Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Now Playing: Shin Megami Tensei IV

Main characters

One RPG down and a whole slew to go. For my next playthrough I've decided to go with Shin Megami Tensei IV as I've been meaning to sink my teeth into it for quite some time now. My experience with the series is pretty limited in comparison to other major JRPG series, so I want to do something about that. Mostly, I have vague memories of recruiting monsters and maybe fusing them or some such. Unfortunately, there doesn't appear to be a way to take screenshots for this particular 3DS game, as there isn't a Miiverse community to support it. Because of this, I won't be able to smatter my posts with quite as many images as when I was doing The Last Remnant. Instead, we'll just have to make due with artwork and whatever screenshots I'm able to track down that seem relevant to what I happen to be doing in the game. Anyway, let's begin. =)

Things started off with the game's main character, Flynn (I opted to stick with the canonical name) floating high up in the sky above the clouds with ominous voices calling out to him. Everyone was low on details, but I reckon Flynn may have some sort of important destiny to try and fulfill. Things quickly shifted to a modern city engulfed in flames, wreckage everywhere. In the distance a glow that looked like a person, and a voice calling me over. Upon investigating, the form took the shape of a young man who introduced himself as Walter and said we'd make the world a better place together.

Walter seems pretty nice.
Then as quickly as I arrived here I was whisked away again, now finding myself in what appeared to be a desert with the collapsed remains of a statue to the distance. Again there was a glow that called me over, and again when I got closer it took the form of a young man but this guy's name was Jonathan. He too thinks that we'll work together to save the world.

After this, another flash and suddenly Flynn is by a lake in a medieval kingdom. It looks like the previous stuff was a dream and he was actually taking a nap on the way to Mikado Castle with his friend Issachar.  There they will undergo special rites that determine whether or not they can become samurai. It's a very important role in their kingdom, not many pass the rite, and for those who do it's compulsory that they join. It's a highly respected position and those who qualify automatically become Luxorors, aka members of the kingdom's upper class (more on this later).

After arriving at the castle, Flynn and Issachar find the place where they take the rite. Issachar seemed pretty convinced he was a shoe-in to become a samurai, so off we went to discover our destiny. Issachar went first, and shortly after it was Flynn's turn. Approaching a row of samurai with a monk standing before them, he was asked to put a device on his forearm. The thing looked quite advanced compared to the medieval world he was in and when it was properly attached it lit up with what appeared to be a LCD monitor glowing. This meant Flynn was chosen to be a samurai, something that hadn't happened in a few years.

Just like that he was recruited and Flynn's new commanding officer, a grizzled old samurai named Hope, sent him to his room to rest and prepare for training that would begin the following day. On his way to the barracks, Flynn passed Issachar who looked quite shocked that he was not chosen yet his friend was.

The next day Flynn woke up bright and early to see another new recruit standing in his room. It was Walter from his dream. The two chatted briefly and at first Walter didn't show any signs of knowing Flynn, but before the two headed out he did mention that Flynn looked familiar. Perhaps they had some sort of shared vision but don't realize it yet?

With that the pair headed to the courtyard to begin their first day of training. There were three more new recruits already there waiting. Everyone introduced themselves and two of them seemed nice enough, Isabeau and Jonathan, but the third was an arrogant prick named Navarre. They were all from the upper crust of society, the Luxorors, while Flynn and Walter came from the Casualrys, which are the lower classes. Navarre really lets his station in life go to his head, and he wasted no time looking down on Flynn and Walter. Walter, not one to take crap, was quick to shoot back at his snipes.

Navarre is just a prick, though.
Isabeau seemed nicer, or at least not as unpleasant as Navarre. She also came off as a bit cold and more inclined to do her own thing rather than interact with the others. Meanwhile, Jonathan was quite nice. Also, he appeared to be the same person from Flynn's vision. Again, there were signs of recognition, but they were quickly dismissed as everything having been a dream.

It was at this time that Hope arrived to explain the duty of a samurai and what their first task would be. As it turned out, the world had demons in it and they could cause all sorts of problems if left unchecked, so it was up to samurai to stop them. However, they can also recruit them if the demon is so inclined, and as such they will fight together. It's an unusual relationship to say the least, but nothing we haven't seen before in a SMT game.

The first order of business would be a trek into Naraku, a sprawling dungeon below the city that was teeming with demons. Here the recruits would have to learn both how to fight and how to recruit demons. Game tutorial time, go!

Upon entering the dungeon, Flynn's arm device lit up and introduced itself. Inside was an AI named Burroughs that would assist him in his tasks. She would help explain everything Flynn needed to do on these quests and a lot of the basic game mechanics. While the conversation is nice, players will mostly be using her to save games and unlock apps which are abilities and skill improvements that can be purchased via points earned from leveling up.

A napaea
Napaea make for helpful healer demons early on in the game. ^_^
Fighting and recruiting demons early on proved extremely challenging. I'd heard before that the first couple of trips into Naraku can be brutal and it certainly was the case. Deaths were abundant, recruiting demons was challenging because they can be so arbitrary, and it became easier to just save often and reload said save when things took a turn for the worse. Doing otherwise simply felt like a waste of time and resources just to fill out my roster of demons.

Slowly but surely I was able to recruit three demons and complete my quest that asked me to do such. I took two offensive ones and a healer (a Lham Dearg, a Mokoi, and a Napaea). Rounding out my group like this made a huge difference and it became a lot easier to handle fights. It was here that Hope contacted the recruits on our Burroughs units to give us one more task: find an item of value hidden in the dungeon. The first one to get it wins.

A Lham Dearg
I rather like the Lham Deargs as well. They're good on
offense with powerful single and multi-target attacks.
So, the race was on, but I decided to fight demons for a little while and get everyone stronger first. This paid off when I finally found the item as it was guarded by a powerful horde of demons. We managed to beat them, though, and recover what Hope had planted, a woman's ring. With that the recruits were recalled to the courtyard as training was over.

Upon returning, Hope congratulated Flynn on a job well done. Navarre was none too pleased to have been beaten by a lowly Casualry, but it felt good to do better than that smug prick. With that, training was done for the day and we could do as we liked. Jonathan invited us all to the roof of the castle, as it had a great view, so that's what I'll probably do next, but for now it's time for a rest. It was an interesting first hour or so in the game. I like how we're in a medieval world yet there are remnants of ancient technology around. I'm curious how they're all connected, and I'm also looking forward to the wonderful world of demon fusing which should be coming up soon. There's a lot of fun stuff coming down the pipe, I reckon, but that can wait until next time. TTFN. =)