Many Shin Megami Tensei games offer a bit of lead into their biggest shifts. Before you find yourself surrounded by unfamiliar, potentially deadly creatures, you have an opportunity to enjoy some normalcy. While there is a bit of that in SMT V, the newest installment’s story quickly hits the ground running and brings in the demons.
Like SMT III Nocturne, the story in SMT V begins with a group of normal high schoolers in a world where things aren’t quite right. But rather than news about a cult and its altercations in the background as things begin, there are rumors about incidents. People getting hurt. Strange happenings. As the protagonist is about to leave school, they prompt an advisory. Don’t go home alone. Go in groups. Which is what you have a chance to do. Yuzuru Atsuta, his sister Miyazu, and Tao Isonokami all invite you to go with them. And while there is the idea of safety in numbers, a few ensuing incidents result in the hero alone in a strange new world. Once there, an encounter with hostile demons results in a fortuitous meeting. Aogami offers the player his hand. Taking it means fusing into a Nahobino.
From there, you’re thrust into a desolate world. While you might see familiar elements, like remnants of cars and cities, the life you recognize seems to be gone. Though, for people familiar with Shin Megami Tensei, the SMT V story beats and demons will seem all too familiar. (Especially if they’re coming from SMT III Nocturne HD Remaster.) Right away, hostile demons are about. Namely, Pretas and Slimes. Exploiting weaknesses will grant either side extra opportunities to act in turn-based battles via the Press Turn system. Conversely, an enemy evading an attack or using attacks they’re strong against will cost a side abilities to act. In addition to knowing your enemies, having a diverse roster is necessary. That means conversing with demons to bring them to your side. Fusing them to increase your roster. Knowing your enemies and having the right counters on-hand.
But while all those are familiar, there’s plenty new in these early moments in SMT V. These things seem like quality of life and survivability aids. As you explore the world, you’ll find Leyline Fountains. These are all-purpose points of interest. Early on, they’re a means of recovering HP and SP, saving your game, and visiting Gustave in Cadaver’s Hollow and Sophia in World of Shadows. The latter is your spot for dealing with demons and learning strengthening Miracles with Glory. The former is the shop. Gustave takes care of your needs. He’s also willing to buy human relics from vending machines for Macca. You can also collect Miman, his minions, to acquire Glory and rewards. Even early on, it struck me as a convenient way to collect things needed to survive.
There are also some sorts of encounters new to the series. As people take their first steps as a Nahobino, they’ll meet Amanozako and encounter an Abscess. The former doesn’t directly introduce herself. Rather, after coming to her aid, you begin to encounter her. (Though, Aogami warns you that not all demons can be trusted each time.) But while she’s not hostile, the Abscess is. It’s a nest of demons that must be destroyed. Each one obscures the map and spawns hostile groups of demons when you approach. Once you begin a fight with one, you face a strong demon. Winning removes it from the map. The way is cleared and you’re rewarded for your troubles.
It seems like with SMT V, the game’s story hits the ground running to ensure you’re dealing with demons as soon as possible. Once you are in that other world, things feel both oddly strangely unsettling and familiar. It’s like coming home again. The familiar trappings are right away introduced again. Yet, there are plenty of new characters and elements welcoming you right away too.
Shin Megami Tensei V will come to the Nintendo Switch in Japan on November 11, 2021 and worldwide on November 12, 2021.