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    Shin Megami Tensei IV Apocalypse

    Game » consists of 5 releases. Released Feb 10, 2016

    A sequel set in the same universe as Shin Megami Tensei IV that follows a new protagonist, a young man possessed by a demon named Dagda.

    Should I play Apocalypse instead of SMTIV?

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    MajorMitch

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    I've never played a (non-Persona) Shin Magemi Tensei game, and have kind of wanted to try SMTIV since it came out, based on positive reception. It also seemed like a good entry point for newcomers. However, I have yet to get around to it, and SMTIV Apocalypse is now also getting some good early reception. So I wonder if it may be an even better one to try?

    I know it's not actually out yet in NA until tomorrow (and maybe not out anywhere besides Japan yet?), so I'm guessing not a lot of people have played it. But based on information released thus far, if I can only play one would there be any reason to play SMTIV over Apocalypse? From what I gather at the moment, Apocalypse is enough of its own story that you don't have to play SMTIV first. And the early reviews seem to suggest the gameplay systems may be a little more refined in Apocalypse. I will realistically only have time for one of these (if even that) given limited time and everything else I have to play. So I'm trying to figure out if I only play one, which should I go for? Any insight here from some pros would be appreciated! :D

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    Zeik

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    #2  Edited By Zeik

    You probably could play Apocalypse first, but it is a direct follow up to 4 that seems to rely heavily on preceding plot points for set up. I can't speak for the quality of Apocalypse, but SMT4 was a good game that was worth playing in and of itself. It's also much much cheaper now than Apocalypse will be at launch, so if you are looking to test the waters as a newcomer that's less of a gamble.

    But if you don't think you'll ever have the chance to play both and you just want the best possible experience maybe give it a little time after launch and see what the reception is like. If you've waited this long to play SMT I'm sure you can wait a little longer.

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    redyoshi

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    My copy actually showed up a day early and I've put about an hour or so into the opening. Apocalypse starts you off a lot faster than SMTIV does, which also had a pretty rough opening dungeon for newcomers to the series. This game does not seem quite as harsh right at the beginning so far. Narrative-wise this game does start like halfway through one of the routes of the last game, and events have already taken place that have impacted the world around you, but there's a brief little segment where they kinda infodump some of the world's backstory, so I don't think you'll be too confused if you just skip straight to this game. I don't think it's too much of a spoiler to say that SMTIV's protagonist is a pretty big deal at the start of this game, so you may feel like you're missing some context there, but I don't think it's entirely essential.

    The big sticking point I've heard about this game is that it seems to be much more character driven than the typical SMT game, for better or worse depending on how you feel about that. If you don't mind the sound of that, I'd say go for it. If you do need a reason to go with SMTIV first though, it's that you can get that game really cheap right now, compared to $50 for SMTIV:A.

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    Pepsiman

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    #4  Edited By Pepsiman

    I played Apocalypse in Japanese, so I feel I can speak to the merits of both games. They each have their pros and cons, even if they're overall generally excellent at what they do. In terms of sheer mechanics and approachability, I definitely agree that Apocalypse is the more refined game overall, albeit not by that much, if only because IV was already a significantly polished game to play in a lot of respects. It's definitely true that it's a gentler introduction to the systems that define a Shin Megami Tensei game specifically versus Atlus' other games. The difficulty curve up front is toned way down in Apocalypse while still doing a solid job of getting you up to speed on how demon negotiations and the like work. (You're also able to switch between difficulty levels at any time, though I found that to be tempting much less often than in IV.) That being said, I do think the dungeons in Apocalypse are generally much more of a slog to get through compared to IV, even given that game's hard initial dungeon. The dungeons in the latter half of Apocalypse in particular get so tedious in terms of arbitrary traps and whatnot that you can't really plan ahead for that they nearly made me put the game down for good, especially the last two. Apocalypse features some of the worst Atlus dungeon designs in over a decade. They may have gone back and fixed some of these things for English localization, but I have no idea and given how rare it is for Atlus games to have significant content changes these days between versus, I'm doubtful it actually took place.

    Narratively, like the others said, IV and Apocalypse go for pretty different things, so your mileage will potentially vary significantly depending on what sort of storytelling you like to get out of your RPGs. IV doesn't have nearly the same level of emphasis on character building that Persona games traditionally have; instead, the emphasis is more on world building, especially by way of talking to NPCs and engaging in sidequests. I still really like the main storyline in that game, but the characters themselves are largely archetypes that are designed to help you evaluate and explore moral issues within that world. It's totally an approachable game in its own right if you haven't played any of the other entries, but some (not all!) of the best parts of that story and how it's executed rely on you having previous experience with the older games, especially the first two games, of which only one has been made available in English officially through Atlus USA within the last few years. There are great little call backs to that history, but they're very easily missable if you don't have that experience beforehand, which I think is partly responsible for why that game's story wasn't well received in some circles.

    Apocalypse, on the other hand, still has player choice and morality stuff built into it, but there's a much bigger emphasis on character development and the thematic stuff that it explores in relation to all that is at times arguably a lot closer to a traditional Persona game than an SMT one like IV is. I would personally argue it doesn't often do a particularly great job at re-exploring fairly worn territory and that it makes parts of that story weirdly hackneyed to a fault in ways you don't often see in other big Atlus games, but it's hardly an outright train wreck, either. It is, however, true that some of the major beats of the story do make significant references to characters and events in the previous game. Overall, it's mostly a standalone game, but some character cameos and plot twists might not feel quite as potent without that prior history. Either way, I would personally argue that you shouldn't come into this game expecting Persona-level character development and banter, but it's generally at least solid at what it does, even if I have my own misgivings about this change in stylistic direction on a personal level. I'll also say that I think the way the game is structured makes it feel like less of a grand adventure compared to IV; it doesn't really "go places" both literally and figuratively to quite the same extent, which I found to be pretty disappointing, but not an inherent deal breaker.

    So, overall, I would say play Shin Megami Tensei IV if:

    • You don't mind a storyline where character development takes a bit of a back seat and you'll have to talk to NPCs and take up side quests in order to get the most out of its world building and back story. (I can say that a lot of my favorite moments from this game are from that axillary content, however, and that it's worth your time exploring if you have the time, energy, and motivation to do so should you pick this game.)
    • You're okay with an initially high difficulty curve for the first dungeon. I would argue that this is by design so as to ensure you come out of it with a solid understanding of all the major combat mechanics, but I'm sympathetic to those who found it a little excessive and intimidating back when the game first came out. The difficulty curve smooths out significantly after that first dungeon, though, and, at least in my case, the majority of your deaths may well come from the game's optional fights, rather than the main storyline.

    Otherwise, play Apocalypse if:

    • You really do prefer character-driven stories and are what you've come to expect from Atlus games as a result of your time with Persona games. Again, I would emphasize that this game's character building has been done better before in other Atlus games, especially within Persona proper, but it's usually pretty okay. In exchange, though, I'd say that the world building, NPC dialogue, etc. aren't nearly as strong as IV's in comparison, but it generally is just an issue of different strokes for different folks, rather than the game fundamentally failing at anything critical in that respect.
    • You'd prefer something of a gentler introduction to SMT mechanics that aren't shared across Persona games and a smoother difficulty curve that generally skews somewhat easy by default. While the raw combat and negotiation mechanics in Apocalypse are definitely refined over IV, the actual act of playing the two games is overall really similar, so you won't inherently be missing out on that much mechanically if you choose to go for IV instead. You'll just need to be prepared to have it go a little rough at first in that initial dungeon, but it really does prepare you well (maybe even too well) for the rest of the game.

    Hopefully that helps! Between the two games, I honestly like IV a lot more overall than Apocalypse, but I've also been playing Atlus RPGs for nearly 10 years at this point, so my criticisms of it are ultimately probably pretty relative to someone who's completely new to mainline SMTs. Ultimately, with a little patience, I'd say you can't go wrong either way, but Apocalypse still has enough elements are recognizably mainline SMT that it's probably the slightly safer bet if you don't otherwise have strong feelings about the type of storytelling it does.

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    astrophyle

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    I just played through the game and one ending of SMT4 myself and reviewed it on the site, and I recommend it if you're okay with a long weird but really fun game. I had really only finished Persona 3 from the SMT series before this one. I have also done about 35 hours in SMT1 on iOS and Persona 4 Golden for about 45 hours (and I keep chipping away at it). I started another playthrough of SMT4, but I don't know if I'll continue it after getting SMT4A. But it's cool that after 90+ hours I was still excited about playing more. I'm really looking forward to Apocalypse now. All the signs say "buy the new one" but it's hard for me to recommend it until I dig in myself. A Quick Look from the guys is doubtful, but they surprise me sometimes. I know there is some respect for the series, but the time commitment is pretty big from these games, though it's time well-spent!

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    MajorMitch

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    @zeik: You definitely make good points about price and waiting a little more to see how Apocalypse shakes out. You're also right that I can wait a little longer- I'm in no rush here ;) But I wanted to go ahead and get some feelers out there, since I'm new to the SMT "proper" games, and some veterans may already have insight that a newcomer wouldn't.

    @redyoshi: I like the sound of Apocalypse starting off a lot faster than SMT4, which is a point in its favor. At the same time I've definitely seen SMT4 for a lot cheaper as you mention, which has merit too. Still want to do my due diligence in figuring out what's up with Apocalypse though- if I only play one I'd be willing to pay more if I felt I'd enjoy it more.

    @pepsiman: Wow, thanks so much for such a detailed response! It sounds like the bottom line is that I won't go wrong with either game, but I really appreciate your thoughtful, measured response. You lay out a lot of helpful details. I'm leaning ever so slightly towards Apocalypse. I'm not picky on the differences in storytelling, and the smoother curve and slightly more refined mechanics of Apocalypse sounds appealing, especially as a newcomer to SMT proper. But again, both sound like winners. I do have 2 lingering questions if you don't mind:

    1. Am I correct in saying that both games play nearly identical? From a mechanics/gameplay sense? I'm sure there are some minor differences, but just want to double check that I'm getting more or less the same play experience either way.
    2. Is there a big difference in the time investment between them? My guess is there isn't, but if one is substantially longer than the other, that could impact my decision as well.

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    Pepsiman

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    @majormitch: Hi! Sorry for the slow response. I never got a notification for some reason, so hopefully this isn't too late. Anyway, to respond to your questions:

    1. Yeah, in terms of the actual gameplay flow and combat mechanics, IV and Apocalypse are very similar. There are appreciable refinements in Apocalypse, but they're only really noticeable if you've been playing SMT games for a pretty long time. IV by itself was already in many ways one of the best modern renditions of SMT's formula (and still remains super solid, naturally), but given how closely Apocalypse hews to that foundation, it's fair to say that it doesn't reinvent that wheel so much as just polishes it into an even smoother circle, so to speak. Very hypothetically speaking, you might find IV slightly harder to go back to in spots if you decided to go back and play it later (I know you said you're constrained for time), but that's mostly because Apocalypse's new additions mainly boil down to improving quality of life issues in the game. Otherwise, you can't go wrong either way since IV itself is only a three year-old game as it is; it hasn't had a whole lot of time to age to begin with.

    2. Broadly speaking, no, your time commitment should be roughly the same regardless of which game you decide to pick up. IV probably has the potential to last you longer overall because it does have more story content to explore in the periphery (Apocalypse has side quests and stuff still, but I feel they were fewer and farther between), but if we speaking mostly in terms of clearing the critical path, both games are roughly the same length from what I remember. The routes that you choose to take towards the end of each game's storyline can impact your final time to a degree, but generally it's not that drastic; to my knowledge, the routes are balanced to take roughly the same amount of time to finish the game overall. There is a potential exception in the form of the neutral route by IV, which can definitely take more time to beat if you aren't prepared for it ahead of time, but it's pretty difficult to unlock that on your first run without consulting a guide (it's possible, speaking as someone who did it, but seemingly rare), so I wouldn't say it's a going concern since it'll be your first time wrapping your head around what makes mainline SMT games tick anyway.

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    MajorMitch

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    @pepsiman: Oh no worries! Your responses have been plenty quick. I'm not in a rush at all, as I won't get to either game for at least another week or 2. I take my time performing my due diligence :)

    And thanks again for the insight! It really does sound like I'd be good with either game, and the mechanics and time investment don't seem to push strongly one way or another. I wish I had ample time to play both, but there's just too many games to play! Given I'm already behind on SMTIV by 3 years now, I'm not going to get too ambitious here, and just think one game at a time ;) Leaning towards Apocalypse for the slight refinements you've described, but will ponder on it a little more. You've been super helpful!

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    verysexypotato

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    MajorMitch

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    @verysexypotato: I ended up playing SMTIV Apocalypse. I enjoyed it quite a bit! Though I can't really compare it to any other mainline SMT game either, since it's the only one I've played.

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