First of all, the question that comes up again and again: What does Shin Megami Tensei have to do with the Persona series? Quite simply: The Persona games are a spin-off from Shin Megami Tensei and have, at least in the West, clearly overtaken the parent brand in popularity. The last part of Shin Megami Tensei (which by the way is only called Megami Tensei in Japan) was released in 2016 as Shin Megami Tensei 4: Apocalypse exclusively for the 3DS – so it was quite a while ago. Atlus has been working on the big fifth part of the series since at least 2017, and the role-playing game is supposed to be released in early 2021. But so far there has been shockingly little information about the game! It would still be a shame if Switch owners overlooked this potential gem – so here's a rough look at what JRPG-savvy gamblers may already be offered in the first few months of the year.
Old problems, new problems
Shin Megami Tensei 5 is produced by Kazuyuki Yamai, who already did a good job as Director of Shin Megami Tensei 4. Number five in the series is designed to address and depict problems in modern society, such as unemployment, terrorism, worries about pensions and family disputes. Of course, the world has been dealing primarily with a completely new, different problem called COVID-19 since 2020, but the team around Shin Megami Tensei 5 can just as little look to the future as the rest of the world. The Tokyo of the present serves as the setting for the action, but it is standard in series production with a post-apocalyptic flair and many demons. These creatures are in Shin Megami Tensei, which is a Persona in the Persona franchise: monsters sent into arguments. Although no information has yet been published on the details of the combat system, we would be very surprised if the fifth part of the series deviated significantly from its predecessors. That means: In turn-based duels you send demons into the ring and try to exploit the enemy's weak points. As usual in the genre, there are different types of demons, each of which has various resistances and Achilles heels. You can get to new monsters by negotiating with them or by merging several specimens into a new subspecies – this will also sound familiar to players who have already gained experience with the Persona series. As with the sister series, you are not alone in Tokyo, but meet other comrades-in-arms and, of course, bad guys on your adventures.
Concerns about SMT 5
After the long radio silence surrounding Shin Megami Tensei 5, many players were very worried – has the title been discontinued? In 2019, Atlus itself got rid of these rumors by confirming that the manufacturer and developer were still working on SMT 5 as planned. According to the team, the fact that the work takes so much time is also due to the fact that no Switch game has yet been programmed and that the console is much more potent than the good old 3DS – so the creation of all models is like that of the over 100 demons much more complex. After all, you want the finished game to look great on both small and large screens!
Could be the first hit of the young Switch year
Emphasis on "could", because this verdict is mainly composed of advance praise, as the remaining games in the series (and of course the spin-off Persona) are pretty good. It may be that number five will not make it into the role-playing Olympics after all, but at the moment it seems that Atlus is relying on what fans appreciate about the games: the contemporary setting, a fun fighting system with tons of demons and a lot of depth and interesting Dialogues including the opportunity to make serious decisions. It is difficult to say how much the development of Shin Megami Tensei 5 suffered from the corona pandemic, but I can well imagine that this fact is one of the reasons why we haven't heard anything new about the game for a long time. The only question now is whether the release period will be held at the beginning of 2021. Normally the drum is raised again shortly before the publication, or editors are offered to get preview impressions of the game to heart. So far, none of this has happened, which makes me a little skeptical. Without a persona you are not necessarily spoiled with similar games on the Switch, but if you are into JRPGs of this type, I would like to recommend Tokyo Mirage Sessions Fe Encore again, actually one of my favorite Switch games of the year 2020. No wonder, by the way, that Tokyo Mirage Sessions resembles Shin Megami Tensei: It is a crossover between SMT and Fire Emblem, developed by Atlus with the help of Nintendo!
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