Overall - 70%
While Shin Megami Tensei 5 is rough around the edges, fans of the series will be satisfied. However, newcomers and those not impressed by the previous entries best approach with caution.
Announced back in 2017, Atlus West’s Shin Megami Tensei 5 is finally here after being MIA for a while. Was the wait worth it, or should you keep your expectations in check? Check out our review and find out.
Shin Megami Tensei 5 Review
Shin Megami Tensei 5 follows the story of an average high schooler, who has just finished up class. With rumors of monster attacks in the air, you go home with your friends. However, you run into a band of demons in a tunner and get knocked unconscious. Once you come to, you find out that the world is now in shambles. It almost seems like some colossal battle happened while you were out of it.
Not only has the city been completely destroyed, but demons now roam the area. Luckily for you, a demon has merged with you to help you survive this nightmare. You also see one of your classmates taken by an angel, so you figure you should help out. You set out to fight your way through this wasteland, trying to figure out what exactly happened while searching for allies. A battle has occurred between angels and demons, with the world was left in this current state. It’s up to players to set out and fix it all.
You won’t be able to do this alone, as demons now haunt the world. As a demon yourself (well, at least half a demon), you get the chance to recruit some as allies. If you played Persona 5, it is very similar. You chat to a demon, and then they ask you a series of questions. Answer right, and you can recruit them for a price. Answer wrong, and they attack or leave. While it is simple, you can’t recruit bosses or above your level, meaning you can’t get overpowered quickly.
Combat itself is turn-based, with a heavy emphasis on targeting weak points and using buffs and debuffs. This game is challenging; you can’t just spam attack and win. If you manage to hit an enemy’s weak spot, you get an additional action per round. This means that you will get to go more often and maybe get out of the fight untouched. However, if the enemies hit your weakness (which they often do), they gain extra actions and kill you. Shin Megami Tensei 5 is one of those games where the main character dying is game over, even if your pixie has a resurrection skill. Be sure to save often.
Another issue I have with its combat comes with its bosses. I expect damage sponge bosses at some point, but they are constant here. Even hitting the boss’s weak spot feels like you are doing nothing. It does make the boss fights more intense, but you could also split the difference somehow. As for trash fights, you can always have your character do auto-combat. When you select auto-battle, all your characters use the attack option. I don’t mean they attack with spells; I mean they use the action attack, no matter what. I tested it against enemies resistant to physical attacks earlier, and sure enough, they just keep auto-attacking. To be honest, I’m not even sure why they added it.
The world is open, but it is not an open world. You can move around the area and take a few off-beaten paths, but nothing insane. You can find side quests, find Miman, get old-world relics, and beat optional side bosses. Side quests are all pretty generic, but give out a good amount of experience points. Miman is this game’s collectible, and they are little demons that provide you with glory (more on that in a moment). Old vending machines and chests will give you relics you can sell. Giant demons roam the area, and killing them gives you nice EXP boosts and items. There are also demon abscesses in the world.
These abscesses are like cancer in the world, and you have to close them. They act as demon gates and spawn more and more demons. The demons near the abscesses cannot be recruited and fight harder than the rest. A semi-powerful demon protects each gate, and beating them will close the abscess. The map will become more transparent, and you will see quests and other icons that might have been blocked off by the demon’s presence before.
Now for the pièce de résistance, the pinnacle of Shin Megami Tensei 5: The demon fusion system. Recruiting is fun, but you recruit because you want to fuse. It works just as well as you’d expect. Combining two demons is easy and will show you the outcome. You can also see the other potential fusions, making it easier to find what you want. The special fusions have returned as well. Completing them will net you a strong demon like the level 18 High Pixie or the level 37 Sukuna-Hikona. Then there is the essence fusion.
As you level your demons, they will sometimes give you demons essence (you can buy it later). Using the essence allows you to learn the moves of that demon on yourself or any other demon. This becomes a vital part of raising up new demons later in the game. To help you learn more moves, you can spend the glory you get from Miman are chests in the world. As a result, you can learn to hold more demons, get more moves out of fusion, reduce the price of recruiting demons and many other buffs. It is a smart system too, as it keeps you exploring and hunting for extra glory.
Unfortunately, it is worth noting that the distance between the PlayStation 5/Xbox Series X and Switch is getting laughable. It’s not the quality of the game; rather, the worse graphics, choppy framerates, long load times, and screen tears are much more noticeable on the Switch. This game has been in development for who knows how long and is still choppy in the overworld. I also feel like if they put as much effort into making the hair sway like a cape as they did making it run smooth, this game would be much better.
While Shin Megami Tensei 5 is rough around the edges, fans of the series will be satisfied. However, newcomers to the series and those not impressed by the previous entries best approach with caution.
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