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We're back, baby. Last game we were Flynn, a beloved Messiah whose choices sway the world. This time, we're some nameless, faceless kid no-one cares about until Mid Game. You die, make a deal with a questionably moral demon, and in exchange for returning, there's enemies that need killing for a better world. A LOT of them.
The whole game is actually pretty good stand-alone. Standard SMT mechanics in fore, and it's more forgiving in aspects than the last game (demon recruiting for example). Usual gripes with the franchise are present, such as turn-based combat, 100% completion nutters, etc. But you probably didn't pick this up if you weren't willing to tolerate them for the last three SMT games.
With that said, you really need the previous game for everything to make sense and appreciate the finer points. Without the last game, Apocalypse seems to be biased towards The Power of Friendship as the only ending you're supposed to get: the typical anime message, which annoys some people. In CONTEXT, your party is restricting you of choice, making you pick the moral options because you're obliged to. They're likeable enough though for some, and if you decide not to kill them at the end it's your call, but you do it in the understanding that in the larger scheme of things you changed basically nothing.
I just wish the Neutral Massacre ending were a bit better presented. Fights-wise it's almost the same, but has less fanfare, which makes people think Bonds is the one true ending.
There will be other aspects that will annoy without SMT IV knowledge too. The antagonists like Merkabah and Lucifer seem portrayed as crazy and extreme, in contrast to the last game, but to be fair, that's because of perspective. Remember, you're not playing as Flynn this time, you're playing as someone with second-hand information on them. The main 'bad guys', the Divine Powers, are actually pretty deep if you don't dismiss them as crazy, and their gripes are legitimate ones with God in general.
Speaking of which, one gripe for ME is that the Law and Chaos endings in this game are unilaterally presented as the bad endings, where in previous games either one seemed fine, even if neither resolved everything.
So to summarise, this game is best enjoyed by actually taking what both the antagonists and protagonists say seriously and PAY ATTENTION, otherwise they'll come off as unlikeable Strawmen. Gameplay-wise, it's definitely more forgiving than SMT IV, polishing the more annoying aspects, although certain persisting faults are still there, but YMMV.
I actually didn\'t have too much problem with Law and Chaos being presented as bad endings, though that might be because I\'m mostly Neutral-leaning (Neutral is the best, because the Fiends are Neutral). Also didn\'t mind The Power of Friendship, though that may be because I really like my real-life friends and would really love it if I could get superpowers for being a friendly person.
Out of curiosity, what did you think about the changes to the Smirk system?
Less random than before, which is a blessing, and the fact that there are more skills that use Smirk is a nice bonus thanks to it.
I\'ve actually never picked Bonds when I played both times. Massacre just made more sense. I didn\'t think Dagda was being a Strawman at all: a world where people understand everything, aren\'t dependent on anyone, believe in fact-based logic, and cannot impose upon whatever small settlements humans make without consent would be a pretty sweet deal. It would mean no-one, not humans, gods, or demons, would be able to use others for things not in their self-interest.
It would make sense were it me. Nanashi\'s life was basically shit enough even after Dagda\'s deal that if I were him, I\'d have pretty similar views. I\'d jump at the chance to be the one to call the shots for once.
I don\'t think Dagda was meant to be a Strawman (at least, he never came across as one to me). Sure, some people might say Bonds is the \"Good Route,\" but while I\'m a Bonds-preferring player, I wouldn\'t consider Massacre an \"Evil Route,\" even if you have to kill lots of people by the end of it.
Though the things you find appealing about Massacre seems almost similar to Nocturne\'s Reason of Musubi, funnily enough. Though Musubi was definitely more about isolation from others.
Pfft, that asshole doesn\'t seem to realise he contradicts himself.
The new universe wouldn\'t be about isolation: it would be about making transhumans the new \'normal\' humans. They\'d know and understand everything, grasp whatever truth they want, and any like-minded individuals can band together and form their own nomadic groups. Heck, this setup even protects against the Goddess of Tokyo: any Messiah she can find would be limited, because their actions are still being guided by her, reliant on observing only what she wants them to. The transhumans who have no such limits could get rid of them: neither you nor Flynn would even NEED to intervene.
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