Talk about leaps and bounds!
Development Hell is a scary place for both games and their eagerly awaiting fans. Not only does tossing a game into its hungry maw ensure that players won’t get to play anything until way, way after it’s announced (if at all), but, oftentimes, there’s a very real chance that the end product won’t be at all worth the hype. But that’s not always the case. In fact, ATLUS’ own wildly popular Persona 5 flourished after its long stint in Development Hell. But, surely, ATLUS can’t catch lightning in a bottle twice, right? Wrong!
The wait for Shin Megami Tensei V may have been grueling for a lot of fans (myself, included!), but now that, by the grace of God (or Lucifer, if you’re Chaos-aligned), I have finally had the chance to play it after all of these years, I can promise you with 100% certainty that it was absolutely worth the wait. And I’m saying this after barely having scratched the game’s surface!
Shin Megami Tensei V‘s story begins within modern-day Tokyo in a state which—aside from the string of mysterious murders going on by invisible killers—is basically normal. A normal world isn’t any good in an SMT game, though, and SMTV appears to agree with this, as it soon whisks the perilous protagonist away from safety into a place heavily resembling Shin Megami Tensei IV’s Blasted Tokyo—a place called the Netherworld. Of course, being a confused, Demon Summoning Program-less high schooler puts you pretty low on the food chain, and it doesn’t take long before the protagonist finds himself on the wrong end of an ambush. Fortunately, he’s soon saved by a robot-man with very good manners, Aogami who, after ensuring that the protag is alive and well, fuses with him to become a Nahobino—a godlike being who carries within himself the strengths of both humans and demons whose near-limitless potential is only matched by his near-limitless amount of hair.
Shin Megami Tensei V‘s beginning might sound kind of familiar to those who have played through Shin Megami Tensei III. However, while there are plenty of parallels to be made between the two at first, I can assure you that they’re most certainly not the same. While I, unfortunately, can’t go into too much right now, I can say that their most significant immediate difference lies within when they take place. While SMTIII‘s world is one in which an important decision has yet to be made, SMTV occurs after an important decision has been made… if you catch my drift. The world has, quite literally, already been blown to Hell and back by the time you arrive—and, while further decisions must be made, SMTV‘s world is about as far from pristine as possible.
Places to Go, Demons to See
Shin Megami Tensei V seems to have tweaked plenty of things so far, and, among them, basic exploration mechanics seems to be one of the most noteworthy. Literally taking a “bigger and better” approach to things, running around SMTV‘s ruined world feels like a much smoother version of what SMTIV gave to players. Demons once again roam the streets (er, sand?), but, rather than looking like garbled blobs, you can actually see the creatures around you! Even better, they seem to each have their own, distinct personalities and preferences when they move around. Sure, they’re not particularly nice personalities, but it’s still pretty cool!
Despite being in ruins, SMTV‘s world also seems to be much more intricately crafted. The world itself feels much more real in terms of size and scale, allowing players to run, climb, and, yes, even jump to navigate through the ruined streets of Tokyo, with treasures, healing pickups, and Miman (tiny creatures that act as this game’s primary collectible) tucked away within every crevice. The Netherworld may be a literal hell on Earth, but I’d be lying if I said that it wasn’t plenty of fun to explore.
Charged & Ready
The turn-based, Press Turn Icon-focused combat of Shin Megami Tensei V remains largely unchanged when compared to its previous modern-day iterations. You kill demons, you talk to demons, you hit weak spots, you try to avoid getting your weak spots hit—easy and familiar, right? Right! So, instead of focusing on stuff that you’re already familiar with, I’ll focus on SMTV‘s new little combat gimick: Magatsuhi.
Acting as a special charge gauge that fills up over battle, Magatsuhi is an energy which, when enough has been collected, allows combatants to perform incredible feats without so much as expending a Press Turn Icon—although you can only use the skill that gives your party guaranteed crits for a turn at first—and that includes magic attacks. Still, considering how devastating unleashing up to 8 critical attacks in one turn is, it’s safe to say that Magatsuhi is pretty amazing. Unfortunately, Magatsuhi is an energy that everyone can use—and that means that enemies can use it, too. And, while enemy parties are nice enough to telegraph a Magatsuhi-filled turn beforehand, failing to properly set yourself up is a one-way trip to the Game Over screen (and there aren’t continues, by the way). However, while getting your butt handed to you from time to time can be a bit frustrating, I can honestly say that SMTV‘s new little gimmick has made battles a lot more interesting so far.
Just Getting Started
My time with Shin Megami Tensei V might have only just begun, but I’m already absolutely thrilled with what I’ve seen. Everything about this game feels bigger, better, and badder (in a good way, of course) than anything I’ve seen from the SMT series so far, and I can’t wait to see things through all the way to the end.