FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Shin Megami Tensei V

Shin Megami Tensei V has at long last finally released on the Nintendo Switch, and plenty of new fans and veterans alike are diving into the complex title. Because this is such a lengthy game–what JRPG isn’t?–we here at Boss Rush have assembled the first impressions from three of our writers: Dan and Patrick, who are both newcomers to the series, and Block, who has played most entries including the spin-offs. Read on to see what they think about the latest entry in Atlus’s storied franchise!

Story and General Gameplay

Patrick: “I’ve been interested and excited to try out this game despite the fact I’ve never played a Shin Megami Tensei or Persona game before. So far, the game has not disappointed. I didn’t know a lot about this game before diving in except that you rotate demons in and out of your party and it’s supposed to be hard. As a newcomer, the game has proven to be a bit challenging and full of mechanics and menus that were a little dizzying at first but as I grow to understand them provide a very satisfying turn-based JRPG experience. The battle system is so much fun, and this has proven to be a great game to play to just grind a bit here and there, although the save system does make it a little challenging, at least early on, to play in short bursts. The animations, visuals, and music provide a real sense of the apocalyptic setting and fit the tone of the game very well. SMTV is unsettling, but not necessarily in a bad way. The atmospheric music, the designs of the demons, and the overall tone do a good job of conveying a desolate, desperate world in the throws of the battle between chaos and order, and I can’t wait to dig deeper. The game is a bit light on story, and throws you into the action pretty quickly, but the turn-based battles are so fun and such a big highlight of this game, that it doesn’t feel like it’s lacking at least so far, for me.”

Dan: “I’m really loving this game. As a fan of turn based JRPGs this one hits hard, and I’m all for it. The game focuses heavily on gameplay and exploration over story. Typically, I look more towards a story driven JRPG, but the gameplay loop is so addicting and fun in this game that I really don’t mind. The gothic art style and atmospheric music gives you an experience on the areas you explore that fully engrosses you. The tone of each area fits the narrative of the game perfectly.”

Block: “Unlike the more popular Persona spin-off series, SMTV focuses far less on plot and character development, and instead turns its attention towards exploration, combat, demon collecting, and general gameplay. This can create some pacing issues for those expecting more of a story, but the gameplay here is expertly fine-tuned remains addictive throughout.”

Combat and Exploration

Patrick: “One somewhat surprising aspect of this game to me is just how fun and rewarding it is to explore. I’ve spent more time than I would have expected in the first area poking around in every nook and cranny to discover hidden demons, items, and Miman (small characters that are distributed around the map in a manner similar to Koroks in Breath of the Wild). The game is indeed challenging and punishing, and has a number of mechanics that are a tad bit obtuse at first, but as you start to understand them, the combat becomes even more rewarding and enjoyable.”

Dan: “The press turn gimmick for the battle system is a welcome addition to turn based combat (This is where you you gain extra turns for targeting an enemy’s weakness). It adds a whole layer of depth to your battle, and I find myself strategizing every turn to get my maximum amount of hits in before it’s the enemies turn. I also love being able to block opponents’ attacks to end their turns as well. Battles are tough. I’ve found myself dying in random encounters many times because I went in unprepared. I’ve now made sure that I save in almost every part of the game that I can because of this. I’ve never played a turn based game where I can’t just mindlessly waltz through random encounters. Demon collecting is really fun and rewarding. I’ve found myself back tracking a lot to recollect demons to fuse them for new creatures. I love the personalities of the demons when trying to collect them as well: they can be kind of jerks, want to be complimented, or even like when you’re a jerk back to them. You never know what to expect when you initiate a conversation with them. It’s also really cool to me when they challenge you to a race (agility stat) or arm wrestling (strength stat) contest, and whoever’s stats are higher wins.”

Block: “SMTV borrows the setup of the Persona franchise by casting you as a student at a Japanese high school. You quickly make friends with some of the more noteworthy students, before you all are embroiled in a heinous situation that involves murders, kidnappings, a haunted tunnel, and frightening mirror realm.

“Artistically, the game is stellar, with a brilliant mix of sci-fi, fantasy, and even horror. Every inch of the desolate ruins of Tokyo has things that are just waiting to be uncovered, from the collectible Mimans, to treasure orbs, or even side quests or rare, powerful creatures. The soundtrack is appropriately moody, incorporating a dreary atmospheric sound and mixing it at times with rock and electronica styles. If you’re familiar with the sounds of previous games, then you’re going to love what’s here.”

New Additions

Block: “The Shin Megami Tensei franchise has always been rather difficult. Fortunately, there are plenty of new things in this latest entry that make it much more accessible. For starters, you can use money to fully heal at all save points. You may also find orbs scattered across the world while you explore that will replenish your health, your magic, and your special meters. In addition, you may use save points to instantly fast travel to another one that you’ve accessed, allowing you to easily return to an area to grind out levels or do some more exploring.

“Demonic essences have been revamped to allow you to teach your protagonist or one of your demon compatriots various new skills much more easily than in the past by basically creating a copy of a demon and its powers and fusing them to a party member.

“You can also gain Glory by finding certain items or completing quests, and use this to purchase miracles. Miracles give you permanent bonuses, from boosting your stats, to granting new abilities, and even increasing your stock of demons.”

Final Thoughts

Dan: “Overall, I’ve really enjoyed this game. There’s just so much to explore and do in this game. I’m loving the epic boss battles, where I really have to make sure I don’t slip up or it unravels quite quickly. Having never played a Shin Megami Tensei game, this has been such a welcome addition to my collection of games, and I’m looking forward to seeing what’s next for the series.”

Looking for more on Shin Megami Tensei V? Check out our TIPS guide, which is the perfect companion for both veterans and newcomers alike!

Have you already picked up your copy of SMTV? What are your thoughts? Do they line up with ours, or do you have a differing opinion? We’d love to know what you have to say in our comment section and on our Discord!

Josh Cornett is a lifelong gamer who enjoys games across all platforms and genres. He has gone by the alias of “Block” ever since college, when he was nicknamed “Blockbuster” for his extensive video game and movie collection. Currently, he reviews a wide variety of games on his Youtube channel, and talks about all things gaming related on his Twitter and Facebook pages.

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