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Scrappy Mechanic / Shin Megami Tensei

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Part of Shin Megami Tensei's infamous difficulty stems from a lot of game mechanics that many players find frustrating and unnecessary.

Multiple games
  • The main character being KO'd resulting in Game Over (Although being a brilliant example of Gameplay and Story Integration, since your demons are basically free to do what they want once you're dead and there's nothing to force them to fight anymore). Combine this rule with The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard with regard to critical hits and you have the potential for lots of tossed controllers because the game decided to punish you just for being unlucky.
    • Consider the fact that you don't actually control anyone in your party but the main character (except in the PSP version), and Persona 3 can be hair-pulling, eye-gouging, controller-throwingly infuriating on this front. Especially considering that two elements of enemy have strictly OHKO attacks that both go from targeting one to multiple to all party members AND gain a higher chance of being effective as the game goes on. You can eventually develop Personas to make you immune to these attacks, but the first 3/4 of the game is spent in fear of a lucky shot taking out the protagonist and erasing a good chunk of progress with it. Combine this with the fact that the dungeon levels are randomly generated and thus give only random chances to go back to the save point until you get a special spell to do it whenever you like, and one cheap shot can take out an hour of grinding. Or, on an alternate path, there's a random chance of finding a special area with enemies that give huge rewards if you can kill them before they run, some of which are necessary to complete quests.
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    • Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 is significantly better about this, as party members can and will save your character from taking a mortal blow...but, only if you're about to be hit by a single target attack. If an attack hits everyone, you're still screwed. And Golden moves this ability from the first Social Link bonus to the next-to-last, so you won't benefit from it in the early game where defensive options are more limited. Also you can decide to take manual control over the whole party, or often times just the person with the best healing skills. The original Persona and Persona 2 are also significantly more lenient, as the main character dying doesn't end the game.
    • The main character dying in Digital Devil Saga also doesn't result in a game over, it just means one less press turn to use. This also applies to Shin Megami Tensei IV and some later games, though they may also present options to re-enable this trope if the player desires. This is replaced by a caveat in SMT4: your demon compatriots cannot use items without a special skill, so if your team doesn't have a demon with a revive spell or the aforementioned skill, the main character is essentially down for the rest of the fight. They also can't switch places with another demon who has one of these skills unless they have a different spell.
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  • The inheritance mechanic. To clarify, when fusing two Personae/Demons, what they could inherit is based off of inheritance and the Persona's/Demon's type (like fire Personae can't learn ice magic, for example). Normally, this isn't a issue unless you had games that had cross, pentagram and hexagram fusions. When these occurred, players found themselves creating a demon/persona with four different types of spells through the same tree (Agi, Agilao, Maragi, and Agidyne, for example) because of, again, inheritance and type. These unwanted moves used to be called "noise" or undesirable spells for inheritance if only because of redundancy. Many late game fusions such as P3's Thanatos required players to refuse all of their death persona just to avoid having to sift through reloading screen after screen after screen after screen just to get the right movesets with minimal noise. Devil Survivor introduces the ability to choose what the demon inherits, finally alleviating sitting through and refreshing menus repeatedly, and this ability has been retained in future games like Persona 4 Golden and Shin Megami Tensei IV.
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  • During negotiations, Demons can just decide to leave. With all the Macca and items you just gave them. This is completely random and there is nothing you can do to predict or stop it. To add insult to injury, this also removes some of your Press Turn icons, so you can't take as many actions for this turn.
  • Harder difficulties like to introduce a subset of Fake Difficulty: Jacking up the prices on the features such as the demonic/persona compendium to ludicrous amounts, so much so that it's supposed to force players to keep talking to demons and constantly recruiting or re-fusing the demon/persona you want; ignoring a lot of problems that mechanic has.

Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne

  • Players of Nocturne despise a certain part of the Labyrinth of Amala. Unless you know how to traverse a certain floor in a certain kalpa properly, you will drop down onto a lower floor that is an early introduction to damage floors. Thankfully the dungeon is optional. There's also the Cursed Corridor, an area of the next kalpa where a red gas that slashes your party's HP in half every four steps is present and has powerful enemies. Defeating a specific boss in another kalpa removes the gas, but going through the gas before beating said boss nets you a quarter of a million Macca.

Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey

  • While this game lacks the inheritance mechanic (any demon can inherit any skill), it brings another issue: skill inheritance is completely random. Fused demons have their own specific skills, plus random skills from their components and D-Source (if you choose to use one). If you want a Demon with a specific combination of skills, prepare to spend a lot of time coming in and out of the fusion result preview screen until you get all the desired skills.

Shin Megami Tensei IV

  • The lack of a defense stat. As you progress through the game, damage values can only go up, quickly outstripping the progression of your party's HP, and the game will quickly evolve into Rocket-Tag Gameplay, so unless you spam buffs and change your body armor and team makeup repeatedly to exploit elemental resistances, a single wave of enemy turns can be enough to completely wreck your team. An enemy ambush will often spell a Game Over.
  • Fighting the Fiends. While David and Mother Harlot are found in Challenge Quests and Plasma is obtainable through DLC, the others all have 1/256 spawn rates and only appear by standing in a very exact spot. It's possible to search for a single Fiend for days with no luck. Special mention goes to Red Rider, who can only be fought in the Neutral Route by completing a specific Challenge Quest and having at least 100 Luck.
  • During most battles, you have a partner who acts automatically at the end of each turn. Unfortunately, they have elemental magic and zero understanding of Elemental Rock–Paper–Scissors in a series where not hitting your opponent's strong points is important. This leads to them using spells that get nullified, absorbed (healing the enemy), or reflected, and granting them a Smirk (massive evasion rate boost and guaranteed critical hit). Notably, Minotaur has earned a reputation as That One Boss due to Walter's tendency to use Agi on him, which Minotaur is immune to.
  • The way scouting demons works in this game is that it's not enough to just give the demon what it wants until it finally decides you're worth joining. Sometimes, a demon will just run off with your crap, so it's sometimes necessary to pick the "End talks" option, at which point depending on the RNG you'll either be right in guessing that the demon has all of what they want and they'll join you, or they'll lash out at you for being stingy with your material, potentially even getting a free turn. There is no way to tell whether continuing to give or ending negotiations is the correct choice, so you pretty much just have to pray that the Random Number God is having a good day.

Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse

  • The assist mechanic. Your partner has a gauge that fills up whenever they act, and when it's full all your partners team up to support you, attack the enemies, give Smirk to random party members, and cancel the enemy's turn. However, the gauge fills up on its own and the attack automatically activates once it's full. This often leads to your partners unleashing their full power on random encounters you were about to defeat anyways, and there's no way to save it specifically for boss battles. It also only fills at the end of your turn, meaning if you defeat a group of weak enemies in one turn, it doesn't count towards your assist meter since the battle ends before the meter goes up.
  • Gaston in general. All other partners act on their own at the end of your turn, but he instead acts during it, and consumes your precious Press Turn icons. And if his attacks miss or get nullified, you take the turn penalty. The end result is a partner that just randomly forces you to use specific attacks. To add insult to injury, you later get Toki, another physical-based partner, who doesn't have this drawback, making Gaston inferior in every way. In fact, Toki also has a cut-in mechanic that doesn't use any of your Press Turn icons, making Gaston stand out even more as a Low-Tier Scrappy.

Soul Hackers

  • Magnetite, or MAG for short. It's a Practical Currency that allows demons to maintain their physical form, but it's often seen as too restrictive by modern players. Each demon has a MAG cost that is deducted from your total for every single step you take, including in safe areas such as Paradigm X, and if you run out they start losing HP. Stronger demons can require hundreds of MAG per step, making their mere presence in your party Awesome, but Impractical. And if you want to bypass the cost in safe areas by dismissing your team and resummoning it later, too bad, because each demon also has a MAG cost for summoning it to your party, making it pointlessly expensive to switch your current lineup (until Nemissa learns the spell Sabbatoma later on, which only costs a small amount of her MP to summon a demon from your stock). The mechanic actually was in the series since the beginning, but it drew most criticism here because this is the first game with the mechanic to be officially localized in the West several years later, making it the most accessible to newcomers.

Persona 3

  • The Golden Enemies in Persona 3. If you see one, you could attempt shooting it with a bow (or Aigis' gun in The Answer), but most players prefer to use shortswords, longswords, axes or gloves because they hit like a truck - hence having to unequip and re-equip weapons just for one stinking shadow is a real pain in the ass. The only other option you have is to sneak upon the bastard and pray to Vishnu that it doesn't see you and flee; once it starts running and it outruns you, there's no way in hell you're gonna catch it before it goes bye-bye. What's also infuriating is if you encounter one in a dead-end esque area with nowhere to run: IT DISAPPEARS STRAIGHT AWAY BEFORE YOU HAVE THE CHANCE TO REACT. Thankfully, Golden Shadows run towards you in the sequel. And if you're playing the PSP remake of Persona 3, the Main Character is forced to use shortswords (for male MC) or naginatas (for female MC), so you can't take a cheap way out and use a bow to strike from a distance.
  • The Social Link system — specifically, its ability to Reverse and Break Social Links; Reversing a Link means you need to spend extra time and effort to be able to start advancing it again (and P3 is already a very touchy game about time management), whilst Breaking one will mean you cannot use Personas of that Link. For the rest of the current cycle, with no way of fixing it. Particularly nasty is the fact that the five Social Links that require interacting with female characters take into account a hidden "jealousy" mechanic, which cuts down the time you have before that Link Reverses by a quarter each and every time you see a different girl. Compounding this is that each of the five female S.Links take a good amount of points to rank up to the next level; which means a lot of wasted time and gifts to get them happy enough to the next S.Level without wasting too much time. Which one is this bad with? Take your pick:
    • Yukari Takeba, the Lovers Link, for whom major Values Dissonance between Western and Japanese perspective is involved, making her the easiest Social Link in the game to Reverse or Break. More specifically, it's a bad idea to hug her when she's upset (unlike the next two games' Lovers party members, Rise and Ann, in which case hugging them is the way to get into a romantic relationship with them).
    • Chihiro, the Justice Link. Your relationship with her becomes intimate at rank 5 as opposed to rank 7, making it harder to balance the other female S.Links because of it.
    • Yuko, the Strength link, for having VERY little free time during the week or having hard to shop for presents (Until FES, the only items Yuko greatly liked were only available on the Shopping Network).
    • Fuuka, the High Priestess Link, who requires max courage VERY early in the game (when money's not exactly flowing from the pockets yet) to complete her S.Link in one run. Luckily, the female route lowered the Courage requirement for her... and then applied a similarly strict check for Ken's Social Link.
    • Mitsuru, the Empress Link, requires not only maxed Academics, but you have to have achieved first place in at least one exam. There are only two exams left by the time her Link is available, and waiting for the second won't give you much time to finish her Link, especially if you're also dealing with jealousy from other Links.
  • Persona 3 Portable introduced the female S.Link variants who; while they don't have to struggle with intimacy options (and even can keep platonic with them, avoiding the jealousy mechanic) introduces a different problem: Two of them (Fortune and Moon) have notoriously short timeframes to complete and even missing a single day with them screws the player out of maxing out the S.Link, something the male protagonist has no problem with.
  • Persona 4 removed the complexity of the dating mechanic and only allows the player to become intimate with the female classmate S.Links at rank 8 at the earliest for most links to the joy of many gamers although it's still possible to break the Fortune and Moon Social Links through making bad decisions (which include refusing to help Naoto and Ai at critical points, or taking an especially harsh tone with Ai).
  • Spending time with party/school Social Links on days off won't result in a rank up; you just hang out with them and get some relationship points. This is especially bad during summer and winter vacation, when your progress with your Social Links grinds to a halt. While the fourth and fifth games had similar mechanics, they often gave points in multiple Social Links (for example, one early May hangout event in the fourth game gives points with Daisuke/Kou, Yosuke and Nanako), as well as other fringe benefits, neither of which applies in the third game.
  • One minor but still annoying mechanic is how, unlike in the subsequent two games, you can't see whether spending time with a Social Link friend will result in a rank-up. By comparison, the fourth and fifth games had the player character saying "I think my relationship with Social Link will grow stronger soon," or "I don't think my relationship with X will become stronger yet," before you're given the choice whether to spend time with them, and will get similar messages at the end of a holdover visit or hangout event (as a way of showing whether your next session will be a rank up).
  • It's possible for the enemy to begin combat with the advantage, even if you struck the enemy on the field, and this happens more often on higher difficulties or against rare forms. In the fourth and fifth games, striking the enemy on the field usually averts the worst-case scenario of being ambushed, but in this case, you can still get ambushed and possibly killed even if you aren't careless enough to let the Shadows sneak up on you.

Persona 4

  • In both story scenes and some Social Links, some dialogue options are unavailable to you if your social stats aren't high enough, usually Courage. Since social stat increase is slightly random in P4, it's possible to be forced to choose sub-optimal Social Link responses if you're unlucky. The beginning of the game is the most annoying about this, where you're teased with MANY dialogue choices that you definitely won't have enough Courage for until a New Game+.
  • Rainy days. Almost all Social Links are unavailable on rainy days, leaving you with very few options. In most cases, it's just fishing, Aya's Mega Beef Bowl, or going to the dungeon (which will also rob you of your night time), and dungeons have new, annoying enemies in rainy weather.
  • Persona 4 Golden changed the Reaper mechanic. The Reaper drops the best weapons for each character and some good armor as well as the ultra rare Omnipotent Orb. To fight the reaper in Persona 4 Golden, you have to open 20-21 chests in a row with one chest possibly holding the Reaper in it. Once you start hearing the rattling of chains, one of the remaining chests on that floor might have the Reaper, meaning that if there are many chests or none, you're not likely to see him. Unless you know what you're doing ahead of time, the odds of actually encountering the reaper are low as you're relying on luck to get the bastard in the chest in the first place.

Persona 5

  • On days reserved for plot events(often if you're planning to do something the next day), Morgana will force you to go to bed early at night, losing you your night-time actions. Sometimes it's not obvious which days are plot days, and you can sometimes be screwed out of hanging out with one of your night time Confidants, a few of which are available for very few days of the week. The most glaring cases of this is during mid-May and early July, two points at which the player spends almost all day doing story related content, then heading home and having to go to bed. Worse yet is that these two examples are not just one day, but include multiple days straight, with early July having the player go almost three weeks straight being unable to do anything after classnote . People have expressed their frustration at not even being allowed to read a book at home. Thankfully, Morgana does this less often in Persona 5 Royal.
  • Just like in Persona 4 and 3; the game will ask a certain stat of yours to be at a level before your S.Link option can open. Persona 5, however, will require this from a LOT of, if not, all of your S.Links with possible exception to the story line related ones and the Sun S.Link. One standout example is Makoto's Social Link, which opens up in June and requires Rank 3 Knowledge to start (which isn't so bad), and maxed out Charm to get past the midpoint. Another noteworthy one is Iwai's Social Link, which becomes available in May, but requires Rank 4 Guts to start(you're generally lucky to have Rank 2 Guts by then), and Rank 5 Guts to unlock the latter third.
  • The inability to turn Confidant skills off. There are several skills, such as Ryuji's Insta-kill and several of Yoshida's later skillsnote , that could potentially hurt more than they help, thus meaning you can't ever proceed with their Confidants if you feel the negatives outweigh the positives, something that would be easily negated by allowing every ability to be toggled on and off. Royal fixes the former skill issue slightly by removing Insta-kill from ambushes and instead requiring the player to go out of their way to trigger it by dashing into the enemy.
  • If you manage to ambush a Shadow that is faster than you, the Shadow will get two turns in a row after each member of your party has acted. This isn't a problem if you can end the battle before then, but if you can't, the monster will likely wipe you out.

Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth

  • The "Boost" mechanic. If you hit an enemy's weakness or get a Critical Hit, you become Boosted, enabling you to act first and use skills without any HP or SP cost. This is obviously crucial, since skills tend to cost a lot of SP in this game, but if an enemy hits you, the Boost status goes away, meaning that a Herd-Hitting Attack near the end of a turn can cost all your party members their Boost.
  • Related to the above, you aren't allowed to choose which skills your party members' Main Personas have, resulting in elemental skills automatically being replaced by their more powerful and expensive versions. For players who want to keep their lower-tier skills around to have a cheap way of hitting an enemy's weakness, this can be frustrating.
  • The second labyrinth has tiles that drain SP as you walk across them, and must be traversed to fully map out the dungeon, unless you're willing to pay Play Coins to finish the unmapped part.

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