It’s Shin Megami Tensei as an SRPG on a portable. If that doesn’t get you going, consider the fact that there’s an interesting time mechanic, it’s based around survival, and you can change peoples’ fates. Still not enough? How about the fact that it has excellent music, visuals, difficulty, demon auctions, and a ridiculous amount of other features that are present in other SMTs? Now if THAT isn’t enough, I honestly don’t know what is.
Available For: Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo DS (reviewed)
Release Date: 2009
Archetype(s): RPG, Strategy
SRPGs are an additction of mine. Yes, many articles are probably going to start like this, shut up. What originally got me interested in them were games like Final Fantasy Tactics and Disgaea. Before that point, an RPG did involve strategy, but not movement, height, flanking, choke points, ranged attacks vs. melee strikes, and so on. I mean, there are common strategies in nearly every RPG, but not quite to the degree of your standard SRPG.
Now Shin Megami Tensei’s been around for a while, but typically it’s a dungeon crawler/occult/traditional RPG. In fact, we missed a bunch of them because of their subject matter. In most of them, you communicate with demons, often forming contracts, so that they can ally with you, be fused into other demons, and even give you various gifts. It’s a very strange and often dark setup that the MegaTen series follows.
This one’s a little more lighthearted while still having a survival and dark aspect to it. You might not see how that’s possible, but I implore you to play Persona 2, then Persona 3…you’ll get it. In any case, this one features an interesting time mechanic where basically as you perform certain actions outside combat, time is eaten up in the game. This is important because certain events occur at specific times, kind of like with Dead Rising, except that they could spell your immediate demise if you aren’t careful and don’t grind every so often.
The story revolves around this concept and you can learn more or less about your characters by choosing to interact with them at various points in time. Demons aren’t acquired the standard MegaTen way, instead preferring the ability to go to a demon auction house of sorts. Basically you bid on demons until you snag one. The more demons you acquire, and pay for, the higher your rank and the more areas of the auction house open up.
Demon fusion is present in this one as well, but there’s nothing too terribly special done with it. Where the crux of the game lies is in its combat. The game operates on your standard tile based combat with preference to speed rather than player team/enemy team turns. When an encounter occurs, it’s kind of like Ogre Battle in that it drops down to a standard turn-based battle where there’s one official turn and a possible extra turn if you meet certain requirements.
This is true for both allies and enemies in the same encounter, so approaching an enemy when you have low health could be disastrous even if you have initiative. There are several actions you can perform in one turn, such as movement, attacking, and one field skill per ally within a team. See, instead of it being one unit that moves around, a unit is actually up to three people, usually one human and two demons.
The human is the leader and therefore placed in the middle. If the leader falls, be it demon or human, the unit is wiped from the field. However, you get more experience and bonuses overall if you can completely demolish the team, not just the leader. In fact, it’s all the little things that add up that make this title great. Obviously you have standard stuff like stat distribution (at least for the main character) when you level up, but you can also acquire various demon skills and use them to power up your humans as well.
The basic story is you get some COMPs, which look just like the DS, and then you get stuck in the middle of a demon quarantine. Time counts down, people start dying, and it’s all about survival. I won’t reveal much more because again, SMT is known for weird and awesome twists that are just too fun to spoil. Regarding the difficulty, it may throw some gamers off, but especially if you’re used to games like Disgaea, this shouldn’t be too terrible.
So would I recommend it…hmm…well, let’s put it this way. I’m a HUGE MegaTen fan, so obviously I’d recommend it. If you are too, you should already own this. For all the rest, well, if you like SRPGs or you’re looking for something different, this is a must have. I can see people getting thrown off by the high difficulty, but honestly, it’s nothing out of the ordinary for MegaTen titles.