Dadga. Dadga is a Godslayer who kills both demons and angels alike. He assists Nanashi and his friends to stop the demons and gods in order to end the apocalypse.
The story follows the same themes seen in previous Shin Megami games but is accessible to newcomers, while returning players will find it very familiar. Considering its punk and rebellious nature, this game focuses on peace and anarchy. Both of these ideas are really nothing but mind games for demons and gods to use to make humanity submit to their respective wills. In this game, you are going to have to think for yourself and to also have your own moral codes to guide you. As you are dead, you can either still retain your humanity and think for yourself, or you can continue to be Dadga’s tool of war.
Japan is overrun with Demons and Angels who are fighting each other for power with humans caught in between and fighting for their very survival. Both demons and angels are evil and demented creatures who wish to enslave humanity.
Nanashi and his friends go on a mission to stop the demon invasion and to save Tokyo. Unlike in Persona, this game is focused on making decisions based on your own moral code. The atmosphere is grungy and horror styled. At one location, the Cosmic Egg was bloody and disgusting but perfectly in the series post apocalyptic nature. There are also elements of punk genre especially with the peace and anarchy themes.
There are many places to explore in the game and the world is quite large for a 3DS game. When you have Navvare, in your party, you can use him and his power to unlock certain barriers blocking your way by using green energy points to open them up. Star shaped barriers can also be unlocked to get a variety of items. Keep in mind the more you move, the more your energy points drain out and you have to go back and recharge it. Some dungeons have random traps where you have to button mash x to escape from it.
You can find emeralds in the game and trade them in for powerful healing items.
Dungeon exploring tends to be tedious and backtracking is pretty common. Also, the random teleportation with no clear directions on where to go or what to do next are really annoying. You use the smartphone to communicate with your allies and demons. Apps in the game are used to give special bonuses like increased stock for skills or demons. You can find dead bodies of hunters and you can report them to get the app points to spend on more apps. The more powerful the app, the more it will cost you. Some places are overcrowded with demons and you have no place to go while you are trying get used to your surroundings.
Challenge missions are side missions where you are given certain tasks to complete such as hunting down powerful demons or gathering a certain amount of demon meat. You can visit bars to get information on present events and also to deliver requested items in exchange for rewards. Humans also hunt demons down for food and demons do the same. You can recover health in bars whenever you are underground.
Terminals is a fast travel system that allows you to go from place to place freely without worrying about enemies. The game has a variety of enemies both new and returning. The user interface is mainly straightforward along with the control system and it has been improved from the original version.
You utilize a variety of commands during battle and both the enemy and the player have to follow the same ruleset. You can get extra turns by exploiting enemy weaknesses and this comes from the press turn feature in Nocturne. The smirk system is a special ability that you can get after delivering critical blows and each combat action you use will inflict massive damage to enemies. Each enemy has their weakness and strengths just like you and your party.
Occasionally, waves of enemies known as hordes show up and you have to fight them all at once. After defeating one horde, another could emerge and you have to fight them too. Fortunately, you can use the gun countless times per turn and you can also select the type of ammo to use.
Your demon allies with you in combat play a vital role as they can either attack with a variety of skills or give you status buffs for all party members. Demon raising in this game is really fun and sometimes Demons can even evolve into more powerful versions with more powerful attacks. Demons now are able to vocalize during combat whether they are damaged or attacking. Demon fusion is once again featured in this game called the Cathedral of Shadows. When you have two or more demons, you can fuse them to create another demon who inherits the skills of the two. Only rare and powerful demons are available for fusion.
As you level up, your demons will give you items and also the chance to change their skills to another skill. This is entirely optional. You can also learn new skills from demons and angels you have in your stock; once they level up and you have an empty skill slot. You can also boost the power of your skills if you and the demon both have the same skills while learning a new skill.
You can use multiple partners to join in battle and each has their own specialty. At the bottom screen, there is the assist gauge which fills up one bar at a time after each successful strike. When it fills up, you will be given a variety of special status boosts and also an all attack, using all you current partners, inflicting massive damage to enemies and it becomes more powerful the more allies you find. As your partners level up, they are able to learn new and enhanced abilities to assist in battle.
When you defeat enemies, you get special items and experience points to level up. You can select which skillset you want to increase like more agility points or luck points and you can find items to also increase the skillsets too. You can escape most situations except for boss fights.
Like in the majority of the series, this game uses a turn based first person combat system and combat is initiated either by you or the enemies attacking each other instead of annoying random battles. You can select which partner you like to have in combat. Nozomi uses gun attacks and gun related special abilities. Just like in many of the games, you can negotiate with demons to be your allies or to give you items like money or healing. They will ask you questions and each can either sour or make their moods friendlier. Each question you are given depends on your morality and sometimes demons refuse to talk to you because you might have a certain party member. You can't get the same demon once you have another of the same kind, instead it will end in combat early and they will give you something special to use on your journey. Some enemies will outright refuse to be your allies.
Some of the boss fights used really cheap tactics like insta kill and also sending your demons back to your stock only to be summoned again. Another cheap tactic is using moves that removes demons from your stock and it will take you some time to find them unless you have Halleluiah as your partner.
Relics can be found anywhere while exploring and you can collect them to sell to merchants for money and the higher the quality, the more money you can get. You can buy and sell items from black markets and trading stores and more powerful stuff appears as you progress. You can equip yourself with a variety of armor pieces, weapons and accessories each with its own strengths and weaknesses.
There is plenty of replay value to see the other choices you could make in your next playthrough and a new game plus is included. The characters in the game aren’t really memorable or interesting save for Dadga. Unlike his counterparts in the other games, this version is more ruthless and menacing. His looks is more skeleton like in comparison to the original obese and cheerful appearance.
Navare and Gaston are both arrogant and haughty samurai with overbearing personalities that was annoying. Asahi was a pushover and can be easily intimidated by anybody. You can’t even call them out on their stupidity as they see this more as an opportunity to flaunt their heroism, and to get people to worship them and blindly follow them instead of trying to end the apocalypse.
Dadga sees humanity as weak because of their dependence on family and friendships. Throughout your journey, he is impressed by your decision making and he becomes more pro humanity and starts to see how human freedom is really the best thing about them, and starts to see the value of friendship. Side fact, the same voice actor who voiced Joker in Persona 5 also voiced Dadga. He is certainly one of the best characters I have seen in a video game. He is driven, independent and determined to achieve his goals. While the voice actor playing Dadga does and incredible job, the same cannot be said for the other voice actors.
The musical score is haunting and melodic and its perfect for the game. The graphics and art style were really good and the background design was nicely detailed. The character designs were well done as well.
The game has a flaw that I have also seen in Persona 5. Most of your decisions have little impact as the game will play the same regardless of your choice. Dialogue was cheesy at times save for Dadga who was the only one with a logical and fesible plan. While you can fast forward to the cutscenes, some of them are unskippable.
The game gets 4 stars out of 5.
If you are into Shin Megami Tensai series, you will really like this game except if you are a Hare Krishna devotee. I am really looking forward to finishing up my research on Strange Journey Redux, and discovering as much as I can find.