Shin Megami Tensei V screenshot showcasing the protagonist in an apocalyptic setting
Atlus | Nintendo

Shin Megami Tensei V: Storied JRPG Series Returns to Switch

After 18 years, the Shin Megami Tensei franchise returns to home consoles with its fifth main entry. Is this a worthy successor to a legendary franchise, or should longtime fans avoid the game?
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The long-running Shin Megami Tensei series holds a special place in the hearts of dedicated fans. Despite never really taking off in the US, the franchise’s influence on turn-based RPGs is undeniable. Perhaps SMT’s most notable achievement, at least in the West, has been its spin-offs, Shin Megami Tensei: Persona. The most recent entry in that series, Persona 5, became the first original title in the SMT catalog to top 1 million sales in the US.

The mainline Shin Megami Tensei franchise is finally returning to home consoles on Friday. It’s been almost twenty years since a mainline entry graced a home system, and fans are ecstatic for the chance to get back into the dark, gripping world of Atlus’s flagship RPG. The reviews are in, and pre-release hype couldn’t be higher. So, is this a worthy successor to a legendary RPG series, or should fans skip this one?

Heavy Themes

Shin Megami Tensei V follows in the footsteps of its predecessors by telling a grim tale of morality and philosophy. The player character finds himself alone in a sand-swept wasteland, with the ruins of his former home city, Tokyo, littered around the dunes.

Before long, the protagonist joins with a mysterious entity called Aogami and fuses with it to become the Nahobino. If that all sounds confusing, don’t worry: the game explains everything throughout its fifty-plus-hour storyline. The landscape is dotted with angels and demons, and the player character needs to battle both to survive. That’s all you need to know when the adventure begins.

Shin Megami Tensei isn’t concerned with individual characters and their failings. It stands out from its sibling series, Persona, in that regard. It’s a darker tale, focusing on the flaws of the soul and the human condition. Whereas Persona 5 takes breaks with lighthearted banter, SMT V keeps things serious.

That isn’t to say the game is dour, though. Atlus worked to make the characters stand out as more than just metaphors for various ideologies this time. SMT V manages to modernize the series’ storytelling while retaining its trademark gravitas.

Combat and Negotiations

SMT V Screenshot showing the protagonist as they appear in modern-day Tokyo
Atlus | Nintendo

The SMT series is renowned for its tough-as-nails turn-based combat. This entry is no exception. Prepare to manage resources across grueling waves of enemy encounters as you try to pick your way through expansive ruins.

The classic Press Turn combat system from previous entries is back again, and it’s just as tactical and rewarding as ever. Hitting enemies with attacks that correspond to their elemental weaknesses will net you an extra turn.

On the other hand, enemies can do the same thing to you and your party members. Balancing your party to get a good spread of attack types is critical to succeeding. Without careful planning and a thoughtful approach to battle, you’ll find yourself staring at a “Game Over” screen.

As longtime fans would expect, the player can recruit their demonic adversaries to fight alongside them. Negotiating with demons is notoriously frustrating, though, as these otherworldly entities don’t follow the same logic as mortals. If you manage to convince a spirit to join your team, you can fuse them with other monsters you’ve captured to create mightier allies.

Bottom Line

Shin Megami Tensei V is, without a doubt, the purest expression of the SMT formula that Atlus has ever assembled. 

Newcomers to the genre will find plenty to love in the expansive world. Modern touches like the Leyline Founts and Magatsuhi Gauge offer some much-needed assistance to the overworld and combat, respectively.

Meanwhile, returning fans will feel right at home in the most polished game Atlus has ever made. For all of its new features and modern amenities, the game is still fundamentally SMT.

Shin Megami Tensei V launches on November 12 exclusively for the Nintendo Switch.