The Shin Megami Tensei series is one of the most influential role playing game series ever released. The series developed by Atlus has been considered for a long time a truly hardcore role playing game series featuring brutal difficulty levels and controversial themes that hardly would make their way into role playing games.
It was only after the release of Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne and Persona 3 that the series has started getting some recognition in the West. The fact that the game started becoming a little less difficult definitely helped. It’s not like the games actually became any easier, mind: Shin Megami Tensei III is still as hard as it can get, only that’s less obscure and thus easier to get into.
The first entry of the series, Shin Megami Tensei, has been released on a variety of platforms over the years but always failed to get released West, making the iOS release the first official English release of the game. The portability factor and some interface tweaks also make this version the best one.
Shin Megami Tensei is really light on plot elements. You control a nameless high school student who finds himself able to see demons roaming through the streets of Tokyo. Only three other people seem to notice them: the hero of Law, the hero of Chaos and another girl, who will all cross your path during your adventure. The plot is rather simple and so are characters – this is an old school rpg after all, so this is completely expected.
The true meat of the game are the demons that you will meet during the course of the game. The turn based battle system is deepened by the negotiation options, which will allow you to talk with the demons and even get them to join your party. Using these demons in battle will probably won’t be enough to survive in this demon-ridden Tokyo, requiring you to fuse together existing demons in order to create more powerful ones. The fusion system is more straightforward that the ones in later entries of the series but it gets the job done.
As several other old school SMT games, Shin Megami Tensei features a first person camera view. Dungeons are explored in first person view mode. featuring long corridors and several rooms to explore that will almost make you feel like playing older first person games. Game progression, just like the other features of the game, is incredibly old school as most of the times you won’t even know where to go to proceed. It’s definitely frustrating but also rewarding if you have the patience. Luckily, there are several guides for the game online so you won’t be stuck for long if you just search around.
The iOS release of the game features some obvious interface tweaks. Unexpectedly, the team opted to include virtual controls for the game and they work really really well. In portrait mode you will also be able to play the game with a single hand but this makes the play area really tiny and hard to interact with.
Shin Megami Tensei is an excellent old school role playing game that doesn’t hold your hand, an obscure game that can become frustrating if not played properly. The game’s hellish difficulty will surely turn off gamers looking for a more straightforward experience but those who wish to challenge themselves will surely love the new version of the classic Atlus role playing game.