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Review

Shin Megami Tensei V Review

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It’s been a long wait for Shin Megami Tensei V, announced at the Switch’s launch, the wait is finally over. With the release of the SMT 3: Nocturne HD Remaster earlier this year, there has been a glut of SMT. Prepare to make deals with demons and ponder over order and chaos, and making it look cool.

Shin Megami Tensei V starts with you as an average high school student living in Tokyo with a cool uniform. Strange things are happening, and it couldn’t possibly be an ominous sign of anything. Less than half an hour in, and you’re already in a post-apocalyptic Tokyo now called Da’at. Somehow you missed the apocalypse by a few years, and the world is filled with demons. A being called Aogami saves you by fusing and becoming a Nahobino, giving you luscious long locks and a neat neon bodysuit. A war is being waged between angels and demons for the power to shape the world. And you’re in the middle of it all.

SMT V is an oddity for a game that’s easily between 40-60 hours (depending on difficulty setting). It manages to provide the bare minimum plot, with very little in the way of character. The demon recruiting and fusing is left to do a lot of the heavy lifting here; their personalities bring out the only lively characters in the game. There are demons throughout the open-world areas giving you jobs; some menial, and some are more involved. Sometimes the job you pick up involves taking out another demon, only for you to confront them, and they present their side of the story. Moments like these did make me stop for a minute and weigh up the situation, deciding whose story fits more with my moral compass. Although, the game wasn’t always straightforward when I was deciding to get into a fight when engaging with the demon. Sometimes it was just dealing with making the choices I hadn’t intentionally made.

While you’re going to need to do a lot of level grinding between moving the story forward, it’s also worth spending time exploring the world. Not only are there plenty of out of the way items, but around Da’at are a lot of little demons called Miman. The merchant Gustave will give you rewards every time you find 5 of them scattered around the place. Each Miman you find also gives you ‘Glory’, the currency used for upgrades, most importantly expanding the number of skills and Demons you can keep with you. Other items provide Glory, but spotting the Miman around the world is a pleasant distraction.

If you’ve played a Shin Megami Tensei or Persona game before, you’ll be familiar with the game’s combat. In the SMT games, it’s the Press Turn system. Land a critical hit or use an attack the demon is weak to; you’ll gain an extra attack. Do it again and get another extra attack. You can build up enough attacks to unleash on the demons for two turns before they can even touch you. If you miss or get blocked/resisted, you can also lose a turn or cut your run short. Your enemy is also bound by the same system, and if they hit your weakness, they could get a run of attacks that wipe your party out. The Press Turn system is still solid, and working out the right team to thrive out there in the wastelands is always a good feeling. For long-time fans and newcomers, I strongly recommend you save whenever possible. Even in the casual mode, it’s possible to get wiped out in an unlucky fight. You’ll get used to being mindful of where the save point ley lines are, and there’s an item that can take you back to the last one you visited if you want some peace of mind and save your hour of progress. As always, given the Switch’s portable nature, it’s a letdown that there’s no suspend feature. The save points aren’t the easiest to discover in some areas, and you can always unintentionally wind up in a fight you have no chance in.

As you fight, you build up a Magatsuhi gauge, and when filled, you’ll get a Magatsuhi skill move. These movies can provide you with tide turning buffs. A beneficial early skill is a whole party being given critical hits to hit hard and building up extra turns. There’s also healing, attacks or debuffs. If you take the time to unlock the different skills, you’ll have a surprising amount of power in your hands. Just be mindful that like the Press Turn combat, your enemies can also use the mechanics to their advantage.

Having played the SMT 3 remaster lately, I was prepared for what SMT V would throw at me. The latest game is just as brutal, serving as a constant reminder that sometimes life can be unfair. You can and need to do your best at accounting for your parties affinities and weaknesses while exploiting your enemies. You can also still have your team swiftly brought to an abrupt end by one critical attack turning into a vicious chain of party killing attacks.

After time with SMT 3, it’s easy to see how far the series has come while still managing to capture that feeling once again. The core game is still as solid as it’s been for years. The Press Turn battle system is easy to want more of. Then there’s still the kind of things relatively unchanged from previous games. Keeping the Tokyo overworld as a map and people are represented by icons/pins is likely a traditional thing, but it also robs the game of seeing more of the place you’re trying to save.

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Persona being a spin-off from the SMT series, newcomers will notice some similarities. Weaknesses and resistances types will seem familiar, as well as the attacks you gain. While you’re not fusing personas, fusing demons is the same thing. The two series are very different beasts, though, so if you go into SMT V expecting more Persona, you’re going to be disappointed. I know, I know, people don’t like when the two series are compared. I’m not here to say one is better or lacking compared to the other. It’s impossible to ignore the shared DNA across both of them.

Atlus does account for different levels of difficulty. There’s even an extra downloadable one; Safety. Playing on Hard will lock you into that difficulty, but otherwise, you can freely choose which one you want to use. Being able to switch between normal, casual, and Safety meant I could check out the differences between them. Between Casual and Safety mode, they reduce the grind by a lot, but I found you can still wind up out of your depth for the section I used them. Regardless of the mode, you select, you’ll have to reload your last save if you die.

SMTV is going to please a lot of Shin Megami Tensei fans; it does all the things you’d expect it to do. Although if you’re hoping for it to grow as a series, it comes up a little short. The desolate post-apocalyptic Tokyo/Netherworld makes for a really neat open world. Still, for a game where the story wants your ending decisions to mean something, the emptiness works against it. For a game throwing around heavy philosophical and theological themes, it never feels like there’s any real weight to them.

The demons look great; you’ll see all the familiar ones along with some new faces. The cutscenes where you get to see some of them in action are great, too; it’s a shame there weren’t more of them. As for the performance, it’s ok‚Ķnot great, but it does what it needs to. The large wastelands can look pretty blurry in handheld mode, and it doesn’t get much better when docked either. Expect the usual detail pop in loading in as a scene goes on, enemies further away from having minimum animation until you get closer. If it was made for the Switch, then it is a let down they couldn’t optimise it for the console. At the same time, it’s the first time they’ve used Unreal Engine 4 and developed resources on the Switch instead of the 3DS, which required more work. Performance hitches aside, the world and characters/demons within SMT V are still designed well.


Shin Megami Tensei V is more of what SMT fans would want, now with open-ish worlds and platforming. The Press Turn mechanic is still enjoyable and keeps the game interesting as you try to best or befriend every demon that comes your way. Newcomers might find the brutal difficulty off-putting, with too much grinding for too little story. I have no doubts it will be a beloved Shin Megami Tensei game for the already converted. I’ve always enjoyed the series but hope it can become even more accessible to a broader audience and still keep everything that makes it what it is. But we might be waiting for the next game for that to happen.

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Rating: 3.5/5

The Good

+ A solid Shin Megami Tensei experience
+ Fun to run and jump around those big Wastelands
+ With great battle music to fight to

The Bad

- The story doesn’t live up to the themes
- The brutal difficulty level
- Can be alienating to newcomers

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Shin Megami Tensei V is more of what SMT fans would want, now with open-ish worlds and platforming. The Press Turn mechanic is still enjoyable and keeps the game interesting as you try to best or befriend every demon that comes your way. Newcomers might find the brutal difficulty off-putting, with too much grinding for too little story. I have no doubts it will be a beloved Shin Megami Tensei game for the already converted. I’ve always enjoyed the series but hope it can become even more accessible to a broader audience and still keep everything that makes it what it is. But we might be waiting for the next game for that to happen.

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About The Author
Paul Roberts
Lego enthusiast, Picross Master and appreciator of games.

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