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Monday, October 25, 2021

[Hands-On Preview] ‘Shin Megami Tensei V’ is Shaping Up to Be a Modern Spin on ‘Nocturne’

Shin Megami Tensei V is the latest entry in the Shin Megami Tensei franchise coming to Nintendo Switch on November 11. This series, while having a sizable fanbase, has been overshadowed by its spin-off franchise, Persona. The last fully original 3D game in the series was 2003’s Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne for the PS2, which was remastered for modern hardware back in May this year. 

Sega and Atlus provided Bloody Disgusting with a hands-on preview of the opening hours of Shin Megami Tensei V, and so far, it’s a return to form that invokes the feeling and familiarity of arguably its most beloved entry, Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne. However, Shin Megami Tensei V also supplements that with modern gameplay mechanics, making this title one of the potential highlights of 2021.

The opening of the game mirrors Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne quite closely. The protagonist attends school and then within the first half-hour or so, Tokyo goes to hell and gets pulled into the Netherworld, an arid, sandy area littered with ruined buildings. Then you’ll meet Aogami and fuse to become a being called the Nahobino, which is a divine being that has the ability to fight off Demons, the enemies in the Netherworld.

The game utilizes the classic Press Turn battle system that the franchise is known for, and the basic fundamentals are largely unchanged. Exploiting an enemy’s elemental weakness or landing a critical hit with an attack grants you an extra turn for you and your ally Demons to act. This is true for enemies as well. Utilizing this mechanic is key to ending battles as quickly and safely as possible. But be careful, enemies can make quick work of you if they manage to chain weaknesses and extra turns themselves.

A new addition is the Magatsuhi Gauge, which is sort of like an “ultimate attack” similar to what other games have. As a battle goes on, attacking Demons slowly fills the meter up. The one ultimate skill that we had access to was called Omagatoki: Critical, which ensures that every single attack, including magical ones, inflict critical hits until the end of your turn. This ability was the perfect way to turn the tide of a battle in a pinch, or to start off a particularly tough one on a good note.

Speaking of tougher battles, you’ll come across entities called Abscess. These are huge creatures that obscure large portions of the map in certain areas. Engaging in these means you’ll have to fight some Demons slightly above your pay grade, but defeating them gets rid of the Abscess, clearing up your map.

Throughout the Netherworld, you’ll come across Leyline Fountains, which act as save points. You also fast travel between any of the Leylines you activate, so it should always be your prerogative to find the next one as you venture further out into the world. 

Demon Negotiation is back, and this is a mechanic that many Persona 5 fans will be familiar with. You can talk to enemies during battle and choose dialogue options or bribe them with money or items to try and convince them to join your party. One complaint I have is that the negotiation seems too random. In many scenarios early on in this game, you don’t know whether a certain response could lead to successfully recruiting a Demon or them rejecting you.

Additionally, we came across two important NPCs, Gustave and Sophia. Gustave is a creepy, ecstatic green creature who is the game’s shopkeeper in the Cadaver’s Hallow. Sophia runs the Shadow World, where you can fuse together captured Demons into new ones or use a new feature called Apotheosis, which consists of two things: Miracles and Essences (more on that a bit later). They can be accessed any time you interact with a Leyline.

All across the Netherworld, there are hidden collectible creatures called Miman that grant you a certain amount of Glory when finding them. Glory is a currency used to purchase Miracles, which are permanent passive abilities that can help you in battle. One such example is Fell Swoop, which slightly increases the Magatsuhi Gauge when inflicting a weakness or landing a critical hit.

You can also receive Essences, which are spiritual cores that hold the power of other Demons. They have the skills and elemental affinities of specific demons, such as the Pixie, and you can fuse them with the protagonist to learn new skills and switch up their affinity. You can implement Essences into other Demons in your party to customize them as well.

One of the main criticisms I had about the Nocturne remaster was that it was a barebones port that didn’t consider modern conveniences from gameplay innovations in the nearly 20 years since its release. It didn’t even add a much-needed mini-map! Well, I’m glad to say that Shin Megami Tensei V does have one, much to my relief! It also has objective markers, which is great because, in Nocturne, it was notoriously and frustratingly easy to get lost and not know where to go next.

Another thing I want to mention is that the game is pretty challenging, even on Casual mode. While enemies are easier to deal with in this difficulty because they deal less damage, you can’t be mindless about fights. They can still wipe you out by exploiting your elemental weaknesses if you’re not careful. 

It’s very reminiscent of Nocturne’s steep difficulty curve, which many series veterans are fans of. However, Atlus and Sega did note that upon launch, there will be DLC that adds an even easier difficulty mode, Safety. This one is for players who just want to experience the game’s story by presumably further making enemies easier to take down. Additionally, Shin Megami Tensei V is a standalone tale, so newcomers can feel assured knowing they don’t have to play the previous entries in the franchise to understand the plot.

The opening hours of the game are incredibly promising. It really does feel like an upgraded version of all the previous games that came before it, particularly Nocturne. It has all the hallmarks of what makes the series stand out such as its difficulty and battle system. Shin Megami Tensei V is sure to appeal to both series veterans and newcomers alikeI can’t wait to play more of it!

Shin Megami Tensei V preview code provided by the publisher.

Shin Megami Tensei V will be released on Nintendo Switch on November 12, 2021



source https://bloody-disgusting.com/video-games/3688723/preview-shin-megami-tensei-v/

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