Shin Megami Tensei IV is without a doubt a Shin Megami Tensei game. What do I mean by that? Well, it has a pretty steep learning curve that hits hard and fast very early, and unless you're a JRPG fan at heart, it can get a little discouraging -- very discouraging.
Having said that, the game does have a pretty extensive tutorial system, but for everything else and in-between, read on for some helpful hints on how to conquer your inner demon.
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Warning -- although the basic tips section contains no spoilers, the second portion of this article contains one massive plot spoiler -- I'll warn you again after the basic section.
- It goes without saying that grinding is king in JRPGs, and that's completely applicable here. With your ever-shifting and evolving party of demons, one thing remains constant -- the protagonist. Your main character is always a part of the action, and leveling up his spells (through leveling up demons and giving him your powers) is key to success. Keep in mind that your hero can re-summon demons at will during battle when they're knocked out, whereas demons can typically only "sub" themselves out for another (although there are spells that allow demons to summon one another).
- It's possible to "juke" (avoid) enemy encounters with some fancy footwork while roaming about the world. The easiest creatures to avoid are the humanoids, and the best way to do this is to move one way, then quickly dodge to the opposite direction. You are slightly faster than the vast majority of the game's enemies, so run in a straight line and you'll be okay. That said, this is a JRPG, so more encounters = more experience, which will make later bosses easier to deal with, so don't avoid everything.
- Thankfully, this isn't one of those SMT games where if the main protagonist dies, it's game over. Instead, you can keep fighting with your demon crew, so I suggest you give one of your demons the ability to use items (it's a passive skill you earn, usually with fairies) -- that way they can resurrect the main character if he falls in battle, who can in turn re-summon demons at will to keep fighting the good fight.
- Like many SMT games, weaknesses are key. Hit hard and fast with weaknesses, which allow you to earn more turns. Diversify your party's spells -- do not put stock in one element just because it's powerful at the current moment. If you have a wide variety of elements available, you can just summon in demons and pound bosses with weakness after weakness, allowing you to earn around 10 turns per round, which is obviously a massive advantage.
- Additionally, consider kitting out your protagonist with Dia (healing), and a wide variety of each spell group. That way, he can turn the tide of battle with weaknesses, as he tends to go first in a skirmish.
- One of the best App upgrades I've used is the "recover MP (Spirit) while walking" App. This is useful because the protagonist (with Dia, as suggested above), can constantly heal the party and keep it topped off under any circumstance with a consistent supply of free MP -- no MP recovery items needed.
- Outside of battle, any Demon with Dia can heal your party even if they're not in an active slot, which frees up MP (Spirit) for your active party. You may want to capture a Pixie early just to keep in your party stock (even if she's not active), as she can learn the Dia spell almost instantly.
- Fill all of your open demon party slots by talking to and recruiting demons, even at the start of the game (you'll learn the recruit ability around an hour in). Always. The more demons you have, the more chances you have to power up the protagonist's spells when demons level up, and the more combinations you have for demon fusion. Additionally, if a demon is killed in battle, you can sub another one in from your party stock. If need be, get a few "extra demon slot" App upgrades early.
- Once you've "caught" a demon (gotta catch 'em all), you can re-summon it for a price (specifically, Macaa, the game's currency). Usually this feature will allow you to re-summon it at the level you acquired it (typically this is a low level), but you can re-register it to a higher level.
You may be asking yourself "why would I do this, since I won't ever banish my party members," but the reason for re-summoning demons is due to the fact that some of them may evolve, or you may combine a few into a new synthesized demon, so you will lose the initial demon that may be needed for a specific evolution tree or purpose.
- When you're inside a demon's domain that isn't related to the main story, you will most likely not have a map. To combat this, always take the first branching path in the domain, and follow it to the end -- that way, you won't get lost as much as you attempt to locate an exit.
- If you're having trouble during certain boss fights, don't be afraid to turn the difficulty down in Boroughs' menu, then turn it back up.
- This is a general JRPG tip, but I'll say it anyway -- always use both save slots. Use slot one as your "safe" slot, only in non-volatile areas where you can't get "stuck" while under-leveled. Use your second slot inside dungeons, demon lairs, and the like. Also, don't forget that you can save anywhere.
Warning -- the following section contains one major plot spoiler that takes place roughly 5-7 hours into the game. Only read after you've reached the game's second setting. You'll know it when you see it.
- SMT IV operates very similar to those old school games where you may want to bust out an actual sheet of paper and draw up a map for some areas. Demon's domains are ripe for this, as is the second major area of the game.
- Without spoiling too much, you will eventually visit Tokyo during your travels. It will be extremely difficult at times to figure where to visit next. So difficult in fact, that I busted out a real life map of Tokyo (seriously) to figure out what quadrant I needed to go. This map in particular is one I've found to be the most applicable and accurate.
- Talk to everyone. If a door has a red exclamation mark on it, it leads to a single room, usually with NPCs. Make note of these doors, and talk to every NPC listed on the conversation UI. At least one main story quest requires players to talk to a seemingly random NPC, so make sure you hit up everyone, no matter how insignificant, if you're stuck.
This is especially true in Japan, as anyone could drop hints on what region to go next, even on the world map screen. Take pictures of area hints with a camera phone to ensure that you don't forget them.