When it was announced alongside the Nintendo Switch back in 2017, Shin Megami Tensei V looked like it would take the series in a new direction. Footage showed a silent protagonist with inches of blue hair running and jumping across a desert wasteland filled with intimidating, sizeable demons. Personally, I feared that it would be another crappy open-world game. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case. The game was finally released in 2021, and as of this writing, has sold over 1 million copies. This is a great RPG that has the perfect mixture of contemporary and classic.
Shin Megami Tensei V begins innocently. Your protagonist is on his way to class at Jouin High School in Tokyo. The day ends, and he decides to walk home with a couple of friends. There have been rumors of wild animals attacking bystanders; traveling in groups means safety in numbers. On their commute, an undisclosed incident prevents them from catching their subway home. Your character abandons his friends to look for an alternative route but ends up getting caught in a collapsing tunnel. He survives but finds himself in a desert filled with ruins. Things get stranger when monstrous creatures zero in on him. Fate intervenes. A lifeform name with extraordinary powers name Aogami fuses with the young man. The two become one and transform into a Nahobino: a powerful being capable of fighting demons. With new powers at his disposal, it’s time for the Nahobino to learn what happened and fight his way back to Tokyo.
If you’re at all familiar with the series, then this set up shouldn’t be too surprising. The story doesn’t have any bright or cheery moments. Nor are there any love connections between the protagonist and a heroine. Instead, you’ll come across devastation, destruction, and plenty of death. If that wasn’t enough, there are many times you’re forced to make tough choices that determine your Nahobino’s alignment. This will determine how your final battles play out and which ending you get. The good news is that you can set yourself on the desired path at the very end of the game if you’re finding yourself on one you didn’t want. Toss in some expected and unexpected twists and turns, and you’ve got another intriguing tale that fits right in with the SMT universe.
For most of the game, you’ll be traveling through expansive wastelands from point A to point B. On your way to each story marker, you’ll uncover Leypoints, friendly demons, demons that have a side-quest for you to accept, and plenty of hostile demons that would love to make a snack out of the Nahobino. Leypoints are where you’ll save, heal, shop, and enter the World of Shadows. The World of Shadows allows you to fuse demons together to make a new one, and enhance your Nahobino’s abilities with a currency called Glory. You get Glory from items, but also from finding little critters scattered throughout the land called Miman. Finding Miman (200 in all) is worth the effort because the rewards for doing so are excellent. One of my favorite things to do while chilling in the World of Shadows is to fuse the Nahobino with the Essence of other demons. This lets you alter your hero’s abilities and his strengths/weaknesses. Every demon has an Essence. With careful planning, you can turn your Nahobino into perfectly customized killing machine.
Naturally, it’s important to take as much time as possible to mess with Essences and Demon Fusion because Shin Megami Tensei V can be a tough game. Combat features the classic Press Turn System. If you land a critical hit or hit an enemy’s weakness, then you’ll gain an extra turn. If you miss an attack or use something the enemy reflects/absorbs/resists, then you lose a turn. Enemies (which are very smart) follow the same rules. Enemies have no qualms about exploiting holes in your party’s setup. It’s very important to try to finish combat as quickly as possible. Boss battles require more finesse and care, but again, prolonging them is a recipe for disaster. Along with using physical and magical attacks, you can attempt to negotiate with demons to have them join your party. Just like the Nahobino, you can build a party of demons that suits your playstyle. By the end of the game, your roster of demons will be filled with a gamut of creatures. The options are close to endless for building a team.
As most gamers know, the series is known for being difficult. Combat can be tricky if you come with the wrong demons and the enemy continues to exploit your weaknesses. Since there’s no auto-save, a party wipe could mean a major loss of progress. That’s par for the course with the series. The difficulty can be adjusted if things get too hairy. I was never bothered by the challenging combat. In fact, I embraced it. It made many of the fights more rewarding to finish. My biggest issue with the game was the exploration. Getting from point A to point B is rarely easy. The mini-map is horrible. For someone like me who has a poor sense of direction, you can imagine the struggle. Adding an element of platforming made matters worse. Of course, demons flying at you left and right didn’t help when trying to get your bearings. In some way, getting to a treasure or Miman that was initially out of reach feels more rewarding than taking down a difficult boss.
Before wrapping up, it’s worth noting how beautiful Shin Megami Tensei V looks and sounds. Fighting through multiple demon-infested wastelands or exploring modern day Tokyo is a lovely sight. There is so much stuff to explore. Yes, navigating through some of the later areas is a pain, but that doesn’t mean the areas aren’t beautiful. The interesting thing is that most of the game’s environments are filled with destruction: broken bridges, dilapidated buildings, cracked roads. There’s a realized beauty amidst all the devastation. Of course, the Nahobino and the roster of demons look amazing. The special effects really pop, too. You can almost feel the hurt coming from some of the more powerful skills. Most of the game is fully voiced. The voice acting is mostly great; a lot of the characters have awkward, stiff delivery. But it hardly matters when you’re jamming to the incredible soundtrack. I’m not sure how Atlus manages to continue to churn such epic collections of music for this series. But they do. And it’s awesome.
Despite my griping and shouting at the game – and best-believe that there was a lot – Shin Megami Tensei V captivated me from start to finish. It took me a little over 80 hours to reach the end game events, fight the super boss, and witness one of the multiple endings. Finishing the game unlocks new game plus. Players can carry over some or all their data when transferring files. I’m excited to take full advantage of new game plus because the thought of being able to blaze through the game with a party of super demons sounds fun. Ultimately, the game was worth the wait. It’s a polished, challenging, and expansive game in a series that continues to push boundaries. And yet, this is also the most new-user friendly entry for those that are curious about the series but don’t know where to start. Switch owners would do well to pick this game up.
Overall, 9/10: Embark on a journey to become a new god. Shin Megami Tensei V’s excellent combat and endless variety make this one of the most memorable RPGs on the Nintendo Switch.