Shin Megami Tensei V feels like it’s been in development for a ludicrous amount of time. It was announced four years ago during the initial showing of the Nintendo Switch itself, back in 2017. However, this isn’t anywhere near the most significant gap between mainline Shin Megami Tensei games when we compare to the ten-year gap between Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne (2003) and Shin Megami Tensei IV (2013), or the six-year gap to Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey (2009) if you want to be picky since Strange Journey was originally going to be IV.
Regardless of how long four years is, Shin Megami Tensei V is finally on the horizon. And the horizon looks sweet.
It’s not a Shin Megami Tensei game if Tokyo isn’t somehow ruined, but it’s a bit strange this time. You begin as a perfectly normal high school student, who is walking home with some student acquaintances due to a series of bizarre attacks, as it’s too dangerous to walk alone.
When their path is blocked off, one of these acquaintances wanders off to take a phone call. You go after them into a tunnel, spot a couple of other classmates recording a horror vlog, and then everything goes south, and you’re all thrown into a ruined world that also happens to be Tokyo.
Besieged by demons, you are rescued by the robotic Aogami, a being who forms a pact with you to become a Nahobino…. Whatever that means. But with the new title comes sick demon powers used to explore and find out why this story just decided to be an isekai.
There are three difficulty options; Casual, Normal, and Hard. You can swap between casual and normal at any point, but once you switch out of hard, you can’t change back in.
The world of Shin Megami Tensei V is something of a more optimistic variant of Nocturne’s. While the Demi-fiend wanders slowly through the desolate plains alone, the Nahobino is always accompanied by Aogami as you dash, slide, and vault through the ruins of civilization.
The music backing your expeditions is comparable to that of Shin Megami Tensei IV’s less menacing vibes, and it’s pretty relaxing. It leads to a rather liminal atmosphere when you end up surrounded by old skyscrapers. There’s also a little collectathon that will net you ‘glory’, which can be exchanged for passive boosts, which encourages exploration further.
Random encounters have been made a thing of the past, with enemies appearing on the field, allowing you to take advantage of your enhanced mobility to maneuver around them. This does, however have the caveat of “I’ll have to get into battles on purpose later if I skip too many and rock up to a boss that just one-shots me before I get an attack in.”
From what I’ve played so far, this is still classic SMT, and you will die. A lot. The “press turn system” makes its grand return with buffs being reorganized. Buffs last for three turns but can be applied in two layers, as long as you keep them constant.
All of IV and Apocalypse’s fusion system perks have been carried over beside the “recommended” option, with a new “essence” fusion system introduced that allows you to instill you and your demons with skills that can be found or bought, or used to change the protagonist’s elemental matchups. Important so that your innate weakness to dark elemental skills doesn’t kill you if the insta-kill effect procs.
Shin Megami Tensei V continues to reveal its devilish world in portions that far exceed the confines of this preview. However, you should gather that this is a genuine SMT experience with a story, unlike the previous entries, aside from the whole of Tokyo getting destroyed. The sense of loneliness with foreboding thoughts of what awaits linger, but this time, you have Aogami by your side. And I can’t think of anyone else I’d rather face the apocalypse with.
Shin Megami Tensei V is releasing for Nintendo Switch on November 12, 2021.
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