Mon. Jan 17th, 2022

Let’s first turn to the elephant in the room … Shin Megami Tensei Person. Although they were marketed with the Shin Megami Tensei moniker in the west for a long time, both games are very different outside of some common elements. That Person series in modern days are more about pictures, music and a cast of high school students who set out to prevent a tragedy from hitting society. However, SMT is more about delivering a challenging and no doubt more sophisticated experience where the main characters are already in a world where morality is confused and your decisions will put an end to a direct battle between gods and demons. Just because you enjoyed Person is not immediately related to the fact that you enjoy any of the Shin Megami Tensei games and vice versa.

That Shin Megami Tensei the series has not received much attention or so strong a marketing budget in recent years. In fact, unless you were aware of it, you could have saved on the fact that there was one Shin Megami Tensei IV duology released on the Nintendo 3DS in 2013 and 2016. However, with Shin Megami Tensei V’er marketing, perhaps complemented by the attention received via Nintendo Direct livestreams, ATLUS West seems to have found much more attention from the wider RPG audience. But is SMT: V worth playing? Does it live up to the sudden hype? Was it worth waiting almost 20 years for a new home console in the franchise? Read on to find out!

Shin Megami Tensei V takes place in modern Japan, plagued by mysterious crimes, on a seemingly ordinary day where you take control of the protagonist leaving school for the afternoon. On the way home with some other classmates, an incident makes them unable to reach their dormitories. He leaves the rest of the group in search of a classmate who went astray, and he is trapped in Da’at, an underworld that turns out to be the ruins of a society that was destroyed 18 years ago. What keeps the protagonist safe is that he quickly forms a bond with the Proto-Fiend Aogami, giving him status as a Nahobino and being able to summon and fight demons with relative ease.

As they go through the first area of ​​Da’at, they discover that they were not fast forward in time to an apocalyptic future, but that their reality was merely the gods’ attempt to save the world. The outbreak of such Netherworlds poses a threat to reality, and they join a secret organization called Bethel to protect their world. From here, players move through the game, tackling different areas of Da’at, discovering different perspectives on the LAW -> KAOS scale for their classmates and other acquaintances, and their decisions potentially determine the fate of the world.

The story has the level of grittyness, mystery and freedom of decision that Shin Megami Tensei franchise is known for. It’s also wonderful for a shift in the typical RPG narrative, where instead of avoiding the apocalypse, you are thrown into the apocalypse and have to find a way to ward off … or perhaps embrace. The narrative is delivered to you in drip and sadness as you progress through each step of the game, and although several outbursts of interpretation would have been welcome, there was always just enough to convince me to keep playing. At the back, you are left with a taciturn protagonist, and given the vast open worlds, it can feel a little bland not to have a group of characters commenting as you work your way through each area.

Shin Megami Tensei V 1

Going back to the idea of ​​it Shin Megami Tensei ≠ Persona is very clear when it comes to the audiovisual elements of Shin Megami Tensei V. Instead of busy cityscapes, you are treated to vast, open dungeons filled with sand; rather than a catchy J-Pop / Rock / Rap soundtrack, you receive mostly subtle songs with a bit of techno mixed in; rather than on-demand fast travel, you experience the classic SMT card screen (Which is nice to see they have brought back). It’s also really amazing that they have remade all the demon models, which fits well with the gritty and more mature theme.

The audiovisual style may seem sparse on many occasions, but I think it works well enough given the style that the developers go for. But where Shin Megami Tensei V’er The main problem stems from, I would argue, is the console choice. The game is available exclusively on the Nintendo Switch, with no plans for a PC, PlayStation or Xbox release at this time. This would be good and good if it were not for Switch, who on many occasions struggled to handle the game during the open world and combat segments. Nothing was game-breaking and I experienced no problems with crashes or overheating, but there were consistent drops in frame rate and delays that were just over the threshold of being imperceptible. Clearly, the developers pushed the Nintendo Switch to its limits, and ambition should be rewarded, but it hampered the experience in general.

Many of the game’s iconic systems and features will be familiar to those who played the newly remastered Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne on Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4. This includes the return of SMT turn-based combat system where the main character along with up to three summoning demons can fight with any group of enemies on the world map. The turn-based system follows that each group is assigned a maximum of four actions, with characters attacking in the order they are in the party. You can double your number of actions by targeting weaknesses or losing an increased number by hitting an enemy opponent. There are also special “Magatsuhi Gauge” skills that can provide perks for the entire trip, the one I used for the entire game from Battle 1 are guaranteed critical hits. At first, it can feel very clumsy. Still, I found that it quickly warms you up – providing extensive strategic options during many boss fights and regular mob moves, even if it’s not as flashy. That said, as the weaknesses of your party or your enemy’s weaknesses can dictate whether even a weaker team will beat you or be beaten down in a single round – there are times when you may have to resist throwing your controller to the floor.

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In terms of abilities, the protagonist and all demons are assigned a series of physical, state-altering, healing, and elemental (Agi, Bufu, Zio, Garu, Hama, Mudo, and Megido) – where each enemy and demon has specific weaknesses and skills. Until much later in the game where you can start optimizing your stats to be more resilient, it’s virtually impossible not to have a party weak for something. However, Shin Megami Tensei V gives you some freedom from the game’s early moments through World of Shadows. The main character and each demon have a set of “basic skills”, including stats, characteristics, and skills. By collecting and merging the essences collected from other demons, you can add their skills to your pool of abilities or rewrite your strengths / weaknesses to reflect theirs. This means that provided you have enough essences that work to your advantage, it is possible to counteract any inherent weaknesses that would render the protagonist or a favorite demon useless. Also included in World of Shadows is demon fusion by merging two or more demons to create a (hopefully) more powerful demon with inherited skills. This, which is a cornerstone of the Shin Megami Tensei franchise, is perfectly handled and should be accessible to anyone who has previously played a Megami Tensei RPG.

As previously mentioned, Shin Megami Tensei V uses less of the navigation style for upper world maps and replaces its traditionally linear dungeons with expansive, almost open world style maps. Semi-linear in design, the cards are always a destination you need to reach to continue the main story. But while traveling from A-> B, you can take requests from friendly demons, destroy the enemy’s boils to uncover new paths, and go hunting for any possible demon (I SMT: V, it is possible to Catch ’em All) through the returning TALK system. Although you can go straight from point A to point B, much of the game’s fun is by taking it slow and exploring everything, potentially unlocking new demons through quests or getting some precious experiences for the main character and his demons. There are also hundreds of these creatures called Miman, which are hidden across each area, each giving a small amount of GLORY when discovered. This glory, which is also acquired through a few other means, can be redeemed for special perks called ‘MIRACLES’, including optimizing the protagonists’ competencies with skill types, recovery abilities, the ability to equip more skills / get demon places, etc. And you will need it, as Shin Megami Tensei V is not exactly easy.

On the remark of the game’s difficulty level, while it may not be as challenging as the earliest of Shin Megami Tensei games, do not expect to enter the game with normal difficulty in order to cheese your way through each dungeon. There are moments when you are expected to laugh or at least optimize your party to make sure you are not facing too great a barrier to continue the story. Even in the first area you visit, it is possible to completely miss a few areas and end up meeting enemies and bosses many levels above you. The easiest difficulty level is available if you want an experience that is more suited to a traditional ‘normal’ level of difficulty. At the same time, there is a free DLC ‘Safety Difficulty’ if you do not want to try at all. Yes, ‘Safety’ is what’s on the box – do not expect to die from anything unless you try really hard.

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That Shin Megami Tensei series as a whole feels a bit underrated compared to other side franchises such as Person and The devil survives. For example, ATLUS has never made the first two games available outside of Japan except on iOS in 2014, which is a real shame as both titles deserve a full remake. But the impression I get is that Shin Megami Tensei V could serve as an effective way to ATLUS to get the mainline series on the radar of gamers worldwide and that we continue to see new installments made available in the coming years.

As for Shin Megami Tensei V is in itself a competently designed RPG that prefers to make improvements to its root mechanics rather than reinventing itself to a Personal-like experience. Although performance issues persisted throughout, leaving me wanting to play on a new generation platform like the PlayStation 5, the challenge it brings, along with a captivating tale, newly designed demon models and its approach to dungeon design, made this a great doomsday adventure !

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