I'm looking at:
- SMT IV
- Etrian IV
- Etrian Millennium Girl
Are any of these worth it? Also, what's the story like in SMT IV? And is there anything Etrian Odyssey offers aside from the mechanics of it?
@aegon: SMTIV's story comes across to me as kind of lacking. There are some really cool moments and neat ideas that I enjoyed, but they kind of never take them very far. The characters never really go very deep either, I was expecting some deep characterization and many more characters than what I was given, but I was disappointed in that respect. Like I said, I think the story is cool, just...lacking. It doesn't go the places you want it to. That being said, I really enjoyed the game, the difficulty is challenging but not overwhelming (it was my first main series SMT), and seeing all the endings was pretty rewarding for me, though it was a bit of a grind getting the last one.
Speaking of the Atlus sale, is Soul Hackers any good? I figured I may pick it up if it's on sale and worthwhile.
Etrian 4 is the only one from that list that I've played, and it's not too bad. It's basically a JRPG that has a very VERY bare bones story, that focuses heavily on combat. There's also a very neat gimmick where you have to map out the dungeon on your own, and I actually thought it was the most fun part of the game. I loved exploring areas and mapping them out, trying to figure out where secret areas were and such. I'm also a fan of the art style too, since it has a sort of cutesy anime vibe going on. As for the characters, you create them - the only story they have is the one you think up for them. You name them, you pick a class, and then you pick which character design out of 4 you like best (two of them are female, two of them are male - YES, some of them are male, I did a double take when I realized that some of them were supposed to be males, haha).
The difficulty is pretty unforgiving on the standard difficulty, if ALL of the party dies in a dungeon, then they actually die, and you'll have to start from scratch with a new party. Fortunately for people like me who can't stand that kind of pressure, there's a more casual difficulty that's more laid back and gets rid of a lot of the more hardcore elements like the one I mentioned.
I think out of that list, SMTIV is the most readily accessible if you're looking to dip your toes into some of Atlus' denser and more challenging fare without potentially being too overwhelmed. That being said, it is in a lot of ways a throwback to their SNES days in terms of gameplay and narrative philosophy and that can be either a good thing or a bad thing depending on what you like to get out of RPGs. Here's my personal breakdown of the potentially contentious points.
You'll probably like SMTIV if:
I personally like all of those things about the game. It feels like they took the most outstanding traits of the original two SNES games and, for those looking for that specific brand of RPG, largely made it all relevant again 20 years later. I came away impressed with how fresh it all felt to me personally as someone who often has a hard time going back to that era of Atlus games, despite otherwise having a sort of academic appreciation for them. SMT games have always been cut from a pretty different philosophical cloth compared to a lot of stuff like Square-Enix's games both pre and post-merger, representing to some extent the last relatively mainstream inheritor in Japan of 80s PC RPG design and IV continues that tradition. I'm not at all surprised by the mixed reception it's gotten and the criticisms levelled against it can be valid depending on what you personally look for in an RPG. IV's gameplay and narrative genealogy calls upon a pretty specific heritage of old games in the Japanese RPG scene that I suspect not a lot of western players, or at least younger ones, are potentially all that familiar with, especially since a lot of the games it quietly references in its design were never localized and therefore never got a chance to properly enter the western "canon" to begin with. So I'd say that while SMTIV isn't my personal favorite Atlus game and that I don't even inherently disagree with some of the criticisms leveled at it to a degree, as someone who wishes I could engage with the older games in the series more readily, it is a game that I enjoyed a lot and it really put into perspective why the really old entries are still revered in the ways that they are. Some might argue that it might not always be the best representation of some of those old values and mechanics, but as somebody who stumbled into the series well past the heyday of those first few games, I really liked what I played.
I'm sure you'll find somebody who thinks SMT4 is the best game to be released this year.
Its pretty good, after I certain point I ended up powering through the game instead of engaging with everything it has to offer. I would say if you're looking for a game purely for its dungeon crawling, though, EO4 or Millennium Girl are probably the better choices. Some of the dungeons in SMT4 are lacking a bit, where as EO is built upon the strength of their dungeons.
I've played SMT IV, and Etrian Odyssey IV. Both are good, though EO is really tough.
I didn't really love SMT IV's story, but I haven't played the previous three so I can't compare. EO IV is all mechanics, though I know MG adds a story.
I loved Nocturne's world. Its story was pretty awesome, too. It managed to wax philosophical while putting some really cool moments and story ideas in there at the same time.
@aegon Now that I've mentioned that, I must mention that I did not like SMT IV's story much. It starts out pretty well, but as the game goes on you realize more and more that it really has no idea what it wants to say. It all seems like it's going to tie together in the end, but then the last five - ten hours are spent... well, somewhere else, doing something unrelated to the overarching plot, and then it ends with no closure whatsoever.
That said, SMT IV looks great on the 3DS and, mechanically, it's pretty good. The first five hours are way too hard, and the last five or so hours are so easily broken mechanically (you can beat level 90 something bad guys at the later 70's, early 80's), but everything between that is pretty good if you're OK with not caring at all about the story.
Etrian Odyssey IV is making its way onto my top ten list. No, I haven't actually finished it, but I've been playing it for forty or so hours and counting. It's really good. Untold is probably a better paced game, but the sheer variety of skills and classes that IV has makes it a lot of fun. Be warned, though, this game is heavy on the mechanics and gameplay and light on the story. Plus, you have to be OK with first person tile-based dungeon crawling. It's also fucking hard. I have never really felt like I was grinding while playing it, but most quests are of the "go fight this hidden monster" or "find this treasure" varieties. It's the mechanics you come to Etrian Odyssey for. Oh, and the music is fucking fantastic.
Really, all three of those are fine choices but I think EOIV is the best one. If you want to play a mainline Shin Megami Tensei game, make it Nocturne on the PS2.
EDIT: Also, Soul Hackers is good but weird. It's got some strange 90's-ish artifacts about it, and you can tell your demons what to do but they don't always follow directions. You have to either make them like you, or just let them choose their own attacks. It becomes a matter of choosing the demons that will use the skills you need themselves. You can't just say "ooh, this demon has Bufu, I'll use him". You have to make sure he's actually OK with using Bufu.
Untold is like "Etrian Odyssey IV-lite", at least that's how it appears to me. Untold was meant to have a story, so the characters are pre-defined, so you don't have anywhere near as much flexibility as you do with IV. You can play a sort of classic mode without the story and make your own characters, but I wanted to see how an Etrian Odyssey game with a story played out. It's nothing special. I guessed that, but I had to know.
Untold's story mode characters don't seem to have a ton of skills, and a lot of those are just "make my attacks stronger and my defense higher". EO IV has those kinds of skills, but there are three tabs worth of skills for each class, and each character can have a subclass. This makes for a game that allows you a hell of a lot more experimentation with its systems. Untold might unlock more skills later on, but it doesn't appear to from the ten or so hours I've played of it.
This isn't to say that Untold is a bad game, it appears to be a really, really good one. But mechanics are what this series really has going for it and I would say that EO IV's mechanical depth and complexity is a good step above Untold's.
Again, I've only played Untold's story mode, so its classic mode might not feel so limited. I hope someone else pops in here who has played Untold on classic so they can tell you.
As a complete side note, Untold lets you switch the BGM to the old PC-88 composed music for the original Etrian Odyssey. And that's probably my favorite feature about the game.
For the record I got them both, but I'm also sort of crazy. As far as I can tell, Untold's cast for story mode is mostly notable in that they can get the job done without many frills (and classic mode is a pretty straight remake of EO1 but you can use Ronin and Hexers from the outset), whereas by the time EO4 arrived they had become a bit crazier and unorthodox with their class setups. Untold might be a better starting point though, it's regular difficulty seems quite tame in comparison to the rest of the series.
Either way, I may pick up SMT IV and give myself a fourth ultra hard dungeon crawler type game to worry about.
Edit: Wait, I just looked in the inn. Ok then, is that the only place you can save?
You can make a save anytime in the dungeon, but you have to turn off the 3DS after making that save. When you continue from that save, it gets deleted. If you're concerned about being in the middle of a dungeon and not being able to quit, don't. The game has you covered.
One hint: Never, ever venture into a dungeon without an Ariadne Thread in your inventory.
@aegon: If you haven't already started it, Normal is the best way to play. Yeah, it's tough, but that's a big part of the appeal. It's also far from impossible and the game has rarely felt cheap to me. Except when fighting FOE's, but those are supposed to be real bastards and you don't have to tangle with them if you don't want to.
Also, one Ariadne Thread is super cheap and they take you all the way back to town. You don't have to constantly worry about being wiped because, if you're carrying one of those, you've got a "get me the fuck out of here" card that you can play at any time outside of battle.
I've only played SMT IV and honestly, thought it was pretty poor. There is no defense stats, which means that every demon has been turned into a glass canon; as a result that, the game is poorly balanced (imo, of course). Any game where you can die before being able to make a single move is just badly designed from my perspective. Compound that with the bad writing plus paper thin story and you have a game with nothing to offer besides the demon collecting.
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