One of the big selling points of the Shin Megami Tensei IV was the new battle system. It was a game changer that could push the franchise into the future, but so far it hasn’t been as popular as I would have liked. However, Shin Megami Tensei V is finally here and it looks like its going to be a completely different game. The battle system is back to the old school turn-based mechanics, which is a breath of fresh air and will hopefully get a lot of people to give the game a chance.
The latest entry into the Shin Megami Tensei series, Shin Megami Tensei V, is a game that has been in development for five years. The journey that Atlus has taken to make this game is one that has been filled with lots of trial and error. Many fans of the series have been anxious to see what changes the developers have made to the battle system, especially after the announcement that there would be a shift from the traditional turn-based system to one where the player is constantly engaged in battle. Is the system they have created at all close to what they had in mind, or is it another step in the wrong direction? We discuss this system further in this article.
In 2017, Shin Megami Tensei V, the latest entry in Atlus’ long-running flagship JRPG series, was first announced as a Nintendo Switch-exclusive title in a brief teaser trailer. Since then, news has been scarce, and the film has hinted at some plot details, but nothing more. Then, during and after E3 2021, Nintendo and Atlus revealed a wealth of information and gameplay, from the first Nintendo Direct trailer to the Nintendo Treehouse presentation to the official Atlus Japan livestream. The latter represented nearly two hours of play. Judging by the new footage, Shin Megami Tensei V aims to shake up the conventions of the franchise. Mergers, demon design, combat system and overworld are just some of the changes revealed so far.
One of the most noticeable changes in Shin Megami Tensei is that, unlike previous installments in the series, the protagonist can move freely through the world, not just in dungeons and small rooms. And as a step up from Shin Megami Tensei IV, the demons are fully visible and move around the stage just like the protagonist. Another interesting change is that the demon party members follow the protagonist on the map screen.
Martial arts mechanics
While the core mechanics of the combat system (first introduced in Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne) remain intact, there are a few interesting changes that are sure to change the balance and flow of the game. The first major visual change, as seen in the screenshot above, is a completely redesigned combat user interface. It looks much more like the user interface of Tokyo Mirage Session, the joint Nintendo and Atlus spin-off game. In the upper right corner of the battle screen is an indicator that says Magatsuhi. In Nocturne, Magatsuhi was a source of energy, born of strong emotions, that essentially drove everything in the world of Whirlwind.
There seems to be a connection between his role in Nocturne and the meter in V, as the meter gives the protagonist powers when fully filled. Looking at the same screenshot again in the lower left, we can see that there is a grey skill called Magatsuhi. It will probably become usable once the gauge is filled. In the bottom right corner of the results menu after a fight (in the screenshot below), Magatsuhi’s skills are in a separate category, which presumably means they are naturally acquired skills.
Inheritance of skills, items and proverbs
Previous games in the Shin Megami Tensei series had their own skill legacy systems, such as the Magatama system in Nocturne and the Whisper system in IV. While the unique system of this game has not been mentioned or revealed, there is a hint that can be seen in the screenshot below. There is a category called skill potential that can be associated with inheritance of skills. The items available in this game have also been revealed. There is physical, fire, ice, lightning, wind, light (possibly blessing or banishment), darkness, omnipotence, death, healing, and the last has the same badge as the Magatsuhi abilities discussed earlier.
There are no weapon skills here that were not present in Nocturne, Persona 3 or Persona 4, but were present in many other games from the main series and spin-offs. Another change is the way buffs and debuffs work – spells that raise the stats of allies and lower those of enemies. The screenshot below highlights the Rakukaja spell that increases an ally’s defense. In Nocturne and Shin Megami Tensei IV, the upgrade applied to all members of the party when using spells and was permanent unless the opponent used an ability to remove it. But in V, buffs last three turns, which is similar to the system in Persona 4 and 5.
However, according to the flavor text and in-game graphics, this upgrade only targets one ally at a time. However, it seems that buffs can be stacked to increase their effectiveness, like in Nocturne and IV. It is possible for more advanced spells to target the entire group, indicated by the letter ma before the spell name (e.g. Rakukaja becomes Marakukaja), which was introduced in Persona 3, 4 and 5.
Fusion and demonic design
It seems Mido, the demon master of the Shadow Cathedral meld, has left and a woman named Sophia has taken his place. We don’t know much about her yet, but she’s definitely different from the previous masters. The fusion process itself involves the protagonist, as we see below, when he plays the organ to activate and facilitate the fusion process.
Once the fusion is complete, we see that the result is a revamped Angel (shown below), based more on the Shin Megami Tensei II design than the two later designs used in most of the main and side games.
There’s also another new demon, probably a mythical hunter-warrior from Irish mythology, Fionn mac Cumhail (thanks Larrue for the tip). A clue that this demon is Cumhaill could be the name of the skill this demon uses, Mac an Luin – which is the name of his sword in legend.
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