I remember when the Nintendo Switch was first announced and we got the news that it was getting Shin Megami Tensei V and I was elated and excited as to what kind of game it would be; however, days became weeks and weeks became years but we finally got our hands on this game. Ironically I became a fan of this franchise thanks to Fire Emblem when a collaboration between Fire Emblem and Shin Megami Tensei, which became Tokyo Mirage Sessions, was announced. As this piqued my curiosity I dived headfirst into games made by the developer Atlus and they quickly became one of my favorite developers after being satisfied with so many games.
In Shin Megami Tensei V you play as a protagonist who is in school in Tokyo; however, soon after the beginning of the game you find yourself in a baron wasteland surrounded by demons. The reason why is story-specific so I’m trying to be vague here to be spoiler-free. When it looks like you’re about to be attacked you are saved by a proto-demon who bonds with you and the two of you become a being called a Nahobino. You then soon find out Nahobino’s are creatures with the understanding of how to use the throne of the creator and the previous creator banned their existence entirely. As you then find yourself thrust into a battle between angels and demons you must use this knowledge to take the throne and make a choice that will fundamentally change the world, and by change the world I mean you decide which ending you want to see.
I’ve never been disappointed with the story offered by any game made by Atlus and this is no different. It really shows a complicated moral compass as you understand the motivations of the humans, demons, and angels of the world and how they all clash with one another in each group and even amongst themselves. You really get a clear view of each perspective as you progress through the game and no side is made to be completely good or evil which makes your decision as to which one you side with one that you need to pay careful consideration towards. In most games with multiple choices like Fable or Mass Effect often times there are clear good decisions and clear bad decisions so it’s easy to adapt your playstyle towards a specific moral alignment; however, this throws moral alignment out the window as in this case you need to decide which species you’re really fighting for and what outcome is your version of the best outcome for fighting for that purpose. I love this because I am a pacifist at heart so I lean towards the good outcome automatically in the first playthrough of a choice game, but this one I stop and I really think hard about the decisions since the outcome isn’t so morally clear.
The gameplay is what you would expect if you are a fan of turn-based RPGs. You have characters that act on your turn and can act again if you hit an enemy’s weakness or you lose actions if you hit one of their resistances. Quickly understanding an enemy and having a strategy on how to defeat them is important here because you fight some incredibly powerful enemies, especially if you also go through the side quests. This game doesn’t reinvent the concept of turn-based strategy but it does include every element fans of this combat style love such as a wide array of enemies, the ability to recruit monsters, elemental affinities, and a wide range of customization options. The ability to plan for each battle with so much detail is amazing and you’ll spend a lot of time crafting the perfect party.
Overall I only really have two complaints in this game and that is how the maps are laid out. It can be really tricky to find out where you’re going because everything looks the same. Now for some, I can see this being a fun added challenge but for me, it was a pain. Some maps looked so similar that I spent way longer than I care to admit finding my way to the icon on the map to continue the story. Now I love exploration so I did that a lot but often times I would repeat the same destination because I would fail to notice that I looped back around and started going the same path again. Some way to add markers to the map or something would really be helpful in this regard. The other complaint is the ending. While each ending is amazing the choice as to which ending you take only really accounts for the last leg of the game and a small part of the entire experience. So while the story is amazing and worth replaying the fact is that if you wish to see each of the four endings you have to play through a game that is 95% or so the same four times and I can see that being a hassle. I remember seeing Fire Emblem Three Houses get a similar critic and only half of the game was the same for each ending.
So overall this game was an amazing experience with four beautiful endings and a lot of fun to play. I have almost nothing but good things to say about the game and the only two complaints I had were not big issues. I struggled with navigating a few times and I would like to see a bit more uniqueness in each path in a game with multiple endings than what happens at the very end of the game. However, the experience was one that I absolutely enjoyed and I highly recommend getting this game.