How Shin Megami Tensei IV Stripped Me Of My 'Gamer Pride'

Like a lot of gamers out there, I take a lot of pride in my skill at video games — perhaps too much. At this point in my life, I’ve been playing video games for close to two and a half decades. Somewhere in my late teens, I decided that I had to master the games I played, not just play them. Then that idea transformed into not only mastering them but also doing so on at least the “hard” difficulty.

The advent of achievements and trophies took this drive to a whole other level. My “gamer pride” would allow nothing less.

However, in my mid-twenties, I decided that the stress of beating every game on hard far outweighed the sense of accomplishment — not to mention the fun of the game. And if I wasn’t having fun, why was I still playing? Who was I trying to impress?

So from that point on, I’ve tended to play games on their default difficulty (although occasionally I still ratchet it up to hard if I want more of a challenge). What I never expected to run into was a game that absolutely destroyed me on the normal difficulty. Enter Shin Megami Tensei IV.

Going into Shin Megami Tensei IV, I had already played spinoff title Persona 3 and its sequel FES, so I was relatively sure I knew what to expect in a general sense. At first, all seemed simple enough. I entered the tutorial dungeon, followed the instructions and captured my first demon partner — which you do through mid-battle conversation trees.

My first real objective seemed simple enough: capture two more monsters to get a full party. So I entered a battle and tried to charm a monster. It asked for a healing item — of which I had only one. I gave it. It asked for about a third of my money. I gave it. It asked for some of my HP. I let it bite me. It asked for some MP and I let it have that also.

Then the demon laughed at me, called me stupid, and bit me in the face killing me. One turn later, my pet demon was dead as well. My second battle and already a game over.

Shin Megami Tensei IV then went into a cutscene where a white-haired demon began to mock me for dying. Then, he offered to bring me back to life for over half of what little money I had left.

I told him to screw off and so he sent me to the game over screen.

Over the course of the next hour, I was saving and loading constantly. I would enter a battle, try to charm the monster (and as the correct answers to the conversation randomize each time), get rejected, and often barely make it through the battle. On those several times when I didn’t survive, I just quit to the home screen and rebooted the game rather than deal with that long, mocking cutscene. Eventually, I captured two more demons and thought I would finally be able to progress in the game. I was soon disappointed.

Nearly every demon I encountered could kill any of my party simply by attacking them twice in one turn. I was completely powerless to stop it. Even as I leveled up, death by random battle was still a common occurrence. And, as money is only gainable through in-battle conversation with demons or as a reward for quests, there was no simple way to get better gear — not that gear was all that helpful anyway.

By the time I reached the third boss in the game — a boss who was actually part of an optional quest — I had spent five hours on the game and was barely past the tutorial plot-wise.

Dreading the fight, I entered the battle. The boss attacked every member of my party at once — and then did it three more times for good measure. It killed us all on its first turn despite everyone being at full life when its turn started.

I had two options. One: spend hours catching and fusing (and then levelling up) demons that were strong against his attacks and could exploit his elemental weakness. Or two: switch the game to easy mode and continue on with the story.

At this point, I was so tired and frustrated I put my “gamer pride” aside and decided that the game had won: I would change the difficulty. But just like everything in Shin Megami Tensei IV, even changing the difficulty didn’t come without a price.

No, to play on easy mode, Shin Megami Tensei IV requires you to humiliate yourself. To unlock easy mode, you must die, watch the game mock you via cutscene, then pay about half your cash. Then you must die again and get another verbal lashing that ends with easy mode being unlocked.

Since switching over to easy, I’ve been enjoying the game much more — especially as I progress through the story. I only wish now I would have sucked it up and switched to easy mode at the first sign of trouble.

But here’s the real kicker: I still die from time to time. Even on easy, Shin Megami Tensei IV is still a difficult JRPG.

Shin Megami Tensei IV was released on May 23, 2013, for the Nintendo 3DS in Japan. It will be released in North America on July 16, 2013. Australian dates are yet to be announced.


    More and more reasons to get a 3ds

      Yes, everyone should buy an American 3DS. Australia and Europe probably wont see this game until late this year or early next year.

    Wow. But is it... fun? It seems like it would be non-fun with the difficulty level that high. G

    I tried to play Metal Gear Solid 4 on the hardest difficulty without killing anyone or being seen. If you died, you had to go back to the start screen, if you hit 'restart' you wouldn't get the accomplishment.

    A few days of that, and it cured my need to master games, play hard settings or go for accomplishments. It just wasn't fun at all. And I have work for not fun. I still tend to play most games on hard though. And if I love the game, I'll max out the difficulty.

    But if it's not fun I don't finish it. I hate to admit it but Max Payne 3 didn't get completed. It just turned into a grind, and the story was a bit gritty and murder happy for my liking. Damn impressive production values. But not my cup of tea.

    Whenever someone tells me how they need to get all the accomplishments, I wonder about the hours they've wasted just grinding for a congratutory (is that a word?) text message, not even having fun.

      Almost - it's congratulatory :P I feel the same way, I've always felt that way about achievements. I've 100% completed some games, like Dishonored and GTA SA and RDR, but if I've ever felt the need to 100% a game - or anything like that - get in the way of my enjoyment, I will put it down in a heartbeat.

      There's a difference between putting a game down because you get no enjoyment from it and giving up though. Dark Souls is a good example. I can understand if someone decides it isn't for them, but claims that it is too difficult/for masochists/unfair annoy me. If they don't enjoy it, they don't enjoy it, but it's not the game's fault if they don't get it.

      As for Shin Megami Tensei IV, it sounds exactly as brutal as its predecessors (the earlier SMT games, not the Persona spin off, which was always simpler) - built on that old school JRPG/Wizardry style of grind and pray gameplay, which I can definitely get lost in. So freaking pumped for it to come out over here in 2020 or whenever it turns up.

    I hate to sound like a snob, but if your prior experience was simply Persona, SMT will crush you.

    Seriously, giving everything a devil asks you for to them - how does that sound at all like a strong character?

    To me, at least, the choice above was less as-written, and more:
    1) Grind, get better at the game, learn to buff, learn to play the game, standard JRPG fare.
    2) Switch to easy mode,

    I understand limitations in playing a game when you have to review it, but SMT is supposed to be a challenge. I honestly doubt he ever reached Dante, or would be able to best it.

    Disclaimer: I like my games with a lot of challenge; SMT is awesome for this.

      You are a snob. The ones who only exist on the internet for rewards and positive reinforcement. The ones who claim that when you don't like one of their beloved JRPGS, you haven't played it right. Do you really think people on the internet think you're tough because you're an elitist?

    Exactly. All those people coming from Persona thinking this is going to be a stroll is in for one hell of a ride.

    Can't wait!

      Got VLR in the post today

      Nearly totally irrelevent to the above article, but convinient way of conveying that fact to you, seeing as how you are here :P

        Blanking on what VLR stands for...

          Ok, now we have a fun game to play!

          I'll give you a hint:


            Is that math?

            I'm reeeeeeeeeeeeeally bad at math

              Ok, I'll give you another hint:

              VLR = Virtue's Last Reward, the sequel to the excellent DS game/ visual novel 999

                Ooooooh, THAT!

                Yeah, dunno about that. I'm too shit at those kinds of puzzles.
                Otherwise I'd play Adventure Games.

                So do you have a 3DS then?

                  Remember.... my niece gave me hers - what a nice niece!!!

                  Last edited 06/06/13 12:59 pm

    As everyone else has said, welcome to main series SMT.

    Persona, (Hell, even Digital Devil Saga) were very toned down in comparison.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now