Review: Shin Megami Tensei V
Shin Megami Tensei is a long-running JRPG series that you may have heard of. The fifth numbered part is now playable on Nintendo Switch. We dived in to teach the angel and devil on your shoulder.
Shin Megami Tensei V is part of a Japanese RPG franchise with a lot of games . Some of these titles have only appeared in Japan, but fortunately many have also appeared in the west. Although this is only the fifth numbered part, it has been preceded by a lot of games. Many spin-offs, of which the best-known spin-off has become a much more famous game series. Then of course I'm talking about the Persona games. It may therefore be self-evident that the two series have a number of interfaces. Yet they are still very different from each other, making them two very different series today.
Thanks in part to the overwhelming success of Persona 5, the Shin Megami franchise has a lot of new fans. Many fans who have also become curious about the series where Persona came from. Maybe you are also such a person and that is why you are now reading this review to find out whether the main line of the Shin Megami titles is also something for you. Let it just be that a brand new part has appeared for the Nintendo Switch. This is Shin Megami Tensei V.
Compared to Persona
Let's start with the big gray elephant parked in the center of this proverbial room. Persona is descended from Shin Megami Tensei, so the games are very similar in many ways. They are both long story JRPGs with a turn-based combat system. This combat system is not identical, but it is very similar. In both titles, monsters are used for fighting. In Persona they are called Personas and they are manifestations of feelings, thoughts and characteristics of persons. For Shin Megami Tensei and therefore also in part 5 they are demons and angels. They share an identical look. For example, you see a Pixie in both the SMT games and the Persona games.
The combat also works a little differently in both games. The attacks are also very similar, only in Shin Megami Tensei you are even more dependent on the elements. In boss fights it is essential to exploit your opponent's weaknesses. Hitting a weakness gives you extra attacks. Missing an attack or being deflected will cost you a turn. Enemies deal an awful lot of damage, so keeping your turn and your team of demons on as much as possible is crucial. Much more than in the Persona titles. So in the end you will not steer on the levels of your team, but on the strengths and weaknesses of your team and your opponents.
Without life sim
The main difference between Persona and Shin Megami Tensei is the theme. Shin Megami Tensei has been following a rather dark theme for years. The end of the world is determined by a clash between heaven and hell. You as players must choose a side to determine who is victorious. Gradually you find out that not everything is black or white by definition. Although you follow a fairly linear story, there are choices in the game that set certain twists in motion, including the conclusion of the game. Almost the entire game takes place in another dimension, the home world of the demons.
In Persona you are used to following a school life. The gameplay consists on the one hand of understanding dungeons that have unique themes. In addition, you follow a social life at and after school with your avatar and other characters. In this you are moderately free to do what you want and Persona spends a lot of time making and maintaining ties. It is a life sim on the one hand and a dungeon crawler on the other. Shin Megami Tensei really only has one focus: Dungeons. Although you will be faced with certain choices and there is actually a very cool story incorporated, there is no life-sim part in this Nintendo Switch exclusive. You're either fighting, or it's on your way to your next fight.
And now in 3D!
And these battles look more impressive than ever! Previous Shin Megami Tensei games that appeared on the Nintendo platforms made extensive use of sprites. Thanks to the more powerful Nintendo Switch and a few years break (SMT4 appeared on the 3DS), Shin Megami Tensei V looks the best. All demons appear in 3D in the world and also during the battles. The battles also play out a bit like in Persona 5, where you face the opposing team with your own team.
The world in which the game takes place also looks beautiful on the Nintendo Switch. The alternate dimension resembles some sort of dilapidated Post-apocalyptic version of Tokyo plagued by demons. These demons roam the world and you can see them in real size! I must say this is a very nice addition. It does enrich the world to be able to see the demons in full size rather than having them take a standard size to fit into the game world. Some creatures are gigantic and you would prefer to avoid if you can!
The world feels alive with wandering demons. Also, not all of them are after you. It's not a world where the monsters are placed, waiting for you to pass by to fight them. Many have lives of their own and have no interest in fighting you. Some even need your help. So there are also side quests to complete. These vary enormously and once again give a broader view of the world of Shin Megami Tensei and the characters of the demons. For example, during a certain quest you find out that two demons have been sent out to look for food. They'll be gone for a while, so you'll have to find them. It turns out that in the meantime they have found and joined a cult. Because of the cult they suddenly have no appetite, but they leave their old pack behind with hunger. Hilarious!
Shin Megami Tensei V is a fantastic JRPG and a must try on Nintendo Switch. If you're a fan of the battles in Persona titles, this is right up your alley. Did you not like the fighting in Persona at all, but were you more into the life-sim part? Then I honestly don't know if Shin Megami Tensei V will suit you better. As I said before, the combat really takes the foreground in this game, but there is no life-sim part. That does not alter the fact that there is just a super cool story about this game with a richly filled world with enough depth, dark tones, but also humor.
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