Shin Megami Tensei 5 hands-on preview: Lost in New Tokyo

Shin Megami Tensei 5 is aiming to usher the iconic franchise into a new era while staying true to its roots.


Shin Megami Tensei is one of the most influential franchises in gaming, reaching widespread acclaim and spawning equally beloved spin-offs. It’s been several years since it’s last mainline entry, and the JRPG is bringing its newest iteration to the Nintendo Switch with Shin Megami Tensei 5. I had the chance to play through the early hours of the game and get a sense for what developer Atlus is serving up.

New beginnings

In Shin Megami Tensei 5, the player's character gets put off of their path during their trip home from school. Things quickly go south, and the character loses consciousness. When they awake, it’s no longer the Tokyo they remember. Instead, it’s a post-apocalyptic version of the Japanese-city, where the human population has dwindled, and demons are running rampant.

The protagonist isn’t all the same, either. After merging with a powerful ally, they’ve got a slew of newfound abilities at their disposal. Jumping into the combat in SMTV, it was as deep and thorough as fans of the games have come to expect.

There are a range of different attacks, from physical strikes to moves based on the different elements. The demons and other creatures that players will face off with have their own unique weakness, which can be exploited. In this turn-based system, hitting an enemy with attacks that it’s weak to will allow you to take multiple turns.

It also goes the other way, as enemies can exploit the weaknesses of your party in order to get the upper hand. It adds strategic depth when planning out your turn and putting your party in the best position to win. There’s also Magatsuhi Skills, which will allow players to either deal heavy damage or heal members of the party once the gauge is filled.

Navigating the Netherworld

Though many of the demons that players encounter will be foes, some of them can be turned into allies. This is done through negotiations, where players can speak to demons and make them friends. Creatures have unique personality traits and behavioral patterns, which influences how they interact with the player. There is an entire dynamic to successfully recruiting demons, as players will need to properly convince them, carefully navigating through dialogue.

Another major element of the gameplay in Shin Megami Tensei 5 is Fusions. Up to four demons can be fused together in order to create a unique creature. Fusing demons allows players to transfer skills and create creatures that will be formidable in battle. There’s a lot of different factors that go into fusions, giving players another system to spend a lot of time digging into.

What lies ahead

Shin Megami Tensei 5 is clearly packing everything that’s made the series beloved, while looking to build on that foundation. The combat system is feeling easy to learn, and difficult to master, while fusions are an exciting way to build out your party and explore new combinations. With a story that’s intriguing from the very opening, Shin Megami Tensei 5 is a JRPG you should be looking forward to if you're a fan of the genre.

These impressions are based on a digital Nintendo Switch code provided by the publisher. Shin Megami Tensei 5 launches on the Nintendo Switch on November 11, 2021, for $59.99 USD.

News Editor

Donovan is a young journalist from Maryland, who likes to game. His oldest gaming memory is playing Pajama Sam on his mom's desktop during weekends. Pokémon Emerald, Halo 2, and the original Star Wars Battlefront 2 were some of the most influential titles in awakening his love for video games. After interning for Shacknews throughout college, Donovan graduated from Bowie State University in 2020 with a major in broadcast journalism and joined the team full-time. He is a huge Scream nerd and film fanatic that will talk with you about movies and games all day. You can follow him on twitter @Donimals_

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