Shin Megami Tensei V, the latest game in Shin Megami Tensei series is finally here. The game launches on Nintendo Switch worldwide today and let’s take a look at what this latest installment has to offer for those who love dungeon-crawling role-playing games.
Shin Megami Tensei V is a game that feels like catching up with an old friend. It’s hands-on impressions preview, but the game already has romance in it.
The lengthy wait is about to come to an end. Shin Megami Tensei V is the first new Shin Megami Tensei game in five years, after Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse. To say I’m a fan of the series is an understatement; I’ve completed practically every game in it, even odd spin-offs like SMT: if… and the interesting Metroidvania SMT: Synchronicity. A new mainstream SMT game that isn’t a Persona game is a breath of fresh air – but I don’t mind Persona at all, so don’t worry.
SMT5 begins by establishing how it acknowledges its pedigree: you play as a young Japanese student living in Tokyo who survives the devastation that occurs within 15 minutes of starting the game. The protagonist discovers a mysterious and devastating power, starts negotiating and collaborating with demons, and wanders the ruins of Tokyo in quest of answers. This familiar sequence of events is meant to feel like a welcome home for series regulars, like an old buddy we haven’t seen in a while.
However, there are some new features in the game: Nahobino, the fusion of your character and Aogami, a kind face you meet very immediately, wanders throughout the open world in a different way than previous games in the series. For starters, similar to Dragon Quest 11, monsters appear on the overworld. These demons may be battled or avoided, but they are constantly visible, which is a significant difference from previous entries’ “random encounter” fighting system. Furthermore, pressing ZR causes Nahobino to effectively Naruto-run throughout the map, enabling you to speed from point A to point B – which made me chuckle more than it should have.
The combat system is the well-known “Press Turn” mechanism that the JRPG series is renowned for. If you strike a demon with its weakness or a critical hit, you earn an additional turn; however, if you hit a nullification or miss an attack, you lose two turns. “Magatsuhi,” a form of super meter that enables not just you, but any of your demons to activate for a special attack, is a new feature to battle that seems to have replaced Smirk from SMT4. Magatsuhi is obtained by completing your turn and acquiring red orbs in the overworld.
Negotiation is still the same as it has always been. The first few demons you meet will be straightforward to recruit, but after you reach the first Abscess, things start to become a little more unpredictable. Owing to a series of terrible situations, I was unable to acquire Onmoraki numerous times in a row due to poor negotiations. You nasty bird, please give me 140 Macca.
Which leads to one of the most often asked questions: is the game difficult? Ask any Shin Megami Tensei player about Matador in SMT3 or the Demi-fiend encounter in Digital Devil Saga, and you’ll almost certainly hear horror tales. I’m delighted to report that regular mode gave a comparable challenge to SMT4’s normal mode, and I expect hard mode to be just as difficult.
However, there looks to be a degree of personalization not seen in previous SMT games: after you unlock the World of Shadows, which comes rather early in the game, you have the power to employ Essences of Demons to infuse spells into not just Nahobino, but also your party members. It’s unclear what constraints are in effect, but you won’t need to waste an hour or two in this game attempting to fuse quad-elemental spells onto one demon. It seems like a logical progression from Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse’s Fusion system.
When it comes to how Shin Megami Tensei V looks and feels, playing it in handheld mode indicates that my old Switch is on its way out – framerates were a tad sluggish, especially when gazing at all the sand particles. With little trouble, docking and playing on TV looked and felt amazing. When you open a menu screen, a bizarre transition effect with a low framerate appears, and it strikes me as unusual.
The sprint is a bit sticky at times, but you grow accustomed to it. Exploration through the sandy ruins wasn’t bad. It’s amazing to be able to escape attackers, or even better, have foes flee from you after you reach a high enough level. So long as you weren’t mounting a slope, the camera was OK – then it seemed to zoom in on Nahobino, obstructing your perspective and leading you to run into whatever monsters there were.
The sound design is outstanding. If you’re unfamiliar with SMT music, I suggest starting with God Killer from SMT4: Apocalypse. SMT5’s music has a similar tone and direction, with apocalyptic rock, warble effects, and creepy voices thrown in for good measure. Many demon favorites receive fresh portrait art — or, in some instances, altogether new art and models — thanks to the excellent art direction.
Overall, I’ve had a lot of fun smashing demons in Shin Megami Tensei V so far, and I can’t wait to play it again. Aside from a few minor problems in handheld mode, the game looks, feels, and plays brilliantly. If you’re new to the series, the game does a great job of explaining the mechanics so you don’t feel overwhelmed. If you’re a veteran, it welcomes you back with a feeling of familiarity, like coming home to a warm house after a hard winter. Godhood is on the horizon.
“nahobino meaning” is a word that the protagonist uses to describe his relationship with the player. The game has an old-school feel, but it feels like catching up with an old friend.
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