Shin Megami Tensei has been a notable Atlus franchise that typically delivers an excellent experience. The latest release, Shin Megami Tensei IV, debuted on 3DS sometime back. With a more powerful system, past experience, and a new concept, Shin Megami Tensei V is in a great place. With so much going for it, can Shin Megami Tensei V make use of the potential or does it fall short?
Shin Megami Tensei V follows the story of a young high school student investigating rumors of demons appearing at a nearby school. When investigating, a demon attacks as an earthquake occurs. Following that event, the protagonist wakes up in a post-apocalyptic version of Tokyo overrun by demons. Shortly after a demon attacks, the main character is saved by a mysterious being called Aogami, who fuses with the protagonist to create Nahobino, an entity that is neither human nor god.
As Nahobino, you must deal with the war between angels and demons. During this conflict, you’ll be joined by previous friends and both familiar places in Tokyo and unfamiliar in the Netherworld.
Compared to Shin Megami Tensei IV, the plot is significantly more interesting. Not only does it tackle the war, but it also addresses certain issues a regular high schooler might experience, such as bullying. Characters are also more fleshed out through a variety of interactions, which extend to angels and demons as well.
Fans familiar with Shin Megami Tensei will enjoy that demon summoning, where you can negotiate with demons to join your party, offer them macca, or simply collect them so that you can summon more powerful ones down the road is back. The majority of demons found in previous Shin Megami Tensei games return, in addition to new creatures from Philippines folklore like Manananggal. As with all Shin Megami Tensei games, you can’t just rely on the starter demons and must collect new ones on your adventure. The farther you get in the game, the more demons that you should recruit or fuse to prevent falling behind in battle.
Like previous entries, this is a turn-based RPG. The core should be familiar for fans, with weaknesses being a must due to them giving you an additional turn. For this reason, I’ve found the franchise rather easy, so I reviewed Shin Megami Tensei V on hard. This mode didn’t just test my ability to strategize, it made me frequently question which demons to use. It also frequently required me to take a step back and grind to overcome a later challenge or foe.
One of the new features introduced in Shin Megami Tensei V is the ability to use Magatsuhi Skills, which boosts your party for one turn. The skills vary from critical damage to providing buffs over a varying amount of turns. To fill up this gauge, players must complete specific tasks or collect red orbs scattered throughout the world.
Another feature introduced is Essence. Essence can be used to acquire specific skills for both yourself or demons. There are also shops, or as the game calls them, Miracles, where you can get modifiers that increase the potency of Nahobino’s spells, increase demon stock, increase affinity types, or increase the Magatsuhi gauge fill rate. To purchase these specific modifiers, you must collect Glory, which can be found or trade a collectible known as Miman for 5 Glory.
Unlike Shin Megami Tensei IV where movement is limited, players are given a somewhat open world to explore in Shin Megami Tensei V. Every area is rather large, filled with secrets to discover, including Mimans, demon essence, or valuable relics from your world. Expect to spend a lot of time exploring and hunting for demons which is a great change of pace.
To add to the experience, there are a plethora of sidequests you can undertake. These sidequests vary from collecting items to defeating certain demons. Rewards for these tasks can be helpful, including some of the most powerful demons in the game.
The visuals in Shin Megami Tensei V are phenomenal thanks to Unreal Engine 4. Despite the Switch’s shortcomings, the game manages to produce visuals that are top-notch with anime-looking sprites and detailed demons. While it might not compare to what other consoles can offer, it is easily one of the best-looking Switch games be it in handheld or docked mode.
In terms of performance, the game runs at a solid frame rate with very few dips along the way. The game has decent loading times but is far from the lengthy ones found elsewhere. If there’s one thing that I encountered a lot while playing through the game, that would be the pop-in textures, though it’s not really game-breaking.
Shin Megami Tensei V Review Verdict
Shin Megami Tensei V is the Shin Megami Tensei game fans have been waiting for. Not only it does improve the core gameplay, but it also offers a dark-gritty storyline that exceeds previous efforts. There is so much to do in Shin Megami Tensei V that could make you easily forget how long you’ve been playing. If you have been a fan of the SMT games, Shin Megami Tensei V is a must-buy, and for JRPG gamers, it is a game you don’t want to miss.
[Editor’s Note: Shin Megami Tensei V was reviewed on Nintendo Switch and a copy was provided to us for review purposes.]