26 February, 2016

Shin Megami Tensei 4 Final clear, thoughts on ♯FE so far

Spoilers, duh.

So yeah I cleared Shin Megami Tensei 4 Final, true route. That was WEIRD.

There are four endings. Law and chaos are abrupt bad endings. Neutral has two routes. The law, chaos, and neutral bad routes are ridiculous because the choices are made at the moment (don't get me wrong, I hated 4's points) so they make your character, who has all this time been just chilling with his friends, suddenly go HEY I'M GONNA TO KILL YOU ALL FOR THE LULZ. That's literal in the neutral bad route where everyone says they know you'll make the right choice and you just straight up turn around and kill them Oh, and friends. Your character gets a FUCKLOAD of friends who don't betray you or leave you or whatever. What is this, Persona? They even BRING JONATHAN AND WALTER BACK TO JOIN FORCES WITH YOU AGAINST YHVH. I hated 4 for a multitude of reasons, but the first half of the game having Jonathan and Walter chill with you and then become the law and chaos heroes was one of the few things that I felt was actually Megaten. I didn't like how it was handled, but I liked that it happened. Oh and they retconned that too: In 4 it was pretty clear that they just killed themselves to get Lucifer and Merkabah, but nope, turns out that they're still in control and can even transform back to their human forms when they want. What?

But yeah, the final battle starts with you doing shit damage, but as the battle goes on your friends shout out shit about how YHVH sucks and each time that happens his stats drop so you can do more damage. Yes that's a thing: During the final battle against YHVH the entire cast of the game yells about how hard he sucks, with things that can actually be taken as criticism of Christianity. Can't wait to see the English release of this. Also you get a second party to control with the four samurai from 4. I reiterate: What is this, Persona?

I appreciate how they didn't do anything to outright contradict 3, at least; If anything they tossed in more suggestions that Kagutsuchi was indeed some kind of alternate (incomplete?) YHVH, and the talk of making new universes based on whatever people want was reminiscent of the kotowari ("kotowari" is also outright said several times, albeit as the regular word instead of the Shin 3 katakana keyword)

tl;dr Shin 4F, better than 4 but this really isn't Megaten. (Seriously, Devil Survivor is way more Megaten than this. I really ought to play Overclocked someday)

Also, mass production Metatron.

And yeah, I still haven't cleared ♯FE (about 35 hours into that). Ought to get back to it.

Final party (taking screenshots with the 3DS is such a fucking pain in the ass that I just went back to photos for the demons):

Since this post is here I guess I'll talk about ♯FE too. That game is objectively great. I ought to be enjoying it. It's thus an utter mystery to me as to why I'm not. The aesthetic and themes are clearly targeting a demographic far younger than what I'm used to (the Vocaloid/Niconico generation) but it's not bad enough to put me off entirely (being able to change costumes also helps here). Despite the themes and aesthetic the gameplay itself is unforgiving and around the level of vanilla P3 and Shin 3 which I love. There's the usual post-Persona relationship stuff with everyone. There's an interesting system which has you learn skills by equipping and mastering weapons, which you have to craft from enemy drops, and also one where you craft other skills from enemy drops. The dungeons are unique and have interesting puzzle gimmicks straight out of the RPGs of yesteryear.

Unfortunately what bothers me is the whole grinding aspect of needing enemy drops to get new skills and weapons compounded of how you need to LEAVE THE DUNGEON TO CRAFT STUFF. It's a complete waste if you continue trudging through a dungeon with a mastered weapon (you want to switch to a new one and learn new skills) so each time a new weapon is able for crafting you leave the dungeon and head back to your HQ to craft it. Oh, and each time you get enough items to craft something you're sent a message on the gamepad that you have to manually look up (a faux Line thing). Not something new, SOMETHING. One of the shared items used to craft stuff is the stars, and you constantly run out of them, and whenever you finally get three of the one you need for the current level of weapon and skill you're immediately flooded with a torrent of half to a dozen messages listing one by one the things you can now craft. You then leave the dungeon, craft one of them, go back in, fight enemies, get another three stars, and are flooded with the same fucking messages again minus one. It's annoying. Even without that, the faux-Line is also a big part of the game where progress on quests is displayed in the form of dialogue, but aside from that characters also randomly send you random messages at random intervals. If you think that sounds bad, well, it's fucking worse. They're intrusive, gratuitous, and irredeemably irritating.

Also the dungeons are hideously long and though the gimmicks are interesting at first they eventually outstay their welcome and become monotonous; When it comes to puzzles there's are line clearly separating them into three categories: "well that was easy", "FINALLY SOLVED IT!", and "oh for the love of fucking god enough already", and this is clearly in the third.

The characters are generally likeable but aren't particularly interesting. Music is decent too. Nothing much to say here.

The battle system is actually pretty good, but its biggest strength eventually becomes its biggest weakness: The combo system. Like in Megaten games, hitting enemies with their weaknesses makes something happen. This time it results in a combo: Depending on what the weakness was, other characters with corresponding skills follow up with their own attacks. This starts off cool at first when it's just your party participating in these, but you gradually get more characters, and then skills that allow characters not in the party to participate in combos. Now, since this is a Megaten game (in gameplay, at least, certainly not aesthetic), you're going to want to always hit enemies with their weaknesses. What his means is that by the fourth chapter, every single time you have a turn you have to watch a combo featuring the entire fucking cast of the game. It would've been great if they all attacked at the same time, but no, they do it in turn. There's no variation or whatever either, so it's always the same moves, over and over and over and over and over and over and over.

Oh and then there's the "wild enemies". Basically the FOEs from SQ: Enemies ridiculously overpowered compared to the ones around you. But whereas the FOEs in SQ were treated as obstacles and puzzles, wild enemies in this game are RANDOM SPAWNS. Every once in a while an enemy symbol will be a different colour and super fast, and you won't be able to stun it like with other enemies, and so you're just forced into a fight with a mob of enemies that can sometimes EACH kill your ENTIRE PARTY in ONE ATTACK. Oh, and of course, more often than not they get to move first. It's fucking ridiculous. But it doesn't break the game because you can easily get rid of them by bringing up the menu as  soon as you see one, saving, and reloading the save which will make any enemy symbols nearby disappear. Is there any fucking point to these things?

I really want to enjoy this game but I just can't, and am forcing myself to play it at this point. It's not outright bad enough to make me just leave, but it's just not very good.

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