Shin Megami Tensei V Review (NSW)
Updated: Dec 2, 2021
Around these parts. We will not say the ''P'' word.
Genre: Role Playing
Release Date: Nov 11th, 2021
Platforms: Nintendo Switch
*Review copy provided to me by SEGA*
''FU-SION-HA!'' Shin Megami Tensei V is the latest entry into the long running franchise. With the game finally being released after what seemed like an eternity, Atlus and SEGA hope that this latest title lives up to not only fan expectation, but hones the series strengths and fixes its weaknesses from previous entries. But did they achieve what they set out to do? Only one way to find out, so lets fusion!
When a grisly murder scene in modern-day Tokyo blocks our protagonist's walk home, an unplanned detour leaves him buried and unconscious. He awakens in a new Tokyo, a wasteland ravaged by apocalypse, but before bloodthirsty demons can claim his life, a savior emerges, and they unite to become a mighty being neither human nor demon: a Nahobino. Now with his new power, it is up to him to forge a path between light and dark and dictate the fate of the world.
Have you ever had one of those days where you wake up, the world is going to hell, demons killing people and taking over your city while thousands of civilians and classmates are kidnapped, slain or injured and then get dragged into a matrix like state between your world and another, where one reality is a desolate wasteland inhabited by gods, angels and demons and your only means to survive under these circumstances is to fuse with another being to become an entity known as a Nahobino?. Huh? no? just me? alright then. Awkward. But on a serious note, this is your starting point to this title and before you go any further, know that this isn't some upbeat and happy RPG that you may have played recently or a game that holds its punches. If you aren't ready for a game to get real with you with a dark, dreary and end of the world feeling and one that can be relentless with its difficulty at specific points in its story, then move along bucko, this one isn't for you. However, if you're a long time fan with having enjoyed Nocturne, Strange Journey, Digital Devil Saga or Devil Survivor, then pull up a chair because we got some major things to talk about here. Bare in mind that I'm not the resident expert of the Megami or Shin Megami Tensei series, so if I miss a reference here and there, then.. uh.. shush it or ill open up the dimension to the Netherworld and let the demons feast on your soul. Well.. that or just say ''oh man, sorry''. Depends on my mood.
As stated before, poop hits the fan when your character, nameless protagonist, gets caught up in a string of events that pulls him into the realm of a war between gods and demons. But this destroyed and apocalyptic world that you get pulled into is not just any world, its your home of Tokyo. Wait? huh?. You were literally just in Tokyo minutes before and it was fine. Well this is only because the demons have not crossed over into YOUR Tokyo yet and war with the Angels and Demons themselves hasn't come to full fruition to make the apocalyptic Tokyo a reality yet. Confused? me too. When I first heard this narrative told me, I just figured ''Oh, so it's basically like the Cell and Android arc from Dragon Ball Z with Trunks or his struggle with Goku Black from Dragon Ball Super''. Now remember when I said this game is pretty dark and its tone is not as upbeat as other RPG's you may play? I wasn't joking, there are some really dark moments that are sad when friends die right in front of you when you fail to save them, but of course, me being the immature person that I am, I had to immediately go and ruin all immersion and sense of seriousness this game had going for it. How did I do this exactly? Welp, first off, Atlus made one huge mistake, one thing they shouldn't have given me and that mistake involved letting me create my own character name. I'm notoriously bad for naming my characters goofy names, like when playing Final Fantasy 7 original and making Cloud or Aerith's name be ''butt cheeks'' and then laughing at people saying, I'm soldier first class, Butt cheeks. It still makes me laugh. Obviously yes, that trend continued here in this title. From now In this adventure when referring to my character or protagonist, immaturely, he will now be called by his true name, one that I picked after hours of thought and that name is... Poo. Yup. Not joking.
After pushing through the opening portion of the game, meeting some of the main cast of characters and being sucked in the Tokyo ridden demon world, you learn that your Tokyo and the life you've been living this entire time has been a complete lie, it no longer exists. Huh? how can that be? clearly were alive and nothing is wrong, so how can it not be real?. Well the answer to that is Tokyo only exists now because of a miracle of the gods. The gods were able to replicate Tokyo in its entirety and all living begins within it to the point that no one knew anything had ever happened to them. Its pretty damn insane. So the question you're probably asking now is, how come the gods, with that much power, are having so much trouble slaying the demons and freeing this realm? Well this because Lucifer himself is back in action and is leading the attack with his massive armies, looking even better than he did in SMT 3 Nocturne. He's created powerful foes that have your world on the brink of destruction due to demons bleeding in from the Netherworld to Earth. Luckily by the stroke of luck, you run into a very mysterious man who is named Aogami. He basically pulls the ''come with me if you want to live'' tactic just like Arnold in Terminator and should you accept his offer and hold his hand like a high school sweetheart, you're immediately transformed Glitter Force and Sailor Moon style into a deity being known as Nohobino. The one fusion of man and god that is capable of standing toe to toe with Lucifers army and taking them down. But just the strength of Nohobino alone won't be enough for this threat, trust me. Now that you've unlocked your Nohobino fusion, the real game truly begins and you know what that means? It's time to do a deep dive into the games overall mechanics and how it plays, just like Scrooge McDuck does in this money vault. So let's not delay.
Once you're free to explore at your own free will, you will notice that game seems very open ended and your assumption wouldn't be too far from the truth. Each hub area you advance to is interconnected together by various zones and sectors- and this means each new zone you run and make your way to, transitions seamlessly with either little load time or none at all, unless interrupted by a random cutscene. By running around these open areas and exploring your surroundings, you will be able to take part in a plethora of content that will make your journey through the world of Da'at a rather enjoyable one, even if some of the areas are desolate. While exploring to your hearts content, you may search for little beings known as Miman, encounter enemies out in the overworld without them being just simple silhouettes, take on side quests for friendly and non friendly demons and choose whos right, take part in what I like to call ''Notorious Monsters'' hunts, a term that I'm used to from MMO's, in which here in SMT V, you can choose to take down SUPER powerful foes or just grind to your brain out for levels, its really all up to you at the end of the day. But that's not very descriptive now is it? sure that tells what you CAN do, but it doesn't tell you anything ABOUT those things. Don't worry, I won't leave you hanging like meme cat, meow. As you run through each area completing your objective, you will encounter a ton of different demon types, some being sludge type of enemies, demon bats, long doggo demons, spiders, angel's that look like they belong in the Shadowbringers expansion for FFXIV and even a demon cat named Beast Cait Sith. Ugh. I seriously can never escape this jerk, can I? he haunts me everywhere I go, but at least he looks like Puss N Boots from Shrek, so I'll give him a pass this time. The amazing thing about these demons though is that each monster you encounter in the overworld is actually recruitable to your party. That's right. Think of it as a demonic version of Pokemon without Ghost cursing you and you pretty much got an idea of what I'm talking about. But it's not just as easy as turning your hat backwards and throwing a Poke Ball, however it's not overly difficult either. I'll explain in less vague detail. We will take more about demon recruit and combat too in just a second.
Now before we get into the combat and all things about its mechanics, there are few things I want to touch upon first, such as demon recruitment, moon phase system and Mitamas, all three which will be crucial in the advancement in your own personal level growth, as well as all the demon's you recruit into your party. When encountering a demon and beginning a fight with them, you will have the option to attack them or talk to them, choosing to talk to them will open up a dialogue with the demon to see whether or not they'll be interested in joining your group. Some Demon's are more welcoming than others by asking you simple questions and if you guess right, they'll take a liking to you and join you, but some other demon's aren't so trusting and demand you fork over an absurd amount of macca, which is your currency, various items like life stones and even some of your HP and MP if they're super stubborn. Giving them your HP and letting them syphon your life force out of you though gives me some pretty serious Hocus Pocus vibes. I just sit and wait for Sarah Jessica Parker to come flying in out of nowhere to sing her come little children song. There is however one little catch with the demon recruiting though and it involves the Moon Phase System, which people familiar with this series should know all about it, at least by its name. In previous titles like SMT 4, it merely a cosmetic tool for peace and Anarchy routes of the game, however here in SMT V, it is its own mechanic and in the vein of how it was, in a similar fashion, at least to me, in Shin Megami Tensei 2. In SMT 2, demons would lose or gain power based off their moon affinity type and here in SMT V, it effects the way you fight and negotiate with demons themselves. Some demon's if there's a full moon, won't even give you the time of day, while on half moon or normal, they're more inclined to listen to you as they aren't as angry or powerful. But there is one thing that remains constant, no matter what moon phase is going on at the time and that constant is without question, the over the top humor of all demons you encounter. Nearly all these demon's are complete jerks, cuss buckets and extremely condescending.... and I love it. Some directly insult your intelligence, call you weak, scream at you or literally cuss you out if they don't like you and its absolutely hilarious.
The further you push through the game, the harder this game is going to punish you, no joke, it can knock you on your butt fast if you aren't properly leveled or if you do not have the proper set up for your party for spells, healing, special attacks. So how do you level up exactly? the tried and true way of just grinding out hundreds of demons till you level up? well yes, you can do that, which is what I did early on and make literal crap for progress for HOURS and HOURs because I.. uh.. have no life. That is until I learned what you're SUPPOSED to do in the first place and that is fuse demons together to make another more powerful demon to use. My problem is that I get too attached to a specific demon and my pride or whatever you want to call it, refuses to let me get rid of them, but fusing is what you're SUPPOSED to do. But how exactly do you do this? It's elementary my dear boy, elementary. By going to specific areas in each zone, you will find a bright blue light called Leyline Fount. With these Leylines, you'll be able to access Sophia in World Of Shadows, who will allow you to fuse demons together to make a more powerful friend with Dyad/Reverse/Special Fusion, based off certain requirements like your level. You'll also be able to combine essence of demons together with each other or even yourself, which will give you access to new abilities. Also you'll learn what is known as Miracles that allow specific stat upgrades to you or your party, such as allowing demons to use items in battle, Demon Proficiency that bolsters your equipped demons one extra skill slot, or Mastery of elemental skills like fire, ice or electric. World Of Shadows seems familiar doesn't it? Well the reason for this is because its very similar to Cathedral Of Shadows from Shin Megami Tensei 3, which is really cool. But don't go getting spend happy, ya big goof, since you cannot use your macca to pay for these. So what do you use? well remember earlier when I told you to find beings called Miman? I hope so because this is just one of multiple ways to get a currency known as Glory, which you will need to acquire in order to learn new miracles for you and your demons. For these little Miman's, you're given the task of finding these little guys by another demon that inhabits the Leyline Founts by the name of Gustave, who resides in Cadaver's Hollow. Here is where you'll be able to buy items in relation to health, MP, gems and shards for elemental attacks that can be thrown, defensive moves and Spyglass, with spyglass being used to to see the vulnerability of Mitama's in order to kill them to get Glory and Instant level ups for you or your party members. Then finally you have the option to buy Essence based off Demon's you unlock, which essence's bought can be taken back to Sophia, to combine with yourself or your demon friends to bolster your skillsets with what that demon's essence used and combine it and other attacks with your own. Trust me, it comes in handy A LOT.
Once you have received the request to find Miman from Gustave, who sounds like Lord Kuruku from Unico, you then can continue off on your story journey, which if you're lucky, will only take you 50 or so hours to complete ,if you're efficient. You can find Miman's scattered all around each map hiding in corners, on top of buildings or hard to reach places. Each Miman you find will reward you Glory to learn new miracle skills and for every 5 of them you do find, you'll be granted a reward from Gustave himself, such as Relics, rare essences, gems and more. With around 200 to collect, this could deviate you from the main plot for quite some time if you aren't careful. Mimans though aren't the only thing to discover however as you explore these rich in atmosphere lands and dark castles, because you're also able to pick up crystals named Magatsuhi. These are green, yellow and red crystals which give you a good percentage of health and MP back, as well as improves your skill meter to activate your Magatsuhi skill in battle. Shh, don't worry, I know we haven't covered it yet, but we'll get into the actual battle system in a second before wrap up, so put away your Official Red Ryder, carbine action, 200-shot, range model air rifle, with a compass in the stock right now, because you'll shoot your eye out kid. The overworld itself has a ton to do in it as stated before, whether you're finding notorious monsters, unlocking leyline founts for miracles and store upgrades along with using them to fast travel to different sections of the world, Mimans to find, killing big plant monsters known as Abscess, that when killed, will unlock more visibility on your map, as well as give you more miracles to purchase to bolster your character and demons, golden domes that when broke give you more macca, silver glowing domes that give you 50 glory, demon statues that when using their power, will level all your demons immediately, finding new demons to recruit to your party, and a crap ton of side quests to partake in that have you betraying another monster and siding with good or evil. Of course you know me, I always went the a-hole route and betrayed the good guys. It's just more fun being bad. Not The Wizard ''its so bad'' or Michael Jackson ''Bad'', I'm talking world ending, sending you to your doom bad. Just the way I like it.
The game's combat style is your traditional turn based game where you have your chance to attack and then the enemy has their chance to attack and you go back and forth till someone dies. On paper, like any turned based game, that sounds extremely easy, but its far from easy because this game can be grueling if you are not prepared and muscling your way through this title is not really an option. Strategy at times is a must. Your options upon entering battle by striking a demon out in the overworld with Y or if they happen to run into you, will allow you to select from multiple choices, with these ranging from the Skills category that allows you to do melee attacking to one foe or multiple, elemental attacks, healing, buffing, de-buffing, defensive spells and your special ability known as Magatsuhi, which we covered briefly earlier. Think of it sort of like a limit break from Final Fantasy and you get the gist. Fill up your Magatsuhi meter by picking up red crystals in the overworld, receiving damage or by damaging your enemy yourself and once this bar is filled, you can use an extremely strong attack or in my case, use an ability that makes all my party members physical and elemental attacks hit for critical damage for one turn. Also as per usual, you can select items such as gems that aoe a specific elemental attack to all enemies if your specific Nohobino or demon doesn't have a specific magic skill, items to recover HP,MP, nullify elemental or physical attacks against you, etc. Should you also find yourself in a heap of trouble with a certain demon in your party being at a disadvantage, you're also able to switch teammates on the fly by clicking Change to switch to any other Demon currently in your inventory. But once again that's not all there is to it. I know I know, sorry, but this game is more in depth mechanic wise than you might think. So goosefraba, take deep breaths and let's continue.
Smacking your opponent across their face like Batman to Robin is all well and good, using magic spells, healing yourself, using defensive buffs to get the advantage in a fight, all of those make for some REALLY frustrating and intense fights, not only versus normal MOBS but even against a big gigantic snake like boss fight, serpent lady Nuwa who reminds me of Princess Snake from Snake Way in Dragon Ball Z, Lahmu who aims to take over a humans body to regain his true power and use it as a vessel, etc. All these boss fights can be nail biting or make you tear out your hair if you aren't prepared with proper party setup or under leveled. But there is one more way to get a slight advantage, that can boost your party from being able to hit just 4 times a move to around 7 times, and that's the utilization of the weak points and how to use their weaknesses against them. By using an item known as Spy Glass, you're able to view which element or attack each Demon is weak to and by attacking them with what they're weak to, will gain you one extra turn to attack. You can go from raging your heart out when trying to beat these enemies to pointing and laughing at them and calling them ''Weak pathetic fools'' just like Shao Khan would. Now while this game does A LOT of things to near perfection, such as strategic combat, gorgeous overworld that is very stylized, interesting characters like Amanozako who is basically this game's Navi, but not as annoying, story that offers you twist and turns and goes VERY VERY dark.. it still has some things that annoyed me. Keep in mind these aren't deal breakers, but just minor things I noticed. When trying to find your way around the map when you're lost, the hit boxes for flying enemies is really bad. One enemy could be 6ft away from you, but the hit box is in such big of a square that they hit you from a mile away it seems like and initiates a battle and this gets especially annoying when you're just trying to figure out where to go. Some of the main scenario missions can get pretty tedious at times too with the trope of ''go here to do this, wait nope, were just kidding, instead backtrack here where you just were''. It doesn't happen too often, but I hate crap like this, one of the little things that triggers me. Certain boss fights can also be brutal and a little cheap with bosses being able to hit you 4-5 times in a row without you being able to respond back, making some fights a bit unfair and forcing you to grind out more levels for a few hours before moving on. Its annoying, but the feeling you get when you overcome a tough battle though, is pure bliss.
When you don't want to continue the main campaign or just want to venture off to do other things, there's still quite a bit you can do to postpone the ending to your journey. Collect all 200 Miman for Gustave to obtain all his rewards, talk and negotiate to all demons to try to ''catch them all' ala pokemon style, try to make every single demon fusion in the game including special fusions of some of the bosses, complete all side quests in the game for Demons looking for help, which some of these are very funny and involves a big demon who gets his feelings hurt because he was mean to everyone and bullied them but then you kick his ass and he sulks in his cave and cries or Demons at each others throats that bribe you to kill the other one and your reward and consequence will be determined based off your decision, fight all notorious monster demons in the overworld that are harder than any other enemy you faced during the main campaign or purchase DLC for extra boss fights should you want even more of a challenge. This title DEFINITELY is not lacking in the content department.
At the end of the day, SMT V was such a fantastic experience. From the engaging and strategic combat, Demon fusion mechanic with miracles and world of shadows , incentive to grind and explore the world to find items and demons that will benefit your progression, scenery and zones that look gorgeous and vary from desert regions, snow regions, schools infested with death and demons, demon castles, cool modern Tokyo map where you control a little pin looking avatar as a level selection ,that reminds me of Ghostbusters on NES, great voice acting, flamboyant, angsty, funny and an absurdly huge variety of demons to choose from, all of which have their own set of dialogue and even making you feel like Dr Frankenstein creating his monster when you successfully create a new Demon fusion. Nearly everything is done to great detail and it leaves it hard to complain about when its all said and done, other than bad enemy hit boxes and a few missions here and there being borderline tedious with making you backtrack or grind. But all the small bad, do not make a dent in all the positives, so this one will be a very easy decision to make, whether you're a long time fan of SMT or maybe just a newcomer, there's something here for you to enjoy and would you look at that? I went through this whole review without mentioning Persona like all other reviewers have, yes!. Oh wait. I just did say it. Crap!. So with that having been said, my verdict is clear. GameNChick says BUY NOW