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Considering trying to get into Shin Megami Tensei and Persona; advice?

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So, I've tried getting into both Shin Megami Tensei and Persona previously with Persona 4 and the 3DS port/remake of Soul Hackers, but I didn't really end up getting far in either of them.

I am to give both series an honest shot, though, so I'm curious if any fans of them on here have any recommendations for a good "first game" in each series, as well as things like what to expect from the gameplay, common newcomer pitfalls to avoid, what general sort of mindset to have when getting into each series, etc.

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I'm not very experienced with SMT.

I only have beaten Persona 3 + 4 and the two Devil Survivor parts this year.

Persona 3 won't give you a hard time, if you play on the lowest difficulty.

Important things

  • Try to get player advantages by hitting the enemy from behind.
  • Always check out the weakness(es) of each enemy by pressing L2. If you hit the weakness, you have a larger chance to get into shuffle and get a boost.
  • As for shuffle I highly recommend to pick demons or experience (green plant).
  • Buffing and debuffing is really helpful.
  • Fuse as many demons as you can. You won't lose any fused demon, if you registerer it in the Compendium.
  • As for fusing try to inhale (de)buffs, nullifies, drains, repels and element attacks better than the base spells (zio, garu, agi, bufu). Multiple attacks like mabufu or stronger attacks like bufula or bufudyne cost more SP but make battles faster and easier. I'm not a fan of status affecting skills. Never really used Posimudi or similar skills.
  • Don't waste any time of a day. If you can't do any social links, then go to the game store or to the cafĂ© to increase your stats.

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Well I would start with the Devil Survivor games because they are easier and will give you a good intro to how everything works. Demon fusion is a must because that is how you get strong demons, when you assign stats it is a good idea to give the most to strength and magic with a few to other stats ( at least in my playing this has worked the best), explore everything because you might find rare items or money, and while grinding is boring you will need to do some so that you will be strong enough to beat late game bosses and be able to fuse the strongest demons.

Edited by EricaofRenais

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Like Ayama said, if you play Persona 3 on the lowest difficulty, you shouldn't have a hard time. Another thing about Persona 3 on the PS2, if you don't like AIs on your allies, you probably should play Persona 3 Portable as you can change your allies tactics and control them yourself. Unless you're playing Persona 3 Fes, the AIs in the original one aren't that smart and great in Fes as they fixed most of that problems. Persona 4 is also a good place to start too. As for the SMT series, I've yet to play any of them so I don't have anything to say about that series yet. The older persona series are pretty fun too with their unique way of fighting but I never finished them due to me being easily distracted (or me being lazy). I'd probably recommend playing Persona 4 The Golden or Persona 3 Portable whichever you want to start as they have more stuff from the original game.

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Devil Survivor is a good way to get into the concepts of SMT while feeling kinda like FE.

I'm not sure if there is a good "entry" point into the main SMT series aside from maybe 4 & 4:Apocalypse, 3 is considered pretty hard for newcomers, 1 & 2 are nice games, but you really have to be into them to even consider finishing them, Strange Journey is great but can also be brutal on those unfamiliar with the franchise.

In terms of Persona, probably best to start with 3 or 4.

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To be honest, I personally didn't have trouble getting into either series. I started with P4, went into P3 and then entered the SMT series through Raidou Kuzunoha. The transition was relatively easy despite the battle systems being totally different.

If you want to get into Persona, start with the newer P3 or P4. If you ever want to get into the earlier half of the Persona series, beware that the battle system is completely different; it'll take time to get used to it.

Same to be said about SMT. Start with something like Nocturne, the Raidou duology, Devil Survivor or Digital Devil Saga. Again, beware the older games (if your interest even ever goes that far).

Also, Catherine is pretty fun. It's neither Persona nor SMT, but it is still worth playing.

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As for Devil Survivor I'd recommend to play 2 first.

The story is unrelated to 1. It only brings back some maps from the prequel.

It has some improvements compared to 1.

  • You have access to more characters early on.
  • social links exist (similar to Persona)
  • It's easier than 1 Imo. 1 has a few bosses with gimmicks which can piss you off.
  • more maps

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Dont start with Shin Megami Tensei if you are new cause SMT series is the hardcore series and will knock out anyone who is not the fan of dungeon crawling genre. Start with Persona or Devil Survivor first.

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As for SMT, the best starting points are probably Devil Survivor on DS/3DS (because of familiarity with FE), SMT IV on 3DS (one of the easier entries after you get past the hellish beginning), Strange Journey on DS (it will give you experience with first-person dungeon stuff if you want to get into earlier entries down the line, plus the story's good), or Nocturne/Lucifer's Call (if EU) on PS2 (this is if you want to launch yourself headfirst into the difficulty the series is known for).

Beware lots of words.

[spoiler=Devil Survivor]There are two Devil Survivor games each on DS and 3DS, with the original versions on DS and updated rereleases on 3DS (Overclocked and Record Breaker). The original games are alright, but their 3DS versions are better. The two games aren't connected story wise, so feel free to pick up either one first. I don't think any of the games are on the eshop, so you'll have to check gamestop or amazon or something. The familiarity with FE comes in with there being character's you control on one a battlefield resembling FE's with the grid and stuff, just diagonal, and when moving you can use healing skills and attack the enemy. Battle has you and your demons select an action each (attack/use a skill/defend), and then both sides perform their actions in an order based on speed/agility. If you/the enemy hit a weakness/crit, you may be given an "extra turn", where all combatants who have an extra turn can perform another action of their choosing.

The characters have stats that go up on leveling, with the main character's being chosen by the player (a common thing in most SMT games), and they can be given skills that have been "cracked" from an enemy they have defeated. When not in battle, you get a menu of the possible locations you can visit, and if anyone is there. You also get a menu to do stuff like equip skills/assign demons to a team, check email/texts, get demons, etc. Demons are obtained through an auction system where you bid on a demon, and then new ones can be obtained through fusion. This is also one of the few SMT games to allow you to have multiples of the same demon.

There aren't really any newcomers' traps in these games. If you need money/experience there's almost always a free battle to that that doesn't pass time. I guess don't get too attached to demons, as they are meant to be fused, used until you can fuse something better, and get fused off. That applies to all of SMT though. In Devil Survivor 2 there's discount social links with your party members that can give them resistances, abilities, and new demons to be unlocked for fusion. Also you gain character's throughout the story, and there's usually some only playable in certain routes, but the thing is that you may lose some characters through story line death. It's possible to not let them die, but on a first playthrough someone's probably going to die, and you might just have to accept that.

[spoiler=SMT IV]Shin Megami Tensei IV is on 3DS, and it is on the eshop, generally at about $19.99 there and $24.99 for physical pre-owned at gamestop (can't find it new on their site). If Europe, eshop is your only option. 3rd person on the field, you have a moving icon in the overworld, 1st person battles with sprites for the enemies. Now, this is one of the easier entries thanks to a multitude of options for skills and demons that open up once the world opens up. The problem is, before then, you're gonna be getting you ass beat somewhat often. SMT IV is one of the few SMT games that doesn't have an endurance stat. So early on you're not going to be taking too many hits from enemies without needing healed, and that can quickly end up in a game over. Now when you die, you'll be taken to Charon, who can revive you if you pay money/play coins, or you can deny those and get kicked to the title screen. Luckily you can save anywhere at anytime (provided it isn't a cutscene/battle of course), so unless you've been neglecting saving, which you really shouldn't in this series, it won't generally be that bad.

Now there are a rough couple bosses before the world opens, particularly the one at the end of the beginning dungeon, but once you're past that you're golden. The world map is a bit confusing, and it will stay that way until you get used to it, but it's manageable. Battle system is turn based using the press turn system introduced in Nocturne. For each character/demon on either side, that side gets a press turn icon (generally 4 for you and 1-4 based on how many enemies you're facing, with bosses usually having 2-3). When a unit performs and action, an icon is taken away, and when all icons are gone, the phase switches and it becomes the other team's turn. If a weakness is hit, a crit procs, or if you pass your turn, the icon becomes a blinking icon, which pretty much gives another action. This can be stacked to get as many as 8 actions per turn. If an attack misses or is nulled, an extra icon is taken away, and if the the attack is drained or repelled, all remaining icons are taken away. These rules apply to you enemy as well, except for the passing because the enemy doesn't pass. Now, if an attack crits/hits a weakness, there is a chance that the unit may get smirk status, which sharply raises attack, hit/evasion, guarantees a crit, and turns any weaknesses into neutral damage. Also if all of one side is smirking, some HP and MP is restored. So smirking can really change the tide of battle, especially if a boss smirks. Because of this, not many battles last that long for either side. Smirk status goes away after the next attack, if inflicted with an ailment, or after a few turns.

As for newcomers' traps, there's the getting too attached to demons thing, and the difficulty of the the entirety of the first dungeon, along with stat builds (sorta). Just as a preface, Strength affects the damage done with your sword/knife/spear/whatever and helps a little bit with the power of physical/gun skills. Dexterity affects the damage done with you gun (when you get it) and greatly affects the power of physical/gun skills. Magic affects the power of magical skills, both damage and healing (to a lesser extent). Agility affects hit/evasion and helps turn order (generally a point per level lets you move first unless your demon is particularly speedy). Luck affects stuff like ailment hit/evasion, crit rate, etc. So generally you want to run either a Dex build (harder early game due to fewer skills and probably not hitting weaknesses, better late game because you're critting out your ass and smirking every other turn, and if the enemy nulls phys and gun (not many) you have more slots for support than magic) or a Magic build (easier early game thanks to lots of options to hit weaknesses very frequently, not as good late game because enemies and bosses may not be weak to stuff, but you can still do good damage/support) with some Agility and Luck.

Also the alignment system is a bit wack. There's three routes (and an earlier bad end), and your decisions throughout the game push you towards two of those routes, with a neutral in the middle. The thing that bothers people is that because of decision right before you get locked on a route, you may be too neutral to go neutral.

[spoiler=Strange Journey]Strange Journey is on the DS for $17.99 from gamestop, though you'll probably have better luck just buying from amazon. It's 1st person dungeon crawling with small breaks at the base with menus. This is one of the few SMT games that doesn't let you choose the main character's stats upon level up, and it is RNG based from a questionnaire at the start of the game that gives one of your five stats Strength, Magic, Endurance, Agility, or Luck a slight growth bonus. The game can be a bit hard with annoying dungeons and the good ol' fun of "if the protagonist dies, game over" present in most SMT games.

Battle system is turn based with you selecting actions for your demons, and then you and the enemy performs actions based on agility. No press turn and it's more like other RPGs (and some SMT games without press turn). When you or a demon hits a weakness, all others of that same alignment do a co-op attack for some damage. When fusing, there's no rerolling for skills unless using a demon source, obtained when you've maxed out the scan of a demon through fighting with and/or against it a lot. You get materials to make and buy better weapons, armor, items, and apps from defeating enemies/bosses. Saving can only be done at base or at mini terminals throughout the dungeons. There's some annoying things, but it adds to the charm and appeal of the series. Plus it has good atmosphere and story.

There's an alignment system through your decisions throughout the game, and the three routes all have annoying final bosses. As for newcomers' traps, don't get attached to demons, expect deaths and frustration (especially from bosses), and each dungeon has a central gimmick except for the first and fifth (IIRC). Also late game your protagonist literally cannot match up to the damage of your demons, and so he turns into a support bot. Luckily using items is always the first thing to happen in a turn, no matter what.

[spoiler=Nocturne/Lucifer's Call]Nocturne is on the PS2, though it's also on PSN. Try amazon if you want the PS2 version. Nocturne is quite difficult, with confusing dungeons, game over on protagonist death, rough bosses, the works. The protagonist gets no weapons or armor and so he relies on various Magatama found throughout the game from bosses or special shops. These Magatama raise some of the protagonist's stats, gives him weaknesses and resistances, and once he reaches a certain level, he can learn a skill. Thankfully for these it's based on once he reaches a certain level or above he learns the skill, and doesn't need to have a certain Magatama equipped to learn a skill or else it'll never be learnt. Though once a skill has been forgotten/passed on for the protagonist, it can not be gained again, so be very sure on what you choose.

The game is 3rd person, including battles, except for the overworld where you control an icon. Nocturne was what originated the press turn system, and it's the same as in SMT IV. The atmosphere is good, but the story is kinda meh. There is an alignment system of sorts based on dialogue decisions. There's a special dungeon called the Labyrinth of Amala that as you progress through it you unlock boss fights with Fiend demons to gather candelabra. It is totally optional, and completing to a certain point locks you into the True Demon ending with a special ending boss. It feels like there isn't much to say about it.

As for newcomers' traps, there's the usual stuff. There's a special skill called Pierce unlocked at the same time as the True Demon ending on the beginning Magatama that's just about necessary for that special ending boss. This game features Dante from the Devil May Cry series as a "demon" that can be used. Pay close attention to the beginning Pixie you get, and don't let her leave at the fairy place. If you keep her and bring her to this special area deep in the Labyrinth of Amala, she becomes a very powerful Pixie with really strong skills. Now it's fine for her not to be a Pixie before then through fusion and whatnot, but do not ever use her in sacrificial fusion. Even if you buy her back or something through the compendium, she won't be the same. Also for level ups Magic isn't important because for some reason the game designers decided that as you get higher leveled your magic becomes weaker without investing a lot into it. So Strength, and Endurance so you don't die as fast, is king.

As for mindset, expect frustration. Devil Survivor isn't as bad for that, but there are some escort/protect NPC missions that can try your patience (there's also some in SMT IV). It's not the bad frustration, sometimes, but it's a part of the series that these are difficult games. I've many a time died to something stupid, get upset, turn the game off, chill out, and get back into it later. Just don't let it get to you.

And for some general tips besides the demon thing:

Buffs/debuffs are extremely important. Like, you will live and die by your buffs/debuffs. Devil Survivor doesn't have them, but just about every other game in the series does. Taru- means attack, Maka- means magic (it's in less games), Raku- means defense, Suku- means hit/evasion, Dek- means remove, -kaja means buff, and -unda means debuff. So Tarukaja buffs attack, Rakunda debuffs defense, Dekaja removes enemy buffs, etc. Ma- buffs and debuffs aren't in as many games, and you can tell if they are if normal buffs affect all party members or just one.

Status skills are quite useful because some bosses aren't necessarily immune to them, and even in random battles they can be helpful. Some bosses even use status skills, so be prepared.

Insta-kill spells (classified as Hama/Light/Expel and Mudo/Dark/Death) are more useful for the enemy than you, but don't completely discount them. Bosses are immune to them for obvious reasons, but some generic demons are weak to them, and not many null them. Don't rely on them completely for taking out random enemies though. Also some bosses use them so watch out as if they hit protagonist you may become quite upset.

Specialized demons/characters tend to be better than all-rounders. Be more afraid of the 20 Strength demon with Cleave than the 12 Strength 12 Magic Demon with Cleave and Bufu. Not that all-rounders are necessarily bad, but don't build your protagonists with mixed attacking stats.

As for what game to start with, I'd recommend Devil Survivor 1/2 or SMT IV before the others. There is SMT IV Apocalypse that came out a month ago, but it follows up on one of SMT IV's endings, and it may not necessarily be the best place to start. It's a quite good game though that fixes quite a few of IV's faults. I just listed the games most people recommend.

Also wow I've been working on this since like 9.

Edited by Konnor97

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SMT4 is the most beginner friendly I'd say but if you were to play it first or before other entries the more archaic aspects.

For example, having to reroll to get skills or skill sets on demons.

I have legit spent over an hour trying to get the skills I wanted on a demon in SMT3 just sitting in my room and rerolling for the skills.

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i started with persona 3 fes, which in hindsight was an ideal starting point. you get some of the tone of classic smt (though it's a bit different and more angsty), while having some of the characterful touches of persona that makes it accessible and fun. and it's much easier starting with a game where you can't control your party's actions (unlike p3p and persona 4) than to have to adjust to it later.

if you like that, you can kind of branch closer to classic smt, or branch to persona 4 which is fun but feels like something different entirely. so for the "smt branch" - either persona 2 innocent sin or smt iv would be good. innocent sin is a bit dated but feels like an in between of later persona and classic smt. eternal punishment is the follow up to that game. smt iv is obviously the most recent entry in the main series, and apocalypse sounds like a very good follow-up.

devil survivor tonally is in between smt and persona, but being a tactical rpg means it's not that representative of the series. still those games are great, especially record breaker.

Edited by Radiant head

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I'd personally start out with Devil Survivor, but there's some things to note if ya do so. Devil Survivor is quite easy but there'll be some missions that'll be random and quite dumb spikes in difficulty. Kishins are great demons, and tyrants are great as well, so it's very possible to keep tyrants and Kishins as your demons until you be upgrade them. In Devil Survivor 1, two people can die if you're not careful and in order to save one, you'll have to go through a good bit of stuff before hand to do. Don't let Keisuke ride his justice craze and keep him away from the murderous gangster, and let Mari kill the Vampire dude, and remember to get her handbag before hand and let Kaido take it to her. They're both extremely good party members, so losing them'll suck big-time.

As for Devil Survivor 2, it's much easier for people to die, so I'd recommend pick your 4-5 favorites and let the rest die, if only for rescuing some of them'll be a real big pain. I'd recommend saving Jungo, Joe and one of either Fumi or Otome for yer picks, but save whoever you want. But yeah, same rules apply for DeSu 2 as for DeSu 1; it's a little harder, but it'll never get too bad as long as you keep up in levels.

Strange Journey is a good one, but make sure you're prepared to use a guide unless you want some grey hairs. The dungeons suck (4 and 5 can go rot in hell) and it's 1st person so it can be pretty jarring of a transition. It's pretty good if you want a challenge, but some of it's challenge is a little unfair *cough* the bosses *cough* but in order to tolerate the game, I'd seriously recommend a guide. Decent challenge along with that and just have a good time with it, as it'll get ya used to getting your butt-kicked and making you try again; something that's almost a tradition in SMT and to some extent Persona.

SMT IV is probably the 2nd best one to start with, as it's not too hard but it's not too easy either and offers a good challenge to newcomers and some casuals of the series. The start of the game is a bit of a crawl, and the Minotaur fight can easily make you have to reset if you get the wrong partner (seriously, if you see Walter as your partner, reset: it'll save you time) and remember to always try to hit a weakness (no duh), but there's a certain OP mechanic. Smirking: it'll make your next attack do loads more damage, it'll make you crit if it's physical, gives a defense boost, makes you basically untouchable and makes you immune to crits (I think). This is done by hitting weaknesses and critting, so abuse it: the bosses will instill the fear of smirking because they'll pound you with it. The bosses are no joke and have multiple press turns because fair fights are overrated. Press turns are the amount of things you can do that turn. Attacking something'll make your press turn go down by 1 and passing makes it a half-press turn, which is the same as a normal press turn except if you try to pass again it'll be fizzled out. Hitting weaknesses or critting only makes your press turn go down by half, basically getting another free action. And these can stack: if say your entire party hit a weakness, then you'll have 4 half-press turns, getting an entire another round of combat. Hitting a null, drain or reflect will cause the attacker's press turns to go down by 2 and the enemy'll smirk. It correlates to the amount of demons you have, so if your entire team except you got wiped, you'll only have 1 action.

And after you've played a few SMT games I recommend you try Persona 3 or 4 out, as the knowledge of previous games makes your time MUCH more enjoyable. I know from personal experience: I tried to play Persona 4 first, but I lost interest and played DeSu 1 and 2, Strange Journey and SMT IV instead. Then I came back and had a blast playing, so I'd recommend saving it for later.

Sorry I had ya read all of this, just kinda wanted to get somethin' off my chest.

Cheers,

Abel

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Okay, this will be a bit of a Text wall but please, bear with me. First off, the games i can mainly recommend to you if you intend to play either the Persona or Mainline Megaten series is a bit of a repeat as the other people said but i will make a brief non-spoilery synopsis of the games.

The Persona 2 Duology (Innocent Sin & Eternal Punishment): GREAT games. They are a good bridge between the "classic" Persona games such as SMT: IF which set the foundations for the series and Persona 1 which is the first "real" Persona game yet it is infamous for it's botched original English translation known as Revelations: Persona (Mark danced crazy!) and the Modern Persona games such as 3 and 4, despite not having the Social Link system. You can play the latter half (Eternal Punishment) without playing the Former but you will get special data if you have both original Japanese copies and the plot will be much more..."Complete". It also has vibes and some times directly references the Cthuhlu Mythos. (You can even get the King in Yellow as a persona if you know where to look!) Either play both via emulator or play Innocent Sin via PSP, you won't regret it.

Strange Journey: Despite the gameplay playing like Etrian Oddessy (Some of the guys from that game worked on this one) It is a very great "spinoff" that can stand with the other main titles. I won't lie, the game will feel like a maze crawler at times (ESPECIALLY at the 5th area, fucking teleports) and you may have to look at a guide at times for Fusion due to them not really giving you a manual about what fuses with what. (example, Genma/Fiend via converter = fuse a Megami with a fairy or deity) but the story is great and not only that but the soundtrack is FANTASTIC. I got into the mainline series via this game and i have never looked back.

Shin Megami Tensei IV: THIS was the game i played when i wasn't busy with Strange Journey, and it plays more in line with the modern games due to it having a press turn system. You play as a CASUALry who became a Samurai via the "Gauntlet Rite", a ritual that a person takes once they become young adults. You meet Walter, a fellow CASUALry who became a samurai, Johnathan (joestar) who is a Luxour (rich person), and Isabeau, the sole female main character who is also a Luxour. Demons and wacky antics ensues. The early game is an utter pain in the ass due to how hard the demons hit you and you aren't given any real Breathing/Grinding room until you hit the main portion of the game which is guarded by the "Minotaur" who is this game's Beefgate who will ruin your day unless you know how the Press Turn system works (where you can get bonus turns and "Smirk" if you have hit an enemy's weakness, same rule applies towards demons themselves mind you.) Unlike the other games however, you can determine what demons get what skills when in fusion. It is a nice start but please be careful during your early game time in Naraku. Apocolypse, the "second" part of SMT4 expects you to have played this game so watch for spoilers when you look at this game OR Apocolypse.

Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne: Featuring Dante from the Devil May Cry series. This was the game that introduced the Press Turn series and is arguably the "Magnum Opus" of the Mainline Series. You play as a High School Student that goes to the Hospital to see his teacher, Yuko Takao. Stuff happens and you wake up in the "Vortex World" shirtless transformed into the "Demi-Fiend", a being that can help tip the scales of the fate of the new world towards a "Reason". It has the classic demon fusion and recruitment yet it also has the "Magatama" system, which allows you to gain skills via level ups and determine what is your resistance towards magic or physical attacks. It's difficult with bosses that can kick your ass alongside with confusing dungeons BUT it is also a very enjoyable game. There is a side dungeon called the "Labyrinth of Amala" that is accessible via fight difficult side bosses that if you beat them you can unlock them via Demon Fusioning, but it also tells you of the Greater Plot of the game and it also allows you to recruit Dante from the Devil May Cry series himself! Just be careful around skeletons.

Whatever game you decide to play, just grab a drink and have fun. Also, GET THE BUFFS.

Edited by Raccoon844

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Do not start with Soul Hackers. Seriously.

Start with SMT IV, maybe even Nocturne, but not Soul Hackers. It's not really a fan favorite among SMT games, and it's arguably too aged.

If you want a traditional SMT game, with 1st person dungeon crawling, go with Strange Journey.

Edited by Nooooooooooooooooooooobody

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I found the earlygame in SMT IV brutal.

If the enemy gets an advantage, you'll be screwed.

Honestly I don't recommend it as first game of this franchise.

It's a good game, but it's likely that the high difficulty in the beginning can take you the fun of it.

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