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Instead of thinking of this game as an RPG, look at this game like a collect-a-thon platformer with mature themes. That way, it has a better chance of exceeding your expectations.


😈The “demon” characters are based on characters from myths & religions from across the globe. I like that about this game.

The music tho—especially the tracks are less rock-oriented—really special. The ethereal & eerie sounds really carried this game at times.

There is a certain level of strategy needed to win each combat encounter. After the 30th time encountering the same goblin in the game’s turn-based combat, it’s no secret which type of attack is its weakness. I’be considered replaying this game on its Hard difficulty setting, because without enough of a struggle, this game can feel like soul sucking busywork, and less like a game.

The classic art of Kazuma Kaneko brought me into Shin Megami Tensei in the summer of 2021. SMT’s reputation for presenting philosophical themes intrigued me. The sadistic game design (status effects vs healing, the cost to do anything (heal, upgrades, time-investment, NPCs that trick & steal from you)) of SMT3NOCTURNE made that experience reflect the exploitation found in modern society. That impressed me, compared to the “realism” of other video games I’ve played.

SMT5 is defanged in those regards. While its approach to combat compensates for being less unforgiving by becoming more flexible & visually interesting, your enemies are rarely more advanced. You will ‘solve’ every non-boss combat encounter early on, removing the satisfaction of strategic problem solving. When defeating opponents is as one-dimensional as discovering their elemental weakness(es), the gameplay itself feels as hollow as it’s human characters.

The humor of the “demons”, and the small number of side quests that showcase the humanity they possess, can’t carry this game alone, but occasionally they made it all feel worth it for me. As your needs change along your adventure, creating new demons fused from those already in your beastiary is interesting. It wasn’t uncommon for the urge to upgrade to be the most motivating factor for me, because unfortunately, you shouldn’t count on the story to do that for you.

The verticality of the sandbox levels and frustrating map design stands in for older SMT games’ dungeon crawler heritage, for better and for worse, depending on how much fun you derive from usually barren mazes, which sometimes look great, sprinkled with collectibles that weren’t worth the effort in the end.

SMT remains a gaming experience unlike any other. But while the financial success of SMT5–the least challenging entry in the mainline series, which released to a world full of millions of players that loved Atlus’ Persona 5–is a victory for a studio that has historically struggled commercially, players familiar with the series expected this game to raise the bar for engaging mature stories with unparalleled turn-based combat.

A few of the short stories contained in the sidequests contain more impactful writing than the game itself. Good luck finding them amongst the unoriginal fetch quests. Good luck finding anything on the intentionally inscrutable map (thas that “SMT Bullshit that, for many, defines the series). Instead of thinking of this game as an RPG, look at this game like a collect-a-thon platformer with mature themes. That way, it has a better chance of exceeding your expectations.

The mainline SMT games hadn’t been on home consoles in 15 years. This game achieves a lot to bring the series in line with what people expect from an RPG today. It feels unfair that this game isn’t at least a 4/7 for me. From my very limited experience with the RPG genre, only Like A Dragon had a story that didn’t disappoint. For context, I consider this story a 2.5/7.
And the other mainline SMT I’ve played—NOCTURNE—gets a 4/7.

It’s unrealistic to expect a video game to have all the answers to the existential questions it wrestles with. Nocturne coats its plot in an ambiguous haze of environmental subtext, which isn’t present in the latest entry.
There was a statement, made by either the games’s producer or director, that SMTV would deal with contemporary social ills in this game. For whatever reason, not much of that made it into the game. What little there is can be found in side quests. The social commentary ends up being boiled down to the simplistic black and white thinking of ‘law vs chaos’. If I didn’t know about the unfulfilled aspirations of the game, I would have concluded that the current staff missed the point of what SMT s about. The first SHIN Megami Tensei game (1992) is perhaps the entry that incorporates a metaphorical analysis of modern day Japanese society best.

Reviewed on Mar 02, 2023