Tips and Tricks for Shin Megami Tensei IV
Shin Megami Tensei IV was released on July 16th to the masses and I have been busy playing it since then. Given how much difficulty I personally had through the initial part of the game, I just wanted to give a bit back to everyone playing this fine JRPG along with me in the form of a tips and tricks hub for SMT IV. I personally feel that the included strategy guide (a bonus to those who pre-ordered the game), while functional, doesn't give a full array of helpful tips for the SMT neophyte.
See, SMT IV is an Atlus game. Atlus is one of the few Japanese developers that goes out of their way to make difficult games, in the spirit of the RPGs of the late 80's/early 90's, where one mistake in battle could result in a Game Over. This has the twin consequences of making their games niche, even within the niche umbrella of JRPGs, but also makes them desirable to those people who are tired of the games that baby their players and hold their hands.
I personally love Atlus games, and while I've only played a few of them, I recommend them wholeheartedly to anyone who asks.
So, minor rant aside, let's get going, shall we?
As you travel the various regions in Shin Megami Tensei IV, you will gather a variety of items. Some are consumable (meaning that you use them once and they're gone) and others are not so much. Here are a few things I've learned during my time playing SMT IV related to item usage:
- Different items have different capacity limits. Generally, you can carry more copies of a weaker item than of a stronger item.
- Given that Macca (this game's currency) is in exceedingly short supply at the start of the game, you'll want to use your items sparingly.
- With that said, don't hesitate to use your healing and/or attack items in an emergency (such as an enemy ambush).
- Attack items are a godsend against bosses and other tough encounters. Basically, attack items are consumable versions of skills that your protagonist and your demon allies can learn. For example, a Bufu Stone can be used to cast Bufu on a single enemy target. This means that you can have your protagonist use an attack item to attack an enemy's weakness and gain a Press Turn.
Of course, all of this is common sense if you're an avid RPG player, so I'm probably preaching to the choir here. So, let's talk about Press Turns, which are a phenomenon unique to some of Atlus' more recent SMT games.
A Discussion of Press Turns
The Press Turn Battle System originated in Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne (aka SMT 3) and was used in a few spinoff titles (mainly the Digital Devil Saga). Basically, your party gets one turn for each member that participates in battle (up to the active party cap of 4). If you hit an enemy weakness with an attack, or land a critical hit, you gain a half-turn that is denoted as a shining icon on the top-right corner of the screen.
For a visual example, look to the right.
On the other hand, if you hit an enemy with an attack that they are immune to, or said attack misses, then you lose a Press Turn (so, instead of gaining a half turn, you lose the full turn your attack would have used normally plus an extra full turn as a penalty).
Thus, here's a list of tips you'll want to keep in mind after noting the above:
- The Demon Analyze App is perhaps the most useful app in the entire game. It will allow you to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of demons that you have already recruited. It won't work against bosses, but you'd be surprised how easy regular encounters can cause a party wipe in this game, so it will save your life eventually. It costs 20 App Points, and I recommend getting it as soon as possible (which should be around Level 3).
- Your fellow Samurai will join you as guest characters after the initial trio of tutorial quests. You can use them as guinea pigs in fights to determine enemy strengths and weaknesses so that you don't have to waste Press Turns experimenting (be mindful of their elemental spell and note the damage it does; if it does any damage at all, that is).
- You want to keep a full party at all times. If you have a perfect turn where all of your party members hit an enemy weakness, your party will have acted a total of eight times in one round! That's how I generally end most fights in the first turn before the enemy gets a chance to react.
- Make clever use of the Next command to maximize your Press Turn economy. Next causes the active party member to skip their turn and pass it on to the next party member to act. The reason why this is so useful is because it only consumes a half-turn. So, if you have a full turn up on a demon that can't exploit a weakness, but the next demon in line can, you might want to have the former pass their turn.
- Similarly, summoning a demon from your Gauntlet only consumes a half-turn. You'll generally want to do this when one of your demons is killed, to try to keep your party at full size.
This is perhaps the most important thing to master in the entire game. If you understand how the system works and exploit it well, you can get away with a lot of sub-optimal strategies and still come out more or less intact (except for boss fights, but those are generally insane).
Well, in keeping with Shin Megami Tensei tradition, it wouldn't be much of a SMT game if you couldn't contract demons to join your party. The game itself gives a tutorial on how to recruit them, but here are some intricacies that I'd like to point out:
- Failing negotiations with a demon in a way that makes them attack ends your entire turn and starts the enemy turn. This is extremely bad if there are three or four enemies on the field, so I don't usually recommend you attempt to talk to any demons on the first turn of a battle unless there are less than three of them at the start of combat.
- You can only have one member of any demon species in your party at any one time. Trying to talk to a demon you already have in your party will cause the battle to end. Sometimes the demon will give you Macca and/or items for "taking care of their friend", so to speak.
- You can't recruit demons that are of a higher level than your protagonist, so keep that in mind before you decide to have him talk to any prospects.
- Certain demons talk in gibberish, starting with the Slime. You need to try to talk to one of these demons (and thus fail) so that Burroughs will add the Demolingual App to the App Shop (as the name implies, it allows you to talk to demons that speak in gibberish). If you're a completionist, you'll need this app.
- You always want to have at least one empty slot in your Gauntlet stock to be able to recruit any demons you may encounter. (No, I didn't lose the chance to recruit a demon thanks to a lack of space, why would you ask that?). Use Demon Fusion to get rid of any undesirables in your reserves.
Speaking of Demon Fusion...
Another hallmark of the Shin Megami Tensei franchise is the concept of Demon Fusion. Basically, Demon Fusion is the SMT equivalent to breeding in Pokémon, Dragon Quest Monsters, or other equivalent games. You take two compatible demons, mix them together, and get an entirely new demon as a result. Here are some tips and tricks for Demon Fusion:
- You can control the skills that your demons will inherit from their "parents" by pressing the X button after choosing the pair of eligible demons but before confirming your selection. You can take advantage of this by defining certain roles for each of your potential party members. I like to have one demon that does buffing moves (such as Tarukaja and Sukukaja) or debuffing moves (like Tarunda/Sukunda), a healer with some attack magic, and a third wild-card demon for whatever tickles my fancy at the moment (usually another buffer/debuffer or damage dealer).
- Pay careful attention to the elemental strengths and weaknesses of any demons you are fusing together. It may be worth it to fuse a demon who has a lower overall level if they have less weaknesses than a higher level demon. Particularly, you don't want to have a demon that's weak to Physical attacks if you can help it, as those are the most common type of attack.
- Your demon's skill capacity is affected by the amount of levels you have taken in the appropriate app (Demon Skill). It starts at four, and goes up by one for each level you have in this app. For this reason I highly recommend that you invest in improving that app as soon as you improve Skill Expansion for the protagonist at least twice (the app that increases the amount of skill slots your protagonist has). I value him a little higher since he stays with you for the whole game and you'll be switching demons in and out during your playthrough.
- While the Cathedral of Shadows will recommend up to three fusions that it believes you should do, this doesn't mean that you have to do any of them. Make liberal use of the Search function by setting a demon that you want to fuse and see what they can fuse with! Oft-times, if you have a stable party, you probably won't want to fuse/switch out any demons for a few levels, or until certain fights demand a change in party composition.
Aka. You (the dashing fellow pictured at the start of this hub). You are a young man who has traveled to the Eastern Kingdom of Mikado to participate in a rite that determines whether or not you get to become a Samurai. Suffice to say, you get to be a Samurai (otherwise there wouldn't be much game now would there?).
Here are some helpful tips and tricks for building up your protagonist, mixed in with some miscellaneous tips for just playing the game in general:
- You will quickly learn about the many Apps that you can purchase (using App Points of which you get 10 every time you level up) to augment yourself, your demons and the Gauntlet itself. Amongst the most useful Apps in my opinion are Demon Analyze, Skill Expansion, Demon Skill and Demolingual, in that order (this list doesn't count the few apps that are plot-required, given that they are dirt-cheap anyway since they're compulsory).
- Try never to use a piece of equipment that makes you weak to Physical attacks. Likewise, weakness to Dark attacks is bad too (since they tend to be instant kill attacks and having your protagonist die in combat is a pain and a half, even considering that it's not an instant Game Over like in earlier SMT games).
- Armor is important in SMT IV insofar as it boosts your stats and allows you to resist certain attacks at the expense of being weaker against another type of attack. However, if you want a quick boost to efficiency, I recommend upgrading your weapon instead. A good first upgrade is the Bone Sword as it occasionally hits twice and may put its target to Sleep.
- Play it safe at all times. If most of your demons are dead, you should go back to town to rest in the Barracks.
- On a similar note, save after every fight if you can stomach it. It may seem excessive but all it takes is one bad initiation whereupon your party gets ambushed, and a little bad luck with enemies exploiting any weaknesses your party has for a total party kill.
- Pressing X while out of combat causes you to use your weapon (you swing with a sword, thrust with a lance, etc). Successfully attacking an enemy before it can engage you starts the combat with a small bit of damage and (much more importantly) guarantees the first turn for your team.
- Likewise, running into an enemy without attacking it gives a high probability of being ambushed, whereupon the enemy gets first turn and can potentially be fatal. (So, if you think you won't be able to use your weapon in time, turn to face the enemy and let it run into you, but stay still. This reduces the chance that you'll be ambushed).
- The conversation options you get in boss battles do matter.
- If your party gets wiped twice during your playthrough, you will gain the ability to lower the game's difficulty after reviving for the second time. If you find the game to be too hard to be enjoyable, keep this in mind.
I hope to have armed you with the tools you need to get a foothold in Shin Megami Tensei IV. It is not an easy or forgiving game by any means, but if you'll give it a chance, it could become one of your guiltiest pleasures!
Feel free to leave comments/feedback/suggested additional tips in the comments section of this hub. More importantly, feel free to post interest for tutorials on the various boss fights of Shin Megami Tensei IV. If there's enough interest, I might write up a series of hubs for each one (do keep in mind that I define boss in this instance as the extremely huge enemy demons, of which I believe there are 8 or 9 in the main storyline; don't want to check the strategy guide because spoilers, but I'll find out eventually).
Until the next time, take care and have fun! ;)
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