Shin Megami Tensei IV Review Log: Combat
Posted on Wednesday, July 10 @ 16:00:00 PST by Daniel Bischoff
Shin Megami Tensei IV is now less than a week away from release, meaning your pre-order should be in by now if you still want to get your mits on the Limited Edition first-print. I can talk openly about the game now that the embargo has lifted, but I'm still working on my initial playthrough. As was the case with Persona 4 Golden, we'll have a final verdict soon, but in the meantime, I've been hopelessly entrenched in SMT IV's extensively modern combat system.
Combat in SMT IV gives you control over your own powers and abilities, but also those of up to three demon companions, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. You build your team up by conversing with demons and convincing them to join your side, but I'll have more on that in a separate post. Bottom line, choosing your moves smartly can make you a dominant demon wielder and give you an incredible feeling of success.
Japanese role-playing games have always given players the opportunity to grow and develop their skills over time, but Atlus has used light puzzle mechanics in its last few titles to give even skilled hands a bit of a brain teaser. The first trick is discovering which elements your enemies are weak against.
You can accomplish this by hitting them with every power you've got or upgrading your AI companion Burroughs with new apps later down the line (again, more on this later). Once you've exploited a weakness, you can repeatedly hammer enemies in a similar fashion until they're all dead and gone. Some demons can change their affinity, buff against elemental attacks they're weak against, or come with no set weakness to speak of, so don't expect to rely on the same attacks over and over again.
The second trick is establishing a rhythm of successful battles where the enemy never even has an opportunity to inflict damage. As you run around the dungeon, you can strike first and initiate battles. Then, if you know the enemy you're up against, you can exploit weaknesses and add further moves to your turn, thereby eliminating the enemy's opportunity to act until the battle's already been won.
Boss enemies don't allow for this never-ending cycle, though. I fought a boss the other day that was weak against fire attacks, so I hungrily instructed all of my demons to attack with fire to perpetuate my turn. At some point, the fire attacks stopped adding moves to my turn, but the damage inflicted had staggered the opponent.
Another element to be conscious of in battles is the Smirk. If an enemy should dodge away from or outright reflect your attack, your turn will end and the demon will have entered Smirk state. You and your demons can get into this state of heightened power and ability too, but when an enemy Smirks, it usually means a ton of damage is about to fall on your head.
Only the player character can use items (unless one of your demons learns a special ability), and it takes a little while to obtain a demon with an All-Heal ability, so make sure you take your first timid steps into Naraku with care. SMT IV's blistering difficulty is matched only by the humiliation you feel when it asks you if you'd like to use a lower difficulty.
In order to get to this lower difficulty setting, you need to have died once and paid about half your money to be resurrected. Then you have to die again. Once you've done that, you can switch the difficulty back and forth at will, but Easy definitely represents a more entertaining and enjoyable experience. Again, we'll have more on that later.
Look out for my next Shin Megami Tensei IV Review Log soon.
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