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Shin Megami Tensei V review for Nintendo Switch


Platform: Nintendo Switch
Publisher: Atlus
Developer: Atlus
Medium: Cartridge/Digital
Players: 1
Online: No
ESRB: M

Shin Megami Tensei V is the newest dungeon-crawling RPG from Atlus, and much like its predecessors, it’s an oftentimes difficult, yet rewarding experience to work your way through. And while there are some new bells and whistles with this entry, there are no huge changes that are going to turn away the growing fanbase for a series that is the origin point of Atlus’ successful Shin Megami universe of games. Granted, if you find yourself to be more of a Persona fan that may not be what you want to hear, but even then I think Persona fans will find plenty to like about Shin Megami Tensei V.

The game is set in current-day Tokyo (with some twists, naturally) and you take on the role of a self-named protagonist that uncovers a war between various gods and demons that puts humanity in the middle of a battle that they had been blissfully unaware of up to this point. While the game features a number of important side characters, you’ll explore and enter the world solo for the most part, accompanied by the various demons you can recruit to build up your party. This hook is essentially the bread and butter of the Shin Megami Tensei series, and remains largely unchanged here. You will still need to negotiate with demons when entering into battle, and if successful, the opposing demon can join your party. You can keep a number of demons in reserve, but your supply is not unlimited, so you’ll need to be judicious in who you take or leave behind. 

A lot of your team makeup is going to be based on exploiting elemental weaknesses in the enemies you encounter. Successfully landing a hit against an enemy with an ability that the enemy is weak to allows you to gain an extra turn in battle, which is going to be your primary way of winning most fights. Again, this system is sort of part and parcel with the Shin Megami series as a whole, and will be no surprise to returning fans. But it also makes for one of the more satisfying combat elements in modern RPG’s, and I’m again happy to see it return here. You’re also able to mix and match your team over and over again, and can regain past demons via the compendium, or fuse demons together to make new combinations, while also carrying over some skills from the demons you’re fusing. This basically just means you’ll rarely be stuck without any workable solution for most encounters, giving you some freedom to try new set-ups and test out new demons gained. 

That’s not to say that Shin Megami Tensei V is not an occasionally difficult RPG, another thing that I think most series fans have come to expect. At the onset of the game you can choose between three difficulty settings, but if you opt to go with Hard your first time out, you can still downgrade to normal or easy/casual if you find that it’s too tough for an initial playthrough. I played on Normal, and ran into a number of deaths and game over screens throughout, usually due to boss encounters that I was ill-prepared for. Shin Megami Tensei V is also a bit archaic in that regard, with static save points that are scattered about the map, and not always right before a tough encounter. Not necessarily a huge issue for me, but it’s worth noting that the save system isn’t as convenient as most modern titles. 

As far as changes to the Shin Megami Tensei formula, I really enjoyed the pseudo open-world approach to V’s dungeon designs. These areas are commonly referred to as the “underworld” in-game, and represent destroyed or semi-destroyed versions of modern-era Tokyo that you get transported to as you play out the story. These sections are all pretty large, allowing you to explore a map filled with hidden collectibles and treasure, multiple demon types, and optional hard enemies that you likely won’t be able to defeat on your first run through. Traversal through these sections actually feels pretty great too, you can run at a decent clip, slide down steep hills, and jump across platforms to reach hard to find items. I was pretty surprised at how well most of this ran on the Switch, and exploring these sections of the game is easily one of my favorite things in Shin Megami Tensei V. 

Shin Megami Tensei V also introduces Magatsuhi Skills, which are basically powerful abilities that can be used by consuming the Magatsuhi gauge, which fills over time as you successfully win battles. There are additional abilities you can gain as you play that will help fill that gauge a bit faster, but it honestly doesn’t take a whole lot to fill up the gauge and start using these powerful abilities. At the onset of the game you’ll only have one skill, which when activated allows for every hit to become critical for one full turn, but as you gain more demons and complete side quests you’ll gain access to a decent variety of skills. This function isn’t necessarily a game changer by any means, but it’s another nice offensive tool to have for tough fights, and holding back on using the gauge allows for another strategic element to the already excellent combat system.

As far as story goes, Shin Megami Tensei V doesn’t skimp out, featuring a pretty deep and often dark storyline that is certainly right in line with the rest of the series. We won’t spoil anything within this review, but if you’ve ever enjoyed a Shin Megami tale before, I can’t think of a single element in V that will turn you away. The weird mix of gods/demons and humanity is still a major component here, and it feels very much in line with what I’ve come to expect from the series overall. The English VA work is pretty solid as well, which is also a plus. 

All in all, I’ve absolutely enjoyed my time spent with Shin Megami Tensei V. If you’re looking for a good, meaty RPG to sink your teeth into this holiday season, it definitely fits the bill. The small additions made to the Shin Megami formula work out really well here, and the game doesn’t feel hindered on Switch hardware. It’s nice to see the series leap away from a handheld platform and back to a mainline console release, and hopefully this will draw more attention to Shin Megami Tensei as a whole. So yeah, definitely consider checking this one out when it drops on November 12th, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. 

Note: Atlus provided us with a Shin Megami Tensei V Nintendo Switch code for review purposes.

Grade: A

Shin Megami Tensei V: Standard Edition – Nintendo Switch (Video Game)

Manufacturer:  “Sega of America, Inc.”
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