Since the release of Shin Megami Tensei IV in 2013, many people have been introduced to the Persona series. Blossoming from the roots of SMT, it became considerably more popular. However, the original series is back, and it’s back in a big way. Shin Megami Tensei V is a JRPG fan’s dream. Featuring satisfying combat and a deeply challenging progression system, fans can now enjoy the series on Nintendo Switch. It’s time to embrace the power of good and evil, slay some demons, and save Tokyo.
A war between angels and demons is raging. For some time, it was happening in a distant world away from mankind. Unfortunately, demons have started to penetrate the real world and corrupt innocent people to join their ranks. As an unnamed protagonist, you start off by living a typically normal life. Unfortunately, it’s short-lived and you end up in a alternate version of Tokyo that has been decimated by this ongoing war. As time goes on, you learn that Da’At, the name of this place, it the result of the destruction of Tokyo 18 years earlier.
Shin Megami Tensei V: A battle between good and evil
Eventually, you travel back to the Tokyo you remember, but it might be too late. The demons have shown up in the world you know, and it’s up to you to beat the living hell out of them. You see, you’re a Nahobino: a being that is neither human or god. It all happened after you survived the initial earthquake that sent you to Da’At and caused you to fuse with a mysterious character known as Aogami. As a result, your appearance changes from average schmuck to a dude with long blue hair and a badass neon blue blade that sprouts from your hand.
The combat is as traditional as you like, but it’s proactive and ripe for evolution. You fight alongside other demons that form your party. These can be acquired in a multitude of ways, and it’s here where it gets interesting. Like Persona, you can choose to talk to them when a battle commences. Some might ask for a large amount of Macca (the game’s currency); present a riddle or question you must answer correctly; or roll over when they see how powerful you are. Being demons, they can be mischievous and deceptive, sometimes asking for tons of money and items, then disappearing.
One hell of a challenge
Shin Megami Tensei V can be punishingly difficult. It requires grinding in every new area. While this can become frustrating, it also offers a satisfying edge when you finally introduce a new demon into your ranks. It doesn’t help that if you die, you’re returned to the main menu. Jumping back in will return you to your last save, so if it was a while ago, you’re going to have lost any progression you’ve made. It’s a mistake you don’t make often, believe me. I was saving at every chance I got. Regardless of this slight inconvenience, building your party becomes an addiction.
The first big boss I had to fight was a Hydra. Naturally, I got spanked within minutes as my weak party couldn’t take it down. It was weak to ice attacks, and I had few demons that had those elemental attacks. I headed back out into the sandy fields of destruction and started to grind. After an hour or so, I’d leveled up and returned with Mermaid and Azumi, as well as my boy, Tsuchigumo, a giant crab with flowing red hair. We smashed the hell out of the Hydra. Upon it’s defeat, it felt as though everything clicked. I realised exactly how to play Shin Megami Tensei V.
Shin Megami Tensei V: Variety in every fight
Every fight is different. Every demon you encounter, be it a small one or a gargantuan hell fiend, requires a different approach. Some are resistant to certain attacks while others take more damage depending on their weaknesses. Physical, fire, ice, electric, force, light, or dark. Each demon is different. Not only do you have to factor this in with every battle, there’s also the matter of Magatsuhi. The Magatsuhi gauge is filled by successful fights and finding red orbs. Initiating it in battle makes all attacks critical. Therefore, if you use an attack that certain demons are weak to, it does a lot more damage. You can choose different skills for the Magatsuhi, but I always preferred that one.
If you make a successful attack that weakens or does critical damage to a foe, you get one more turn, a mechanic that has featured in SMT before. These extra turns can be vital to inflict more damage, or use to buff attacks, guard yourself for an upcoming attack, or heal. Other skills such as lowering an opponent’s defence or raising an ally’s attack can be triggered in battle, meaning there’re plenty of options to apply to an ever-evolving strategy. It’s a wonderful system that, as you progress, makes the early punishing difficulty start to ease. While it manages to stay consistently challenging, you’re rewarded by the grind.
Bigger and better
Shin Megami Tensei V is a huge game. It also features bigger environments that are connected by something known as a Leyline Crossing. With every new area, Leyline Founts are unlocked. Here, you can travel to another one, visit the creepy as hell Gustave for supplies, or improve your demon stock. Cadaver’s Hollow is your go-to store where you can spend your Macca to buy health, elemental gems, and Essences to use for Fusion. Gustave is a creepy green demon who has a disturbing laugh I never got used to. He also offers rewards for finding creatures known as Miman. These small red fellows also give you Glory, a currency for learning Miracles.
The World of Shadows is where you’ll spend a good chunk of your time. It’s here where you’ll use Demon Fusion. Again, if you’ve played Persona, you’ll get to grips with the system as it’s similar to fusing Personas. By performing Demon Fusion, you can create more powerful demons and choose what old abilities will accompany them. Sometimes you’ll unlock Special Fusions, but unless your character level is high enough, you won’t be able to use this in the early stages. The Apotheosis allows you to learn new Miracles and take Essences from demons and give them to anyone in your party. That Glory you took from Mimans or have found in the field can be spent on different Miracles.
Shin Megami Tensei V: Playing with demons
Some give you mastery in a certain element, or can be used to add additional slots to your demon stock or skills. There’re loads of other Miracles on offer, and more can be unlocked by removing powerful pockets of demons from across the map. Essence Fusion is great for adding certain abilities to your favourite demons, however, some might not be proficient in them. Fundamentally, this means there’s a fair amount of trial and error to get the right balance within your party. It’s incredibly fulfilling when you get the perfect skills for your favourite demons. Travelling back to play around with your party is something I never got tired of.
Shin Megami Tensei V looks pretty great on Nintendo Switch. Battles are much more detailed and animated than the previous title on the Nintendo DS. Gone are the fairly static animations. Battles are colourful and fluid, with turn-based fights filled with a sense of energy and excitement. The wide variety of demons are superbly designed. With so many, they all look great, and the bigger and more threatening deities in the game look both menacing and majestic.
A tricky map to manouvere
One of my only issues with the design is the map. It is often brown and grubby, with certain paths not clear at all. There’s also a main overview map of Tokyo that is awkward to maneuver and find certain locations. It is only when you become familiar with it that you can find your objective easier. Despite these issues, much of Shin Megami Tensei V is delightful to look at. I was massively impressed by the cutscenes as well. With the story being much darker than that of Persona, the violence and bloodshed has been animated so well.
Shin Megami Tensei V is a massive game that continues to evolve thanks to the range of adjustments you can make to your party. Combat rarely becomes tiresome, but sometimes the grind can take patience if you need to gain more power. The battles themselves require different strategies for every one, and having balance within your party takes time to get right. The story is pretty wonderful, too. It’s not doing anything different, but it keeps you engrossed throughout. If you’re looking for the perfect JRPG on Switch, this is about as close as you’re going to get.
Addictive party management system
Difficulty can be punishing
The map needs a better design
Returning to main menu after death is frustrating