Depending on the the region, it's been either 10 years or around 10 years since the release of Shin Megami Tensei 3 but finally the fourth game has arrived.
Your character is accepted by the gauntlet to become a samurai in the Eastern Kingdom of Mikado, along with four others, three who become main characters in the story, to protect the land from demons. When people start turning into demons and the black samurai is found to be at fault, you're ordered to give chase into the underground, Tokyo, and this is where the game starts. Throughout the game you'll be asked meaningful questions with one answer or another, answers that at times are difficult to choose which you agree with. Some of these questions will lead onto completely different events and boss battles, and then depending on your overall choices, whether your ending events will follow Law, Neutral, or Chaos. The three characters who are with you make their own choices and the personal attachment you have between these characters with your choices and interactions between them make the storyline above most standard RPGs.
Like all of the main series and some of the spin offs, you have the ability to negotiate and recruit demons, summon, and fuse them. This is done through the gauntlet, along with also keeping track of your quests and sub quests, as well as apps which give you or your demons benefits. Demons in this game are a bit different from the others as HP/MP stats are no longer relatable to what their actual stats are, a major flaw in this game. You either have high HP/low mp(85/15 split,) medium HP/MP(60/40 split,) or low HP/high MP(50/50 split.) you'll mainly attempt to have demons that have medium MP or high MP, but sometimes you come across a fusion where you want to acquire a skill and that demon happens to be a low MP demon. Fusing demons in this game also makes it far easier than previous titles as you can fill all eight of the demons skills with those of the two or more fused demons without any use of the demons you're going to fuse, making it extremely easy to make powerful demons, especially if you use the compendium for fodder demons.
Combat uses the press turn system from SMT3 and Digital Devil Saga, Depending on the amount of demons you have in combat, plus your main character, you have a maximum of four press turns(normally.) You have full press turns and half press turns. If a weakness is hit and there is a full press turn available it will turn into a half press turn, while any other action will cost the first half press turn or a full press turn if no half press turns are available. Pass will allow you to go to the next demon or player character, but it will change a full press turn to half or use a half press turn. Hitting an enemy who nullfies your attack two press turns half or full, while reflect or drain will use them all. Enemies also get the same advantage when it's their turn.
One major problem with the game is the very beginning. Before you reach Tokyo there are two bosses that are very powerful and the demons at that location give next to no experience. You'll find yourself fusing demons to get demons to acquire the buffs and debuffs as well as the weaknesses against the demons. You can traverse the area you have access to up to that point in less than 20 minutes yet it'll be around eight hours or more before you'll actually be able to proceed to Tokyo. Additionally, there's the quest system which works well at points, telling you exactly where to go, but at other times it doesn't. There are times you're given no clue where to go or if you are, your quest menu doesn't always update it. Usually the game automatically speaks to someone when you step past a certain point and automatically progresses the story, but there is one time in the entire game that it doesn't do this and after completing a certain event, you have to specifically press a to talk to the person yourself. Some sub quests are no better, but the worst of those have you going back and forth trying to find four or five different groups of enemies for next to nothing as a reward.
The graphics are good for the most part. The demons might be represented in 2D, but just about every single demon is animated and each demon also has a higher quality sprite for use when negotatng with a demon or in your inventory menu. The dungeons are done nicely and while the dungeons are fairly small, they are detailed. The 3D effect while in dungeons is extremely well done, but due to constantly having to go back and forth from looking at the top screen back to the bottom in battles and in the dungeon, it tends to hurt your eyes easily and is one game you don't want to tuse the 3D for very long. The world map might look nice at times, but it's one of the biggest annoyances in the game, some places that look as if you can pass through you can't, others that look as if you can't but you actually can, none of the areas having any sort of identifier until you enter the location, etc. The games music is well done and fits well with the locations you're in, and a lot of great battle music.
Shin Megami Tensei 4 has a lot going for it, but it has a lot of issues too. If you can get past the first dungeon and into Tokyo then you've cleared the biggest hurdle that holds the game back, but even then it has its problems.
Gameplay - 7
Story/Presentation - 10
Graphics/Audio - 6
Balance - 5
Overall - 7
New scoring criteria.
Gameplay - 9
Design - 6
Presentation - 9
Balance - 7
Overall - 7.75