Nightmare Fuel: Shin Megami Tensei IV
Shin Megami Tensei IV brings us a world full of bloodthirsty demons, terrible humans, and the various brick-inducing horrors that come as a result of them, spread across two worlds. Even as a well-trained Samurai, you'll probably be longing for the cushy, sheltered lifestyle of Mikado's Luxurors or the relatively-safe underground districts of Tokyo after you're done reading this page.
I detect a very dangerous demon nearby. You should consider getting out of here.
I'm detecting Nightmare Fuel ahead. Be careful.
- The Nightmare Fuel is present in this game, even before you start it up. Imagine, if you will, putting the cartridge into the 3DS and expecting a little jingle or a character saying the game's name, only to be greeted by an abrupt DUNNNNNNNNNNN!
- Demon's Domains. Labyrinthine Pocket Dimensions that take over a particular area and feature pulsating tentacles and deadly demons throughout, often designed to lure, capture, and kill humans. In the first one you enter, you see Navarre and his companions bound to the walls in the background of Alraune's chamber, with Alraune prepared to feast on their blood—sure, Navarre is a classist asshole, but he's scared shitless, like most anyone would be if they were captured in that fashion—in fact he's so terrified that he locks himself up in his room for days afterwards, crying and screaming like a madman.
- Right around the time you go hunting for the Black Samurai in Kiccigiorgi Forest, your childhood friend Issachar gets possessed by a demon and his eyes turn red, which doubles as Nightmare Face, while his battle sprite twitches during the fight. You're forced to kill him. Becomes even worse if you tell him that you still consider yourself a Casualry, in which case he'll try (and fail) to fight from the inside. Just before he dies, you'll see his character portrait bleeding heavily.
- Much later in the game, one of The White takes Issachar's form... but it's permenantly crying. It's a lot creepier than it sounds. And then the White starts actually showing some emotion as it speaks as it dies, moaning in Issachar's voice, lamenting he could not be saved...
- In the bad ending, you are required to destroy the Yamato Gate to activate black holes that will consume the whole universe and destroy everything. The "battle" with the Yamato Gate, if you can even call it that, is accompanied by very eerie music. While the background is the same as most bosses you fight throughout the game, the music coupled with the empty background makes it very unsettling.
- The music for Merkabah and Lucifer's second forms are likewise very unsettling: the former has an absolutely bone-chilling Ominous Pipe Organ, the latter a discordant cacophony straight out of Silent Hill.
- East Mikado itself. Even at the beginning of the game, its clear that there's something very off about the whole place, from the brutal caste system, to the fact that demons live literally right underground the capital city, and the fact that, if Isabeau's comments about France's status as a fictitious country are anything to go by, they believe themselves to be the only civilization in existence.
- The Craftsman in the second Casualry District can be pretty unnerving if you believe to any degree in making decisions yourself. He defers every possible business decision to Luxuror, and later Archangel, input. He's almost like a drone...
- And then after you capture the Black Samurai, you find out that they consider public executions national holidays.
- This is actually Truth in Television. It's a comparatively recent development for Executions to be treated as something to be hidden from the public at large. This can also be seen in Pirates of the Caribbean, as well as any Wild West movie with a hanging occurring. It was considered a day out, a time to put on the fancy clothes and gossip with your friends.
- The execution ceremony was used as a chance to order the Samurai to travel around Mikado and "execute" those who have been found reading Literature or otherwise following the Black Samurai. One Samurai states that Hugo told him to call them "executions" rather than the cold-blooded murders that they are.
- Towards the end of the game, the Archangels initiate a bloody purge in Mikado in preparation for Merkabah's arrival. Anyone, whether Luxuror or Casualry, who has read any form of book is butchered (Isabeau is among this list because she reads manga. Even Jonathan would have been added to the massacre had he not joined the Archangels because of his research beforehand). It's implied this caused the near-complete extermination of the entire Luxuror caste.
- In the Law route, the new background track for Mikado, "Reign". Haunting, and fits the transformation of Mikado into a theocracy.
- During the Lawful Ending, you commit what is tantamount to genocide on the entire population of Tokyo. Merkabah also forces you to commit Heroic Suicide with him, because the two of you have learned about the "Filth" of Tokyo.. Meanwhile in Mikado, epitaphs are obliterated, the statue of Aquila is destroyed, and any and all forms of education and literature are abolished. The new Mikado is a kingdom where thinking for oneself and any knowledge beyond the worship of the Almighty are forbidden, one where you are not only not allowed to sin, but are incapable of it, just the way the forces of Law want it.
- The Chaos ending isn't much better either: As you and Lucifer watch over Mikado, the entire kingdom is shown going up in flames as the demons take over it.
- The Ashura-Kai building and the secret of how they make Red. The demand's up and the women (which they openly call breeders) just can't cope, so they want to start using the children—and if you go to the Roppongi Hills early, the doorkeeper flat-out says that if you want to join the Ashura-Kai, you either need a recommendation or need to bring three fresh kids. The slaves there are imprisoned in tiny, bloodstained rooms with buckets of filth in inhuman conditions, brainwashed to love Tayama (a girl comments she once told Tayama she loved him and hoped to be his wife, and the asshole told her "Age is no barrier to love"), used as seedbeds, and having their neurotransmitters harvested. There are people strapped to chairs and treated like livestock, nearly mindless, as they have the ingredients for Red extracted. Friggin' Lilith herself is disgusted by this. As is, well, everyone. Law, Chaos, Neutral. They all find Tayama disgusting.
- The poor sap you find in the Reverse Hills Building, clearly retarded to a childish intelligence by continuous harvesting, still moaning very familiar catchphrases. There are children proud of using buckets as toilets, children abandoned or sold by their parents, children brainwashed with Tayama's cheap slogans, being told to say they are being educated. The underground city dwellers are bought, bribed or captured to enter Reverse Hills, only to become more raw materials for Tayama's Red Pills. And the place is over fifty floors underground.
- And if you rebel against the Ashura-Kai, as the denizens of Ikebukuro did? You're at the top of the list for Reverse Hills conscripts!
- The cherry on top is a rumor you hear in Shinjuku just after completing Reverse Hills—The Reds may have been developed before the Firmament appeared.
- As horrible as Reverse Hills is when you first visit, a post-alignment lock visit will reveal it's only become worse.
- "Mister, listen! We learned about "hope" today! Tokyo has no "hope".
- "I thought Mom and Dad were in a different building. But the Ashura-kai guy told me they left on a long trip a while back. They went to this place called "Heaven"."
- Post-alignment lock, the residents of the Dogenzaka area despaired and eventually found hope... in the Red Pills. The few humans in the area are gone, leaving only the demons.
- When you defeat an opponent in a tournament, the audience expresses complete dismay if you don't kill them. Very much reminiscent to the Colosseum fights of Ancient Rome as you are encouraged to kill your opponent.
- The Monochrome Forest, mainly due to this music, and what it represents to the game's story.
- To say nothing of its rulers. The White are Omnicidal Neutral embodiments of humanity's despair at the sheer suck of the Megami Tensei universe, and wish nothing more than to destroy it, since it's the only way out. And the thing is, they're just so reasonable about it, it's hard to not find yourself nodding along to their reasons for thinking the solar system needs to go. It's very easy to find yourself thinking like them, and that's the most terrifying aspect of all.
- The Purge the angels enact is justified in their eyes, as the literature the Black Samurai has been distributing turns humans into demons. The problem? It's normal, human world literature. The people of East Mikado have their beliefs in social castes so ingrained that when an outside force like the books makes them realize there are alternatives to the Crapsack World, they go insane with horror, rage and grief, which is what triggers the demon transformation.
- Most of Blasted Tokyo is pretty awful, what with it being a literal wasteland of poison and despair. On your way to combat the source of one of the problems affecting the place you're stopped by a trio with a request to put down a demon in Shibuya. Go there and you find it's a dark, literal ghost town, the human population long since killed off, but earthbound due to the intervention of Ixtab, a Mayan suicide deity. Kill her and some of them fade away, and most of the rest get angry with you for consigning them to the same fate.
- Also in Shibuya, the game suddenly stops as you approach the stairs to the second basement so that Burroughs can warn you of a "strong demon" ahead, which can come off as an unintentional Jump Scare. The same thing happens in Ikebukuro too.
- And the horror didn't end when Pluto was stopped, as evidenced by Yomotsu Okami's Revenge and Ancient One of the Sun. In the first, Izanami tries to step up to the plate and continue Pluto's mission of extermination. When stopped, she mentions a hostile will tried to control all underworld gods in an attempt to finish off mankind. In the latter, God has had enough, decides to stop playing and just send an apocalyptic avatar to burn everything. And no, He's not making any bones out of it: the Ancient outright tells Kiyoharu they weren't meant to survive.
- Infernal Tokyo isn't much better. A lot of ruined, smoking infrastructure, caused by the constant turf wars between the Demonoids. Even Walter, your Chaos-leaning sidekick, is startled at first. While it's at least fairly recognizable compared to Blasted Tokyo, it's still horrifying to see Tokyo reduced to fiery rubble.
- The process of making Neurishers and Demonoids can be one. Like normal demon fusion the surgery to make a Demonoid can result in fusion error, which some poor soul ends up suffering from in Camp Ichigaya (he turns into a Mou-Ryo). The Neurishers have to deal with the fact that they'll die if the parts the demon making them into one uses are faulty, and there's no real way of checking before he uses them in the surgery.
- Lucifer and Walter's fusion. Let's just say it doesn't seem to be quite as painless as normal. That's not even getting into Lucifer himself.◊ While the getup may be a little goofy, his overall appearance is horrifying: something decidedly inhuman trying to be human and failing horrifically. Or worse, going by the themes of the game, something that is humanity distilled to its purest essence... With Merkabah on the other end, it's really hard not to ask oneself exactly who and what we are to create such abominations.
- Hell, both Merkabah and Lucifer are completely insane. Merkabah wants to kill Isabeau because she's read manga. Lucifer just outright insults her as she dies.
- The archangels in this game, no longer the human looking beings with wings, they properly assume their form as inhuman abominations.
- Even before they are formally introduced, there's this feeling of utter wrongness in the kingdom. The king has been removed from power, and no one bothers to think where he went. The castes are being dissolved, and all of a sudden even the most pampered Luxurors are worrying about physical work. Dissidents and followers of the Black Samurai are disappearing. A man mentions his son was caught at a Sabbath and added to the execution list, and as "expiation", he was given another child to raise. Most demons are gone, and most disturbingly, many people talk about being contacted by "the new rulers" via dreams - dreams that helped ease the transition too smoothly for comfort. And then Sister Gabby ushers you into the Cocoon...
- Their debut is absolutely this. These warped, utterly inhuman, incomprehensibly powerful...THINGS descend upon the heroes, looming over them in a way that makes the samurai look absolutely tiny. They calmly introduce themselves and tell you that THEY run the show now, revealing the truth about Tokyo in the process: the hellhole is made up of people who didn't fit into their utopia, who they shall again attempt to exterminate should they try to leave their cage, and they are in the middle of another cleansing. Gabriel commands you to kill the Black Samurai, saying her death is the only thing they need concern themselves with, and the samurai can do nothing but leave, utterly cowed and looking absolutely impotent. The icing on the cake? You're solely responsible for this: the masked people you saved from Kagome Tower earlier were Michael, Uriel and Raphael. You are personally responsible for unleashing these fascistic, godlike Eldritch Abominations upon your home.
- What arguably makes their scenes even worse,is their Dissonant Serenity.It's hard to not find their cold declaration of genocide very unnerving.
- Just to add to the nightmare, the reason they sought to destroy Tokyo, and presumably all the rest of not-Cocoon humanity, was to extirpate the "fruits of their filthy knowledge and wisdom". They don't want anyone able to make any decisions about anything except God!
- Ikebukuro is downright brutal. Poison spills all over the place, creepy music, and an underground district with abandoned shops and an abandoned Hunter's Association, and the same creepy music playing there until Xi Wangmu is defeated. There's also an NPC here who's on her dying breath—you can either tell her you're a human, giving her some solace before she passes away, or lie to her about being a demon, making her feel like she's lived a life of regret. Said NPC is gone when you visit the same room again. Ironically, Ikebukuro is less nightmarish in Infernal Tokyo; there's no poison lining the area outside of the station, and the underground district is operating at full capacity, although there is a Domain housing the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse there.
- The Game Over scene, should you refuse to accept Charon's offers to revive you. "Let me be clear: Your turn will come up long after the wind erodes the boulders down to sand." What he means is: The queue to cross into the afterlife is so long that you're forced to wait it out for millenia.
- If you accept his offer but don't have enough Macca, he's willing to bring you back anyway, but you will be in debt to him until you gather enough Macca to pay him. If you die again before you can pay off the debt, he'll refuse to revive you again and he'll have your soul tossed into a mountain, the implication being that at this point you don't even deserve a proper afterlife. It's also a bit of Adult Fear for those who have ever gotten into debt with some sort of institution but are unable to pay it off in time.
- There's something very intimidating about the equipment shops in Tokyo, which are black market branches run by greedy, Jerk Ass yakuza-esque thugs. It's also a huge contrast to the exceptionally polite shopkeepers back in the Eastern Kingdom of Mikado.
Dealer: "Make sure you bring more Macca next time!"
- Mysterious Story of Tennozu. You get asked to investigate a cult in Tennozu Shelter where investigators keep disappearing. People there are really well-fed without resorting to demon meat, and insist they have beef, a patent lie in the sealed Tokyo (even growing produce is tremendously hard due to the lack of an actual sun). Later, you must confront the cult's leader as they finish some sort of Summoning Ritual. While disarming the leader, the entity manifests. But it needs an offering to gain physical form... It's Baal, who proceeds to chow down on his worshipers. Oh, and that meat the shelter survivors had? Baal's festivals had a cow presented amidst chants and prayers, then sacrificed and served as food. But another worshiper clarifies that since they could get no cows, they presented a normal man dressed in the sacrificial decorations - and then the festival continued on with only that slight variation.
- Goes From Bad to Worse during the second part of the questline, Rebirth of the Great Overlord, where Baal's true form is revealed as The Dreaded demon, Beelzebub. Cue player voiding his or her bowels, followed swiftly by a spam of Megidolaons and the Game Over screen. It helps very little to remember Beelzebub is, in fact, the Demon Lord supporting the sin of Gluttony.
- For that matter, the Tennozu shelter music is pretty creepy. It also plays in Minami Sunamachi, a part of Tokyo that's deserted save for refugee demons, chock full of poison gas, and has one of the 1/256-rate Fiends.
- Several Fiends appear in places devoid of activity. Examples include the aforementioned Minami Sunamachi, Kiccigiorgi Forest, the four-way intersection in the middle of a poison lake in the northwesternmost corner of Tokyo, and behind a door of an abandoned shelter in Kasumigaseki. Fortunately, they generally don't appear unless you're actively seeking them out, as they have a 1/256 chance of appearing every time you enter the area they reside in. Unfortunately, this only adds to the tension; after dozens of tries you'll probably stop expecting the Fiend you're seeking to show up, only to be suddenly met by Burroughs warning you of a "very dangerous demon" nearby. In other words, it's the Uboa event from Yume Nikki, but with bloodthirsty Horsemen and other deadly entities ready to splatter your guts all over the street.
- Areas that have quiet or no music, no NPCs, and demon encounters, due to Nothing Is Scarier of the "Wait for it" type. Examples include the underground areas of Kasumigaseki, the excavation area of Naraku, any Ground Zero area in Blasted Tokyo, Blasted Shibuya, and Blasted Camp Ichigaya. Activating a quest to trigger one of the two quest tracks mitigates it somewhat.
- The underground shelter music, if you can even call it music. Nothing but windy ambient sounds. If you ever want to give yourself the chills, lock yourself in a dark, empty room while listening to this track on repeat.
- Camp Ichigaya in Blasted Tokyo has this faux-music, which has the sounds of howling sounds and machine ambience. It becomes a creepy example of a Rewatch Bonus because it and the Ichigaya theme in Infernal Tokyo share a sample.
- For that matter, areas that are all of the above, but have no demon encounters, due to the "nothing at all" type of Nothing Is Scarier. Examples include the Blasted CDF base and Blasted Ikebukuro.
- The admission ritual into the Ring of Gaea at Tsukiji Hongwanji is all fine and dandy until you get into the main hall, at which point the Gaea monk accompanying you reveals that he knows you're there on Tayama's orders and suddenly opens a trap door below you.
- During a quest to exterminate Wicker Hordes, Nozomi constantly gets trapped inside one of them. The sound that plays when she gets put inside one is quite sickening. And recall that Wicker Man demons trap their targets inside them and set themselves on fire. Although her increasingly-exasperated reactions to being trapped multiple times do take the edge off.
- While investigating the Counter-Demon Force base, you and your Samurai comrades enter a room, and are immediately greeted by the sudden sight of what appears to be the Black Samurai. Walter himself is startled. Fortunately, as you four find out, it was only the Demonica armor—one of many produced for the CDF—and not the Black Samurai herself.
Walter: "Damn me! It's the Black Samurai!...er... is it?"
- The Voice heard as the Ancient of Days falls: the voice of God Himself, telling you that you hardly inconvenienced Him by destroying His avatar. The war isn't over. It will NEVER be over.
- As you proceed through the game, the number of the denizens of the underground areas that you can talk with slowly dwindles. In other words, even as you proceed through the game, they get slain by demons. Or they get sent to the Reverse Hills to become seedbeds. It's not certain which is worse.
- The Law path features the Samurai, on the angels' orders, effectively purging all of Mikado's history—for example, the Obelisk has its epitaphs scratched out, and the statue of Aquila is destroyed as a reminder that the only being they should be worshipping or even at least looking up to is YHVH. Historical revisionism and ruler worship reminiscent of Big Brother, anyone?
- For veteran Shin Megami Tensei players, the Dance of the Dead Challenge Quest's climax provides one. You kill the last of the Hordes when, suddenly, a remix of the Fiend theme from Nocturne kicks in. Then David shows up and starts spamming either Blight or Mamudo.
I detect a very dangerous demon nearby. You should consider getting out of here.