A fifth entry to the esteemed series, Shin Megami Tensei V has been given significantly more time and resources than its predecessors, will it pay off?
We’ve been truly blessed with JRPG titles this year; Scarlet Nexus; Neo: The World Ends With You; Tales of Arise; Kimetsu No Yaiba – but the train isn’t stopping yet, one more genre behemoth is approaching, the post-apocalyptic open-world game Shin Megami Tensei V. Built in the Unreal Engine 4, SMT V is takes on a totally new lease of life as compared to its predecessors - no wonder the Switch exclusive it took so long to produce. Shin Megami Tensei V was announced back in 2017, we have been constantly reassured that things were on track, going to plan – the fruits of that labour are now abundantly clear, SMT V looks head and shoulders above expectation and he budget lent to it is obvious from the get-go. Let me show you around the Da’At.
Can you explain the Shin Megami Tensei series?
Built by Atlas (famed for the Persona series) and published by Kazuyuki Yamai, Shin Megami Tensei V is a post-apocalyptic JRPG, a hybrid of the third and fourth games, taking the best of both games and amalgamating them into one product, SMT V. Deploying a choice-based plot arc, it matters what avenues you opt for – the unsuspecting world quite literally depends on it. Though SMT V is a contained story that doesn’t require any prior knowledge of the series, fans of the series are going to pick up on references and links to other games – it ties in well with other games in the series. In typical SMT fashion, the game broaches on some pertinent issues rife in today’s society, successfully marrying fantasy and reality.
What is the game’s context?
Set in contemporary Tokyo, a high-school student is lured to rumours of demons looming around the city. Their investigation unearths something incredibly disturbing, by which time it is too late – a world has opened up beneath us and we have tumbled in. We come to in another world, an alternate reality called Da’At, a Netherworld where a vicious war is waged between swathes of angels and demons; the battle between good and evil, preservation and destruction. Alternate Tokyo is buried in rubble and storms, but all light is not lost; we are swept up by an angel named Aogami who we form a furtive partnership with, merging to create a condemned godlike creature called a Nahobino. With the power of a deity comes a similar level of responsibility, especially under scrutiny, an organisation called Bethel Japan intervenes. That’s all you get for now!
What can we expect from gameplay?
Many fans will be pleased to hear that it is possible to turn off or skip battle animations in SMT V, which is not to comment on any lack of quality – they are fantastic, but a bit long at points. Gameplay can last well into the 100-hour mark territory, an unsurprising statistic when you learn that we have well over 200 demons ranging in frequency, size, and power to encounter. That said, demons are not just there to be fought, in Pokémon style we can defeat and recruit them into our ranks, negotiating with them to persuade them into defection. We become their master, so if we want to ‘fuse’ two demons together to form an entity with numerous powers, what’s stopping us?
How does the game look?
The visuals in Shin Megami Tensei V are fantastic, a melding of Scarlet Nexus looking anime design with the sombre post-apocalypse setting of The Last of Us. Being a Nintendo Switch exclusive, SMT V isn’t the pinnacle of graphical performance, but runs respectably in dynamic 30FPS and near 720p. The fact that this game is portable is enough for me. Our blue-haired protagonist negotiates a slew of different environments, hazy deserts, blood-red dungeons, and dejected infrastructure are dotted around the open-world map, looking precisely as you would want them to in a SMT game. Magic animations in-battle are cogent and laser-accurate, and the demons on the wrong end of our spells look the part too – wretched, beguiling, twisted. The game interface and menu design are simple and brief, easy to navigate and letting gameplay take centre stage. The game is well-thought out, not forcing players to pick a hill to die on but rather guiding us on a smooth journey from start to finish.
Is combat any good?
Of course, a JRPG rarely goes without intense combat sequences; SMT V is no exception to paradigm. The game uses gauges to reward players for bold offensive styles; we can accrue Magatsuhi, a magical mist of sorts, to inflict some massive damage moves. More, we can procure Essences from fallen demons that we can then bestow on our allies, but Glory, an XP system, is perhaps the system I will be paying most attention to for it allows us to unlock special skills called Miracles. Interestingly, combat is a turn-based affair that places emphasis on identifying and exploiting weak points on an enemy, then awarding the player with extra attacks and increased damage output, an invaluable advantage in this world. The vigour of our Nahobino depends on how well we progress our five core attributes: strength, magic, body, speed, and luck, all of which are enhanced with the collection of Glory. Shin Megami Tensei V is unique in that it is not just the state of our own character that determines how well we can battle, but also that of our roster of demons – you must not neglect your squad or believe you can fight without them; they are your allies. Personally, I think the greatest part about combat in SMT V is the soundtrack leading up to and accompanying it – so dramatic! I love it!
Beyond mere trailer footage there lay plenty more aspects of player experience to be enjoyed - the jump function, for example, is one such feature that is not exhibited in trailers but will inexorably augment gameplay. Shin Megami Tensei V has the quality comparable to the recent Tales of Arise game, but also has its own golden aether of Glory to boot too – a mix of classic turn-based combat with the more contemporary JRPG qualities, like the superb exploration element endemic to Open-World gaming. I wouldn’t go as far to say that Shin Megami Tensei V could be among the best games of the year, but it is certainly a title that will rock the boat in the JRPG genre and prove to be an influential Switch classic in years to come. The game came out a week or so back on the 12th of November – have you played it yet? If not, get your hands on a copy here.