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Shin Megami Tensei IV Review by jparis09

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WELCOME TO THE CATHEDRAL OF SHADOWS

 

Shin Megami Tensei is the 4th numbered title in the popular JRPG series. Shin Megami Tensei has been known for their unique use of cunning, sarcastic, and frightening demons, as well as their mature, dark, engaging plots. With the release of SMTIV fans are undoubtedly expecting them to improve on this reputation. Make no mistake, Atlus has done just that.

 

Story 9/10

 

Demons, angels, and humans. All at each other throats struggling for survival, power, and dominance over each other. Where do you fit among this chaos? Well, SMTIV starts off fairly simple. You are put in the shoes of a young protagonist with one simple goal; to become a samurai. A samurai is basically a chosen citizen of Mikado who is trained to guard the Eastern Kingdom of Mikado as well as combat demons. Since the story is arguably one of the most important parts of the game, heres your spoiler free synopsis.  

You are in East Mikado. Mikado is seemingly chivalric country that is broken up into two main groups, citizens of nobility are known as Luxurors and the lower class peasants are known as Casualries You attend the Ceremony of the Gauntlet and are appointed to become a samurai. You soon meet up with Walter, Jonathan, and Isabeau. These are three unique NPC with distinct personalities as you will soon find out. You are a samurai and youve even met new friends. Surely nothing can possibly go wrong now. Well unfortunately it does. Soon after a pretty in-depth tutorial things start to go south for our new samuraisand I mean really south. You will slowly become dragged into all sorts of drama; wars between demons and humans, loyalties between your morals or your duty as a samurai, as well as choices that neither you nor our fellow samurais could have ever seen coming.

Speaking of choices, the choice system in SMTIV is absolutely well-crafted. SMTIV doesnt have your typical choice system that you would see in other games. The choices really stood out to me because they didnt have a morality feeling to them. The way choices are presented dont have a clear good or bad answer. They are genuinely just difficult choices to make. With that said, choices made throughout the adventure will have a dire effect on the conclusion of the story. This was a great decision by Atlus because it encourages the player to make choices based on how they actually feel about the situation presented before them, instead of choosing a certain choice just to have a good character or vice versa. SMTIV is a very mature game with mature themes. The plot can be overwhelming sometimes if you dont pay close attention to it, but trust me the sooner you listen and try to comprehend exactly what is going around you, the sooner you will realize how exceptional the writing is in this game.

 

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Maybe I should have just became a farmer or something

 

Gameplay 9/10

 

Similar to previous entries in the Shin Megami Tensei franchise, SMTIV utilizes the Press Turn System. This system provides a unique take on turn based battles. The main goal of this PTS is to take advantage of your enemies weaknesses. Exploiting enemys weaknesses allows for your team to get extra moves. Enemies will try to exploit your weaknesses as well in order to earn themselves more moves. You can also lose moves by having an attack blocked, absorbed, etc. This system is very interesting and highly encourages the player to focus of different builds depending of their weaknesses as well as the weaknesses of their enemies. While you explore the world in third person, combat takes place in 2D, first person. This is absolutely awesome. Some might not embrace this style of play but Atlus uses a very unique art style (which Ill get to later) with the demons to make looking at these 2D images extremely engaging.

Demons. Oh yes demons. That is the cream of the crop of the Megami Tensei franchise. For people new to the series, think Pokémon. While in battle with the demons, you can catch them, but dont think youll just be throwing a little ball and crossing your fingers. Atlus is a little bit more devious than that. In order to catch demons and make them fight for you, you must negotiate them. Thats right negotiate. During battles you can talk to demons and convince them to join your side. Believe me this is not as easy as it sounds. Demons will try to extort you for health, items, and macca (money) just to join you. Most of the time demons will just simply take all your willing to give, insult you, and then finally leave you with a dumb look on your face and angry in your heart. This is where Atlus makes things interesting. You must know when to tell a demon no. You must be able to negotiate properly in order to essentially tell a demon what you think they want to hear to sway their hearts to join your cause. The more demons you get to join you to more you will begin to fill your compendium (demon collection). When you finally start getting these tricky little demons to join you, its time to fuse. Mido is a computer program that allows you to fuse demons you have gotten to join you. Demons can fuse with other demons to create a stronger demon with a mixture of both the original moves as well as it owns. Fusing is a very necessary as well as helpful way to strategize. Fusing correctly can give you access to incredibly strong demons earlier and even later in the game. Formulating the perfect party using negotiations and fuses will be important to your survival. Burroughs is also a very key piece you will need to survive.

 

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You will get to know this "Mysterious Man" pretty well

 

Burroughs is an AI that is installed in your gauntlet. She organizes everything for you. She also keeps you informed about what quest you currently have activated. There are tons of side quest that you will have access to and Burroughs is great at keeping you updated on exactly what needs to be done to complete each one. She also gives you access to an app store. The app store is crucial to your progression as you level up and get experience you will increase your stats as well as earn app points. These app points can be used to buy tons of things ranging from more demon slots, negotiation techniques, gradual health increase etc. Using the app store will surely increase your chances of not becoming demon meat while exploring this massive world.

The world in SMTIV is huge. There isnt any other way to explain it. The majority of the exploration is in 3rd person. There are plenty of things to find by exploring such as relics, side quest, macca, items etc. The one thing that holds the actual exploration back a tad bit is the overhead map. The overhead map is very simple but can be confusing. Your character and enemies will be represented by a blue icon. The color scheme for the map can sometimes make it confusing to navigate and you will probably find yourself going into dead end, or accidentally retracing your steps. With that said when you finally find out where youre going and get back on track you will begin to discover terminals these terminals act as fast travel zones for you to warp to. After you begin to learn to navigate the world, things will become easier for you and you will get immersed into this massive world because that exactly what it is massive.

 

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Yes I'll give you my first born child


Visuals & Sound 10/10

 

The art style in SMTIV is wonderfully unique. The 2D images of the demons are well drawn out and each and every one of them have their own crazy look to them. This is a dark toned game as you will begin to see and Atlus has done a great job in showing how dark this world can be with their color scheme. The 3D world is just as stunning. Character models look fantastic. SMTIV is the first game in the main series to be fully voice acted as well. The voice acting is a welcomed addition to the series. Now you can actually hear the demons insult you before they take your items and run. The score is spectacular. Even though the overhead map can be difficult to navigate, while youre lost you will have some catchy tunes to listen to. Every area of SMTIV has a great tune to get you immersed into whatever the current situation is. SMTIV is hands down one of the best looking as well as sounding games to hit the 3DS thus far.

 

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A massive world to explore


Playtime & Replayability 10/10

 

SMTIV is a very long game. A single playthrough will net you roughly 50-70 hours of playtime depending on your difficulty. There are tons of reason to replay it again. Picking different choices, recruiting new demons, as well as playing on a harder difficulty setting are just a few. For anybody who wants to completely get the maximum amount of content (and believe me theres a lot) out of this game multiple playthroughs is a requirement and trust me you wont regret it.

 

Final Verdict 9/10

 

Pros

Engaging Plot

Unique Art Style

Demon Negotiation

 

Cons

Confusing Overhead Map

 

Closing Comments

SMTIV is a breath of fresh air for classic RPGs. With most modern RPGs going the action route, it becomes harder and harder to find a great RPG that sticks to the roots and foundation of what RPGs were initially built upon. Atlus has proved to fans of the genre that classic RPGs are can still be stronger than ever.

 

 

 

 

Bioshock Infinite Review by jparis09

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The Sky is Truly the Limit

 

 Three long years. Thats how long BioShock fans had to wait until the next release of the highly acclaimed franchise. In 2010 when BioShock Infinite was announced, it was obvious this installment was destined to be unlike any other previous entry in this series. Now that it is finally out it is blatantly obvious it is not like any other BioShock gameits better.

 

Story 10/10

 

Bring us the girl and wipe away the debt. Nine words that haunts our protagonist, Booker Dewitt throughout his strenuous journey in the gorgeous floating city that is Columbia. Booker is a war veteran who has amassed a great amount of debt through gambling. You start off in a boat with two mysterious people. You have simple instructions, go to the world of Columbia and rescue Elizabeth. Elizabeth is a twenty-year old girl with supernatural powers who has been held prisoner in Columbia since she was a baby. She is under the watch of Songbird a mechanical bird that acts as her prison guard. Soon after her rescue things start to get crazy for our friend Booker. Bringing Elizabeth back to our mysterious friends is not quite simple. Booker and Elizabeth quickly find themselves getting entangled in a rebellion that is taking place in Columbia. As Booker and Elizabeth begin to learn more about their past, as well as learning more about Columbia, things start to unravel in ways that you just wont see coming. BioShock Infinite has plot twist that will absolutely blow your mind, with one of the best endings in recent gaming history. Bring us the girl and wipe away the debt. Sounds simple right?

 

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Things get pretty messy for the innocent Elizabeth 


Gameplay 9/10

 

Flesh eating crows, burning corpses, bloody headshots, skylines, the list goes on. BioShock gives you what seems like an infinite (no pun intended) amount of possibilities when it comes time to get down and dirty in the combat department. The environments are all different which forces you to adapt your style in order to dispose of these psychos you will encounter. Vigors, similar to Plasmids from previous games, allow you to gain access to a wide variety of powers. For example Shock Jockey allows Booker to brutally electrify his enemies giving him time to kill them however you may choose. Choices, oh yes choices, you have tons of them to make. You can use your vigors or course to eliminate these pesky foes or a more conventional optionguns. Dewitt also has your normal weapons such as shotguns, rifles, and pistols. There are gruesome executions as well. When an enemy gets low on health you can kill them in some of the goriest ways imaginable. Nothing feels better than grabbing one of those insane brainwashed psychopaths and putting their face into a spinning blade watching blood splatter everywhere while his corpse falls to the ground. Speaking of corpses, you can loot them as well. Just about everything can be looted in BioShock Infinite. Looting will allow you to acquire things such as money (Silver Eagle). Using these Silver Eagles you can upgrade your weapons and Vigors. Upgrading your guns can increase your clip size, reload speed, damage etc. For Vigors however, your Silver Eagles can be used for even more deadly purposes such as giving your Vigors even more lethal ways to neutralize your combatants. The Skyline is a very interesting and unique gameplay element as well. It is a rail based system that can be utilized for travel as well as combat. Dewitt has a wrist-mounted tool that allows him to hook onto the Skyline. This is surprisingly fun as it gives you an escape when things start to go bad, and believe me they will. The Skyline gives you a different aspect on gameplay but dont get too comfortable because enemies can access it as well. Dying in Bioshock doesn't really bring any true consequences. If you die in the game you will respawn close to your same location of death and enemies will not respawn. You will be penalized a few Silver Eagles but not too much to actually put a true dent in your pockets.

 

Elizabeth will also accompany you during your battles. In most games having an AI with you all the time can be burdensome because they arent really helpful at all. This isnt the case at all in this game. Elizabeth is a great help. She will loot the area you are in and give you much needed items such as Salts (a resource you need to power Vigors) health, and ammunition. Elizabeth can also utilize her powers to open Tears. Tears are a rip in dimensional time. These Tears will allow you to bring items into your world to provide cover, give items, or even help you fight. For example you can use Elizabeth's powers to bring a turret into the world to reign havoc while you flank enemies. Thankfully, Elizabeth also doesnt take damage so you dont have to worry about babysitting her all the time. In other words Elizabeth can hold her own. There are four different difficulty levels. Of course you have your easy, medium, and hard, but after your completion of the game you will unlock 1999 mode. This is the hardest difficulty setting in the game. This is an extreme challenge and can be frustrating for the faint of heart. Loot is rarer, no auto aim, lower health etc. You must be versatile in order to survive in Columbia and luckily you will have plenty of tools at your disposal in order to just that.

 

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When ordinary bullets just don't work


Visuals & Sound 9/10

 

BioShock Infinite is visually stunning. From the moment you enter the sky and lay your eyes on Columbia, until the moment you see the credits roll across your screen you will be astounding by how beautiful this world truly is. Irrational Games has a very unique art style and it does wonders for this game. Character faces are extremely detailed. Facial expressions as well as character animations truly shine from beginning to end. Columbia is a very colorful bright city and colors will pop out at you whether it's bright red blood gushing from enemys skulls or the yellow sun shining bright over the city. It is an amazing view to watch. There are minor technical hiccups along the way such as graphical popups but with a game that runs this well on our current hardware they do absolutely nothing to take away from the overall experience of this game.

 

Even in the sound department, BioShock does not disappoint. Everything is taking in account for. During combat you can hear enemies chatter about tactics or just plain out insulting you. The voice acting is superb. A special mention has to go to Courtnee Draper for her role as Elizabeth. The score is very engaging as really gets you immersed into your surroundings. Gunshots sound authentic and really have that pop you want to hear when you pull the trigger. Burning enemies and listening to them scream in torment never gets old and is like music to the ears. If you are looking for a game that both looks and sounds great, your search is over. Irrational Games has done a great job in both categories.

 

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Columbia is absolutely a beautiful sight


Playtime & Replayability 8/10

 

While BioShock is a memorable journey, it surely isn't a long one. This game is roughly 7-10 hours long. Unless you want to try your luck in 1999 mode there really isnt a reason to replay it once it is finished. Irrational Games has a total of 141 collectable throughout the game. So if you are a trophy addict then your gameplay will surely be extended because some of these collectables can be hard to spot. Even though BioShock is not a very long game those 7-10 hours that most people will spend in Columbia will be some of the best hours you have spent in any game within the last few years.

 

Final Verdict 9/10

 

Pros

 Mind Blowing Plot

Columbia is Stunning

Elizabeths AI

 

Cons

 Length

Death is Meaningless

 

Closing Comments

 

Every once in a while a title comes along and reminds you that some games arent just games, they are works of art. BioShock Infinite is a work of art. A beautiful game, that plays great, feels awesome, and leaves the player with a feeling of emptiness. Not emptiness because of disappointment from the game but emptiness because you know that it could be a while before you experience a game of this quality again. This is exactly what BioShock Infinite is, an experience. Irrational Games set their sights impossibly high for this title. Luckily for everyone, they have proved to the gaming world that nothing is impossible

Halo 4 Review Posted!!!

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Just finished up my Halo 4 Review guys. Go check it out let me know what you think. As usual all feedback is appreciated. Also posted the Resident Evil 6 and Dishonored review. Check those out if you have some time. Thanks l8r Gamers.

Darksiders Review Posted!!!

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Just posted the Darksiders II Review guys. Sorry for the delay. Wanted to release it much earlier. Been playing a LOT of Guild Wars 2 lately. Look for that review next. Loving it so far.

P.S. Stay tuned for the Borderlands 2 Review as well. Hopefully that will be up around Sept. 25th.

KINGDOMS OF AMALUR: RECKONING REVIEW POSTED (sorry for the delay)

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Just posted the Kingdoms Of Amalur review guys tell me what you think. I put a lot of time into this game before I reviewed it. It's a great game and like usual the review is detailed. I'm going to try to release my Mass Effect 3 review within the first 3 days of the game being out so stay tuned. L8r GAMERS!!!

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