As I play through Shin Megami Tensei IV at a snail’s pace, I find that one of the most interesting and frustrating parts of the game is the demon negotiation function. SMT veterans will know what I’m talking about, but here’s a basic explanation for newcomers.
Some SMT titles have a feature that allows your player character to talk to demons during battle. Talking to a demon can be a really good idea sometimes – depending on the course of the conversation, a demon might give you an item, money or a piece of advice. It might also choose to quit attacking you and run away – if you already have a demon of the same type with you, for example, it will recognize its “friend” in your party and leave you alone. Some of the conversation branches can get extremely strange. Depending upon the demon’s type and personality, you might have the opportunity to threaten it, bow down to it or even to hit on it (female demons only, as far as I’ve been able to tell.)
Most importantly, though, negotiation is the only way to recruit new members to your party and get the components needed for demon fusion – a whole other subject in itself. As you play SMT IV (or any other SMT game with the recruitment function) you’ll most often find yourself negotiating with demons to recruit them. Recruitment involves a both asking and answering questions. Most often you’ll start things off by asking one to join your party, and then the demon will begin to ask for random items, amounts of money, or portions of your HP/MP to take for themselves. This whole process can be pretty frustrating just for the fact that giving the demon items is no guarantee that they will join you. Sometimes they’ll ask a final question, and your answer will piss them off and make them attack you, breaking off negotiations. Sometimes they’ll simply run away with all your items and money. There’s usually nothing at all you can do about this (the Detain skill in SMT III is a nice exception to that rule.) Occasionally, they’ll lead off with a question and your answer will make them so happy that they’ll join you straight up, no haggling required, but these instances are rare.
SMT III is even more fun in this respect because it lets you attach negotiation skills to demons, something you can’t do in SMT IV or any of the others (as far as I can tell, at least.)
Demon negotiation is easily one of the most entertaining parts of playing an SMT game. It’s a feature that really sets SMT apart from other game franchises. You go into every fight not knowing whether your enemies will attack you, join you or run off with a bunch of your stuff. It adds an element of unpredictability – and sometimes of humor – that really lightens up an otherwise pretty dark series of games. And if it goes well, you’ll have a new friend.