3DS RPG DLC! Besides being way too many abbreviations all at once, it’s a subject I haven’t touched on yet. This is partially because most add-on content I’ve seen so far has been for PC games, which traditionally are more used to DLC and expansions and so on than Japanese RPGs are. This is also partially because there was not one single bit of Dragon Quest 9’s DLC that was even worth ranting about, so I didn’t bother. Fucking Dragon Quest.
Anyway. This will be the first time I’ve seen an add-on for a Shin Megami Tensei title (unless you count The Answer for SMT Persona 3, which does sort of count, but also sort of doesn’t since it was less an add-on than it was an expansion that you’d have to re-purchase the entire game for). Let’s see how Atlus does. I can only hope they’ll outperform some of the games I’ve seen in the past.
As usual, I’m not paying any attention to anything that doesn’t have any particular story content. You can just assume that the DLC packages for different armors and Experience/Money/App Point grinding are wastes of money.
Clipped Wings 1 and 2: There’s no point in separating these 2 DLCs, they’re each half of a whole. Uh...nope. Nope. Don’t like’em. They’re each about $2.50, which is not very much these days, but even then, you are not getting your money’s worth. All they are is a tiny bit of plot dialogue, and a series of fights against the Archangels (Uriel, Raphael, Gabriel, and Michael). They’ll take you 10 minutes each at the very most to complete, assuming you’re victorious--and I don’t think it’s fair to count it if you have a longer experience just because you lose a few times. As fights go, they’re fine, but it’s not like the game isn’t already filled with plenty of decently challenging fights already.
The storyline for the DLC is mildly interesting, but too light and too lacking explanation. Oh, to be sure, I appreciate that this DLC provides us with some information on how 3 of the 4 Archangels were captured prior to SMT4’s opening, and that it provides us with some background for Mastema’s role in the game. But that information is rushed, and frankly, I’m not sure that randomly throwing time travel causality loops in was really the best way to handle this scenario. While the passage of time in SMT4’s a little difficult to get a firm grasp of at times due to inadequately explained differences in time flow between Tokyo and the Eastern Kingdom of Mikado, the game hadn’t had any time travel until this moment, so it feels forced and out of place.
Plus, this DLC introduces a plot hole (besides the standard logical paradoxes of time travel to the past): if protagonist Flynn did indeed go back in time to defeat the Archangels and allow Mastema to capture them, why in the world does Gabby not recognize him during the game proper’s course of events? Once the other 3 are freed, why don’t they recognize Flynn, for that matter? Yeah, you can argue that they realize that the past events are set in stone and they shouldn’t attack him in the present before he’s traveled back to set the past events in motion, but even accepting that answer, it makes no sense for Gabby, or any of them, to trust Flynn as much as she does and they do. She charges him and his companions specifically with rescuing the other 3 Archangels in the middle of the game, and if Flynn follows the Law path, all of them will completely trust him to fight Lucifer alongside them. Do they somehow think he isn’t the same guy as from back in the past? Even if they’re not sure, wouldn’t they say something, ask something, do some sort of investigation or take some kind of precautionary measures?
There is 1 criticism I’ve heard for this DLC that I don’t share in, though. Some people have complained that since the Archangels are significant parts of the main storyline, they should have been fought in the game proper, not as optional add-on bosses. I actually don’t agree with this criticism. I mean, taken at face value, it’s logical, but the plot of the game kind of makes it hard to make that happen. By the time you reach the point of the plot where you may actually be opposing the forces of God, the Archangels have already fused with Jonathan to form Merkabah. Until then, there’s no reason they would attack Flynn, and at that point, they’re no longer individually in the picture. Still, that’s just one small thing that isn’t a problem with this DLC. The facts remain that it has too little story and play time, the story isn’t done well, and it is WAY overpriced for what it is. Considering how little you get from this DLC, I’d say paying even a single dollar would have been an unfair price.
Ancient One of the Sun: This one is a little better. It actually relates to the main plot of the game without mucking about with time travel (granted, it uses dimension travel, which isn’t much better, but at least that’s an established part of the game already), and furthers one of the main plot’s story arcs. In this DLC, you’re brought back to Blasted Tokyo to defend its citizens from God’s wrath once more, this time by defeating an actual piece of God, the Ancient of Days. Essentially, it’s pretty similar to Clipped Wings in that it’s short, doesn’t have an actual gameplay area, and is just a battle with some dialogue before and after it, but at least it seems somewhat relevant to the game. It develops a little further the fate of the Blasted Tokyo survivors, and ends with a little better closure for them, with uncertainty but hope that they’ll be able to greet the new culture of Genesis and live with them peacefully. I kind of wish poor Kiyoharu didn’t have to be disillusioned during the battle, since he would probably have been able to quite happily embrace these new people of God and easily maintain his fanatical faith, but ah well. So is this DLC worth it? Well...more than Clipped Wings was, but overall, no. Again, even if $2.50 isn’t much to spend, we’re talking about 15 to 30 minutes of game time total. To me, a dollar should equal at least 1 hour of play time in a DLC. If Atlus lowers the price of this one to 50 cents, I’ll buy it, but I’m sure as hell not paying any more for it.
The Eternal Youth: Meh. Since Sanat kind of comes out of nowhere with no background to precede him, this DLC, which is again just some dialogue, a fight, and final dialogue, feels contrived and doesn’t particularly draw one in. It’s nice to help Infernal Tokyo’s Akira again, I guess, but it doesn’t feel like any particular step has been taken by the end of it. I guess the idea is that now that Akira has supposedly beaten Sanat, all the demons think he’s hot shit and awesome and all that, but why the hell didn’t they already think that? The events of the main game have Akira taking the credit for beating Kenji, the guy who was previously the strongest individual in Infernal Tokyo, so this is one of those annoying cases of characters forgetting what they’ve learned solely so they can re-learn it. Sanat’s story and powers and role and motives and whatnot are too vague and mysterious, Akira’s side of things is too much a repetition of before, and nothing seems to have really been accomplished by the DLC’s end. Even if this one were long enough that the cost ($2.50, again) were tolerable, it wouldn’t be worth it. Pass.
For the Past...For the Future: Now see, this is the kind of DLC I hate the very, very most. In this DLC, you’re transported once again back in time, this time to the day that the land above Tokyo was created that would later be the Eastern Kingdom of Mikado. You get a bit of dialogue beforehand, which explains a fair bit about several important parts of SMT4’s past history, including the disaster whose results separated the 3 dimensions we see during SMT4 (the home dimension, Blasted Tokyo, and Infernal Tokyo), a little background for the Yamato Reactor, how things went down with Masakado, of course part of the origin story of the Eastern Kingdom of Mikado, and we even see that the whole day of fate relates very strongly to similar cataclysms in other SMT games (the missile strike is just like the one from SMT1, and the conflict of angels and demons and humans in the streets of Tokyo is similar to the events of SMT Devil Survivor 1), which is a nice touch. Admittedly, Masakado is stupidly overpowered during your fight with him which doesn’t really fit the SMT lore,* and this DLC once again brings in time travel where it’s not wanted and REALLY opens a can of worms as far as cyclical event time paradoxes, but overall, this DLC has a lot of really good, really critical backstory for the setting and history of SMT4.
And that’s the damn problem. Why the HELL is such a critical part of understanding how events led to the current situation of SMT4 a Downloadable Content package!? There is just absolutely no denying that this is important, story-relevant narrative that absolutely without a shadow of a doubt should have been in the main game! This is important backstory that is just outright missing from the game, and whose absence is most definitely felt! At most the main game gives you vague hints and impressions of the things this DLC shows us, things that are incredibly relevant to understanding and appreciating the major plot events of Shin Megami Tensei 4! Holy hyper hell in a hamper, I hate it when a game has content in its add-on that obviously belonged in the main game. You wanna sell me Downloadable Content, then give me additional, unrelated aventures, give me character side stories, give me special epilogues and ending adjustments, give me expanded stories on minor things I’ve heard about in the game...but you sure as hell better not give me significant parts of the main plot that you just messily ripped from the game so you could charge me more money! If I want to understand the primary plot, the core story, of a game to the fullest possible extent, I should NOT have to pay extra! I paid for a full, complete story when I purchased the game, Goddammit!
I do not take kindly to being swindled, and that’s what this DLC is. At $3 for 20 to 35 minutes of play time, it’s not worth it anyways, but since its content is relevant enough to the game proper that keeping it separate is obviously a ploy to take advantage of you to make a quick buck, I wouldn’t pay for this thing if it only cost a single cent. Definitely go find a Let’s Play video of this add-on, because it’s certainly content that you should experience if you’re playing SMT4, but don’t waste your money supporting this kind of disingenuous scam. Shame on you, Atlus. I thought you were better human beings than Bioware. Perhaps I misjudged you.
So what’s the verdict for my first true foray into JRPG add-ons? Not good. Only a couple of SMT4’s DLCs have any plot content worth your time, they’re all way overpriced for the piddly amount of game time they add, and the last one is a classic example of how disgustingly dishonest the add-on business can be. If Atlus does another set of DLCs with its next SMT game, I sure hope they’re better than this.
* He’s supposed to be the ultimate demon of Neutrality in the SMT series, but as such he is, power-wise, way below the high iconic demons of Chaos and Law. That’s how it should be, because Neutrality is supposed to be all about humans finding their own way through their own strength, so it makes sense thematically for Masakado to be less powerful than Lucifer, Merkabah, Ancient of Days, even perhaps the Archangels, because that way the hero who chooses the path of Neutrality must compensate for the lesser power he receives by using his own abilities to see himself through--a human being’s abilities. Making Masakado into clearly the most powerful boss in the entire game just tosses all that thematic consistency out the window.