Review by darkdestiny90
"Best RPG of the Year? No Question"
I'm sure you have heard the term "best rpg of the year" so many times it means nothing by now... but you would definitely be missing out if you passed up this gem, it is one of the best classic rpgs in years... ah hell it's probably the best rpg since Chrono Cross and FF9. First some background on the series would probably help... Shin Megami Tensei or SMT for short originally had two games on the famicom... which were both remade for the PSX and eventually the GBA, along with the Persona series which was a spin-off. The games were a huge hit in Japan, on the scale of Final Fantasy... so why haven't you heard of it? Controversy. Back during the NEW and SNES days releasing this series would have been near suicidal because of the ridiculously disturbing religious imagery and very mature themes. This is not a Tales or Star Ocean game folks.. if that is what you're looking for then stay away. For everyone who wants a hardcore RPG with a great story, however, you just found it.
Gameplay (10/10) - Scoring this any less would be a crime... it is simple enough for anyone to get into, but after you scratch the surface the complexity really begins to show through. It is amazingly well thought out system, that seems alot like a strange mix of final fantasy, disgea, and dare I say it... pokemon. No! don't hit that X in the corner yet... let me explain.
You, the main character who is half-human, half-demon (more on that in a minute) can recruit some of the 100+ demons to your cause whatever it may be. There are hundreds of different skills and variations of attacks along with fusing demons to create a stronger ones, sounds simple right? During your first battles it will look very simple also with a very basic screen where you choose attack or one of the many skills. But when you start getting in to strengths and weaknesses in certain battles you will begin to see how complex this actually is. One wrong move can mean the end... which is why the game is so hard, it isn't cheap or has alot of unavoidable deaths it is just that without preparation a random battle could kill you... it is very unforgiving... but still fair. Now I guess i'll try to explain some of the more interesting features.
Magatama, which is, more or less. demon energy (from what I gather) can greatly change your main character's stats and alters the skills he will learn and the bonuses he gets. The more unique feature of this is that you can change Magatama at any time to get ready for the upcoming battles... they might impart you with death spells but you are weak to expel (angelic version of death basically) or ice and fire... etc. basic rpg fair... but I have never seen it make this much difference in an rpg before... Picking the white horseman over the Angel might seem like a good idea at the time from the stats but if you face a boss that has a strength to fire then your screwed because not only does a weakness hurt more but it also gives the enemy extra turns. (same for you of course) Trust me... 4 attacks in a row can end the game for you very easily. I know it sounds really simple but you have to see it... it isn't as easy or as simple as it sounds.
Something else that is interesting is that levels really don't make that much difference... Though you can to get a slight edge, you can beat the entire game without power leveling once... well or so i've heard, I'm an old school rpger, I level till the cows come home ^_^. Also the fuse system has a few unique features of its own. For instance... fusing the demons doesn't just create a stronger (or weaker if the case may be) demon it transfers random skills to it as well... which, with a little luck, can make a seemingly unstoppable demon. When this happens the game lets you feel all powerful for a little bit... then it kicks your ass. Trust me that happens alot.
There is also a conversation system that I don't think has been done before... to recruit the demons you have to talk to them and persuade them with money or items... but that isn't the interesting part. 9 times out of 10, to make sure they want to join, they will ask you a metophorical question that has no right or wrong answer and you have to figure out what the want you to say.. you've got one chance, blow it and you'll have to find another one of the same demons in another random battle and try agian.. you can lose alot of money this way if your not good at those kind of questions... so get good fast.
Best of all though is that you can recruit seemingly godly demons called fiends which have some of the coolest designs i've ever seen... The trick is you have to beat them in battle first which, while optional, can be a ordeal to say the least. Once you start seeing the stronger ones like the 4 horsemen of the Apocolypse (of Revelation fame) or the Harlot, or even Dante from DMC, you will begin to learn that the hours of preperation and demon hunting was worth it.
Lets get one thing out of the way.. the dungeons are long... very long. They are also filled with puzzles (some more annoying then others) and many many boss battles. One thing that you might not like is the world map is completely uninteractable.. you are nothing but a little cursor on a (very well drawn) map. Not much to say here... standard RPG fair only with near never ending dungeons. Acquired taste maybe.. but damn good none the less.
Story 10/10) - Even if you hate the system... the story is amazing.. it somehow manages to be mature, thought provoking, and dark without coming off like a bad punk band soundtrack. Maybe it is the intelligent dialogue... or the great, memorable characters who all have both strengths and flaws in there personalities... Evil? There is no evil.. that is a very main theme of the game. Unique? how about this... the world ends within the first 15 minutes.
The game starts out with you going to meet a childhood friend of yours at the park, but when you get there you meet a strange man instead who gives you a cult magazine and walks away... not long after you get a message on your cell to say that he is at a hospital looking for their teacher who was supposedly staying there. Once you get there you find out the whole place is deserted except for your friend and another friend he brought along who seems to be something like the main characters girlfriend... before long you end up in the basement of the hospital where there are rooms with medical chairs, and pentograms along with blood all over the walls. Once you finally enter a room in which you meet a man who is about to kill you, but your teacher who was missing, walks in and saves you. She then tells you everyone outside of this hospital will die in the "Conception" which is the rebirth of the world. She wasn't lying either.. it comes to pass and you watch the world be destroyed. You collapse, shortly after a strange blonde kid and an old woman who seems to be his protector puts something in the main character's eye while he is still semi-unconcious which turns him into a half-demon. Barely alive, with a new found ability to fight demons, and completely alone you set out on your quest to find out what the hell happened.
Unlike other rpgs you control the story, via questions and events throughout the way you can end up with one of the many endings... I'm not quite there yet but from what i've heard they are all great. (I'm at the very end trying to do some optional stuff)
Music (9/10) - This is a love hate thing... it has a great rock/metal soundtrack on par with guilty gear, and has some tracks that you might just hum after your done playing. The one bad thing though is the boss music.. it's... you'd just have to here it. Trust me it isn't very good.
Sound(7/10) - Sound effects are nothing out of the ordinary but there (thankfully) is no real voice acting in the entire game... nothing new, and the no voice acting adds to the hardcore oldschool appeal of the game
Graphics(10/10) - The graphics are amazing. It has a pseudo-cell shaded look (even though cell shading is never actually used) that gives it a slight anime vibe while still looking realistic. The art is also amazing beyond belief... some of the demons will take your breath away, guaranteed or your money back. The characters all look unique and interesting, especially the main character who looks innocent but powerful... good but evil. He is you, whatever you make him out to be is what he is. The surroundings are also amazing... every place looks very different from each other and the post apocalyptic feel really begins to get to you as the world continues to spiral into hell. Also noted, Dante from DMC is in the game and is an optional character. He is as cool as always of course.
Play Time/Replayability - 80+ hours (10/10) The main story is about 50 hours long but there are many side quests and a neat puzzle mini-game that will easily take up another 30 hours at least. Also unlike most games the side-quests actually expand on the story rather dramatically so you actually have a reason to try it other then getting 100%.
Gameplay - 10
Story - 10
Music - 9
Sound - 7
Graphics - 10
Play time/replayability - 10
Buy or Rent - It all depends on what you want in an rpg. If your not ready to put some serious time into the game you might as well not get it.. because it will suck away your free time like a sponge.
Closing Comments - Go get this game.
Final Score - 9.7/10 (Obviously not an average -_-)
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 11/22/04
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