Shin Megami Tensei 5 is ready for Persona fans

Shin Megami Tensei 5 is the current entry in Atlus’ JRPG series where you battle and hire satanic forces. The franchise is understood for an intricate turn-based fight system where you’re able to work out with your opponents — much like in Atlus’ other series, Personality. SMT5 begins when a stoic, bookish high schooler gets unexpectedly transferred to a post-apocalyptic Tokyo and merges with a satanic force to eliminate off beasts crawling throughout the city.

I’ve had my eye on the Shin Megami Tensei series for a while now. Personality 5 Royal, which has a lot in typical with SMT, ended up being a staple of my early pandemic days. I likewise understood that the series motivated the cult indie of a generation, Undertale. So when I saw both the remake, Shin Megami Tensei 3: Nocturne, and a brand-new title, I chose it was lastly time for me to sink my teeth into the series. I played a sneak peek of the video game on my Change, which covered the very first couple of hours of the video game. While I invested the video game combating and training my beasts, I discovered myself missing out on a few of the more social elements of Atlus’ other video games.

SMT5 spins a tale of scriptural percentages. Upon entering its world, the very first thing I hear is a dark, threatening voice, whose echoes produce a God-like omnipotence. The storyteller weaves an Adam and Eve-like tale about a tree that’s the source of understanding. This is a far cry from the ridiculous high school shenanigans of the Phantom Burglars in P5R, where the gamer speak to school principals and jocks to resolve issues. Sure, SMT5 likewise follows a typical high school young boy. However the stakes and setting are absolutely various as gamers are managed into a post-apocalyptic Tokyo filled with angels, satanic forces, and glittering sand.

Despite these initial differences, a lot of the actual play feels familiar to other Atlus games. Much of the battle mechanics largely remain the same — jumping in, I see a recognizable cast of monsters like Pixie (a fairy who has healing powers) and Slime (a giant pile of slime). The elemental system remains the same as Persona as well; you can use attacks like Dia to heal, Zio to inflict lightning damage, and so on.

These fights are difficult; you need to collect monsters quickly and use them liberally. You can bring up to three with you in a fight, making for a total of four fighters when you include the main character. Negotiating is fun, but stressful; at one point I said the correct thing three rounds in a row only for the monster to backstab me and do a surprise attack.

a battle starting in Shin Megami Tensei 5

Image: Atlus

Because of this focus on battles, the SMT5 preview felt like a stripped-down version of P5R. And while it felt more accessible to play, I did find myself missing certain P5R elements. When I played P5R, I kept a notebook with me because there was just so much to learn as a player new to the series. You date people, keep track of your own relationships, and manage the protagonist’s own characteristics. The list of what you need to know to play the game goes on. You can even go and get a job, for crying out loud. And this is all in addition to catching, training, and fusing monsters. It gets to be a lot.

In contrast, I spent most of my time playing SMT5 gritting my teeth in battles, making decisions that may impact the story in ways I don’t know yet. The fights are hard, but when you’re done with them, you won’t need to think about all the other stuff. This makes SMT5 a potentially easier entry point to what Atlus’ games are about, rather than the Persona games which are dense with lore and relationship management. It’s a standalone game that doesn’t connect to a previous story, and it introduces a lot of elements of Atlus’ JRPGs in a more digestible way.

Personally, I missed many of the aspects of P5R. It’s fun to date and hang out with friends in the game! I like silly little side missions where I go try to make Joker eat a burger larger than his head. Even if it means I need to keep track of and learn new game systems, that complexity adds fun breaks between dungeons. SMT5 does have a full cast of high schoolers that gamers will get to know better. But this game is more serious, and brutal — that’s reflected in its battles. That stated, I am early in my playthrough, and I’m wanting to see a lot more of a few of the schoolmates we see early in SMT5.

Shin Megami Tensei 5 is set up to be launched Nov. 11 to the Nintendo Change.

Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.