Version Reviewed: 1.0.0
App Reviewed on: iPhone 4S
Graphics / Sound: Rating:
Game Controls: Rating:
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There are a lot of games floating around with the name Shin Megami Tensei (SMT) on them. Perhaps the most well-known of these is the Persona series, but most of those games' trappings can be traced back to the 1992 original, which has recently been localized for the US on iOS. Despite a lot of great games being born out of the original SMT though, the game itself doesn't hold up well today due to its old-feeling mechanics that have not been adapted for mobile play.
For those unfamiliar with Shin Megami Tensei games, they are identified as a series of Japanese role playing games that don't have common stories or characters, but rather share themes and often feature young Japanese protagonists interacting with demons through combat, control, and conversation. True to the series, SMT features all of these components, with players taking control of a nameless Japanese high school student tasked with defending against a demonic invasion by using a computer program to communicate with and summon demons.
Generally the way this setup translates to gameplay is with players taking control of the protagonist, navigating around the world map, and dungeon-crawling in first person. Along the way players encounter demons through a conventional random battle system, and can either fight these demons or talk to them to get items or form alliances. As players advance it becomes increasingly necessary to gather demon allies and fuse them to create an army powerful enough to defend against the demon invasion.
As a game originally released on the Super Nintendo in the golden age of Japanese RPGs, there is a lot to like about SMT on its face. The game has a lot of depth, tells a complex story, and features many different gameplay systems without being encumbered by any modern mobile game nuisances like in-app purchases, but all of this comes at a pretty steep price.
Because SMT was originally designed as an "at home" experience in 1992, there are aspects of the game that find their way into the iOS version that just don't make sense for the new platform. The main offenders on this front are the game's controls and the way it handles saving. On-screen controls feel clunky for a menu-heavy game on a touch screen, and keeping the save point system of old RPGs all but guarantees players will lose some progress if they don't find a save point before quitting.
These issues just point out how old SMT feels, and makes the whole experience feel like it could've been enjoyable at some point in some form, but just not on iOS. It's a shame too, because for all intents and purposes the core of SMT is interesting and enjoyable, but there are so many elements working against it that its hard to recommend this particular experience to anyone but the most hardcore SMT enthusiasts.