Surprising pretty much everyone, last week Atlus of Japan released a new freeware spin-off Shin Megami Tensei game for PC. Unlike most SMT games, which are usually turn-based RPGs, Synchronicity Prologue is a non-linear action platformer in the style of Metroid and Castlevania (i.e. a “Metroidvania”). While my exposure to the Megami Tensei franchise is minimal, I’ve been interested in it for a while and could not pass up the opportunity to grab a free game, especially from a series that is rarely seen on PC. Here’s a rundown of my thoughts on the game:
- While it’s my understanding that regular Shin Megami Tensei games have a pretty dark and serious tone, Synchronicity Prologue stars cute-looking cartoon mascots Jack Frost and Pyro Jack. Despite the kid-friendly appearance, when your character takes damage there’s a pretty distinct blood splatter animation which struck me as a kind of out of place.
- If you’ve ever played any of the Castlevania games on the Gameboy Advance or Nintendo DS, the gameplay of Synchronicity Prologue will immediately feel familiar to you. The playable characters have standard and special attacks and collect upgrades that strengthen them and allow them access to new areas of the map. The level design and placement of hidden rooms are also very similar to Metroid and Castlevania games.
- The game’s mark of differentiation from other Metroidvanias comes from its character switching mechanic and use of elemental strengths and weaknesses. As you can probably guess, Jack Frost is immune to ice but weak against fire and the reverse is true for Pyro Jack. Each enemy also has its own set of elemental strengths and weaknesses. Later on, special moves introduce wind, lightning, and non-elemental attacks as well.
- During boss battles, enemies will often launch a massive barrage of ice and fire projectiles in bullet-hell fashion. Studying the bullet pattern and quickly switching between Frost and Pyro to avoid taking damage is the key to survival. This mechanic, reminiscent of Ikaruga, makes for an interesting addition to the otherwise standard Metroidvania format.
- Much like other aspects of this game, the music sounds like something straight out of Castlevania. It’s well-composed Castlevania-esque music, though, so it fits nicely.
- Even though I know very little about Shin Megami Tensei, with the help of the English translation patch (see notes below), the game’s simple plot was easy to follow. It wasn’t anything special, but it got the job done.
As you’ve probably gathered, SMT Synchronicity Prologue is essentially a Castlevania clone with some bullet-hell elements mixed in. In this case, however, that isn’t a criticism since Synchronicity Prologue is an exceptionally well-made clone. The game is quite short (~ 3 hours) but this keeps its simple mechanics from getting stale. There’s also the fact that this game was completely free, so you’ll hear no complaints from me. I’d highly recommend checking out Shin Megami Tensei Synchronicity Prologue, especially if you're a fan of the Metroidvania genre.
Completion Time: About 3 hours (92% map completion)
- If you’re interested in playing this game, it can be downloaded for free directly from Atlus of Japan. Click either of the blue rounded buttons midway down the page to download the game. It will be available until December 24th.
- The game was originally in Japanese, but a translation patch was created by @Brento_Bento on Twitter. The patch and installation instructions can be found in an article from Destructoid. Small amounts of text remain untranslated, such as some character names and item descriptions, but the patch still provides more than enough English text for a Japanese illiterate player to be able to understand what's going on.