Saturday, 15 March 2014

Good News! Tokyo is Saved! Shin Megami Tensei IV Finished!

Hunter Nozomi
One of the few side quests I needed to complete involved
helping Nozomi once more.
Well, that didn't take very long. Here I was wondering how much longer I'd be plugging away on side quests in order to fill the Chalice of Hope for Masakado, and not only did I get all of that sorted out, but I also steam rolled through the rest of the game. I think that when the finish line started to come into sight I just broke into a sprint and decided to finish the game.

There actually weren't very many quests left that I had to do. The only one from the Hunter's Association that I needed to get sorted out was one where we had to help Nozomi protect some fairies. They were trying to bring their queen back into the world, and Nozomi had the ability to do it via her demon summoning program, but we needed to protect her while she went about that. It was an easy fight and after it was over, Nozomi was able to summon the demon in question. However, the creature had new responsibilities that she could not abandon, so asked Nozomi to become the fairies' new queen. It was an important task, and I had Flynn encourage her to give it a shot, after which Nozomi accepted the job.

That out of the way, there wasn't any other quests coming up at the bar, and Flynn was still number two in the rankings, so I got to wandering around, checking if I missed any one-off quests somewhere along the line. I'd met a hunter once outside Shinjuku who asked Flynn to take some pictures in Ikebukuro as a quest, so I wondered if there might be any more like that I had missed.

Sure enough, there was. After checking around all of the major inhabited areas of Tokyo, I came across one girl in the Shinjuku train station that asked Flynn to take a couple of pictures of the Counter Demon Force base in Kasumigaseki. There was also a women in the area just prior to the main city part of Ginza who wanted a picture of a specific store in the area of Ginza that requires a platinum card for access. These were very easy to do, so I got them out of the way real quick and decided to check the leader board at the bar in Shinjuku once more. Finally, Flynn had achieved first place. Everyone there congratulated him on a job well done.

When Flynn headed out, he was quickly mobbed by adoring fans. The stories of his exploits were getting around and people felt that they had a hero they could believe in. It was at that moment that the Chalice of Hope filled up a bit. This got me thinking that I should take Flynn to all of the cities to see if we could get the thing totally full. It was a good assumption to make, as the same scene repeated itself several times. At Ueno, Shibuya, and Ikebukuro, Flynn and Isabeau were greeted by the locals, all excited to see the hero, and cheer him on, thanking him for all of the help he'd given so far. The two places where no one showed up were Ginza and Tennozu, which was understandable given one was the former stronghold of the Ring of Gaea, now rudderless after the death of Lilith, and the other an isolated city with no knowledge of the Hunter's Association.

Archangel Seraph
Seraph had an interesting, color-coded
fight mechanic.
So, filled chalice in hand, it was time to go see Masakado again. When we met him, the deity happily took the contents of the cup and consumed it, partially restoring his strength. Unfortunately, it still wasn't enough to remove the dome over Tokyo. He would still need to become stronger and the only way to do this would be to first march on Mikado. There we would have to destroy God's Chariot, which stored the Spirit of Goodwill. Next we'd have to head to the demon stronghold in Tokyo and kill Lucifer in order to get the Spirit of Spite. Masakado would need to eat these as well in order to return fully to his former self and remove the dome. However, he was now strong enough to join Flynn's party and help fight.

Masakado made a decent addition and I tended to keep him in the front as he's not weak against any sorts of attacks and has some decent almighty and gun abilities. He's also necessary to bring down the barrier in Naraku blocking the way to Mikado, as well as the barrier that keeps anyone from getting into Camp Ichigaya.

Partially restored guardian deity in tow, the first place we headed to was Mikado so we could claim the Spirit of Goodwill. However, when we brought down the barrier in Naraku what we found was not the network of caves that we were expecting. Instead we were transported to a place called Purgatorium, which was like being sent to a different, very surreal dimension.

The place was divided into several floors, each with paths that only formed in front of Flynn as he moved. There were several areas with multiple warp zones that took a little while to figure out. All the while we fought through legions of angels, all quite intent on keeping the filthy humans away from their chariot. It was actually tough to see them sometimes because they're almost the same color as the environment, so on several occasions I found myself getting ambushed. There were also mini boss fights along the way, fighting particularly strong angels and archangels, but this was just a matter of figuring out their weaknesses and exploiting them, as per usual in the game (though Seraph had a neat fight with a color coded barrier).

When we finally got to the end of the dungeon, we found the Chariot, though it was more like a very powerful archangel. It was called Merkabah, and, as it turned out, Jonathan had fused with it so that it could come into existence in this world. He had made a choice too when encountering the White, opting to align with the forces of order, and this was the result of that decision. His body was now a vessel for Merkabah.

Merkabah, God's Chariot
Merkabah is pretty tough. Get ready to
cast Debilitate a lot.
After a brief chat, the fight was on, and this was a tough battle. In terms of strategy, I found it was kind of similar to how I dealt with Beelzebub. Merkabah had no weaknesses, so we weren't going to be getting many extra turns outside of from landing critical blows. So the offensive side of things would be a bit of a slog as my team wore him down. That was simple enough, as the real challenge came from mounting a defense. The angel hits quite hard and likes to use almighty attacks, so in order to mitigate this we needed to bring down his stats as much as possible with Debilitate. This helped a lot in containing his offensive output. On top of this, I made a point of using Makarakarn to reflect the occasional lightning spell he would cast since my Rangda was weak against it. This wound up adding to the damage we were dumping on Merkabah, which was nice. Of course, there were also pauses for chit chat, and depending on the answers one chose Flynn would either get a boost or a penalty.

In the end, it was a long, hard fought battle, but we finally beat Merkabah. Before disappearing, he acknowledged that Flynn had won the day but said that one day the angels would be back, as there would eventually be humans who could not live without the beings and would begin praying to them.

Chariot defeated, we entered Mikado and were able to claim the Spirit of Goodwill. At this point, Isabeau left the party as she wanted to warn everyone that soon Masakado would be removing the dome from Tokyo, and Mikado would be destroyed in the process, so she headed off to arrange the evacuation of the kingdom to Tokyo with the help of Hope and Hugo.

Now all that was left was to defeat Lucifer and get the Spirit of Spite. This required us to return once more to Camp Ichigaya, where the Yamato Reactor had opened a rift to the Expanse, allowing the demon armies to pour into Tokyo. Just like in Naraku, there was a barrier here, and again Masakado brought it down.

General Lucifuge
Lucifuge, one of Lucifer's generals.
Confusing name choices, ahoy!
Going through this portal brought us to another unusual realm. This time it was an opulent palace with marble, pillars, chandeliers, and the like. There wasn't a winding maze before us this time. Instead there were just doors situated in certain areas of the room that would take Flynn to other rooms that looked almost identical save for a different layout of treasure chests in them. It was actually a very confusing place to get around and took a good deal of trial and error, as well as luck, to navigate.

In time, we came across Lucifer's generals that were defending the place and defeated them, which caused a pillar of light to appear in the main hall. Walking into it transported Flynn to another area of the palace that was far easier to get around. Along the way we also found the last of the teleporation terminals in Tokyo and were able to complete the quest to find and activate all ten of them, which was nice.

After exploring the palace a bit more, we finally came upon the room where Lucifer was waiting for Flynn. Just as Jonathan had thrown his lot in with the angels, we found Walter here, who was supporting the demons, and like Jonathan, Walter was willing to give up his body to help his side. In this case, Walter gave his body to Lucifer. So, sad chat out of the way it was time for another epic showdown.

Just like our fight with Merkabah, Debilitate played a heavy role here. We also needed to use quite a bit of Makarakarn to reflect some of Lucifer's spells back at him. This fight we were able to do in one go, but it did take a while since we needed to burn through so many hit points, but in the end we emerged victorious and helped ourselves to the Spirit of Spite. Also, just like when Merkabah was defeated, Lucifer warned that one day the demons would be back. Gotta keep the door open for those sequels after all!

Anyway, final big boss out of the way, it was time to head to the cafe in Shinjuku, and meet up with Isabeau as we'd agreed before parting ways in Mikado.  When Flynn arrived, everyone was there.  Hope was waiting outside, and greeted Flynn.  Inside, Fujiwara, Skins, Huge, K, and Isabeau were all there chatting.

Hugo seemed pretty excited to be in Tokyo since there were so many relics for him to learn about. He was particularly eager to learn all about wine, and Fujiwara offered to share a bottle with him sometime. Everyone was in a festive mood, with both the angels and demons defeated. K was getting food ready, and was happy to be in Tokyo despite Mikado's legends of it being a terrible place. He mentioned that it almost felt like he'd been to the city before. This got me thinking that maybe 25 years ago when angels took some humans from Tokyo to what would become Mikado, the adults had their memories altered so that they thought their kingdom was ancient when it actually wasn't. It would help explain the timeline issues I was having with the game.

Lucifer the demon lord
I found Lucifer's
design to be kind of
creepy.
With that, Isabeau joined up with Flynn once more and the two went to meet up with Masakado to give him the Spirits of Goodwill and Spite. When the deity appeared he congratulated them on a job well done and ate the spirits. Finally, he was restored to his former self, transforming into an absolutely massive figure. He was now big enough to remove the bedrock dome over Tokyo. At first it crumbled slowly, large pieces of stone falling from the sky. Finally, the dome was gone, and for the first time in a quarter of a century the sun shone on Tokyo again.

At that moment, Flynn was teleported to a beach with a table and chairs there. In front of him was a small girl who transformed into a woman. It was the Goddess of Tokyo. She too was now restored, and very grateful to Flynn for all he had done. And with that, the game was finished.

On the whole, I very much enjoyed this game. It's the first Shin Megami Tensei game that I've managed to finish. Usually I'm not into monster breeding games, never having gotten into stuff like Pokemon, but this one was fun. Maybe it was the art direction? Battles were fun, with a nice bit of learning, trying to figure out what worked, especially on bosses like Beelzebub, Lucifer, and Merkabah. Several of the dungeons were nicely designed and felt like proper buildings to be explored, not just a random network of winding paths. About the only thing I didn't enjoy about SMT IV was when I was doing low level side quests to complete the neutral path. Those were a bit of a drag because of the lack of challenge, being so much stronger than the demons we encountered then. On the whole, though, I had a lot of fun. Shin Megami Tensei IV is certainly one of the better RPGs to come out in recent years that I've played, and I'd highly recommend it to any fan of the genre that has a 3DS.