(Photo courtesy Twinfinite/GAMURS Group) “Shin Megami Tensei V,” though entertaining, still has limitations that need to be addressed for its Nintendo Switch edition to be fully enjoyed.
The latest entry in Atlus’ “Shin Megami Tensei” series is finally here on the Nintendo Switch. The few, but devout, fans of the SMT series have long awaited the release of “Shin Megami Tensei V” ever since it was teased back in 2017. Many will find that the four-year wait will lead to a satisfying experience, but not without its hiccups.
The SMT franchise has always been known for its tough and strategic turn-based combat. This combined with its philosophical narrative involving the battle between angels has always made the franchise set itself apart from other turn-based RPGs. It has always been somewhat of a cult franchise whereas its spinoff series “Persona” saw much more popularity and defined many people’s idea of a modern RPG.
The most recent entry of the series follows the same conventions as its predecessors and attempts to build on them. The great thing about “Shin Megami Tensei V” is, despite being the latest in the series with many games, it does not demand that players play any of the other games in the series.
However, despite its accessibility, the story can seem rather simple to some with moments of intrigue sprinkled throughout. The player is a student from present-day Tokyo that has gotten warped to an apocalyptic and demon-infested world that resembles the real world. Though from here, it is rather straightforward.
Despite what one may think of the story, the gameplay is where this game really shines. Over the course of the game, the player can collect demons to put into their party and swap out moves for the right situation. These demons all have different affinities towards elements and weaknesses towards others. Pay attention to these, because one wrong move and it could mean that the whole party could be wiped out. Think of it as something like “Pokémon,” but instead of training cute animals, demons are bribed or persuaded.
Speaking of which, demons are acquired by either using the talk action in combat to attempt to persuade them to join the party or can be fused together outside of combat. The mythological inspiration for the designs of these demons make them look stunning.
The player’s character has similar affinities and weaknesses that can be customized to suit different roles in the party. There are systems in place specifically for modifying the player’s character, so they are likely to be the strongest person in the party. However, if the player’s character is knocked out, the game resets back to the last save point.
The game’s presentation is worth mentioning, as it has a lot of perplexing details that can be seen even at a glance. However, this game is really held back by the Nintendo Switch’s hardware limitations. Atlus aimed to make a good-looking game, but it seems not one that ran at a consistent frame rate. Even while the Switch is docked, the game runs poorly and seems really choppy when a more spectacular looking move is pulled off. What is really odd though, is that the game seems to run better in handheld mode than it does while docked. These issues will likely be fixed if the game ever gets ported to other consoles.
Despite its issues, the game is very enjoyable. It is not the kind of game where the difficulty is frustrating. Instead the game pushes the player to reflect on what they might have done wrong and rethink strategy. Even though one of the final areas in the game basically demands that the player grind for levels, the experience with the game’s pacing, story, and gameplay is still a blast to play.
“Shin Megami Tensei V’s” gameplay and atmosphere more than makes up for its shortcomings and is worth a buy for any JRPG fan or Nintendo Switch owner. If any game in the series stood a chance at bringing this franchise into the spotlight, it would be “Shin Megami Tensei V”.