I am Hyped for Shin Megami Tensei IV

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Shin Megami Tensei IV will be released tomorrow in the United States, and for the first time in a long while, I am hyped. I can’t remember the last video game I was actually genuinely excited for, but this game has been worming its way into my brain, and I can’t stop thinking about it. For the last week or so I’ve been playing a lot of Pokémon Black, trying to get through it before tomorrow. Having finished it on Friday, I decided to spend a little time last night with Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne, just to get a little taste of what I’m in for tomorrow. I’ve played games in this series before, though I’ve mostly stuck to the Persona series. The chirpy, high school setting is immediately more inviting than the harsh, post-apocalyptic world view of the mainline SMT series, and having all of them on portable platforms has made playing an 80-hour RPG a lot more palatable. It’s also spoiling, leaving me wanting portable incarnations of every title in the series. How about a PS Vita remake of Nocturne, Atlus?

What amazes me is how straight Atlus plays it with the series, especially in America. Instead of a different title, they’ve willingly kept the very Japanese-sounding Shin Megami Tensei. Of course, True Goddess Reincarnation just doesn’t sound as catchy or as inviting, but a title like Shin Megami Tensei almost instantly damns your title to somewhat niche status. They tried to establish the Revelations Series moniker for several of their games during the mid-1990s, but it only stuck around for a pair of games before being abandoned. Persona 2: Eternal Punishment was released here as it was originally titled, and Nocturne brought the mainline series to the United States for the first time. I really applaud them for sticking with the original title, and I feel like it gives the series a very interesting vibe. From the name alone, you know you’re going to get something different than the norm.

With the third main entry in the series losing the number designation outside of Japan, I was also really surprised to see Shin Megami Tensei IV retain it. More so than that, I wasn’t expecting the US box art to be retain the Japanese kanji logo. They’ve added Shin Megami Tensei in English above it, but that’s it. The rest remains the same. Since Nocturne was the first mainline SMT game the United States received, it has me wondering if remakes of the earlier games are on the horizon. I’d absolutely love to see the earlier games get some notice, even if I am still waiting on Persona 5. I just want to see these games playable in English without having to patch SNES rom files.

I’m just excited at the notion of getting excited for a game again. I’m ready to dig into SMT4’s dungeons and recruit some demons. I’m ready to get my ass kicked several times over as I try and figure out what the hell I’m doing. Most of all, I’m just ready for a big, original JRPG for the 3DS, and Shin Megami Tensei IV sounds like the real deal.

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Late to the Party: Pokémon Black and White

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I’m no stranger to the world of Pokémon. I’ve played all of the mainline titles at least a little bit, though I’ve only properly completed a couple of them. It is a love/hate relationship that has formed over years of Nintendo managing to print money, while releasing essentially the same game several times over. Of course, the Pokémon series has changed, albeit very slowly. Like continental drift, it moves at a sloth-like pace, where you can leave and return without seeing much in the way of substantial change. Going from generation one directly to the present, Pokémon is a wildly different beast, even if the core game itself remains familiar. The last game in the series I completed was Diamond and Pearl, released fairly early in the lifespan of the Nintendo DS. While I enjoyed it at the time, I had felt like Pokémon had grown tired. After completion, it was shelved and eventually sold.

I took some time off, but still ended up picking up Pokémon Black on release day. While I put little time into it, I saw that it was finally doing something a little different. After looking at my backlog for much too long, I decided it was time to man up– I was ready to take the Pokémon challenge once more.

With the game data wiped clean, I set out on my new adventure to collect the eight gym badges and challenge the Elite Four. It was a quest I was very familiar with, but I finally felt ready to give it another go. My continued dependence on portable platforms has made it far more enjoyable this time around. After obtaining the first two badges, I started getting that sinking feeling where I realized that this was just another Pokémon game, and parts of it were going to become a tedious grind. I had to push forward, because I knew if I got over that initial hump, everything would be wonderful. When I finally crossed the long bridge into Castelia City, I knew I was right. Maybe Pokémon had some new tricks up its sleeve after all?

Now I find myself wandering what feels like a sprawling city, and I feel right at home. Pokémon Black has managed to bring me back on board, as I’m rife with feelings of nostalgia for the original 151 monsters. I’ve got wanderlust for this tiny digital world, and I want to see all it has to offer. Sure, the quest might not be all that different, but Pokémon Black looks the way I imagined that world to look when I played my copy of Pokémon Blue on my “Play it Loud”-era GameBoy. These cockfight adventures with these cuddly creatures have never been the most detailed, so my brain always filled in the blanks. Now that there are less blanks to color in, I’m seeing my memories become validated. This is how I chose to remember Pokémon, and I think I made the right choice.

I’m now eagerly anticipating Pokémon X and Y, hoping these will bring more changes to help liven up the series. Pokémon may be a slow, lumbering beast, but it is still a lot of fun to play. With two badges under my belt, I’m ready to see where my adventure is going to take me over the next couple weeks.