The Shin Megami series has always reflected the darkness and cruelty of the world we live in, reminding us that the odds are often stacked against us and unfair circumstances can cause great loss. But it also captures the beauty of tackling those intimidating challenges of standing – even when things seem impossible, we somehow persevere. That’s what makes the Shin Megami Tensei franchise shine, but the road to those victorious heights is filled with demoralizing lows. Willingly putting your energy into something that requires more courage, commitment, and patience may not seem so appetizing at first glance, but no game has made me feel the rush to win and the satisfaction of testing my skills. just like Shin Megami Tensei V.
SMT V stays close to the roots of the franchise, which means if you’ve played any entry in the series, you know what to expect: take on a crumbling world, take on extremely difficult bosses, and feel the rush. to become more powerful by recruiting demons to fight alongside you. Shin Megami Tensei V is content to give fans the same thing while making a few upgrades along the way, mostly in the world reach and customization available for your protagonist and demon skills. These are nice upgrades, and the base formula remains extremely entertaining, but I’m disappointed that Atlus didn’t take more risks and further strengthen the show’s weaknesses, such as confusing map layouts. , archaic save points and maddening difficulty peaks. .
Even with these frustrations, the stellar gameplay and progression loop kept me engaged. Turn-based combat is at its best in SMT V, and it’s reminiscent of III’s Press-Turn system. It takes a lot of thought to optimize your towers, which comes down to a mix of buffs / debuffs and exploiting elemental weaknesses. Watching your bonus actions build up with each turn by landing critical hits or hitting an enemy’s weaknesses is a delight. The special “Magatsuhi skills”, which can be used once you’ve filled up a gauge doing things like blocking or landing attacks, only add to the fun. These special skills dramatically change the tide of battle, ranging from recharging your party’s MP to guaranteeing critical hits. I experimented more than ever to find complementary skills to increase damage, and loved coming up with new tactics based on the powers of my demons.
SMT V is a challenging game. Sometimes you will probably die and end up losing your progress. I savored the tension of trying to stay ahead of the enemy and improve at every turn. Much of your success relies on recruiting demons and creating the perfect party for each area. Negotiating with demons, which requires you to select dialogue options and present gifts to influence enemies on your side, is sometimes a guessing game, as demons can be fickle and unpredictable, and I had to hard to anticipate their desired responses. You can optionally unlock a skill that gives you a second chance if you fail, but the moon phase also changes their behavior and likelihood of joining you. For example, a full moon may be too bright for them, so they won’t trade. Other times a new moon offers the option of giving them less money or items to join me, or they can join on the spot, uninvited. Obtaining demons seemed less complicated than in previous entries due to these additions.
The demon fusion, which allows you to combine the demons you recruit for better ones, is extremely satisfying. I like to surpass my last creation and decide on the skills to pass on to them. Atlus added more customization here, with a new feature called Essences. Once you have acquired the essence of a demon, you can transfer its skills to other demons or to your protagonist. The latter can also gain the affinities of a demon. For example, if you find the essence of a demon that blocks or reflects multiple elements, your main character may inherit it to gain the upper hand in battle. It seems like a small thing, but it can make a big difference in tough fights. I also liked how it allowed me to impart skills to newly recruited demons who only had a few abilities.
The demonic fusion system is what makes grinding tolerable, as there is a great reward for leveling up in combat. Whether your demons gain powerful abilities or your main character unlocks new fusion options, I enjoyed the pleasure of reaching these milestones. However, that doesn’t excuse SMT V’s nasty difficulty spikes towards the end of the game, and I felt compelled to pause my progress just to grind. But there is something to be said for the satisfaction of coming back stronger. What SMT V does really well is give satisfaction when you merge a very powerful demon that just crushes a boss. However, in the next big battle, they might be completely useless. You can never depend on a single demon and must constantly merge to get the best and most balanced party possible.
Another area that impressed me was the expanded exploration, with a new verticality of the world that allows you to make your way to discoveries. I was forced to scour every inch of every area and found some cool rewards for doing so, such as statues that level up all of your demons and special bosses / quests. Additionally, hidden across the world in hard-to-reach places are creatures called Miman. Collecting these little companions gives you some of the best items in the game to improve your party. I just wish the areas you explored were more visually impressive and easier to navigate. I often felt like I was looking for a needle in a haystack to find a well-hidden path. The game has a few short dungeons, but they are random. I hated the one that required you to use fans to blast your character on certain ledges, as a missed ledge meant starting over from the beginning, but I enjoyed a later dungeon that allowed you to find a path by stopping the time and entering the doors in the correct order.
Storytelling is another area that needs to be improved. I love the fascinating subject matter of SMT games, as they present philosophical puzzles about the world, but the execution often feels hit and miss. Shin Megami Tensei V is no different. You play as a modern day student who is transported to an alternate apocalyptic version of Tokyo called “Da’at” after an earthquake. From there, you gain special powers to survive in this dangerous landscape and learn that not only is Tokyo’s future in danger, but there is a war between angels and demons.
It could be the end of the world as you know it, and like previous SMT games, the power is in your hands to save it and also decide how it should work in the future. Do you maintain the status quo, shake up the current structures in place, or demolish everything to create a superior society? These are interesting questions, but the game presents them in such a mundane fashion, with sparse, cryptic exposure and painfully slow pacing. The characters represent different philosophies, covering law and chaos alignments, about how you reshape the world, but they don’t offer much explanation or reasoning. In fact, when I made this big decision, I didn’t feel like I had a compelling choice to make. Everything in the game leads to this pivotal moment, and it felt like I was blindly throwing a dart at a board when selecting my answer. At the very least, the path I have chosen has had some interesting revelations. I love how SMT V never strays from its somber tone and tries to be more succinct, but for all that you go through to defeat the very formidable bosses, more rewarding scenes would go a long way.
If there is one thing that can be said for SMT V, it is that it requires the player to do their best at all times. There are no sleepwalking or indiscriminate spamming attacks in battles; you have to think through every move and constantly weigh the risk against the reward. For someone who plays RPGs a lot, it’s a refreshing challenge, but it’s also exhausting. Still, I can’t deny the feeling that came over me when I saw the credits roll by, especially after facing a seemingly endless generation of bosses to make it happen. I felt on top of the world, as if I had earned the right to define it; I wish the actual choice was a little more satisfying. Nonetheless, Shin Megami Tensei V makes smart upgrades to its already strong core, creating an entertaining and rewarding journey that I won’t soon forget.
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