Shin Megami Tensei V Review in Progress, A Masterful Comeback

Shin Megami Tensei V is one of the most anticipated Nintendo Switch games of all time, sparking countless “vaporware” memes as the JRPG was one of the very first Switch games to be announced. And yet took over four years to get released. Now, the wait is finally over, and it definitely was worth it.

First, it’s important to understand all the context wrapped around Shin Megami Tensei. While it obviously became eclipsed by its spinoff Persona, SMT is still the most iconic franchise from Atlus internally. And it’s making a huge comeback.

Shin Megami Tensei V is the first home console entry in the series since Shin Megami Tensei III Nocturne, which was a PS2 game. This is the first time ever we get to see Atlus on a highly ambitious, Unreal Engine running, SMT console game. And all of my expectations were met so far, after over 30 hours with the game.

Choose your side in the battle between Law and Chaos

The story of Shin Megami Tensei V starts in a pretty usual way for a JRPG. Recently, “mysterious incidents” have been happening around Tokyo, with some claiming it’s the work of demons. It’s as such mandatory for our nameable protagonist to get back from his school to his dorm in a group, as a safety measure. Introducing us to the main characters of the game on the same occasion.

Everything suddenly turns upside down when the protagonist and his friends end up, after an incident, in the world of Da’at. Populated by demons. Thankfully for our protagonist, and as seen in numerous trailers so far, he fuses with Aogami, forming a powerful being, the Nahobino.

The story that unfolds after that has been particularly engaging so far. All of the main stories of Shin Megami Tensei V is fully voiced, and the English dub cast definitely did an awesome job portraying the characters’ motivations, struggles, and alignments.

The world of Da’at in Shin Megami Tensei V is incredibly well built and its exploration exhilarating; You can jump, climb at certain specific spots, and find many hidden elements that will help you fulfil your destiny. Atlus did a tremendous job when it comes to mapping design and dungeon design. Exploration is often even more rewarding, more enjoyable than actual open-world games.

Furthermore, the maps of Da’at have several teleportations points you can unlock as you explore. These Leyline Fount spots also serve as save points, shops, and where you’ll be able to fuse demons and strengthen your party. These Leyline Founts most notably make backtracking easy especially when it comes to fulfilling side quests.

Following the traditions of the Shin Megami Tensei series, you will often be asked to make draconian choices in SMT V. This is reflected in sidequests as well, where you will often be clearly asked to side either with Law or Chaos. These choices will regularly leave you with lingering thoughts, questioning yourself if you truly took the right decision.

The Press Turn battle system is still as vicious and efficient as ever

Shin Megami Tensei is often described as a “darker Pokemon“. This is a cliched but definitely good way to put it. The plot is dark, and the battle system is just as gritty. Shin Megami Tensei V uses the series’ iconic Press Turn battle system.

SMT V uses a turn-based battle system. Each ally and enemy demon has its own elemental weaknesses and strengths. Hitting these weaknesses will allow you to gain additional turns. But missing your mark will make you lose turns. This is a universal rule applying to both friend and foe. So it’s quite easy to find yourself in a critical position if you’re not careful enough.

Shin Megami Tensei III, which introduced this battle system, is often considered extremely unfair by some of its fans. However, SMT V could be the best-balanced game so far.

Game Overs rarely feel like the game cheated on you, and getting your party wiped is often only the result of your own mistakes. Especially since the game has many means to make your adventure easier. From HP and MP restorative orbs found in the field when exploring, to being able to teleport at any time to the latest save point.

Gathering and customizing demons through a balanced challenge

Hard Mode, which is how I played the game for this review in progress, definitely feels like a great balanced challenge if you’re used to the series. It might even be too easy if you know exactly what you’re doing. The first hours of the game could definitely turn out to be the hardest. Seeing you’re still very limited in terms of Macca (money), customization, and builds.

Note that there are various difficulty modes for those unaccustomed to the series. A “Safety” mode is also coming through the day 1 free update for those who simply want to enjoy the story.

As you progress through the game, you will need to keep recruiting more and more powerful demons. SMT V uses the series’ iconic Demon Negotiation system, where players must select the right dialogue choices in battles to increase their party members. These choices are dependent on the demons’ personalities, and you will ultimately be asked for money, items, or HP/MP to seal the deal.

Together with Fusing two or more demons, inheriting skills from each other in the process, Demon Negotiation is a crucial aspect of Shin Megami Tensei. You mustn’t neglect it, and keep your party fresh with newer demons to take on the mini-boss like Abscess. Allowing you to access newer areas and unlock new Miracles to further customize your party and the Nahobino protagonist.

Shin Megami Tensei V is a masterful comeback

Shin Megami Tensei V is easily one of the best entries, if not the best entry in the series. After over 30 hours with the game, I’ve been constantly amazed and Atlus definitely managed to bring back the franchise to new heights. Now here’s hoping Shin Megami Tensei manages to reach the same popularity Persona did.

Shin Megami Tensei V will be out exclusively on Nintendo Switch on November 12, 2021. Be sure to check back this review on release day as I’ll be back with my full thoughts once I’ve reached the ending.

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