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Reviews VideoGame / Shin Megami Tensei IV Apocalypse

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11/16/2017 08:19:20 •••

A diamond and a pile of garbage all in one package.

I'll start with the good. The battle system and gameplay is much more refined than it was in the original IV. Smirk no longer feels as overpowered, AI allies are actually useful, the difficulty curve is much more even and the final boss now actually puts up a decent fight. Lone problem I have with the gameplay is that it is generally fairly easy all around, and that the final boss just feels shoehorned in.

Presentation wise, it's pretty much the same as vanilla IV, that is good music and so-so portraits. (though Doi definitely improved in this game). The map has seen a major improvement, being actually discernible from the background now.

Now for all my vitriol. To be short, the story and characters are complete garbage.

While it tries to set up an interesting conflict with a central choice, it completely falls flat due to a horrid bias towards one side. This of course leads to no shortage of the Strawman Fallacy, Author Tract and Glurge, were pretty much anyone not aligned with Danu is portrayed as wrong, with all sort of moral and logical dissonances that result from it. The games handling of symbolism don't fare much better with random stuff being thrown around with little consideration seemingly in an attempt to stay relevant. While I don't use this words often, I think pretentious would be a good word to describe this. And all this while the game totes around with a tone that doesn't belong in this kind of setting, the best I can do to describe it is calling the tone schizophrenic.

The characters don't make things any better. They are simply completely flat. They have one single trait that is emphasized and that's it. While the series has never been known for it's characters, these come of as flat even by the series standards. And given how much screen-time they get, that's almost kinda impressive. You know there is a problem when you can figure out their entire character arc from the moment you meet them. And that's if they develop at all. (looking at you Nozomi) Even the games numerous Strawmen end up more interesting than them.

And finally, it is all backed by just plain groan worthy dialogue and a clear implication that the writer thinks the viewers as complete goldfish and morons with constant repetition and extensive exposition dumps trying to use esoteric phrasing and prose, with even spoken lines put extra emphasis on important words ("salvation" anyone). It doesn't even seem to trust the viewer to figure out even the most basic of things at times. And things such as Show, Don't Tell and subtlety are all but absent. The game even has the old classic cliche of the villains and heroes monologuing back and forth for long stretches of time in moments that are supposed to be tense or tragic.

In the end, the enjoyment of the game will weigh heavily on what one wants from it. Refined JRPG gameplay? Go for it if you can put up with a story being showed into your face. Good Story? Look elsewhere.

05/15/2017 00:00:00

I dunno man, the series has always shown a pretty heavy bias towards Neutral.

05/16/2017 00:00:00

That is true, but not to this extent. While this game is meant to show different sides of Neutrality (and if you squint, you could say that it did) it fails to properly convey them as proper sides. Traditionally, while neutrality has typically been seen as the favorable option, the other sides are shown and acknowledged that they also have favorable traits, the most common way it does this is with human characters that you get to know in the game that end up taking sides. In this game, no one considers Dagda's option viable or sideable, he is his routes only representative. And everything in the game, from the narrative to the mechanics are built in support of only the other route. Dagda's path is basically one long extended bad ending route, where as in the past, Law and Chaos routes where seen as extreme but just as viable.

And there was one thing I forgot to mention in the review (on top of running out of space) and that was all the uncomfortable subtext the game ended up presenting through it's rather unsubtle Aesop. I think Glurge would be a fitting phrase to describe this game.

11/16/2017 00:00:00

How is it Glurge? It\'s only if you don\'t pay attention to the deeper themes (and you\'ll probably only pick them up if you played last game that it appears that way. Bonds is actually the bad ending if you didn\'t pay attention to the last game.

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