It has been eight years since Shin Megami Tensei IV was released on the Nintendo 3DS. And while the reception to this game was overall positive, it was time for a new game, and Atlus agreed. Thus Shin Megami Tensei V was born, and I couldn’t wait to see what this new entry was all about. Would it be just as difficult as the previous games? Is the battle system the stuff of legends? Let us see how the next installment is on the Nintendo Switch.
Game Name: Shin Megami Tensei V
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch
Release Date: November 12th, 2021
In Shin Megami Tensei, you play as a Silent protagonist. The silent main protagonist is a staple of JRPGS. You are brought over to the Netherworld which is a version of Tokyo in which a battle between Gods and demons destroyed the land. Luckily your guide and voice in this game come from Aogami, a mysterious demon who wants to help you survive for no discernable reason. You combine with him to become a very powerful hybrid called a Nahobino. Throughout this game, you meet with various other characters and demons who build upon the story of this land. For the most part, the plot propels the character forward with very little motivation from the main character aside from surviving. It isn’t a unique story, but the part that interested me the most was the story of the demons in the Netherworld. The story of the demons is mainly told through side content that can help you learn the lore, motivations, and history of this land. You can indulge yourself in helping demons throughout the Netherworld by fighting demons, finding gems or key items, and helping them traverse the Netherworld as a protector.
You are in a bunch of open-world type maps as you walk around the Netherworld, and you can initiate fights. You can find trash or other items in vending machines that can translate to money you get in the game. There are some side demons where you get aid from as well. Gustave is a demon that sells consumable items like medicine and attacking items like fire damage to all enemies. You meet him at leyline founts. You can find miniman demons who are throughout the Netherworld for prizes and extra glory. Glory can be used by the next demon you meet.
Sophia is a demon in the world of shadows who teaches abilities to the protagonist. She will use up glory currency to give you extra passives and active abilities to your main character. She also uses fusion to give special skills to your captured demons or use them to teach your character their skills. This is also where you gain the ability to fuse demons you have captured to make even stronger demons.
Combat is the draw of Shin Megami Tensei V; It’s a turn-based game, and it has a lot of interesting mechanics around it. You start out with a certain number of actions per turn. The amount of actions is determined by the size of your party. If you have four party members, you start with four actions. When you hit a weakness, or your move is a critical hit, it adds another possible action to your turn. You can only double the number of actions in your queue with this exploit, however. The max amount of actions is eight. Magatsushi is a special ability that can change the battle greatly. You can force moves to be critical hits for the turn, or every magical move is a weakness hit. The enemies can be quite ruthless. Once they find out your weakness or one of your demon ally’s weaknesses, they will spam it. (Note: I played this on normal, it might not be as ruthless on Casual or Safety mode)
Visually and Audiual impressive for the Switch
Honestly, I really enjoyed the aesthetic and the design of this game. The characters looked nice and held up well on the Switch’s lesser hardware. The only downside of the Switch though was cinematics would stutter when more than 2 characters were on the screen at a time or weren’t close up. One of the last cinematics in the game shows six characters on the screen at once with events going on in the background. This cinematic was running at around 15 frames per second, and it was really jarring. It’s definitely a hardware issue, but I won’t harp on that. When playing the game, the dips aren’t as noticeable, even though they are there when you are in the larger maps. It stays pretty close to the locked rate of 30 frames per second. The models for the characters are much more polished than earlier games, and overall they look very nice.
The sound design in this game is very good. It sets the mood well in a dark and broody demon-filled apocalyptic world. The battle music is engaging and has unique sounds with each area you come across. I wouldn’t say the music is anything too special, yet it fits the demonic landscape just fine.
Get ready to get your A$$ kicked
Overall I would say if you are here for the story, you might have an enjoyable experience but it won’t be the impactful emotional relationship building JRPG stories of old. The characters do relate, but they aren’t very deep. The story is engaging, but it isn’t breaking new ground in the JRPG story department. The real drive that will keep you in this game is the world and the combat. Beating a tough opponent is incredibly satisfying. Grinding only helps a little bit of the time. What matters is the strength of the demons you find, their strengths, the typing being able to go against the enemies you find, and ultimately your use of strategy.
This game will be tough; you will lose fights, you will lose gameplay time. My overall time on my Switch says 23 hours and 48 minutes but that is not a clear picture of how long it took me to beat this game. I had around 7 hours of time lost redoing battles. You don’t get retry mechanics or autosaves. When you lose, you go back to your last save point. Make sure you save constantly. Take every fight like it’s your last because it just might be if you get surprised and end up wiping due to an enemy hitting you with a critical hit, resulting in you losing hours of game time.
I enjoyed my run-through of Shin Megami Tensei V, but I think the faults are still shown through. The story isn’t special, and it is like an outlet to justify the combat. This story feels like it wants more time to explore the other facets of its philosophy. It just feels rushed at the end because of it. The story doesn’t move you to want to accomplish it; fighting tougher opponents is the real reason to play this game. Using strategy, maxing out your character with the side content to give yourself a better chance to adapt to any enemy is the reason.
This game thrives on its combat, and in a way, I almost dislike it for that. Yes, combat is enjoyable. However, the other Shin Megami Tensei titles I have played (mainly III: Nocturne and IV: Apocalypse) have given me more reasons to want to play them than just the combat.
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A console sequel to the Shin Megami Tensei series that I wish the game had stronger hardware to utilize. The combat is still enjoyable and is the reason to play the game, everything else is just an afterthought and it shows.
- Combat is Enjoyable and difficult
- Combat leans to be more strategic than overpowering
- Character models are great
- Updated visuals are stunning
- The story is only okay in comparison to the design and the gameplay
- Hardware limitations show
- Constant frame stutters in certain cinematics