It’s taken its fine time, but Shin Megami Tensei V has finally landed on the Nintendo Switch. Many fans have feared SMT V’s cancelation, but it’s good to see Atlus and SEGA pull through to make it a reality. Now it’s time to see if it was worth the wait in this review.
God is dead, and the Tokyo you once knew is gone. Surrounded by angels and demons, you must now survive the repercussion of their ongoing clash while waving around fashionably long blue hair. Shin Megami Tensei V tells the story of a young man who finds himself merging with a proto-fiend to become a Nahobino.
Thrown into a wasteland of nothingness, my first impression of the game was nerve-racking. Was this going to be the entirety of where the game is based? I understand that SMT is a series based around apocalypse; however, this was not the environment I was visually expecting to be thrown into from the beginning. Yet, the more I played, the more I became confident in the world and its gameplay.
There’s a handful of interesting characters, although it’s a shame some of them are forgettable or didn’t get as much spotlight as they deserve. The majority of the cast that are focused on do get compelling scenes fans of the series such as myself crave for. It gets dark, captivating, and walks you through how some of the characters develop themselves.
Similar to previous titles, Shin Megami Tensei V has four endings. Unlike the others, the game has three main routes and a last, secret one. Playing through just one of these routes may not be satisfying. It can leave a sense of disappointment if you fail to encounter someone specific to a particular route you’ve heard much about throughout the story. It’s much more fulfilling seeing all of these endings, or at least one of the main endings and the secret one.
With your newfound powers, you must explore the new world you have been thrown into. Demons lurk around every corner waiting for a fight. Some will have quests for you to undertake. It’s up to you to survive the tormenting underworld by recruiting and fusing demons to strengthen your stance against the forces of chaos and anyone who opposes you.
Shin Megami Tensei V encourages exploring every inch of each area in its open world map. Although optional, these little chores help with advancing the game’s story smoothly because of its rewards. You will have to search for Minman (tiny little red creatures with a Glory point rewards for each discovery), collect valuable relics to resell, accept quests from demons, and seek out statues of petrified demons to absorb their power. Exploring the map is tremendously enjoyable with the proper completionist’s motivation. Each area seems the same, yet feels different in layout. There aren’t many memorable landmarks to set your eyes upon when exploring the world, which is a bit unfortunate.
The open world is a major step up in the SMT series. You have the freedom of moving the Nahobino in any direction you desire without being limited to dungeons or small areas. Minor details are also evident when the protagonist is in motion, which is a pleasant touch. It’s also been delightful to have a small selection of demons follow you around in the overworld. While you won’t be able to freely choose your traveling partner from the large compendium of demons, the game will give you the option of using a small selection to accompany you during your journey.
Navigation can get complicated in specific areas, which is both good and bad. You will have to look carefully and sometimes even use your brain to arrive at a specific spot you can see but not easily approach. Although small in number, there are some tedious areas to navigate; it also doesn’t help that the background environments can sometimes get blurry on the Nintendo Switch. The most challenging part doesn’t come from navigating these areas for the first time. This is because the mini map shows which parts you have yet to explore. The real inconvenience comes from retracing your steps through a one-way direction that sometimes feels like a needle in a haystack.
Combat in this game has seen a major User Interface overhaul, which is an imperative improvement for a game of this caliber for the big screen. In addition to that, action scenes are initiated for each skill used during battle. These are short but sweet action scenes that usually do not get old; and if they do, by that time you may have a replacement skill that’s more powerful.
Not uncommon to modern RPGs, lurking enemies are now shown in the overworld in their full form — not some static form or the old-school invisible, random encounters. Some of these demons may even chase you to commence a battle. Striking them first will give you the advantage of having the first turn; however, they can do the same to put you at the disadvantage.
The game uses a turn-based combat system that some SMT fans are accustomed to, but with slight changes. New to SMT V is the Magatsuhi gauge that fills up and allows you to use special Magatsuhi Skills. Exploiting an enemy’s weakness for an extra Press Turn still exists. Taking advantage of skipping a turn is sometimes crucial. Point investment in stats becomes critical depending on the difficulty you choose (Normal and Hard require wise point investment). The lack of equippable gear might disappoint some players, but it’s something I personally forgot existed in previous games until looking it up.
All together, fighting enemies has still been a blast and may even be the best in the Megaten franchise (as of writing this). With a variety of skills at your disposal and affinities to adjust, there are a lot of strategies to come up with. Newbies to the series will have a tougher time than others when facing demons that null/repel/drain specific elements, but it’s also a fun and challenging learning curve that most SMT fans may miss out on unless memory does not serve them well.
Boss entrances in the game are glorified and it’s incredible how well they present themselves for an astonishing first impression. It makes you feel like taking them down even more. Boss battles in the game are significantly tougher than random foes you may encounter in the overworld. Some of them will require strategizing, adapting to their weaknesses, using essences to teach your party members effective skills, and sometimes even wishing for some extra luck on the side. Lack of proper skill use may sometimes make boss battles feel impossible to defeat and the game surely will not hold your hand. You will need to effectively use buffs/debuffs, exploit weaknesses, inflict status ailments, and ensure your party isn’t weak to any of the enemy’s skills.
Whether your fighting style favors physical or magic damage, there’s a satisfying number of skills to use in this game. Some of these skills are exclusive to specific demons and the protagonist. What I like the most is how they brought elements to some physical skills, although it would have been nice if they had done it for some late-game skills.
A common annoyance of mine with Shin Megami Tensei games is the lack of the ability to sort skills. If you strive for good organization, they will frustrate you too. While you can’t directly organize skills in Shin Megami Tensei V at your leisure, it can still be done when learning new skills through essences. It does require the use of a demon’s essence; however, it’s worth the sacrifice.
One of the best parts of SMT, especially Shin Megami Tensei V, is the ability to negotiate with demons and recruit them during battle. It’s interesting reading what these demons have to say before deciding to join your cause; the writers decided to throw in some hair jokes, seeing as the protagonist has the longest hair out of all the others in the series. It’s a gamble choosing what items and responses to give them. One wrong move and they will either attack you or flee. The level requirement to recruit can get annoying with new demons since their levels are almost always higher than your protagonist; therefore, revisiting areas to talk to them once more is something you’ll have to make peace with doing.
There are some demons throughout the world that will give you quests. Even though they’re optional, completing them can make a difference with how smooth you progress through the story. The majority will be hitman tasks; however, it’s interesting how some of them let you see the story from both sides before making a decision on who to slay. Additionally, the game makes completing most quests convenient by marking out destinations on the map. A small number of these quests are complicated and may require a guide, though.
Is The Paid DLC Worth It?
There’s a decent number of paid DLC available for the game: recruitable demons, higher spawn rates for rare item-dropping demons, and an end-game boss. The recruitable demons do make the game easier once you’re able to defeat them because of their unique skills. If you take a liking to any of the options, they will surely make an impact on your gameplay. The same cannot be said about the higher spawn rate DLC. Although it might lessen farming for items, it doesn’t feel like it would have made a major impact with it.
Out of all of these options, the endgame super boss DLC (Return of the True Demon) is definitely worth it. It gives you access to fight and recruit all of the nine Fiends spread throughout your playthrough. Topping it off is a familiar face from Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne: the Demi-fiend. It will surely test you on how good you are at your strongest; there will be blood and tears.
Graphics and Performance
Although the game looks great, the environment can sometimes get a bit blurry and make navigating through certain areas tougher on the eyes. The cutscenes are top of the line, the character/demon models are gorgeous, and the world design fits the apocalyptic theme the game is going for. It’s impressive how much thought the developers have put into the protagonist’s hair physics. Motion is smooth as can be and there aren’t many issues with the game running on the Nintendo Switch.
There is a lot of great music in this game that makes exploring the world feel good. Some of the tunes can be a hit or miss, but most fit the dark atmosphere the game aims for. Ryota Kozuka, the man primarily behind recent mainline SMT game music, did an amazing job with composing the music for Shin Megami Tensei V. Even if you are having a tough time with a boss fight, at least you have the banging music to make the pain a bit less severe.
Shin Megami Tensei V keeps a firm grip on its gLoRy with its punishing, yet satisfying gameplay. It ticks some of the checkboxes of what previous games lacked, but not without making sacrifices. Some parts make it feel like something is missing and that there wasn’t enough time to include it. Despite that, it’s still a fantastic game both fans and newcomers will most likely enjoy.
Shin Megami Tensei V gets a 9/10.